BOSTON — The whiteboard says it all.
The Boston Red Sox’s 2014 season ended Sunday with a 9-5 loss to the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. After the game, the dry erase board hanging on the Red Sox’s clubhouse door contained a message the organization certainly didn’t foresee being written Sept. 28.
The board read:
-Pitchers & Catchers Report
-Position Players Report
-7:30 a.m. Early Work Field #6 w/ Butterfield
It was a harsh reminder — like anyone needed one — that October baseball isn’t in the cards for the defending World Series champions.
“We didn’t anticipate the final record,” said manager John Farrell, who guided the Red Sox to a 71-91 finish in his second year at the helm. “You play the games to determine that and it is where we are. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and a lot of that has already begun. When we took the field on Feb. 15 in Fort Myers, this was not what we envisioned.”
The Red Sox sputtered out of the gate this season, ending April with a .500 record (13-13). Boston’s hope was that it was a World Series hangover of sorts and that the club eventually would find its stride. After all, outfielder Grady Sizemore, who was seeing regular action at the time, was working his way back after a two-year layoff. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski still was learning the Red Sox’s pitching staff. Two rookies, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., were playing prominent roles. Right fielder Shane Victorino had been sidelined until April 24.
It all was wishful thinking, however, as the Red Sox never gained traction. Boston went 13-15 in May — dropping 10 straight games at one point — to fall to eight games back in the division. The Red Sox experienced a brief surge around the All-Star break in the form of a five-game winning streak, but a five-game losing streak quickly solidified Boston’s status as sellers as the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline.
“That, (Sunday), was the final game,” Farrell said after Sunday’s season finale when asked about his emotions. “We knew that for a while. And that’s not something that sits well because of what our expectations are every year. So it’s disappointing. The game of baseball has been put to bed here for the time being. And like I said, that’s not what we anticipated.”
The Red Sox’s roster underwent a massive overhaul throughout the season. Four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation — Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront — were traded away, with Sunday’s starter, Clay Buchholz, being the last man standing. A host of young players have arrived on the scene, headlined by Mookie Betts and Christian Vazquez, both of whom shined down the stretch. A pair of Cuban outfielders, Yoenis Cespedes and Rusney Castillo, look primed to spearhead an offensive renaissance. While Boston stumbled its way across the finish line, there’s no shortage of motivation, anxiousness and confidence that next season will be different.
“This also is a chance to look at some optimism for us, and that includes the players that have been brought in here,” Farrell said Sunday. “Probably some of the anxiousness we share with (general manager) Ben (Cherington) and others to make the necessary changes to our roster this winter. And honestly, personally, I’m looking forward to spring training starting sooner than it actually will.”
The whiteboard following the Red Sox’s final game of 2013 read:
Thursday, October 31
-4:25 Pitchers Stretch
The message was crossed out with a big red ‘X’ and the note, “Cancelled, World Champs 2013.”
The whiteboard said it all then. And it says it all now.
Photo via Joy R. Absalon/USA TODAY Sports Images