I'm pretty conflicted right now, folks. On the one hand, we just saw all four Division Series go the distance, the first time that's ever happened. Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia came up big when their teams needed them, and Drew Storen came up very small. It's been an incredible week of baseball, following the most ridiculous, unpredictable season most of us can remember. And yet today the second round will begin, and the remaining matchups are New York-Detroit, and St. Louis-San Francisco. The most recent three World Series champs plus a team boasting last year's Cy Young-winning MVP (the aforementioned Verlander).
At the end of a season where Baltimore defied the laws of probability and physics to win 93 games, Oakland roared out of nowhere to win the AL West, and Washington rode a potent rotation to the best record in the majors, we've wound up with a final four that any dope with a copy of last year's standings could have guessed. This isn't to say the teams who've advanced haven't earned it, or that there's no good baseball left to be played. It's just... I feel a bit as though all year we've been watching Community, and now we're stuck with a week of The Office. Sure, there'll be a few giggles here and there, but a Tigers-Giants World Series isn't going to suddenly transition into 8-bit Nintendo graphics.
But then if 2012 has taught us anything, it's how to deal with disappointment. And of disappointment there was plenty for Boston's American League franchise. With the season done and the playoffs still rolling on, the Red Sox are in a bit of a transitional mode. They've cast out their loquacious manager, who will with any luck spend his free time trying to match the Onion-reported exploits of Joe Biden. Free agency doesn't officially get under way for another month, but they're starting to consider their options. There's no baseball at Fenway, but it doesn't mean they're not thinking about it.
One agenda item the Sox can cross off before free agent season opens is filling that big stretch of empty bench in the home dugout. Boston interviewed Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach yesterday. Meaningless but fun notes in Wallach's favor: he was a teammate of Terry Francona's in Montreal, and managed the best-named team in all of Double-A. Other names being tossed around include current Blue Jays manager John Farrell (whom Matt Kory wisely advised the more panicky among us to calm down about) and San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus. If you're looking to keep up to date on the search as it continues, you're in luck. Among the many shiny new features of the blog's new format is the handy-dandy "Storystream," which keeps running updates on ongoing stories all in the same easy-to-find spot. And behold, here's the one for the managerial search!
One of the important rules of baseball that is never broken, really never even skirted, and how dare you even think that it might be, is that teams can't talk to other teams' potential free agents until they're actual free agents. This doesn't apply to guys currently on your own roster, of course. Thus, Boston's stepping up negotiations with DH/team icon David Ortiz, hoping to keep him in town for the remainder of his career. In addition, they're making a serious run at keeping Cody Ross around.
With those two possibly staying in Boston, who will wind up rounding out the roster? Marc pointed out that the first priority is sorting out the crowded 40-man. Then the real hot stove fun can begin. The biggest name heading into free agency is Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton. Is Boston interested? Should Boston be interested? Even if they were and should be, is Hamilton interested in coming here? Ben examined all the variables in the Hamilton market, and also took a quick look at whether Vegas thinks the big outfielder will be wearing crimson stockings come April. I am lukewarm at best on the prospect of Hamilton in Boston, for reasons at least hinted at in my Monday column reflecting on the season's lessons. While speculating on injury-prone sluggers approaching free agency, an odd question appears to think about- why not re-sign Kevin Youkilis?
Seasons like this don't come along that often, and the main way they can be useful at all is as evidence of what not to do. The lessons of a lost season are dearly bought, and should be learned well. So what did we learn about this team? Marc covered the biggest things we learned about the offense and the pitching staff as the last month wound down.
No Sox, of course, but there is baseball to be had. Doug Fister goes up against Andy Pettitte at that park with the little-league right field fence to kick off the American League Championship Series. Enjoy.