Winter Begins in Boston

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Many believed that the 2009 Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball. Unfortunately for the players and their fans, their season is now over.

Dreams of another Fall Classic have died, thanks to a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series by the Los Angeles Angels.

The Red Sox made a late push to stave off their winter when they took an early3-0 lead in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS versus the Angels, and had leads of 5-1 and 6-4 entering the 9th inning with closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. After two quick outs, the Angels put together a single and a walk before Bobby Abreu crushed a double that scored one. With men on second and third, Terry Francona ordered an intentional walk to Torii Hunter(who cranked a home run in Game 1) in order to face Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero promptly hit a clean single, scoring two and giving the Angels a 7-6 lead against the Red Sox closer. The Red Sox went quietly in the bottom of the 9th inning, and the Angels piled on one another in Fenway Park as TV sets throughout New England quickly went off or changed channels.

The 2009 Red Sox had flaws, which any Sox fan could point out(offensive silence, bullpen options, and catching woes, oh my!). It’s impossible to place the blame on any one piece of the team, and there is no doubt that Theo Epstein will address these problems before April 2010.

There were many bright spots in the regular season to suggest it was a pretty fun season, regardless. David Ortiz led all of baseball with 27 home runs between early June and the end of the season. Daniel Bard emerged as a hard(101 MPH!) throwing reliable arm out of the bullpen. His teammates took to calling him Daniel Hard. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester proved to be an awesome 1-2 tandem for the Red Sox rotation and Clay Buchholz emerged as a young pitcher showing lots of promise. Tim Wakefield provided his vintage dominance in the first half, and Dice-K showed that he had recovered from injury with his late season run.

There will be an entire winter to examine what went wrong, and where the Red Sox need to go from here, but that can wait. With only a few weeks left of baseball, let’s hope the team that beat the Red Sox can at the very least get past the New York Yankees.

WINTER READING: Joe Posnanski’s ‘The Machine’, which follows the 1975 Cincinnati Reds through their entire season, is a tremendous baseball book to start off the winter with. While the Red Sox lose in this story too, Posnanski brings to life the baseball days of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey and all the rest in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s a quick read, and there are a ton of great stories about the players from that era and that championship team. Any baseball fan would enjoy Posnanski’s book, regardless of team allegiance.

When each Red Sox season concludes, Red Sox radio man Joe Castiglione reads the following quote from A. Bartlett Giamatti, former MLB commissioner and lifelong Red Sox fan. It’s a fitting quote(and just a snippet of the longer Giamatti piece, The Green Fields of the Mind) to end this season with.

“It’s designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything is new again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains comes, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

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