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Red Sox 2013 WS Champs - Koji and RossI’m a tired, happy, shaggy bearded baseball fan this Halloween. I’ve been up late for many October nights watching the playoffs. Last night the Red Sox won their third World Series title in a decade.

“Inconceivable!”

They did it a year after a season when they finished last in all of baseball, leaving a smoldering crater and noxious fumes pouring out of it.

“Inconceivable!”

You keep on using that word, Vizzini. I do not think it means what you think it means.

David Ortiz - 2013 WS MVPAnyway, they did it with 37-year old DH David Ortiz not only bouncing back from what looked like possibly career ending Achilles issues, but regaining close to peak form and then submitting a historic hot streak at the plate in the World Series while also playing 1B for three games, having a Churchill moment, winning his third title, winning the MVP, and making a very good case for induction into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s not possible.”

Not probable, Captain Barbossa. Because, indeed, this was a team marooned on a desert island. They had become an arrogant organization with a roster laden with bloated contracts and egos. Baseball is a cruel game, quick to punish hubris, and so the Red Sox became an unpopular joke. Casual fans deserted them. Devoted fans lamented the return of the bad old days and played their 2004 and 2007 World Series DVDs until the discs burned out.

But then the Red Sox escaped. Not by lashing sea turtles together with the hair from their backs but something almost as outlandish. They worked a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent some of their biggest problems (underperformers with titanic contracts) west. Suddenly they had wind in the sails and room to maneuver.

They had a chance. But they needed to use it wisely.

Next they fired the disastrous Bobby Valentine and worked a trade with the Blue Jays to install John Farrell as manager. Suddenly they had a captain with a calm, sure hand. Someone who inspired trust rather than inciting mutiny. They took the money freed up via the Dodgers trade and adopted a different strategy, investing it in short term deals for mid range players with more professional attitudes. Voila, an entirely altered crew dynamic.

Despite all that, almost no one was picking them to with the World Series this year. Most pundits didn’t think they would make the playoffs. This was (again) supposed to be the year the Blue Jays broke through and won the division. The Orioles would benefit from experience gained in 2012. The Rays always have pitching and managerial guile. The Yankees…well, they had problems looming larger by the day, but you never count them out.

80 – 85 wins. Third place in the AL East. No playoffs. That was a common projection.

I had no problem with that. My attitude as a fan going into this season was, “Just be better. Stop embarrassing yourselves. Work hard. Play hard. Act professional. Get back on the right track and that’s enough for this year.”

Instead, something like magic happened. A sum much larger than its parts emerged. The players who had underperformed all bounced back. The players with health issues healed up enough to perform, often spectacularly. A team that actually was a team won back its fans and its city in the summer when Boston needed the escape and joy of baseball the most. They were fun to watch. Easy to root for.

Such a great story with so many fantastic threads:

  • John Lackey, possibly the most reviled athlete in Boston for stretches of the past few years, returns to full health, rededicates himself, and is the winning pitcher of the final game.
  • Jon Lester grows up and leaves behind the incessant whining at umpires to cement his status as the ace he always had the talent to be.
  • Koji Uehara goes from being a middle reliever to submitting a season at closer that’s even better than anything Mariano Rivera – the greatest of all time – achieved.
  • David Ross, a bit of a journeyman catcher for 11 seasons, becomes the rock for the pitchers and defense in the postseason and even makes some big hits.
  • Xander Boegarts, 21 years old going on 30 with dazzling potential ahead.
  • Beards. #GetBeard. Beard Night. Beard pulling.

It all culminated in a great night in Boston last night. The energy and roar in Fenway Park was amazing, even over the TV.

Thanks, Red Sox.

2013 WS Trophy Aloft

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I’m having a fairly normal year for me, writing wise. In January, I was bursting with creativity and words were flying out of my fingers. I wrote more in a month than I did in half of 2012. Then February came. Illness and school vacation and competing agendas slowed my creative engine to a sputter. But then March arrived with improved health and a couple of submission deadlines I wanted to meet. End result: a second good month where I met all of my goals. And then….

Right. April has been lousy so far. For two weeks I was hopelessly sidetracked by a marketing project for my church. It’s good work to do, but it consumed far more of my time and spirit than I had anticipated. Add in the Little League season starting up along with a couple of projects for the school my sons attend and I’ve been getting almost nothing done on the writing front. (Including posting here. Twitter, by design, is easier to keep going even when busy.)

But April isn’t over. Heck, there’s more than half to go. So, I’ve plenty of time to restore order and regenerate momentum.

I just wish I was wired a little differently. I wish I had enough endurance and could parse my brain space sufficiently to do it all. And sometimes I have the demoralizing sensation that if I just did less for other people, I’d be a more accomplished and successful writer. Lots of great artists are renowned for their selfishness and/or chemical dependencies. So, maybe if I turned my back on my family and became an alcoholic….

But that’s not me. And most of the time I love doing all of the volunteer projects and other work that I do. I certainly don’t know how to parent any differently. I have always poured massive amounts of time into being a dad. The results of my approach are pretty darn good, as the most recent set of parent/teacher conferences reaffirmed this week. (And, yes, I know I’m not solely responsible by any stretch, but I like to think I have something to do with their development.)

So what I’m left with is a writing life that takes place in fits and spurts, ebbs and flows. The rest of the time I’m busy with other parts of my life, all of which informs my writing in the end. And the artist in me always reasserts itself. That’s how I started this journey to begin with. I hadn’t written fiction for years until I woke up one day and had to and wrote what became my first published story. Having figured out that I am an artist and that writing is my primary form of expression, I know what’s wrong when I am busy for too long with other things and start to get bitter and depressed. I’m not taking care of myself. I’m not feeding the artist.

My family and I are traveling to Tucson to visit one of my sister-in-laws for a week. I’m leaving behind church marketing and youth baseball and Scouting and school art projects and the rest. But I am bringing my journal and my pens and my Kindle.

Time to feed the artist.

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I’ve been a lousy blogger lately. So, tonight, an experiment. I’m firing up my upgraded Pandora One account and I will type about one subject per song until either I’m done or the song ends. Here goes….

  • (“No Cars Go”, Arcade Fire) The winter of 2012/2013 hasn’t been a good one, health wise. Not in the USA and not in my house. I think one or more of us has been sick with something since just before Christmas. At the moment, my wife is most of the way back from a head cold while  I’m in the middle of one. My older son is stuffy. My younger one seems alright at the moment. I wonder how much to blame the move to a new town (new population = different assortment of bugs?). But I also think the dry air in our new home might be part of the problem. In our old house, we had a central humidifier hooked up to the forced air heating system. Here we’re on baseboard radiators and it gets pretty arid. I notice it especially when I first get up in the morning. 
  • (“Steady, As She Goes”, The Raconteurs) I completed the first draft of my first novel in mid-January and immediately started working on a batch of new stories. Having spent something like 27 months on the novel (give or take) my storehouse of ideas is absolutely stuffed. I had been stockpiling them in my journals. Now I’m writing the ones that seem like they have real potential…as much as one can ever tell before diving in and trying to actually write them. So far I’ve written a short story, two flash fiction stories, and two microfiction pieces. All have been submitted. Beginning a new short story now.
  • (“You Only Live Once”, The Strokes) What’s the plan for the novel? Well, I’m firmly committed to letting the first draft sit and cool for a few months. Probably until late spring. No later than early summer. I have other stories I want to write. I also need to clear my head. When I return, I’ll read through it and see what’s there. Hopefully, the story I thought I was writing is buried in there, but visible enough to shape into a second draft. If not? Well, I’ll cross that bridge if I don’t decide to jump off of it. But let’s assume there will be a second draft. I’ll write it and show it to some folks and then we’ll see. In the end, the intent remains to submit it to publishers.
  • (“Infinity”, The Xx) If you don’t live in New England, you might have heard we had some snow. If you live here, well, you have your own update to publish. Here in my town we received about 24″ of snow last Friday and Saturday, courtesy of Winter Storm Nemo. Not very far at all up the shore they received much more. Over 30″ and a bit inland Hamden won the contest with 40″. Hard to imagine that much from one storm. We had a great time playing in the snow here. The boys created an enormous network of caves, canyons, stairways, and paths in the 8′ tall pile that the plows left bordering the church parking lot out back. We did some sledding at the local hill. It’s small, but the kids had fun. I prefer much more epic runs than are possible here. We did very little in the way of snow sculptures. Some day I’d like to fill the huge lawn out front with snow people, but it will have to wait until some other storm. Especially since what we received last weekend is melting very fast. It has been over 40-degrees every day this week. Beautiful, pleasant days. More spring than winter.
  • (“Neighborhood #2 [Laika]”, Arcade Fire) Our house is getting more and more musical. My older son plays double bass in the school orchestra and now in the chamber music group as well. My younger son has been taking piano lessons for several weeks now using the piano that came with the parsonage. Probably out of envy as much as anything, I’ve started wanting to play music again. I’ve had two previous failed attempts to become a musician. I played the cello for one year in grade school. I played guitar for several years. In both cases I just did not love practicing enough to stick with it. But now I  keep thinking maybe it’s time to go find a used guitar and start again. Or maybe take up percussion. We’d have the start of a band if I take up percussion….  Meanwhile, I actually tuned the baritone ukulele we’ve owned for something like seven years. Maybe I’ll start there.
  • (“Let’s Go”, Danna/Devotchka) I finally had several pieces of art framed that have been hanging around the house for months or years. One is the fantastic Steven Gilberts print I bought at Anthocon in November. Another is an eerie and strange block print of a skull with mirror eyes and a few other touches by Shoshanna Utchenik, who I had the pleasure of working with at Redmoon Theater in Chicago for several years. The last is a glorious print of Neil Gaiman‘s “The Day the Saucers Came”, illustrated by Jouni Koponen that I purchased from NeverWear. Big visual upgrade for my office.
  • (“Fire It Up”, Modest Mouse) Spring means lots of things but high on the list in my house is baseball. My older son fell in love with baseball when he was 2 and never looked back. He plays other sports and does lots of other things, but baseball is pretty central to his sense of self so far. Right after the Super Bowl he started asking if we could start playing catch and doing drills. He’s looking ahead to the Little League season and wants his spring training, you see. I begged off for a couple of weeks because, you know, it’s February and it was still pretty cold. Then we had a blizzard. But now the weather has turned mild and so I took my glove down off the shelf for the first time since the World Series ended and out we went. Love the smell of the glove. Love the sound of the ball hitting it. Love the feel of the baseball in my hand and the way it comes off my fingers. Now we just need the rest of the snow to melt so we can practice on grass instead of asphalt.
  • (“We’re Going To Be Friends”, The White Stripes) Watching lots and lots of Doctor Who over the past several months. I’d never seen the show before four months ago. Alison grew up watching it. I was watching Star Trek. I knew about the show, but was never intrigued enough to track it down. I’m enjoying getting to know it now. We started with the renewed show that begins with the 9th Doctor. We’re finishing Series Four now, which is by far my favorite season so far. We’re also about to say goodbye to David Tennant, who plays the 10th Doctor and I’m not happy about it. Everyone, I’m told, has their Doctor. Tennant is mine. The next guy has a tough act to follow.
  • (“Stay Crunchy”, Ronald Jenkees) I’ll probably do another post about films I’m looking forward to, but Star Trek Into Darkness is one of them. I like what J.J. Abrams has done…which is part of why I’m a little anxious about him being named the director of the new Star Wars film. I don’t trust Star Wars films anymore after the last three. Nor does the trickle of rumors about the new film make me feel any better. Trotting out Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher is not what I’d like to see. I don’t trust any of those characters and actors to come off as well as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock does in Star Trek.

And I’m done as “There There” by Radiohead pounds its way onstage. G’night. I promise not to be gone so long this time.

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The worst Red Sox season (by the numbers) in my lifetime (longer, actually) is finally, mercifully over. I’m not going to dissect it here. There’s plenty of that going on if you want to find it. Instead, here’s an excerpt from “The Green Fields of the Mind”, which appears in A Great and Glorious Game, by A. Bartlett Giamatti. It’s a fitting coda to any baseball season and sidesteps the messiness of this year’s Red Sox to bring us back to the game itself and its place in the hearts and lives of so many.

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

Good luck to the teams who made the postseason. I’m rooting for the Orioles and the Nationals to make the World Series, because that would be truly amazing for both franchises and their fans.

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I’m a very happy Red Sox fan today.

It’s been awhile. Almost a year ago, I posted about the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox. The team was an embarrassment. It was clear to me that significant roster changes were needed. Instead, the Red Sox ownership fired manager Terry Francona. Then they let GM Theo Epstein, architect of the troubled roster, walk to become President of the Cubs. Then came insider stories that revealed the team as a scandal plagued laughing stock.

It was a rough 6-8 weeks, and I was looking forward to the team putting it in the rear view mirror and starting to make the roster changes I thought they needed. I wanted Kevin Youkilis, my favorite player for several seasons, traded. And I wanted Josh Beckett, who I had been a big fan of for several seasons, traded. Too many injuries. Neither was producing what the team needed and both seemed to be significant elements in a clubhouse culture that had turned sour. I waited for one or both to be traded, but they needed a new manager first.

The Sox chose Bobby Valentine…which I thought was like throwing gasoline on a still-smoldering fire. Friends asked me what I thought and I would shake my head and tell them I thought Red Sox fans should fasten their seat belts for a bumpy ride.

Youkilis and Beckett were still on the team in the spring. And, unfortunately, everything I was worried about came to fruition. Along with a cascade of additional problems that finally – finally – motivated the organization to do something.

Actually, they did more than just something today. They made the largest trade in baseball history, on the basis of the money involved. A quarter of a billion dollars moved from the Red Sox to the LA Dodgers in the form of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto. That’s billion with a ‘b.’ (These days you have to ignore such absurd excesses when you rout for an MLB team to enjoy the game at all.)

In one move, the Red Sox reclaimed their future. They are no longer a team saddled with a lengthy list of long term contracts that did not pan out. (John Lackey owns the last one of those.) Josh Beckett needed to go. Carl Crawford never made sense for the Red Sox from the day they signed him. Nice guy, works hard, but he was on the wrong team and he was signed for a particularly ridiculous sum of money. Nick Punto is the kind of player who finds himself tossed into deals like this to make the numbers work. Then there’s Adrian Gonzalez.

I was ecstatic when the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez. Finally – finally – they had another devastating hitter to combine with David Ortiz. It would be Manny/Papi II, hopefully without the Manny Being Manny drama and PED violations. And Gonzo could actually play serious defense on top of the offense. He would be a new cornerstone for years to come.

It just didn’t happen. In almost two full seasons, he never fulfilled those hopes and expectations. There were too few big hits, not enough leadership. And then there’s the reality that, when you make a trade, you have to part with something to get something. Despite his underwhelming performance in Boston, Gonzalez is still a huge talent and was the big draw for the Dodgers. Knowing they could put him at first base and in the heart of their order made it easier to take the risks and expense of the overall deal.

It was a price absolutely worth paying for what the Red Sox received – a chance to reshape their future. Here’s hoping they use the chance well. (I’ll feel even better about that future if Bobby Valentine is shown the door before his contract is over.)

Go Sox!

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My 10-year-old insisted we do something we almost never do – eat dinner in front of the TV. Why? Because the New England Region Championship Game of Little League was on ESPN. Connecticut vs. New Hampshire. With new near-neighbor Fairfield the Connecticut representative.

We ate in front of the TV.

It wasn’t much of a game. After an inning or two it was clear that Connecticut had all of the momentum. The kids from Bedford, NH were trying their hardest but couldn’t get anything much going at the plate and couldn’t cool of the Fairfield bats. Connecticut won 14-0, with Bedford only managing 7 hits and committing 2 errors. And, by the later innings, we were having flashbacks at my house. Because my son and I were in a very similar championship game a couple of months ago.

Our AAA Minors team lost the championship game 12-0. We couldn’t get much going on offense. We couldn’t cool off the other team’s bats. And we made a lot more than 2 errors in the field. It got ugly. Just like things got ugly for Bedford last night.

At one point late in the game, the Bedford pitcher gave up a walk to load the bases (again) and, as the batter made his way to first base, Bedford manager Kevin Lavigne (above with some of his players) was visible in the door to the dugout, head tipped back, face skyward. Maybe he was just expressing disbelief. Maybe he was imploring the baseball gods to cut his team just one stinking little break already. My heart went out to him and his coaches and kids, because I remember exactly what that feels like. There were several moments in our own blowout loss where I sank to a crouch and closed my eyes in a sort of shocked agony, wishing I could come up with something, anything to change the flow of the game, if not the outcome.

And it’s in those moments as a youth sports coach that you have to fight to maintain your perspective on what really matters, the spirit of the kids in your care. You have to put that first, regardless of that word “Champion” at stake and the trophies and (in the case of the game last night) the national sports television coverage. In fact, you have to do it because of all of that. Because what happens on the field that one night does not define who those kids are or what kind of team they’re on. But they can learn a ton from it, and possibly more from losing. After all, far more teams and athletes lose than win in a tournament. And nobody sails through life without experiencing failure and loss. Learning that doing your best is what matters and that winning does not equal “better than” in the broader, more meaningful sense and that losing is ok if you tried your  best and you learned some things are all huge life lessons.

I tried to do that as the score piled up and the game grew uglier in June. All of my focus went to buoying the spirits of the kids. And though the loss stung, a conversation I had after the game helped a lot. Here’s what I wrote in my journal a few days later:

After it was all over, while I was chatting with a well-established coach, one of the umpires from our game came up to me. Probably 14-15 years old. Glasses. Dark hair. He came up and said, “Excuse me. I just want to tell you how impressed I was by how you handled that game. I mean, your team is losing twelve to nothing and you’re still out there encouraging them, telling them to keep playing, keep trying, not to give up. Majors managers would be screaming at the kids. Anyway, I just wanted to say I thought you were great. I’ve never seen that before.” And the whole time, his face was just lit up with respect. It was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received and a reminder that what I’m really doing out there, what actually matters in the end when working with 10-11 year old kids, is instilling values. My 12 players left the field and ended their season with a bad taste in their mouth about that one game, but they went 13-7. They were the only other AAA Minors team besides the champion playing that night and they know their coach cares about and respects them. And a teenage umpire got to see an adult behave like one, which is something he apparently doesn’t see enough of. That should be enough for me.

And it is. A tip of the cap to Bedford, NH for a great season.

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Red Sox Postmortem

Red Sox third baseman Mike Aviles watched as the Orioles celebrated their victory in the final game of the season for both teams.

As it turns out, my son and I witnessed a piece of history when we went to Fenway a couple of weeks ago.  We had seats for part of the worst collapse in baseball history.  Not just Red Sox history, which has some pretty famous collapses, but baseball history.

It ended last night in Baltimore, on one of the more extraordinary nights in recent seasons.  A month ago, pundits and fans were talking about how dull the season was.  How there were no pennant races.  How we already knew who the playoff teams were and were just waiting for October to start.

But it’s baseball.  Nothing is certain.  And only the arrogant and/or foolish believe otherwise.

So it was that four teams entered last night, the 162nd and final game of the season with their playoff fate still to be determined.  The Red Sox had swooned away a 9 1/2 game lead over the Rays in the American League Wild Card standings.  The Braves had let a similar lead over the Cardinals shrivel to nothing in the National League.  Bumbling Boston on the road in Baltimore, playing a feisty Orioles team with nothing to lose.  Tenacious Tampa hosting the Yankees, who had nothing to gain.  The Cardinals, roaring to the finish, on the road playing the Astros, owners of the worst record in baseball, who had nothing to gain.  The Braves, sputtering on empty, hosting the Phillies, who had nothing to gain.

You connect the dots.

Except it wasn’t that simple.  I’ll stick to the American League drama that unfolded and try to keep it brief.  The Red Sox had a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning when rain moved in and caused a 90-minute or so delay.  At the time the delay started, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead over the Rays.  As it stood, Red Sox fans were hopeful.  If the scores held up, the Red Sox would earn the Wild Card.  Surely, we thought, the Yankees could hold onto a 7 run lead, even with their prospects playing.  Surely, we thought, the Red Sox could get through 2 1/2 innings with just their best relievers and maybe tack on a run or two to make things easier.

But then, as the rain came down at Camden Yards, with all interested eyes turned toward Tropicana Field, the Rays mounted a comeback.  They scored.  They loaded the bases.  Dan Shaughnessy, the Boston Globe columnist/author/provocateur, assured Heidi Watney on NESN that everything would be fine.  The Rays wouldn’t make it back.  Watney reacted like he’d just walked under a ladder in a theater while opining about how much he liked Macbeth.

The Rays came all the way back and tied the game.  The Red Sox and O’s took the field.  Alfredo Aceves, one of the very best Boston relievers, hit two batters in the bottom of the 7th but emerged without allowing a run.  Daniel Bard, formerly untouchable but suddenly vulnerable in September, worked a scoreless 8th.  Enter Jonathan Papelbon, who had pitched great all year.  But even he had blown a save to, yes, the Orioles, recently and had to pitch and pitch and pitch again just to keep Red Sox playoff hopes alive.  He recorded the first out.  The second out.  Then the roof fell in.

It happened fast.  A double.  Another double to drive in the tying run.  Up came Robert Andino and, honestly, that’s when I got the sick feeling in my stomach.  That feeling you get when you’re driving and feel the wheels lose their grip on the road.  That feeling when you see someone about to get hurt, maybe seriously, and you can’t lunge far enough or run fast enough or do anything to stop it.  Because Andino had already beaten the Red Sox twice in the past week.  The proverbial handwriting was on the wall and it read: Abandon All Hope Ye Red Sox Fans.

Bloop to shallow left.  Carl Crawford, one of the poster children for all that went wrong this season, tried to slide and catch it rather than play it off the hop and make a throw home.  He missed it.  He snatched the ball, bounded up, and threw.  Too late.  RBI single for Andino and a walk off win for the Orioles.

As the Red Sox trudged off, Jerry Remy said on NESN, “Now they have to wait.”  And I said back to Jerry, “I don’t think they’re going to have to wait very long.”  Because I just knew what was coming next.

Maybe three minutes later, before the players were even all in the clubhouse, Evan Longoria hit his second homerun of the night.  Rays win 8-7.  Rays with the Wild Card.  Red Sox season over.

And the wailing and gnashing of teeth heard across Red Sox Nation (TM) for weeks spiked into a cry of shock and outrage.  Because there really are no excuses for a team that talented to play so poorly for so long.  It’s the second year they’ve missed the playoffs (at which point, you lose the sympathy of most fans of MLB teams, people in places like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Seattle and D.C. and….), but last year was different.  Last year they fell victim to a lengthy list of season ending or disrupting injuries to key players and an overachieving group of prospects and no names kept things interesting until reality won out in September.  It was fun while it lasted.

This year?  There was nothing fun about this.  Beckett and Lester were healthy in September but both pitched ok to poor, depending on the game, and mostly toward the lower end of that spectrum.  Lackey, healthy almost all year, turned in the worst season ever by a starting pitcher in Red Sox history and was the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball this year.  The defense seemed to make at least one error per game in September.  Pedroia slumped deep and long.  Gonzalez, fading badly after the All Star break, became a singles hitter and GIDP (Ground-Into-Double-Play) machine in September.  (And let me take a moment, Mr. Gonzalez, to share my opinion that the reason the Red Sox lost was not that “it wasn’t in God’s plans.”  God does not root for any team or follow any sport with particular interest.  The Red Sox lost because you and your teammates underperformed to a shocking degree.  Own that.)  Crawford was a shadow of the player he had been every year in Tampa.  Ortiz faded.  Reddick met the same fate of many rookies and turned into a pumpkin.  Salty and Tek faded and, at the very end, were hurt.

Now the Red Sox and we fans face a long off season filled with uncertainty instead of gearing up for an October run.  There are cries for Manager Terry Francona, the most successful Red Sox manager in decades, to be let go.  (I hope not.)  There are signs that he already knows that will happen.  There are cries for ownership to fire General Manager Theo Epstein, once considered an untouchable talent. (I’d need to know who the alternative is before I weigh in.)  There’s a job with the Cubs he may be interested in.  Jonathan Papelbon is, finally, a free agent and will probably ask for the sun, the moon, and a few constellations worth of stars.  Can they afford to let him go?  Ortiz is a free agent and will want a multi-year deal, one he has probably earned with a great bounce back season after fading the past two years.  Can they afford to let him go?  Youkilis is headed for surgery and there are questions about his conditioning and whether he can play third base full time.  The medical staff and trainers are again under scrutiny after a second consecutive season of lots of players (not just older ones, either) going down with injuries.

On and on.  And there’s no defense against the jeers and scathing criticisms from partisans and nonpartisans alike.  No sympathy or kindness is merited.  It’s one thing to perform up to your potential and lose.  That’s part of life.  But to fall far short of performing up to your potential?  To be sloppy, maybe even lazy and arrogant along the way?  That’s inexcusable.

Here’s hoping the Red Sox front office goes about the off season in a clear-eyed, non-reactionary, and thorough manner.  They have a lot of work to do.

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