One last gaffe for the Sox

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One last gaffe for the Sox

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

I had a weird feeling Sunday night watching the Sox blow their latest, and last, significant game of the 2010 season.

Then again, it was pretty weird that I had feeling at all.

Like you, or at least a lot of "yous", I'd given up on the Sox a couple weeks ago. More specifically, it was right after the sweep by the White Sox (at Fenway), and before the four losses in five games to the Jays and Orioles (at Fenway), when the emotional switch officially went off.

It's not that I stopped watching entirely. I'd check in when I was home, read about it and watch highlights when I didn't, but it became harder to justify dedicating five nights a week to living and dying with a team that was already dead. I still wanted them to win. I just didn't let the losses affect me. That's what happens after you're burned so many times by the same team. You move on. You turn the page. You stop believing.

And on Sunday night, I stopped watching. Actually, I never even started. As I sat down on the couch after dinner, I put on the DolphinsJets game and was immediately sucked in; hit with anxiety over how much better and stronger both team looked compared to New England, and terror over the thought of the Pats walking into that stadium next Monday night. Throw in the fact that it was a pretty entertaining football game between the Pats' two fiercest rivals, and I'll admit it I forgot the Sox were on.

Maybe that makes me fair-weather. If so, I don't know, you're better than me. But is there really any debate as to which game was most important for the average Boston sports fan? Is there any doubt as to which one mattered more? OK, maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better, but bottom line is that I couldn't ignore the Sox forever.

Sometime around 11:30, I caught a tweet about the top of the ninth inning. I saw that Rivera was in, that the Sox were only down one and I decided to go back.

I'm so happy that I did.

And that's what's so strange.

Sunday night, I watched the Red Sox make a dramatic comeback and then suffer a beyond frustrating loss to the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, on national TV, in late September, and I'm happy that I did.

How ridiculous is that? How does that make any sense?

This is the type of game the Sox would blow a couple times a year back before 2004. It was the kind of game that would leave me depressed for at least 24 hours. But last night it was OK? Where the hell am I?

I'm not sure what I thought would have happened if the Sox actually did win that game. Did I think they'd go one some mystical run through the final week of the season? Did I think that game really mattered?

No. But from the moment Ryan Kalish got on base, Mo got rattled, New York got antsy and the Sox started running on the Yankees like they were the Sox, I was instantly transformed back to a time and place where it all really did matter.

For that one inning, I was able to ignore all the harsh realities that ruined this year's pennant race in Boston and really care about the Red Sox. I never thought that would happen again this season.

In the end, the game served as a nice piece of closure on the 2010 campaign. One final reminder of why we stopped believing in the first place. But we knew all that already. Sunday night's game changed nothing about how we perceive or will remember the 2010 Red Sox. That legacy was already set in stone. But for a good half hour, we got to pretend that that wasn't the case; that it still meant so much.

And for that I'm thankful.

(And that still feels so weird.)

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.