Getting the Sox back on track - Metro US

Getting the Sox back on track

The Red Sox entered play last night with a “tragic number” of one:?That is, one more loss was enough to officially end their playoff hopes.

So that’s it for 2010. If this was a “bridge” year, it was about the most painful crossing since Burnside at Antietam.

But 2011 is a new year. And so is 2012, 2013 and all the rest. Here’s some of what the Sox’s decision-makers need to do to make them successful.

1. Cut ties with Papelbon

Boston missed a golden opportunity to get value for its closer over the offseason. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s time to move on from a guy with a 4.02 ERA, an escalating walk rate and a declining strikeout rate. It’s Daniel Bard’s turn to pitch the high-leverage innings.

2. No lottery

Big-money free-agent pitching is a crapshoot — just ask John Lackey. So it’s a good thing the Red Sox don’t need any. Stand pat on the rotation and address other needs — third base, bullpen depth — with the available cash.

3. Don’t overpay

At third, the obvious answer is to lock Adrian Beltre into a long-term deal. Great … but watch the cash. The Sox have been burned by big-money sentimental re-signings before.

4. Be patient with the prospects

It’s no secret the Boston system is flush with potential studs who aren’t that far from major league-ready. It must be tempting to rush them to the big club for Opening Day.

Bad idea.

Consider next year’s landscape: The Yankees are the Yankees, but Tampa Bay will likely be decimated by free agency. The Sox, by default, are already playoff contenders.

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