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  Saturday, February 28, 2015
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Sox End Repeat Hopes
By Paul Noonan

     The fact of the matter is they really didn’t show up to play until game 3. Although they had pulled off amazing comebacks before, this was a new Red Sox team. The 2005 version, for better or worse, was content. They were no longer chasing that elusive title, but instead looking to just keep on rolling. Maybe partly the fault of the fans.  The Sox did not have to worry about blowing another opportunity to end the curse, because it has already been done. Nevertheless, the Sox gave Boston another fun summer, and there is reason to believe they will stay in the title hunt for the next few years.

     The Sox fate could’ve changed with just one more win during the regular season. You can look at almost every game and say ‘if only,’ but post facto it does no good. The Sox did their best by sweeping the O’s, but the Yanks kept pace setting themselves up to overtake the division. The Sox came out flat in the series opener, letting the White Sox walk all over them. Poor pitching didn’t help, but the bats were quiet as well. In game two, the Sox’s biggest playoff blunder since Billy Buckner took place. In a classy move, David Wells tried to take the blame, but the fact is (as with the Buckner case) that there was more baseball to be played. The Sox still had four innings to get one run, but the bats fell quiet. So the series came back to Fenway where most of the Sox’s recent postseason magic has taken place. But apparently that magic needed a year to refuel because the Sox came 10 feet short of starting what could’ve been another exciting comeback. With two men on, Mr. Clutch himself drove a soaring shot deep to center, sending Sox’s fans to their feet in the hopes of yet another magical moment by Ortiz. Unfortunately, Papi could only power the ball to the warning track, ending a potential Sox rally. From there the Sox bats again went quiet (minus Manny’s solo homer) and the White Sox bullpen shut us down, sending the Red Sox home for the winter.

     As I’m sure many will agree, the Red Sox can be given a mulligan, especially for this season. After ending the 86 year curse even a .500 record would’ve been tolerated. Given some of the Sox’s woes over the course of the season, it is surprising they didn’t finish near .500. Injuries took their toll on many key players, Schilling, Keith Foulke, Johnny Damon, Gabe Kapler, Wade Miller, Matt Clement (he was never the same after the line drive to the head), a short stint for David Wells, etc. These unfortunate events may have been a blessing in disguise. Most notably Jon Papelbon, but many other Sox prospects also got a chance to showcase what they’ve got. In Papelbon’s case he even got a chance to get a little playoff experience under his belt. Two and two thirds scoreless innings of playoff experience. Meanwhile other prospects such as Manny Delcarmen, Hanley Ramirez, Craig Hansen and Adam Stern got to see some decent playing time over the course of the season.

     So now comes the ‘season’ where recently the Sox have shone. The off- season holds many issues for the Sox to resolve. First and foremost may be re- signing the mastermind, Theo Epstein. Go down another rank and Terry Francona’s name comes up. Finally on the field the Sox have names such as Mueller, Damon and Millar to deal with. That just starts the list, Graffanino, Timlin, Myers, Mantei, Olerud, Petagine round out the list of Sox free agents. What the Sox will is yet to be seen.  It will all depend on if Theo comes back, which hopefully we won’t have to worry about. The play of some of the Sox prospects may cost a job or two, but the Sox certainly could use a few of those names on the roster again next year. Early rumors suggest that Damon, Graffanino and possibly Mueller will not be in Sox uniforms next season. Will John Olerud or Mike Timlin opt to retire? Only the future has the answers. However, since the Sox finally have some depth in the minors, and if Theo sticks around there is no reason to believe the Sox won’t field another playoff and World Series contender.

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Will Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon be re-signed?  Is this the end of the "idiots"?