Well, folks, this is it. The final recap of the 2012 regular season. Next week, it'll all be over. This sad, forlorn wreck of a season can be left behind, and we can move on to discussions of next year. Sure, first there will be the rehashing of the bad times. And the knifing of those who were to blame. And the firings, trades, non-tenders, and general purging of all Sox employees not on board with the current plan. So perhaps it'll be a little while before we can truly call it a season and move along. Thanksgiving or so sound about right to everyone?
Last night saw the final desperate flailing of the "Aaron Cook as MLB starter" experiment. There are few ironclad rules in baseball, but among them is that which states: "A sinker that does not sink is a batting practice fastball." So the Orioles won their 90th game, and Boston got a bit closer to wrapping up the seventh pick in the 2013 draft. Someday we will have to tell our children that this happened. It will not be pleasant.
But there were still games to be played this week. Not many of them, strangely. The Red Sox had two off-days surrounding a two-game set with Tampa this week. Were the Sox in the thick of a playoff race, those days of rest would surely be seen as a blessing to the pitching staff and a leg up on the competition. As it is, it's just kind of sad. Better to just run through the last dozen games and be done with it.
On to the recapping.
With the offseason beckoning, the free agent market becomes a primary focus. With the enormous contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto off the books, Boston has the capacity to do some real damage in the winter. Whether they'll use the power of their fully armed and operational checkbook is up to the front office, which is understandably wary of doling out big-money long-term deals. Assuming Boston wants to throw around a bit of money, though, where should they aim it?
The starting rotation was the single greatest weakness of the 2012 Red Sox, so that seems an obvious place to focus. Especially since the rotation as presently constituted is unlikely to live up to our wild expectations. What does the market for starters look like this offseason? Matt Collins gave an overview of the options available to Boston. Focusing in a bit, Ben looked at the possibility of pursuing Jake Peavy, and whether Boston might swing an early trade for Dan Haren.
Boston's in better shape on the hitting side of things, but two major parts of the 2012 lineup will need to be re-signed if we want to keep them around. David Ortiz agreed to an arb-avoiding deal last offseason, but will he do so again, even given his stated desire to remain in Boston? Marc looked at whether it's time to give Papi the final long-term deal he's been coveting. The other big cog in the Sox offense who'll need a new contract is Cody Ross. Matt Sullivan made the point that Ross's pull tendencies make him unusually suited to Fenway. Ben points out that Ross has as good a claim as anyone to the title of Sox MVP for the year. One thing we can all agree on: there must be a better option for Boston than James Loney.
Looking for a bit of reminiscing, rather than dwelling on this year's despair? The Red Sox announced their All-Fenway team this week. The top vote-getter was Pedro Martinez, which is good, because it means fewer people I need to slap for not voting for Pedro Martinez. We also got another flashback to the 1912 season courtesy of Matt Sullivan.
We wrap things up where we always seem to lately, with the Bobby Valentine deathwatch. Sox GM Ben Cherington seemed to hint that Valentine would soon be seeking a new job on Thursday. He walked back those comments a bit yesterday, and so we're all still left wondering whether the Sox will have a new manager heading into the 2013 season. Additional speculation now abounds in Cleveland, where incumbent manager Manny Acta was fired. Could Terry Francona be the man to replace him? Finally, in non-managerial moves, the Red Sox announced the hiring of Jason Varitek as a "special assistant to the GM." In terms of actual responsibility, it's unclear what this means. Most likely this gives Tek a dossier encompassing some scouting, some coaching, and some general PR and internal communication responsibilities. Long-term, it does likely set him up for a managerial gig somewhere. I remain skeptical he'd be the right man for the big-league job at present, but after a few years with the front office and a bit more distance between him and the roster, I'd love to see him get a shot.
Five games left. Two with Baltimore, three with New York. A last chance to wreak some havoc on the standings, or at least give us all a nice memory or two with which to head in to the long winter. Happy weekend, all.