That glazed and puzzled look that has appeared on the faces of so many other post season teams (the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, and the Chicago Cubs last year, to name just two) is now being worn by the Boston Red Sox. The A.L.’s wild card entry was stunned by a ninth inning rally in Boston on Saturday, and swept in three games by the Los Angeles Angels to be eliminated from the playoffs. The Bosox appeared headed for a sure win in theirÂ head-to-head match-up against the Belinskis, leading the Halos 6-3 heading into the 9th inning at Fenway Park — with their ace closer, Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. But with two outs, Papelbon’s down-and-out or up-and-in stuff failed him: Erick Aybar singled, Chone Figgins walkedÂ and Bobby Abreu doubled to tighten the contest. Even then, the Red Sox remained a simple grounder or fly ball away from victory. To set up a force out at every base, Papelbon walked Torii Hunter intentionally. ThatÂ broughtÂ Vladimir Guerrero to the plate. On the very first pitch to one of baseball’s beset bad-ball hitters, Papelbon gave up a singleÂ to center.Â Guerrero’s hit, a leaning over-the-plateÂ smack of a low and outside fastball, scoredÂ Figgins and Abreu and gave the Angels the 7-6 victory.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The elimination of the Redbirds and Bosox now sets the wheels in motion for the offseason in both Boston and St. Louis. There’s a lot to do. Fans of “the Nation” face some big questions: about the future of David Ortiz and the cost of Jason Bay. The team is hardly in need of a major overhaul, yet the horses that have consistently put it into the off season are aging or hobbled. The entire left side of the Boston infield is in question: Mike Lowell can’t play third forever and the team has no ready answer at shortstop. “PhttttÂ . . . c’mon” — fans of the Nation say: what about Jed Lowrie? Well, what about him? Maybe Baseball Reference is lying, but their stats show him hittingÂ .147 in 32 games. Hell, there’s a shortstop in Washington who hits aÂ damn sight better than that and he’s no damn good at all . . .Â Â Â
The Redbirds are younger, but the questions might be more pertinent: whether to pony up the big bucks it will take to keep Matt Holliday in left and (just like the Red Sox) what to do at third.Â Mark DeRosa is a free agent and while he likes St. Louis he will test the free agent market. Then too, whileÂ shortstop seems set for the River City Nine, rookie phenom Brendan Ryan hit a scorching .083Â in the playoffs and looked shaky in the field. Redbird fans have the same reaction to this negativity as their Bosox buddies: “Oh yeah, well what about Troy Glaus?” Okay, right. Troy Glaus:Â who left his right shoulder somewhere in Toronto and hasn’t been the same since. Maybe he’ll return to his 2008 form (.270, 27 home runs), but it’s a pretty bigÂ maybe. Then too, number three starter Joel Pineiro is a free agentÂ and would be a number one starter on most major league teams: including the Nats (now there’s an idea). Oddly, whether Holliday orÂ DeRosaÂ or Pineiro decide to stayÂ in St. Louis might hinge more on the fate of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan than on how much money BillyÂ DeWitt puts on the table.Â LaRussa and Duncan’s contractsÂ are up and both are rumored headed to Cincinnati, to team up with their old St. Louis G.M. pal Walt Jocketty . . .