September 1, 2010

If there was any doubt the Red Sox were finished after dropping 2 of 3 to the Tampa Bay Rays in their must-sweep series last weekend, today’s loss to the lowly Orioles, plus the trade of reliever Manny Delcarmen to the Rockies and the release of under-performing outfielder Jeremy Hermida sealed the deal today. It’s pretty sad – it’s not even September yet, and the Sox are playing out the string. For the next four 1/2 weeks expect to see a lot of young guys being tossed into the fray so they can be adequately assessed by the Sox front office who knows they have a busy off-season ahead of them.

It would be easy, far too much in my mind, to blame all the injuries suffered by the Sox starters as the sole reason for missing the playoffs for only the second time in the last (what will be) seven years. True, between centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s fractured ribs and Mike Cameron’s abdominal tear, the Sox played most of the season without a major weapon on the base paths, and the outfield defense was nowhere near what it needed to be. And true, that rash of injuries that put catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Variek, first baseman Kevin Youkilis, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia out of action for extended periods in July and August didn’t help, but all that did was mask the fact that the Sox have got some serious issues that need to be addressed this winter if they even hope to compete with the Yankees and Rays going forward.

Consider: high-priced outfielder J.D. Drew’s numbers have decreased every year he’s been with the Sox, and this year, he didn’t even come close to living up to his $14 million annual salary. And, what to do with David Ortiz? Certainly “Big Papi” has had a pretty commendable year, but there’s no way the Sox bring him back anywhere near the $12 million he received in the last year of his contract. Of far greater concern (at least in my view) are the big bucks doled out for starters Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, and Josh Beckett – neither of which, with the exception of occasional flashes of brilliance, showed they could dominate good teams for seven innings or more. All three, when you come right down to it, have been huge wastes of money.

The Sox have a big decision to make with Victor Martinez. Do you re-sign him with an extended contract at big bucks? If so, do you play him as a catcher? Or play him at first base, moving Kevin Youkilis back to third? This is a difficult question – my guess is the Sox let him go and explore other options.

The bullpen also has a lot of questions that will need to be answered. Do you keep Jonathan Papelbon as your closer? Or, do you move Daniel Bard into that role and find someone else to set up for him? Hideki Okajima is undoubtedly gone, so middle-innings help will also be on the agenda. Speaking of which: what to do about veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield? He didn’t pitch particularly well this year either. Do the Sox keep him? If so, for what role?

Finally, do you bring manager Terry Francona back?

2007 and that wonderful World Series championship sweep against the Colorado Rockies sure seems a long time ago. Having the Sox already out of it this early also makes it seem as if Fall is already here, with February spring training not even a speck on the distant horizon. In between, it promises to be quite the intriguing offseason for the Red Sox and their front office. There are big changes to be made – hopefully, at the very least, they’ll find a way to put a product on the field in 2011 that’s at least entertaining and somewhat interesting to watch. Because this year has been pretty damned boring.

Wait ’til next year.

Pool temp: 87 degrees

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:49 | Comments Off on Wait ‘Til Next Year
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