It's been a strange year for the Boston Red Sox.
Last winter, boy Wonder GM
Here we are 10 months later and 2010 indeed was a bridge season for Boston's fabled baseball team. The Sox have been in playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, but it's not happening this year. Boston's impending elimination from October ball can be blamed on a stunning spate of injuries (more than 20 players on the disabled list) and the misfortune of playing in the American League East (the Sox would be competing for first place in the AL West), but anyone who's been watching knows that the Red Sox have underachieved this year and face critical decisions as they prepare for 2011.
The Red Sox had the second highest payroll in baseball ($170 million), but
Going into 2010, the Sox stressed "run prevention." It turned out to be a non-issue. Boston starters
But they are well-positioned to get back in the hunt in 2011.
Boston has a stable of strong starting pitchers
Theo's winter mound mission will be to find bullpen help to bridge (sorry about that word) the gap between the starters and the late-game tandem of Bard/Papelbon.
Boston's lineup could look a lot different in 2011 because the big guys in the middle --
It's more complicated with Martinez and Beltre. Martinez is a switch-hitting catcher, which puts him on a lot of wish lists. There's well-founded doubt about his ability to manage a pitching staff and throw runners out, but he's improved behind the plate and he brings the lumber.
He's also in his prime.
Beltre took a chance coming to Boston on a one-year deal and it has worked out magically for him -- .320 with 28 homers. The Sox are unlikely to give him three or four years at big money since they think they have seen his best. They also know they can move Youkilis across the diamond to play third if they find a slugging first baseman.
Which brings us to messrs.
Those three National League sluggers are up at the end of the 2011 season and the Sox plan to make a bid for one of them if they can survive what may be another bridge season next year. Look for Boston to make a run at Phillies outfielder
Elimination will come tonight, or another night soon in Chicago. The Sox have been playing for 2011 or 2012 for a long time. Maybe all season.