Sunday evening, those of us in Boston got a true sign of winter's approach as we were invaded by the first fall of hail. Like many Bostonians, my mood was immediately ruined when I looked at the thermometer of my car and it read 35 degrees. Gone are the days of turning on the AC and enjoying the sunlight after three in the afternoon.
Depressing, isn't it?
Thankfully for those of us who love the game, baseball's hot stove season is here to turn up the heat. For Red Sox fans, this has the potential to be a really hot winter. The start of the hot stove season is arguably the most exciting time to talk baseball. It's when all baseball fans think their team has a real chance to compete for the following year's title.
For Sox fans, this winter brings a lot of uncertainty. Just sit and think about how many questions have to be answered, and you'll realize just how much Theo Epstein has on his plate.
We already know that the Sox decided to pick up Scott Atchison's and David Ortiz's options for 2011, so those are at least on the shelf for now. Then there are all of the other tentative decisions to be made. Will we, can we, should we, and do we want to bring back Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, Adrian Beltre, Jonathan Papelbon, etc.? Will we, can we, should we, and do we want to make a bid at Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jason Werth, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, etc.? Of course, we can't leave out the possibility of making a deal with San Diego for their stud first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
And don't forget the bullpen. Boston's 2009 relief crew finished the season with a 4.24 ERA, 12th out of 14 American League teams, ahead of only the Orioles and Royals (both last place teams in their respective divisions).
By now you can tell that there's a lot of work to be done, and none of it is going to be easy, while much of it will probably not be done by the time next year comes around. In his tenure as general manager, Epstein has had his work cut out for him but has always come through. The reality is that he has put a competitive team on the field every year, but it's hard to remember him having a winter as busy as this one.
Good luck, Theo — we're all rooting for you.