How quickly the giants are looking up. Both the Red Sox and the Yankees have offseasons that will define 2007 and far beyond.
The Sox must redefine their pitching staff and will do so with a new pitching coach.
Dave Wallace is gone. After a year of life-threatening medical problems that permitted him only a half-season in the dugout, he will be replaced. That is no small matter.
Wallace brought a wealth of experience to his job. He has worked in minor league systems, the front office of the Mets, and numerous minor and major league pitching coaching jobs.
More importantly, he is an honest, intelligent, noninterfering man that any manager or organization can lean on to get the job done right.
Who replaces him will have a major impact on the pitching alignment for the Sox. Does Jonathan Papelbon become a starter? Can Josh Beckett get a year in? What is left for Curt Schilling? How about Tim Wakefield?
These are decisions that the entire organization will make because they are vital to success, but there needs to be a strong pitching coach for the staff to trust and the organization to use to implement those decisions.
Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, and Trot Nixon are free agents. Who returns and who plays if they don’t?
Manny Ramirez is talking trade again. This “Manny being Manny” stuff is getting old and aggravating.
The Yankees will still have one of the strongest lineups in the game next year. They are set at every position and their bench will be solid.
Bobby Abreu gets a full year in right, Hideki Matsui has the same in left, Gary Sheffield might play first, and Jason Giambi could be the full-time DH.
Alex Rodriguez is still a great player. He goes only if what comes back are pitchers of note.
Joe Torre probably wishes The Boss had let him go with one year left on his deal and the retirement house in Hawaii ready. Be sure that one reason George Steinbrenner did not was an unwillingness to pay Torre all those millions and some other manager a few million more.
Torre will fit the definition of a lame duck manager as he concludes his final year. He will be anything but. Steinbrenner knows that, so why let him go after having perhaps his best regular-season managing effort.
What the Yankees will have to contend with next season is a year of speculation as to who takes Torre’s job in 2008.
The now is never enough in the Big Apple. No matter how well the Yankees play next year, a portion of each baseball day will be devoted to who’s next in the manager’s seat.
Most believed that these two teams would still be playing in the snow of October. The baseball gods dislike predictions.
For the Sox to get back to October, there are major decisions to make. For the Yankees to return, they already made the biggest decision – Torre stays – and that is a decision they will not regret.
Old Town native Gary Thorne is an ESPN and ABC sportscaster.