Though the Red Sox were celebrating late Sunday afternoon, the Providence Journal’s Bill Reynolds remains largely unimpressed with their qualifying for the playoffs by the narrowest of margins.
When you have the second-highest payroll in the game, you are supposed to be in the playoffs. When you play in the best baseball city in the country, in an almost daily lovefest at Fenway Park, with virtually unlimited resources, you should be in the playoffs. Anything else is failure.
That’s the thing to remember as the Sox begin these playoffs. Yes, they found a way to survive the loss of Keith Foulke and a diminished Curt Schilling. Yes, they should be commended for that. Yes, you can make a case that the most important thing is getting to the playoffs, not necessarily winning the division.
But this is not the Minnesota Twins or the Oakland Atheltics we’re talking about, two teams that simply can’t replace injured players. The Red Sox knew in the winter that Schilling’s status for at least the first half of the season was problematic. They found out in April that Foulke was nowhere near as effective as he’d been last year.
Which begs the obvious question: What did they do about it?
The answer is they didn’t do a whole lot, especially in the Foulke scenario. Instead, the closer’s role went to Mike Timlin, a quality set-up guy who long ago proved that in a perfect world he should not be the closer. Then it went to Schilling for a while, when he wasn’t ready to start. Then it was back to Timlin in September.
But it wasn’t just the lack of a quality closer that seemed to flatline this team as the season progressed. Alan Embree. Matt Mantei. Mike Remlinger. Mike Myers. Cla Meredith. Chad Bradford. Chad Harville. Have we missed anyone? Sure have. How about Jeremi Gonzalez and Abe Alvarez and Manny Delcarmen and anyone else Terry Francona threw out there in desperation because no one else seemed able to get anyone out? Let those names sit on your tongue for a while.
The point is that through much of the year the bullpen was a disaster area, the flaw that might have proved fatal if the Indians hadn’t gone in the tank and started playing in the last week as though they belonged in one more remake of Major League.