[For the first time ever, WordPress “ate my homework,” in the form of losing the last paragraphs of yesterday’s post. They were a piece of peerless journalism, without equal in the annals of blogging, and now they are gone forever. In their place, I attempted this clumsy restoration of my original thoughts.]
How can we not be disappointed in a team that was the best in the American League, if not all of Major League Baseball, for 4 ½ months of a six month season, but sandwiched that between a 2-10 start and an abysmal finish when they played some of the wort baseball in the majors? And where do we go from here? Most teams do not recover from a late-season collapse the following year, but such collapses are usually symptoms of teams on the way down. The Red Sox don’t seem to fit that mold. The management probably won’t blow the team apart and start over, but looking ahead to 2012 they will see a club with more to fix than they thought they had to fix before 2011. The team is strong up the middle, though the catcher position is in transition, and they’ll be hard-pressed to match Jason Varitek’s game-calling abilities (though not his arm). Third base, left field, and right field remain significant problems. They need Youkilis back at third, and if they don’t get that they need a significant replacement there, plus less gimpy (Lowrie) and more skilled (Aviles) utility infielders. They’ll probably have to tolerate Carl Crawford again in left field, but if he has another year like this one he ought to be out of there. Right field is a black hole; I’ve been a J. D. Drew fan, but his age and physical condition obviate the possibility of his continuing as the starter. Is platooning Reddick and McDonald going to get the job done? Reddick showed signs this season of growing into a major league outfielder, but the jury is still out. McDonald will aways be no more than a platoon guy. To contend, they will have to get more out of 3B, LF, RF, and C, and at least hold their own at the other positions. And as for the starting rotation, they need an aging but still effective Beckett, plus Lester and Buchholz, present and injury-free. Alfredo Aceves could be moved into the rotation as a fourth starter. The fifth starter is going to have to fall out of the sky, or come from outside. He is not on the roster now. I think it’s vain to hope that Erik Bedard is the answer; he’s been too injured for too long. He might be OK as a middle reliever if he gets more rehab over the winter. Miller is still a project, with some real upside as well as the obvious downside. Lackey should be released; he was a sheer failure that no amount of reworking is going to fix. Eat the money; we made a mistake.
As always, it will be fun to sit in on the Hot Stove League and see what happens over the winter. There’s already talk that Francona, who meets today with Sox management, will ask not to have his 2012 team option exercised, essentially firing himself. Was he losing control of the team this year? Is he tired of the pressure? Terry Francona brought the Sox their first championship since 1918, and another besides. We will always love him for that. But new human dynamics, new goals, new personalities, and just the need for change sometimes mean that it’s time to move on. He will not be easy to replace. But it’s not 2004 or 2007 any more, and we can’t cling to that. So bring on the changes, bring on the new, and keep looking forward. Meanwhile, in less than 5 months pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. I can’t wait.
And as for this postseason, I have only one viable option. Go Tigers!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.