So, I guess the big question this weekend is what went wrong? In truth, not a hell of a lot did go wrong. I'm usually the high priest of pessimism - especially in regards to the Red Sox who have caused me more heartache than any team not named the Bruins - but there wasn't a whole lot to complain about in general.
Basically, when you lose a seven game series in the ALCS, it's the little things that kill you. To whit:
In Game Two, Beckett was lifted too late into the game. The bull pen held the Rays scoreless until Francona waved the white flag by bringing in Timlin. Even then, the Sox had every opportunity to break the game open - they simply failed to come through with a clutch hit.
Games three and four were unmitigated disasters in every sense of the term. No chance.
In Game Seven, the Red Sox had the Rays on the ropes in the eighth inning and they couldn't tie the game. Again, no clutch hitting. Lester was fine and the bullpen did their job for the most part.
Summarized like this, it doesn't look like the Red Sox failed that badly. Francona made some odd decisions, but the blame doesn't lie solely at his feet. The problem for this team was injuries. Plenty of teams have injuries, but the Red Sox woes piled up at the end of the season. It would interesting to see how this series would have played out with healthy versions of Beckett, Drew, Papi, Lowell, and even Captain Blogosphere. That will never happen, but we have 6 months to wonder...
Realistically, this team was 3 runs away from the World Series, pushed a series to seven games despite an at times vastly superior foe and over came a lot adversity to even get to Game Seven. I'm not jumping off the Tobin Bridge and I'm not going to suggest Terry Francona jump either even though his refusal to pinch hit for Kotsay and Variteck in the ninth inning last night was positively insane. You can't win them all. And no, they don't get to the playoffs if they keep Manny who would have packed it in like he did in 2006 so enough of that crap.
As for the Rays, let me just say this to the Phillies. Good luck. You will need it.
(one final note, I'm mentally preparing for a "Defending Tito" entry to counteract the unending "Fire Fran-coma" silliness we'll be seeing later on this week. Beware.)