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 PapelbonBoston 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 lotteryBig-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 overpayAt 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 prospectsIt’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.
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.