You are in Red Sox withdrawal. No playoffs for the first time in four years.
To his credit, general manger Theo Epstein took responsibility for his poor decisions.
Rudy Seanez (4.82 ERA) and Julian Tavarez (4.47) stunk in middle relief, youngsters Craig Hansen (6.33) and Manny Delcarmen (5.06) weren’t ready but have promising arms, and Mike Timlin (6-6, 4.36) blew eight of his 17 save chances.
Keith Foulke (3-1, 4.35) was hurt but pitched well down the stretch and may be worth a look to return to the closer’s role since the one bright spot in the bullpen, Jonathan Papelbon (4-2, 35 saves in 41 chances, 0.92), will be in the rotation next year.
Two effective rubber arm relievers are needed.
Josh Beckett (16-11, 5.01, 36 homers allowed) was a disappointment but has a live arm, and if he can spot his fastball more effectively and develop a more consistent breaking ball, he can become a No. 1.
Curt Schilling (15-7, 3.97) is still a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter but can’t sneak that 0-2, 1-2 fastball past hitters any more, so he winds up throwing more pitches.
He ought to try going to a three-quarter-arm delivery to freeze hitters with two strikes on them.
From a health standpoint, Papelbon’s arm is better suited to starting and he could evolve into a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.
So the Red Sox should have a playoff-worthy top three.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-11, 4.63) is a serviceable No. 4 starter. The future of Jon Lester (7-2, 4.76) is unknown due to his lymphoma.
Late-season call-up Devern Hansack is worth a serious look in spring training and Giants free-agent righty Jason Schmidt would be a great fit.
Left fielder Manny Ramirez (.321-35 homers-102 RBIs) has worn out his welcome. It appears as though his mysterious knee ailment enabled him to quit on the team and that should be the last straw.
They can use his $20 million per year salary to acquire a No. 4 hitter to protect David Ortiz (.287-54-137), who made the last month of the season bearable.
The infield was absolutely superb defensively.
First baseman Kevin Youkilis (.279-13-72, 100 runs) exceeded expectations.
Second baseman Mark Loretta (.285-5-59) and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (.255-9-50) are free agents. The Sox desperately need another bat, preferably a No. 5 hitter, and free-agent SS Julio Lugo would be a good fit.
I’ll miss Gonzalez’s glove, but if they can talk Lugo into playing second, they could keep Gonzalez. Or bring Loretta back and play Lugo at short. Dustin Pedroia (.191) is a usable reserve middle infielder, as is Alex Cora (.238).
Mike Lowell (.284-20-80) had a solid year at third.
In the outfield, injury-plagued RF Trot Nixon (.268) is a free agent. He was a great clubhouse guy, but he has warning track power and doesn’t run that well.
Center fielder Coco Crisp had a bad year (.317 on-base percentage, .264 average) but was bothered by a finger injury and is worth one more look. Atlanta’s Andruw Jones would look good in center.
If OF Wily Mo Pena (.301-11-42) can ever discipline himself to hit the outside breaking ball to right and lay off bad pitches, he’s intriguing. Don’t bet on it.
Jason Varitek (.238) should bounce back from a disappointing, injury-marred season, but Doug Mirabelli (.193) has to go.
The trade with San Diego for Mirabelli was a disaster as catcher Josh Bard (.338) and reliever Cla Meredith (5-1, 1.07 ERA) have been Padre stars.
Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at email@example.com.