Theo Epstein’s bridge season didn’t collapse because of a design flaw. The foundation simply developed too many cracks.
The Red Sox entered play last night seven games back with 13 to play. With six games against the Yankees still looming, it’s hard not to wonder how different it all could have been had the injury bug not devastated the starting lineup.
Could some late-summer repairs have kept a lane open to the postseason? It smacks of 2006 all over again. And while some fans may lament the lack of maneuvering designed to bolster a sagging bullpen and/or outfield, one must remember what Epstein meant last winter, when “bridge season” entered the Red Sox lexicon.
Just as they did prior to the 2007 season, Epstein and his amateur scouts have stockpiled what it believes is the next wave of homegrown talent to flood the roster.
Then, it was Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. Now, it is Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson and, health-willing, Ryan Westmoreland.
But the new crop isn’t expected to flower until 2012, and thus Epstein conceived of his bridge, bringing in short-contract players like Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron.
In 2006, Epstein balked at trading for Bobby Abreu at the deadline, even as that injury-riddled season began slipping away.
A year later, Pedroia, Ellsbury and Lester were on the field for the World Series clincher.
Now, having built the bridge to 2012, the idea of trading those prospects for the likes of Kerry Wood was never really an option.
The bridge may have exacted a heavy toll in 2010. But the price the Sox didn’t pay could well lead them back to where they were headed all along.