By TERRY LYONS, Editor in Chief
BOSTON – A sharp No. 2 pencil was used to write the entry in my official Bob Carpenter Baseball Scorebook late yesterday afternoon. It read “4-3,” and for those not well-versed in the code-breaking of baseball, that meant Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit a ground ball that Houston second baseman Jose Altuve fielded and tossed to Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel who squeezed his glove for his 12th and final putout and a 5-4 Houston win in the American League Divisional Championship game. With it, Gurriel squeezed the last bastion of summer out of an old northeastern city in front of 37, 305 fans who remained in hope of a two-out rally to save their season.
Like the concept of death itself, the final out sent the entire 2017 Red Sox season rushing through our minds. From the same Pedroia grounding out to Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer for the first Red Sox at-bat of the season on a 48-degree Monday on the third day of April, through glorious spring and summer days to yesterday’s final hope, an amazing inside-the-park home run hit sharply by Sox third baseman Rafael Devers who led off the ninth inning with his club trailing, 5-3, the season went by so fast and it is now gone.
Gone? Like Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was tossed from his club’s final game yesterday after a short hook from umpire Mark Wegner?
Gone? Like David Ortiz?
Gone? Like starts from David Price every four days?
Gone? Like effective rotation pitching from the likes of Drew Pomeranz or Doug Fister or Eduardo Rodriguez?
The end of a baseball season is tough on New Englanders. The very second Gurriel squeezed his glove yesterday and champagne corks flew in the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park, visions of ice and snow danced through our heads. Not a light dusting of fluffy stuff. No. The vision was heavy, ice-laden chunks of rock solid precipitation left on our walkways and driveways overnight. Pedroia’s ground-out to end the season did exactly what every imaginative Bostonian hopes to never do. It brought upon winter.
This winter will be a very interesting off-season for Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowki who was hired back in mid-August of 2015 and has only one postseason victory to show. While the favorite pastime for Bostonians – well, for all Americans for that matter – is finger-pointing and playing the blame game, Dombrowski is faced with a long winter of soul-searching.
Does he go for the easy out, the quick fix of firing Farrell who is under the critical eye of the ravenous Red Sox nation of fandom and in the crosshairs of the local media who enjoy catering a dish of heads on a platter to those fans, or does Dombrowski look in the mirror and at his roster for the answers?
Does Dombrowski dare take the hard road, recently travelled by Boston Red Sox GM Danny Ainge? While Ainge had already secured a soulmate of a coach in Brad Stevens, a once-in-a-lifetime great hire to lead the pro basketball team, Ainge stared at a Celtics roster which overachieved enough to win 53 games and secured the best record in the East but was sorely lacking for the longterm. The Celtics blew-up the entire roster and retooled for this season by reaching into the free agent vault and orchestrating ballsy trades to improve personnel for the NBA of 2018-19.
Should Dombrowski do the same to the American League East champion Sox?
As we rake the fallen leaves, stock our cord or two of firewood and dust-off the snow shovels, to be placed on the porch for easy access soon enough, the fate of the manager, Farrell, will most likely be the first of Dombrowski’s decisions to play out as the Red Sox pack-up the balls and bats at Fenway. Here, we’re of the belief it was not Farrell who could take the mound in place of Fister or Rick Porcello. It was not Farrell who could bat clean-up in place of Big Papi. It was not farrell who could patch-up reliever Tyler Thornberg’s shoulder. All Farrell could do was help carry newly acquired club spark-plug and lively batter Eduardo Nunez off the field last week after he suffered a season-ending knee flare-up.
Farrell has to manage the roster available to him, and late-season injuries, batting slumps, fatigued starting pitchers and spotty middle relievers come with the territory of being a big league skipper.
When it was over, so abruptly, yesterday, Farrell reflected, saying, “(I’m) extremely proud for the way we went out and worked, the way we were a very competitive team throughout. We won a lot of baseball games. You win the division, that’s, I think, a major accomplishment. We didn’t meet all of our goals, that’s obvious by the ending here today.
“But, we have seen some really good, young players continue to develop. We had a number of challenges thrown our way from individual injuries to performance, but as a team, they stuck together. They care for one another and they fully compete right to the end. Right down to the end, obviously, with Raffey’s (Rafael Devers) inside-the-park home run, there was still energy, still life you could feel. The resiliency we talked about, but this is a very competitive, close-knit team.”
Yes, a close-knit team that might actually have to knit new Sox during this long, cold, cruel winter in Boston.