Boston Red Sox 2016 autopsy and glance at 2017

Oct 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) salutes the fans after loosing to the Cleveland Indians 3-4 in game three of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) salutes the fans after loosing to the Cleveland Indians 3-4 in game three of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The season has concluded and a new champion has been crowned and it is certainly not the Boston Red Sox. Now comes the reload for 2017.

The end of the 2016 baseball season came to a finish with the crowning of a new champion. That commences the off-season assessment of the Red Sox and an obituary for the just finished season.

The Red Sox 2016 season disintegrated with an abundance of injuries, mediocre performances from the least expected, questionable managerial moves, and a sudden inability to produce an extended winning streak as the season faded – an executioner’s blade that delivered a coup de grâce.

The season itself is one of great performance fluctuations both individually and collectively, and that is usually part of the dynamic of any team. However, when you have loaded up for baseball bear and fall short the grousing within the media and the masses are to be expected. Red Sox fans have an emotional involvement and are quite ready to display it. Three and out will not suffice, nor will a stretch drive that had a team exhibiting all the excitement of a school board meeting. Ninety-three wins simply means squat.

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The underlying premise is that the Red Sox would own Boston this October and a returning miscreant – Tom Brady – or the early results on the ice hockey and basketball team would take about six pages deep in the sports section.  Expected Red Sox stories would have proliferated about the ongoing deep playoffs and eventual encounter with the Chicago Cubs.

What did we get? A death watch. The funeral pyres for the season were being assembled and the sin-eaters have been procured by management to ritually eat Fenway Franks to cleanse the Red Sox household of whatever nasty baseball gods have brought upon us. A sour ending, indeed.

The most important factor of course, as any reasonable observer knows is to finger point and blame someone as there will and never has been any absolution for a decayed season.  This season certainly has ended with a whimper.  Without the adornment of a World Series flag fluttering, the season is just a rehearsal for another attempt in 2017.

What happens as the Red Sox move forward?

The latest baseball dynamic is built a bullpen since the Kansas City Royals used that formula to perfection in 2015. Now the copy cat syndrome was magnificently engineered by the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs.  The formula is to simply squeeze as much as possible from starters and watch bats wither as a plethora of arms is summoned as early as the fifth inning. The Red Sox know the formula, but do not have the ingredients – yet.

What the Red Sox do have is an above average rotation – second in the American League, according to – and a bullpen that actually is not that far behind. Maybe an exceptional power arm addition would be the ticket?

Expect the Red Sox to devise some method to manage the offense lost with the retirement of David Ortiz. What may offer a far greater challenge is replacing the personality, panache and clutch performances. No doubt – at least from my view – that Boston will add a right-handed power bat. The question to be answered is just who it will be?

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The remaining offense has a few issues, but when you have a lineup that is as productive as Boston’s they can be minimized. Third base, left field, and catching are three areas that need attention. This is like having some minor dental work where just a filling is needed and not a root canal.

What is also of interest is certainly well beyond the control of the Red Sox and that is their fellow travellers in the American League East. The “Beast of the East” appeared a rather tame and docile creature when both Toronto and Boston became road kill for the Indians. So the idea is to look over your baseball shoulder at what the competition is doing.

The Yankees – I believe they make New York their home – now has money and the number one ranked farm system. Farm systems mean little since the games are played in the majors and not a city you need a GPS to locate. The Noo Yawkers may be a season or two away.

Toronto and Baltimore will have a disappearing act going forward as both have some rather competent free agents who just may land elsewhere – including Boston. Tampa – you ask? The Rays are a pesky bunch capable of giving their four big brothers a nose bleed at any given time, but the fact is they may approach 100 losses.

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Boston has a solid team that needs appropriate patchwork. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that they will fade from prominence. This is certainly a team quite capable of exceeding 93 wins and I fully expect that. Add on another division title, but what I feel is the key missing ingredient is the “intangibles” that are so difficult to define.