And with that, the Yankees are no more. Proving that there is yet some semblance of justice in the universe, Detroit swept the New York squad out of the playoffs. Now the Yankees face an offseason of hard questions, as they deal with a stunning late-season collapse, questions about their clubhouse and desire, and the possibility that they've overburdened themselves with long, expensive contracts. Sounds oddly familiar somehow...
Of course, while that's been going on, the Red Sox have been working on answering questions themselves. The biggest of all: who'll be running the show from the home dugout at Fenway next year? Having already brought in Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach and Padres special assistant (and recent catcher) Brad Ausmus, Boston set up interviews with Tony Pena and DeMarlo Hale. Each has past ties to Boston, with Hale managing in Boston's minor-league system and serving on Terry Francona's coaching staff, and Pena manning the backstop as Boston's catcher in the early 90's.
While they interview new possibilities, the Red Sox are also engaged in active pursuit of an old acquaintance. Boston has stepped up negotiations with Toronto in the last two days. The reason: determining the cost of prying loose John Farrell from his current contract. Whether this means Boston is set on Farrell is unclear. It's possible they're merely sussing out the price point in an effort to see if Farrell's even really available. That price point, by the way, is the source of all my reluctance on the Farrell front. I'm not dead-set against the idea of bringing back the former Sox pitching coach to run the squad, but he will cost more than any of the openly available candidates, and I have no reason to think he'd be worth that premium. Nor, of course, do I have reason to think he won't (although apparently at least one Red Sox player does). So the key is how steep that premium is, a subject that Ben covered yesterday. Whoever winds up as manager, they'll have a lot of work ahead of them. One early priority will be finding a new hitting coach, as longtime Boston coach Dave Magadan has departed for Texas.
Of course, the Red Sox don't just face questions about their coaching staff. The offseason looms, with a shaky pitching rotation to be shored up and an offense with a few holes in it. Of these two issues, pitching is the clear priority. Boston needs starters, and this offseason, while not exactly pitching-rich, offers some interesting possibilities. Marc covered the pitching market this week, from the top of the heap (Zack Greinke, Jake Peavy) to the solid mid-rotation guys (Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse) to the back-end depth guys (Joe Saunders, Bartolo Colon).
On the offensive side, Boston has a rather large hole at first base, with the depth chart at that keystone slugging position currently topped by either Mauro Gomez or Jerry Sands. One strong possibility would be current Mets first baseman Ike Davis, an option covered by Matt Collins this week. Also critical to Boston's offensive construction this offseason is the fate of Jacoby Ellsbury. A young, talented player entering his final year of team control and with Scott Boras for an agent, Ellsbury may prove too expensive for the Sox to re-sign after 2013. With that in mind, is it worth pursuing a trade for the fan favorite? We covered all angles of Ellsbury's status this in an ongoing feature.
This week reminded us all of the neverending PR nightmare that is the Boston fanbase and media. The Red Sox announced that they would not be changing ticket prices for the 2013 season, which led to assorted shouting. There would, of course, have been far more shouting if they had raised prices, but after two straight disappointing years, many fans and media figures felt that Boston should lower their prices. As Ben pointed out this week, Boston has absolutely no incentive to do so. The franchise, as a franchise, has a single goal: profit. Profit preferably through winning titles, but if fans will show up and pay $50 a pop to watch the team whether they're good or bad, why would you ever reduce your own revenue stream?
In a slightly sillier PR blowup, numerous fans either insulted or unfollowed Sox stars Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks on Twitter after they had the temerity to be impressed with Raul Ibanez's completely ridiculous postseason performance. As Boston tempests go, this one was admittedly pretty mild. But it did serve as a fascinating reminder that players watch the game, too. Why not enjoy that moment of connection, rather than being angry that Cody Ross said something about a Yankee other than "I'm going to make orphans of his children"?
No baseball today, as the Cardinals and Giants head back to San Francisco. As I said on Twitter the other day, there are now at most nine games left between us and a long, dark winter full of Jack Morris arguments. Enjoy them while you can.