THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Final series didn’t quite make up for season’s weak end

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / October 4, 2010

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Remember run prevention?

Your 2010 Red Sox made a whopping 60.8 percent more errors than the playoff-bound Yankees. The Red Sox finished 12th out of 14 American League teams in fielding percentage. The Sox made 42 more errors than the Yankees in 2010.

Talk all you want about injuries. The Sox sent 19 players to the disabled list, losing 1,013 man-games to broken bones and torn ligaments. The bottom line is that the 2010 game plan was flawed from the jump. You cannot be surprised when your 37-year-old center fielder gets hurt.

No wonder NESN’s ratings tanked in 2010. Run prevention turned out to be consumer fraud. Worst idea since New Coke.

Boston baseball’s season of the witch groaned to a close yesterday as the Sox and Yankees concluded their lost weekend (three games in 24 1/2 hours) with an 8-4 Sox win over the wild-card warriors from New York.

It was Fan Appreciation Day at the Fens and loyal patrons received nifty round magnetic calendars with next year’s schedule. Entering the park for the final time in 2010, fans were greeted at gates by Theo Epstein and Red Sox players. I’d love to have been there when Joe from Revere shook hands with J.D. Drew at the turnstile and asked, “J.D. — why did you catch that foul ball in Tampa that night?’’

Drew’s herculean effort to catch a ball he should have let drop Aug. 28 embodies all that was wrong about the 2010 season. It was the perfect play by the player with the perfect skill set. And it was the wrong play. The sacrifice fly enabled AL East champ Tampa to push the game into extra innings. Naturally, the Rays won, 3-2. J.D. explained that even though he knew he should let the ball drop, the ball just found his glove (after he ran 100 yards, vaulted two mounds and a chair, and fought off multiple security guards and fans).

The Sox were all about giving back to fans in their finale. In addition to handshakes from ballplayers, fridge calendars, and commemorative baseballs, the club allowed fans to run the bases after Jonathan Papelbon retired Alex Rodriguez for the final out. It wasn’t a champagne celebration with Paps wearing a 12-pack box on his head, but it was a nice gesture for fans who have filled the venerable ballpark 631 consecutive times since May 2003.

The final weekend featured bad weather and bad luck, which appropriately encapsulated Boston’s 2010 failure.

Consider the tale of some average Joe who went to his first Fenway game Friday and got there when the gates opened at 5:10 p.m. He hung around in the rain until 10:35, when the game was called. He was told to come back Saturday for a 9 p.m. game. When he got to Fenway Saturday night, he could not get in until it was cleared from the afternoon game, which did not end until 8:33. Finally inside the park, he watched a game that started at 9:22 p.m. and ended yesterday morning at 1:22.

Give that man a refrigerator magnet!

In fact, fans who suffered in the ballpark gulag Saturday night were rewarded with two hot dogs for the price of one. Praise the Lord and pass the sweet relish.

In a pregame ceremony yesterday, the Sox said thanks to a lot of longtime employees who’d reached personal milestones with the team. Eighty-four-year-old Joe Flanagan, once guardian at the gate outside the Sox clubhouse, announced that yesterday was his last day after decades of service to the ballclub.

There was no official announcement from catcher Jason Varitek, but it’s certainly possible that yesterday was his final day in a Boston uniform. It’s sad that the contributions of the captain got a little lost at the end. He was a pivotal part of both championships. Varitek is the one who triggered the magic of 2004 when he stuffed his mitt into A-Rod’s face.

“No matter what happens going forward, he’s a Red Sox,’’ said Theo. “He’s a guy who meant more to this franchise than just about anybody.’’

Theo and Terry Francona answered questions for more than a half-hour after the game.

“It’s disappointing in that we didn’t get where we want to go,’’ said Theo. “But there’s still a lot to be proud of. I’d like to rewind and start over and do 162 again and see how it turns out.’’

Adrian Beltre was not in the building (his wife had a baby in California) and David Ortiz elected not to stick around to answer any questions.

“We fought,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “Everyone is proud of the way the guys responded.’’

Done talking, Pedroia left the clubhouse. On crutches. A symbol of the 2010 season.

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