For the second straight year, the season ended on Columbus Day for the Boston Red Sox. A year ago, after being swept by Cleveland, the Sox were coming to grips with the reality that the David Ortiz era had come to an end.

In 2017, the team is still searching for its identity.

This was supposed to be the year the core of exciting young players came together to usher in a new era of Red Sox baseball. Instead, the ending felt like a rerun of a not-ready-for-prime-time theme. The Sox won the AL East for the second straight year, something they had never done, and yet were overmatched by a superior opponent in the postseason.

Players such as Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts have proven their worth over the past two seasons. Yet there are still real questions about this group’s ability to deliver in the playoffs. Betts, one of the game’s best players by any measurement, has yet to drive in a run in seven postseason games. And he batted clean up in all four of them this October.

Bogaerts was 0 for 14 in the ALDS before he hit a solo home run in the first inning Monday. It was his only hit of the series. Bradley hit slightly better, going 3 for 15 over the four games. He’s a career .120 hitter in the postseason.

In fact, the top five hitters in the Red Sox lineup in the final game of this year’s playoffs combined for three RBI in four games. That is not enough to win games against any team, let alone a juggernaut like the Houston Astros.


Throughout the season we’ve watched Boston try to win games despite a jarring lack of power. There were more home runs hit in Major League Baseball this season than in any other, and yet the Sox were dead last in homers. And Big Papi isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.

The hope is that this young group will find its way, and its power, as it matures. Rafael Devers was a bright spot in the final two weeks of the season and delivered four hits in the two playoff games at Fenway Park. His two-run homer Sunday gave the Sox their first lead of the series, and his ninth-inning, inside-the-park home run on Monday gave fans their final cheer of 2017. He’s the youngest player ever to hit a postseason homer for the Red Sox. Next year, he’ll even be able to drink the champagne if the Sox make it three straight division titles.

Andrew Benintendi gave us hope with his two-run homer off Justin Verlander in Game 4. He had four game-winning, extra-inning RBI this season, the most in baseball. At 23 years old, his prime baseball years are still ahead of him.

Dave Dombrowski, Boston’s president of baseball operations, will now have to figure out what this lineup needs to compete in a homer-crazy period of baseball. Having reset the team’s luxury tax this season he’ll be able to spend money in the free-agent market if he chooses. There are big boppers out there, like J.D Martinez, Jay Bruce, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. One – or better, two – of those players dropped into the heart of the lineup could make a huge difference in this team’s production.

The other big fish out there is Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. All signs indicate a willingness of the new ownership group in Miami (led by Derek Jeter) to move Stanton in an effort to rebuild the franchise. Stanton slugged an MLB-leading 59 homers this season, and would bring the kind of right-handed power to Fenway that we haven’t seen since Manny Ramirez left town.

It would cost the team dearly to acquire Stanton in a trade. Dombrowski would undoubtedly have to move some of the young stars mentioned in this column. He’ll have to give it consideration, since we’ve learned over the past two Octobers that youth alone can’t deliver a deep postseason run.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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