This is the end

Our three-month-old HDTV was in the repair shop — and we’re a one-TV family. It sounded like the rain delay would be a long one. So I turned off the radio and went to bed. The Red Sox’ historic collapse came to its inevitable end without me.

Three quick thoughts:

1. Jonathan Papelbon had a terrific comeback year, so much so that the assumption he’d be gone after the season had recently turned into “they’ve got to sign him.” I don’t know. These things happen, but if Papelbon stays, I’m afraid he would forever be defined by what happened last night, reinforced by his meltdown in the 2009 playoffs against the Angels. Maybe it’s time to start over.

2. We’re going to hear a lot of speculation as to whether Terry Francona should be fired. That’s natural, I suppose. What I don’t want to hear is Theo Epstein’s opinion on the matter. Epstein shouldn’t even have a say. If it were up to me, I’d keep Francona and Epstein, but if I could only keep one, it would be Francona — the greatest manager in Red Sox history and as good a manager as there is today. (OK, maybe not as good as Joe Maddon.) Epstein has done a good job here, but he’s had a dubious two years, and he’s got some explaining to do. If I were John Henry, I might ask Francona if Epstein should stay.

3. Can the Red Sox seriously contend next year? All of a sudden, these guys look really old, without much room for maneuvering. Last night could truly have been the end of an era that started in 2003.

“P” is for Papelbon and panic

No, I didn’t see Jonathan Papelbon blow his sixth save of the season this afternoon. I was working. But I’d say he’s now officially become a problem. Wouldn’t you? If he’d blown, say, two saves up to this point, the Sox would be leading in the wild-card race.

You can’t hold that blown save against the Angels in the 2009 playoffs over his head. Those things happen. But even though his statistics have, for the most part, been very good, I think most of us would agree that he hasn’t looked right since the beginning of the ’09 season — even though he can still be dominating, as he was against the Yankees the other night.

It would be a panic move, and I doubt Terry Francona would ever do it. But I wonder if it might be time to make Daniel Bard the closer, give some key innings to Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden (what is he still doing in Pawtucket?) and use Papelbon in some non-key situations for a while.