Now, this just isn’t like the Red Sox at all.
It’s Nov. 20 and our local baseball champs are, for all intents and purposes, finished with all major offseason agendas. With plenty of time yet left on the clock, the Red Sox have put down their No. 2 pencil, turned in their work, and face a quiet offseason from here on out, something we're not exactly used to in these parts.
Curt Schilling -- signed. Mike Lowell -- done deal. Did Theo’s wife fear that he'd be running off to some undetermined location to recruit and demand they spend their first Thanksgiving as a married couple together?
Aren’t they one bit concerned that the Patriots might steal headlines?
This was supposed to be a winter highlighted by a long, drawn-out A-Rod process, a situation that never came to fruition once he realized there was only one dubious team that could actually afford to pay him. Lowell was supposed to go grab a four-year deal elsewhere, sparking panic when the question of “Who’s on third?” was proposed at the dinner table. Schilling was bound to get a two-year deal somewhere else, leaving a big hole in the ’08 rotation.
And yet, just like that, the Sox are tidily done, just in time for the holidays.
Sure, there’s work to be done, but nothing that needs the attention of say, Thanksgiving dinner in the desert. Coco Crisp has a nice little trade market out there, but it wouldn’t exactly be the kind of deal that’s going to prevent Larry Lucchino from taking in the Packers-Lions game. The Red Sox do need a backup catcher, preferably one who's ready to play full time in the next few years.
But unless they’re planning a concerted run at Johan Santana, they're pretty much done with the big stuff. And it took three weeks.
You have to go back some seven years to remember a Boston hot stove that wasn’t piping hot all winter long. In 2001, the Red Sox not only signed Johnny Damon to a four-year deal, but the club was sold, sparking the firings of Dan Duquette and Joe Kerrigan and the hiring of Grady Little. The next year, the Red Sox hired Billy Beane, then didn’t. They tabbed Theo Epstein their GM of the future, and the youngest man in the business made his name immediately by bringing short money guys like Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz to Boston.
In 2003, we had the infamous dinner at the Schillings. In 2004, the World Series trophy was touched by more New Englanders than voted for John Kerry. In 2005, Theo Epstein dressed up like a primate, toured with Pearl Jam, left the work for Ben and Jed to deal with, heard the pleas of Red Sox owner John Henry, and returned to the job within a few months. Oh, and they picked up Josh Beckett and Lowell.
Last offseason, the Red Sox made it known that neither the Patriots nor any other Boston team was having any room on the winter sports page when their drawn-out pursuit of Daisuke Matsuzaka made international headlines. One year later, and we can all enjoy dinner Thursday without the team dropping a major move on all of us. Do we even know how to handle a Thanksgiving without a conversation that starts, “So, whaddya think the Sox…?”
The starting rotation is set, top to bottom (Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Wakefield, and Lester/Buchholz/Masterson), unless you want to talk Santana.
The infield is intact (Lowell, Lugo, Pedroia, Youkilis). Jason Varitek is back behind the plate in the final year of his current deal. Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, and Crisp/Jacoby Ellsbury are the outfield. The bullpen has Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, Julian Tavarez, and Hideki Okajima all coming back.
They’re pretty much done. And it’s not even December.
Don’t they know that people are already talking about the 10-0 Patriots? Don’t they understand that people are sort of getting into the Celtics? If they’re not careful, folks might discuss names like Garnett and Brady at upcoming company parties instead of what time they should meet at “Christmas at Fenway.”
How exactly do we spend an offseason when the Red Sox want to make news 24/7?
This is already a decidedly different offseason than the one that followed the ’04 title. That winter, the Red Sox said farewell to guys like Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Dave Roberts, and Orlando Cabrera, replacing them with Matt Clement, David Wells, and Edgar Renteria. In 2008, they’ll welcome back pretty much the same team that tasted October glory last month. Give or take a Mike Timlin or a Doug Mirabelli.
That 2005 team wasn’t the same team as the one that New England lauded months before. The 2008 squad will be. The Red Sox won’t have to import any former players for the ring ceremony on Opening Day, like they did with Roberts and Lowe in ’05. They’ll all be wearing their home whites.
The Japan deal is done. The ticket increase has been announced. The annual tour of the new Fenway construction has been given. It’s like the Red Sox are stocking nuts for a long winter where there may be scant chance to make news.
With the Patriots, Celtics, and oh yeah, the Mitchell Report, they’re probably right.
Of course, I’d leave open the chance that they land Johan on Christmas Eve too.