In New England, the Major League Baseball season ended yesterday with a Red Sox bittersweet, rain-shortened 9-0 victory over Baltimore.
The season started out well for Boston, which dominated the rival New York Yankees early on, only to be swept in a five-game series later in the summer. This caused the Sox to permanently slip out of first place in the American League East Division and quickly lose sight of the postseason.
Injuries came in waves throughout the season. Pitcher Matt Clement was lost for the season in June, and any hope of his return was lost July 30 when he was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Lenny DiNardo went down with a neck strain in May and did not return until late August. Tim Wakefeld was also lost in late-July and would not return until September. The wheels fell off Aug. 1 when captain/catcher Jason Varitek went on the disabled list. News would come later that promising rookie pitcher, John Lester, had cancer.
According to a report on MLB.com, batting coach Ron Jackson may absorb some of the fallout from the second half of the season. The coach who oversaw one of the top American League offenses during his tenure may be on his way out in the off-season.
The season did have some bright spots. David Ortiz finished the season with 54 homeruns, breaking Jimmie Foxx’s single-season Red Sox home run record.
Manny continued to be Manny this year, and his return is probable, but once again not set in stone.
Trot Nixon, a career Red Sox mainstay who, himself, has been plagued with late injuries, may not return, however. If Nixon plays in Boston in 2007, it will be for a reduced salary and less money than he may be eligible for on the open market. He also may not be a starter in Boston.
Middle infielders Mark Loretta and Alex Gonzalez may not return either. Both provided solid defense and decent offensive numbers, (.285 and .255 respectively) and both may draw lucrative contracts elsewhere.
Now, alas, the Beantown beloved have finished in third place, their worst ending since the 1997 season and a far cry away from the World Series.
This will now be the first time in recorded history that Boston fans cheer loudly for the Detroit Tigers as they roll into New York to face the Yankees after blowing the American League Central lead and settling for a Wild Card berth.
As New Englanders look to next year, one phrase is on people’s minds.
Are you ready for some football?