I was optimistic during the entire meltdown the Red Sox had last September.  They went 7-20, and I was holding out hope that they would somehow make it to the postseason.  Rightfully so, they did not.

In the aftermath, they fired Terry Francona (he of 2 World Series titles since 2004), and Theo Epstein left for the Cubs.  They brought in Bobby Valentine to “change the clubhouse culture” and the Sox were poised for a promising 2012.

But reality set it, and it set in early.  Bobby Valentine is Bobby Valentine, and he just loves to make noise where it is not needed.  He helped run Kevin Youkilis out of town, albeit for promising rookie Will Middlebrooks.  Valentine just seems like he has been chasing his tail all season, in the dugout and with the media.  He conjures up a 4 day plan for Carl Crawford, then backs down; he handles the pitching staff terribly (that must have been Bob McClure’s fault); he barely speaks to his coaches.

Bobby Valentine is not the entire problem, just a part of it.  With a huge payroll and a glut of talented players, there is no reason the Red Sox should be 59-65 at this point; counting last September they are 66-85 in their last 151 games, and will at best win 5 of their next 11 to run their 162 game record to 71-90.  Fantastic.

They can blame injuries all they want, and injuries are a part of it, but good teams overcome injuries.  And there is the problem, they are not really a “team.”  The Red Sox have almost reverted to 25 guys, 25 cabs, emblematic of their culture from most of the 1990s.

The Red Sox need a roster overhaul.  They need guys who care.  They need more guys like Dustin Pedroia and Cody Ross, guys who care.  I am a big fan of Jacoby Ellsbury, but he spends too much time on the DL; if they can unload him this offseason, they should do it.  It might come across as blasphemy, but I would love to see Nick Swisher be a Red Sox next season; there is someone who enjoys playing and plays hard each time out.  Character matters.

Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are not the entire problem, but they need to get it together.  Lester can’t spend 20 starts being “just a little off,” and it would not hurt if Beckett even appeared to give a crap.  I have been impressed by the turnaround Clay Buchholz has made since June, excluding last night.  Felix Doubront has been a pleasant surprise, as has Franklin Morales.  Aaron Cook cannot return next year, and neither can Matsuzaka.  If they can get something for Lackey, I say go for it.

The 2013 Red Sox season will be shaped by what GM Ben Cherington does from now until the end of the year/early January.  He cannot be afraid to be bold, and cannot be afraid to eat some money on bad contracts.  Theo Epstein was bold and traded Nomar, and that turned out pretty good in 2004.  If the Red Sox head to Spring Training next February and look mostly like they do today, 2013 will be a wash as well.


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