Fall leaves fans with pile of questions to ponder

Posted Sept. 28, 2010, at 9 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 28, 2010, at 11:59 p.m.

It is that time of year again.

Baseball is winding down, football has just gotten going and hockey is in the on deck circle with basketball on the horizon.

It is an interesting time to be a Boston sports fan.

You can’t be disappointed with the Red Sox considering the rash of season-ending injuries to three primary offensive catalysts: Jacoby Ellsbury (70 steals last year), 2008 American League MVP Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, who hit .305 with 27 homers and 94 RBIs last year.

To contend for a playoff spot, they needed the healthy veterans to live up to expectations and the newcomers to evolve into valuable contributors.

The newcomers held up their end of the bargain, they actually exceeded all expectations, but most of the veterans didn’t.

The bullpen was such a mess, they had to trade away two pitchers expected to be important middle relievers: Ramon Ramirez and his 4.46 earned run average and Manny Delcarmen and his 4.70 ERA.

It was only appropriate that the game which put the nail in their coffin was a 4-3 extra-inning loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday night in which Jonathan Papelbon absorbed his eighth blown save, adding to his career-high, and Hideki Okajima walked in the game-winning run.

Papelbon’s 4.02 ERA is abnormally high for a closer and Okajima’s ERA is 4.74.

The Red Sox staff is among the major league leaders in walks issued.

The veteran starting trio of John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka has combined for a 28-22 record.

Right fielder J.D. Drew’s batting average, .258 entering Tuesday’s game, is his lowest since he hit .252 for St. Louis in 2002.

Now it is up to general manager Theo Epstein to improve the bullpen and make some difficult decisions on who to sign and who to let go.

As we move on to the Patriots, it’s hard to envision them making the playoffs with that young and vulnerable defense.

They’ll score points and they’ll be one of the league’s most entertaining teams.

But teams that finish in the bottom third of the defensive statistics rarely make the playoffs.

A couple of poor drafts and some bad decisions pertaining to the addition of veteran defensive players like linebacker Adalius Thomas and end Derrick Burgess have been costly.

They have had two good back-to-back drafts which will pay dividends in the future.

But, for the time being, they are going to have to outscore teams and that’s difficult to do week in and week out in a good division.

The winter sports scene in Boston should be intriguing.

The Bruins have added two quality forwards to the mix in Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in last June’s draft, and veteran Nathan Horton, obtained in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

You can expect Tim Thomas, the 2008-2009 Vezina Trophy Award winner, to bounce back from a disappointing 2009-2010 campaign and give the Bruins one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL along with Tuukka Rask.

The defense corps is solid and has both offensive and defensive components.

Losing high-scoring Marc Savard indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome hurts, but they have enough scoring depth to compensate until he returns.

The Celtics should be interesting to watch.

They will be one of the oldest teams in the NBA after adding 31-year-old Jermaine O’Neal and 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal to go with 32-year-old Paul Pierce, 34-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Ray Allen. Jermaine O’Neal and Pierce will each be a year older on Oct. 13.

Jermaine O’Neal is the consummate pro and Shaq is Shaq.

I’m sure Doc Rivers will spread out out the playing time to prevent his senior citizens from wearing out during the course of the regular season.

He appears to be able to get the most out of his veteran players and has a good rapport with them. They seem to like playing for him, also.

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