Hideki Okajima’s bases-loaded, walk-off walk to Juan Miranda in the 10th inning on Sunday night against the Yankees signaled the end of the Boston Red Sox’ season. They put up a valiant fight, but save a miracle, the Red Sox will not make the playoffs.
Around Boston on Monday morning, the papers are filled with obituaries about the team. Some praise the gutsy 2010 band of replacements and rookies. Others chastise the closer and the manager’s decision to stick with him in trying times. Others herald Terry Francona’s 2010 season as the best of his career.
Whatever fans take from the 2010 season, when teams don’t win in Boston (or in any professional sports town, for that matter), they have to be held accountable at some level. And rest assured, thousands of Red Sox fans will be ringing up sports talk radio shows to hold everyone accountable: players, ownership, managers, pitching coaches, even friends who changed seats in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday night.
At least the fans will be talking about the Red Sox – one final gasp of Red Sox relevance on the airwaves before Tom Brady and the Patriots officially take over the town.
For the diehards, there will soon be talk about re-signing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Without either, the Red Sox would have painted a much more grim 2010 picture than merely missing the playoffs by a handful of games.
Will the Red Sox let them walk and grab the supplemental draft picks? Time will tell.
Did David Ortiz earn an extension, or will the fear of his early-season woes the past two years force the Red Sox to cut ties with their most influential personality since Nomar Garciaparra?
Will Daniel Bard step in as the closer and Jonathan Papelbon pack up and go?
How will Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia respond from their surgeries?
Did Daisuke Matsuzaka’s eight-inning performance on Sunday night lift his value for a trade for an Andre Ethier?
The questions will swirl, and the offseason work soon will begin. One more win for the Yankees or one more loss for the Red Sox, and the 2010 season officially will come to an end in Boston.
The unofficial ending was Sunday night, and arguably, it was a just and rightful ending. Sure, the walk in the 10th was an unintentional surrender, but it did come after a fight.
With the Red Sox down 2-1 to the Yankees in the top of the ninth, Francona had two base runners, Ryan Kalish and Bill Hall, both steal second and third off the greatest closer of all time. Kalish and Hall both ended up scoring to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
People should always remember this year’s installment of Red Sox as a group with a lot of heart — a group that refused to die when Alex Rodriguez delivered a seventh-inning home run to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
The rookie Kalish showed true character and grit, diving to make a tremendous catch in the eighth before smacking a single up the middle against future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera in the ninth. After two steals and a base hit by Hall, Kalish gave the Red Sox life.
The kid is not just in the lineup just to gain major league experience. He is there to help the Red Sox win. He has a very promising future, whether he stays with the Red Sox or is packaged in a deal to lure some proven talent to Boston.
The Red Sox’ late charge had many thinking about shades of 2004, and there was an actual belief that we were watching the start of an improbable September comeback. With three more games still remaining against the Yankees at Fenway, why not dream a little?
Alas, that dream turned into an all-too-familiar nightmare in the bottom of the ninth inning. And the 2004 excitement gave way to a 2003 defeat.
Blame whomever you want for the heartbreaking loss. But sometimes, a team just gets beat by a league Most Valuable Player like Robinson Cano.
The Yankees and Rays were better than the band-aid bunch of Red Sox who took the field for much of the 2010 season. Remarkably, they almost punched out of their weight class and into a playoff spot.
No shame, but no satisfaction.
The 2010 Boston Red Sox will play out the rest of their schedule and hope for something way beyond improbable to happen.
In the meantime, enjoy watching a pair of Cy Young contenders in the Red Sox rotation as you ready your best questions for the offseason.
The white flag is now burning in a hot stove that is heating up.