The Mourning Morning After

Some Sox fans may read the title of this thread and think I should have stuck with the punny “mourning”.  But that wouldn’t be appropriate.   This season has ended abruptly, but for me in a very sanguine fashion.  There is no great tragedy, no great surprise in the way the Sox went down.  And though the team shared some players from last year’s champs, it was another year, another set of players, another chemistry not entirely likeable and, perhaps unexpectedly, not even that disappointing. In its own odd way it ended full of promise.

Last year the self-described “idiots” had numerous players to take the edge off the tension and ego that pervaded the clubhouse.  From Pedro and Nelson to Orlando Cabrera, from the verbose intensity of Schilling to the stoner’s gaze of Bellhorn, there were a multitude of characters that lent character.  This year’s team had no such tempering influence, beyond the increasingly tiring mercurial nature of Manny, the workmanlike intensity of Tek (however tired he may have been at the end) and the sincere and oft-heroic joy of Big Papi.  This year, the warts were exposed. Johnny Damon’s contract talk wasn’t so idiotically endearing, just selfish, and Curt’s jabbering became harder to take when accompanied by  a 7.00 ERA.  Edgar never really showed us anything.  Foulke never got healthy (and never stopped pouting).  Tek got worn down in August and never rested.  Matt Clement got hit in the head and never recovered. Theo looked down at the farm and his draft picks and never made that pennant-grabbing move.  In the end, this Sox team wasn’t eminently likeable, not especially healthy, and not entirely well put together.  Perhaps even by design.  So where does that leave us?

We will always have last year.  And we will always be excited to “wait til next year”.   We have questions about next year.  Will Manny return? Will Johnny defect?  Will Keith heal?  Will Curt stop calling Dennis and Callahan and rehab his ankle?  Will Theo try to disappear Edgar or Matt, at pennies on the dollar?  Will he sign another younger ace? (please, Theo, sign an ace!)  Will Tito return? (sources in the front office tell SF-Dad that Tito’s tactical skills are a source of bitter disappointment up there, so nothing is guaranteed).  Will the Sox add new seats inside the newly renamed “Glass” Monster?

It should be fun seeing these questions answered, and after a couple of weeks, a little bit of foliage, perhaps even a frost, we will re-visit our team, put this season behind us, and look forward to the possibilities for next year, for youth and excitement, for a lineup full of new faces (and Big Papi, of course) instead of “trusted vets” in contract years, for the possibility of watching a team fail even as it moves towards long-term success.  Last year was the end of a drought.  This year spelled the end of last year.  And next year is almost in our sights.

13 comments… add one
  • “In the end, this Sox team wasn’t eminently likeable, not especially healthy, and not entirely well put together. Perhaps even by design.”
    Are you saying that Theo and company intentionally put together a team with very poor pitching and defense? Why would they do that? I’m probably not understanding your meaning when you say “by design”. If the Yanks bow out in the division series, will you also give Cashman the benefit of the doubt?

    Nick October 8, 2005, 10:12 am
  • I mean that, in particular, when the August trading deadline came, Theo chose not to compromise the future of the organization for a 1/4 season move, so the glaring problems that the Sox had at the end, and which hastened their demise, were not unknown to management.
    As for Cashman, I don’t think he had to decide between mortgaging the future or proceeding with a flawed team and holding his future in hand in order to stay viable – the Yankees organization is so weak down in the minors that the Sox/Yanks scenarios were quite different.

    SF October 8, 2005, 12:57 pm
  • Just to go a little further with this: I am not holding Epstein blameless. He put together the team. So he bears ultimate responsibility for their personnel shortcomings. But it’s pretty unfair to hold him responsible for some of the happenings this year. He could never have expected the trifecta of a surgery-refusing and injury-hiding Foulke, a DOA Schilling, and the season-altering beaning of Clement (Renteria might be a different story, though). At the point in the season where he had to make a decision about the “now” versus the “future”, I think he wisely chose the future. And the Sox still won 95 games with such a damaged team.

    SF October 8, 2005, 1:13 pm
  • It seems to me that the demise of the Yankees minor league org is a little premature. The Yanks got Cano, Small and Wang from the minors, not bad huh? It also seems Theo could have had Chacon for not much but it was Cashman who pulled it off. Also the Sox could have tried Papelbon in the bullpen a lot sooner than they did and maybe Hansen too. That may have made a difference in winning the division and maybe then things turn out differently in the postseason so who knows. Looks to me that Theo and co. thought they had enough offense to beat anybody regardless of how bad their staff was. Let’s face it all year long and in last year’s playoffs in wasn’t the Sox’s pitching that made the difference, it was their ability to score runs at will. So Theo and co. made a big miscalculation and it cost them a chance to repeat.

    Bozo October 8, 2005, 1:53 pm
  • Surely it wouldn’t be the “Glass” Monster, but the Giant Glass Monster, in keeping with the new advertiser-friendly aesthetic of Fenway.
    Personally, i’m optimistic for next year. Damon hurt his value by playing hurt, and probably wants to be back. My gut says they’ll sign him. Everyone else, they have ‘free’ help down on the farm for. Incidentally, has there been any consideration of Renteria moving to 3rd? As for a starter, if they just sat on it, they are guaranteed not to be any worse than this year, but nobody sees that happening. Seems to me that they can only improve.

    rcolonna (sf) October 8, 2005, 1:54 pm
  • The Yankees farm is much stronger than the Sox farm, but unfortunately, the strong players the Sox have are just about major league ready. All of the Yankees strong youngsters are in A-ball.

    tom yf October 8, 2005, 2:54 pm
  • What price Pedro? I know that some Sox fan argue that the extra year the Mets gave him is a write-off, but with Schill’s aborted season, you sure could have used Petey. Surely an additional season tacked to the end of his contract – think of it as a loyalty bonus – would have been worth all the extra wins and extended playoff run…

    Sam October 8, 2005, 4:20 pm
  • Bozo, you simply have no clue at all. In descending order of idiocy: The Sox’ pitching wasn’t a factor in last year’s playoffs (where the hell were you last year, Mars?) Aaron Small a product of the Yankees’ minor leagues? The Sox should have tried Papelbon sooner? (it looked like he was prepared perfectly) What the hell have you been you smoking?
    And welcome back Sam – good to have you here again. Regarding Pedro, of course the Sox would have been better off with him this year. But they might have been just as well off with Schilling and Foulke healthy and no Pedro, or a healthy Schilling, a to-expectations Renteria, and a deadline tread. Or Orlando Cabrera and Derek Lowe in lieu of Clement and Renteria. Who the hell knows. The Pedro decision was a money decision, nothing more – they offered a ton, he got offered more. Things didn’t work out as planned this season, which is why things will be quite different next year. I am sure Theo knew the team was flawed, particularly by August, but either couldn’t do anything about it or chose not to, since it was simply too late and the market was limited (witness the lack of moves by just about everyone). The moves most worthy of criticism are obviously Renteria and the (lack of) middle relief choices, and even that was partly a result of no Foulke (Timlin was just fine as a setup guy until he had to close) and no Schilling (innings eater, lightens the ‘pen load, significant trickle down effect). Regarding Clement, I think the beaning really changed things, and I find it hard to hold Theo accountable for that. The season was a failure in immediate terms, but again, I think there’s much to look forward to, and I am glad the future wasn’t sacrificed for pennies on the dollar. I think it was going to take more than a reliable setup man and a passable starter picked up at the deadline to get past the White Sox, then either the Yankees or Angels, and then the Cardinals. What the Red Sox needed, in the end, was unattainable at such a late point in the season. Many things, both controllable and uncontrollable, conspired to put them in that tough spot.
    (and p.s. – it’s silly to discuss the Yankees and their successes or failures until they are out of the running for the championship or have taken home the title. Their season goes on, to their credit, so that discussion should probably be deferred.)

    SF October 8, 2005, 8:21 pm
  • The ending doesn’t bother me one bit. 2005 was still a fun season with some truly awesome games (the two 17-1 pastings to the Yanks, Ortiz’s walk-offs against BJ Ryan and Scott Shields, the one in TB where Clement got beaned, etc). Ask the 2003 Angels or the 2004 Marlins how hard it is to repeat–I’m sure they’d understand.
    I’m optimistic about next year, excited even. I’ve already made a mental list of guys I don’t want to see come back (Kevin Millar is chief amongst them) and guys I can’t wait to see more of (i.e. Jonathan Papelbon). Perhaps at this point next year, we’ll be remembering ’05 as the “interim year” because they tore up the league in ’06. Who knows? But the future looks quite bright to me.

    Sox Fan in VT October 9, 2005, 2:46 am
  • We’re out of town, and will respond on Tuesday, but suffice it to say we are shocked–SHOCKED–to find SF was “sanguine” at the loss of his Sox. Watching them go down made him happy?!
    More tk.

    YF October 9, 2005, 9:21 am
  • No games here, YF. Being a literary type, you ought to know the difference between being “happy” and being “sanguine”.
    Losing didn’t make me want to celebrate, but being confident about the future, being optimistic about what’s on the horizon, and feeling content that the outcome this year was deserved qualifies as a sanguine response to a failed effort. Can’t stop trying to pick fights, eh?

    SF October 9, 2005, 11:37 am
  • SF, disagree with me if you think I’m off here, but I think 2006 is going to a more difficult campaign for the Sox. Certainly, you should be excited about Papelbon, Pedroia, et al, but their full impact won’t be felt until, at the earliest, 2007. Meanwhile, rumors are rampant that Manny is intent on getting out of Boston this off-season. If that happens, the Sox will be dealing from a position of weakness. The best hope is for them to get an Aubrey Huff-type and prospects in return. That’s a hit on the line-up for 2006. Then there’s the issue of Johnny Damon. He’s already said that he no longer is going to give the Sox the home-town discount he would have at the beginning of 2005. Who knows if Theo decides to pay what is certain to be an overpriced contract. If Damon is gone, who replaces him? Bernie? Onto Schilling. If I were a Sox fan (and I count my blessings everyday that I am not because that would mean a sadder life, a lot more anger, and having to root for Curt Fuc**ng Schilling)I wouldn’t be too confident about Schilling ever returning to ace form. He’s getting older and that ankle injury seems to have done irreparable damage to his pitching. Then to Wells. He was serviceable, sometimes your best starter, but he’s 40, and he weighs more than Louie Anderson, and supposedly he had knee issues this season. There’s a chance he’ll have surgery in the off-season. Clement wouldn’t inspire confidence in me either. As you pointed out, his beaning in Tampa seemed to be the turning point for the season, but, remember 2004. His last season as a Cub was eerily similar to this one. When the playoff race heated up he turned cold. Perhaps, he’s just a choke. So, as a Sox fan I wouldn’t be looking forward too much to 2006. But of course I’m a Yanks fan, and I’m sure I’ll have as many questions about our 2006.
    One last thing to scare you: Did you hear the rumor that Theo and management are far apart on contract talks?

    Nick October 9, 2005, 12:16 pm
  • Lots to chew on, Nick. I think you raise many good points, but I am looking forward to next year, even if I am not sure of whether that means a World Series (or even a playoff) run. The idea that next year’s time might be stocked with more homegrowners, younger guys, and high-ceiling pitching prospects is enough to bring me back with optimism, if not for next year (what the roster will actually be is totally unclear) but for the long term. It may be that the Red Sox go back a step before leaping forwards, as you say, I don’t know, but I am still looking forward to seeing what happens. I have a feeling it will be more enjoyable rooting for guys like Hanley Ramirez or Dustin Pedroia or Jonathan Papelbon as they grow into their roles than for a guy like Kevin Millar (or even Curt Schilling, an activity to which you allude in your comment).
    Regarding all the free agents, the aging staff, the Epstein (and Francona) situations, this will all be discussed in great depth, I am sure, once the season ends and player and managerial movement begins. For now, I was just summing up my feelings as the season came “crashing” down. It may be hard for Yankees fans (or, at least, my co-blogger YF) to understand, but a failed season doesn’t have to ruin our spirits, particularly when our historical mindset has been one of patience (remember, we waited a long time for the title) and not instant (and impossibly constant) gratification.

    SF October 9, 2005, 12:50 pm

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