By Sean McAdam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A year ago, with the Red Sox reeling from another poor start, Dustin Pedroia took it upon himself to draw the line.
Following a humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays last April, Pedroia called his teammates out on Patriots' Day and famously noted the Sox, at the time, were incapable of beating Brookline High.
On Sunday, after the Red Sox had dropped to 0-3 following a humbling 5-1 loss to Texas, Pedroia again was the most vocal player in the Boston clubhouse.
While others noted that three losses shouldn't be seen as catastrophic and Adrian Gonzalez virtually guaranteed that the Sox would find their way out of their early-season slump and be in contention in September, Pedroia was not as sanguine.
"I think we're all frustrated,'' said Pedroia. "We got outplayed. It's not for lack of talent on our team. We got outpitched, we got outhit. They kicked our butts. That's it. We better show up Tuesday in Cleveland and play better than we've been playing.''
And with that, Pedroia sounded the alarm. He wasn't suggesting that the Red Sox panic -- the worst response a team can have under the circumstances -- and he wasn't suggesting that the Red Sox were lacking effort or focus, as he did last April.
But he was saying that what happened at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this weekend, where the Sox were outclassed by a cumulative score of 26-11, was, in a word, unacceptable.
Pedroia was careful to point out that the Rangers deserve some credit. He noted that Texas was the defending American League champs and their display of muscle -- 11 homers in three games -- was hardly a shock to anyone.
But he wasn't dismissing the results as unimportant or suggesting that the Red Sox don't have improve their play -- and fast.
"We want to play well,'' he said. "We're not excited about how we played the first three games . . . They came out and put it on us. We're going to have to play a lot better than that to accomplish what we all think we can do.''
As good a player as Pedroia is, this refusal to accept anything less than the best may be his most important attribute.
Baseball is the wrong sport in which to overreact. The season is long and highs and lows are part of the 162-game landscape. Woe is the team which fails to keep an even emotional keel from April through the end of September.
But it never hurts to have a player of Pedroia's caliber speak out when the results aren't what was expected. And after adding two premier players in the offseason to an already talented roster, coming out of gate 0-3 was far from what was expected of the 2011 Red Sox.
He dismissed a question about whether the Sox had suffered through a similar three-game stretch in 20010 as irrelevant.
"We've got a different team,'' said Pedroia flatly. "This isn't last year, so we're turning the page on last year. But I'll tell you what, man - this is a pretty bad three-game stretch right now. So we're going to have to get our stuff together and come out and play well.''
Cleveland would seem to be the right place to start. The Indians are, to be frank, horrendous. On Friday, they were the only pitching staff performing worse than the Red Sox themselves, allowing the White Sox a 14-0 head start before scoring their first runs of 2011.
But it won't be handed to the Red Sox. They'll need to stop leaving fastballs over the middle of the plate, practically inviting the batting practice that the Rangers took. And while they're at it, they'll need to put together better at-bats, with an emphasis on approach and not on overly aggressive free swinging.
Gonzalez and others are right, of course: a three-game sweep has not eliminated the Red Sox from contention. The 1998 New York Yankees, to cite one example, began 0-3 and went on to win 114 games.
Still, a turnaround series in Cleveland prior to coming home for a 10-game homestand against three division rivals would go a long way in pointing the Red Sox in the right direction.
"We're not very happy with the series,'' said Terry Francona. "That's an understatement. But I think there's a difference between being aggravated at a series as opposed to sitting around and panicking.
"We didn't play a very good series. We got outplayed all the way around. Now we've got to go regroup and try to get us a win so we feel better about ourselves.''
Beginning Tuesday, if they know what's good for them.