By Bill Murphy

The Boston Red Sox 2016 and David Ortiz drove off into the moon set between Monday night and Tuesday morning and then the organization took very little time moving ON TO 2017.I wonder IF they thought Bill Belichick would have done it that way. ON TO 2017!

Press conferences less than twenty-four hours after the Red Sox elimination, informed us that John Farrell would return and that his coaches had been been invited back and that not many changes were expected before the umpire yells “Play Ball” at Fenway on Monday, April 3rd  versus Pittsburgh.

What they didn’t tell you IS, despite all the good remarks which flowed Tuesday from Farrell and Dombrowski about the pitching staff, emphasizing the group had the fifth best set of numbers in the American League, there will be at least five new pitchers in a Sox uniform from outside the organization by said Opening Day. No, no one verbalized such a scenario, BUT, I will. OR I should I say, common sense tells you so.

One of the toughest things to do in baseball today is to construct a pitching staff.  Most teams believe now that the Kansas City model is the way to go and several organizations have gone that way and many of them have found success. It seems today, IF you have your bullpen in place, a team does not need as much from their starters.

The Red Sox knew prior to acquiring David Price, that his post season mark as a starter left something to be desired. He proclaimed he was saving all his play-off victories as a starter for the Red Sox AND as you already know, he is still saving them.

From a Red Sox team perspective, every pitcher the team has on their roster, who has ever started a play-off game, is still saving them. In case you have not heard, the Red Sox pitching staff has four hurlers, who have started multiple play-off games. Price (9), Buchholz (6), Kelly (4) and Porcello (3) have taken the mound in post season games and not one of them, has ever been credited with a victory in a start in those games. Thus the pitchers combined have made 22 starts without one victory. Their teams may have won some of those games, BUT, they personally do not have one win between them. Is such a feat humanly possible? We now know it is.

We wonder if the market would have been more of a competition for Price’s $217 million, IF he was half as good in October as he had been in the other months. Obviously we will never know. HOWEVER……..

This starting pitching problem goes well beyond the Red Sox. Madison Bumgarner ran up some gaudy numbers pitching in games after contest 162, BUT, that type of pitcher is few and far between. Wasn’t it just a few months before the Red Sox signed Price that Cole Hamels was the flavor of the day and he wasn’t so good for Texas last week and have you seen Clayton Kershaw’s full post season resume, despite his heroics this week? Pitchers, for the most part, fall short in October. One of the reasons is the effort they give over the long season and they just hit a wall. Did you notice the Giants only won their string of titles in even years? A staff often gets worn out by a long October.

Truth is, the Sox will likely not make major changes with their starting rotation. Most of the five new faces I forecast arriving, will likely be part of the bullpen. The only question IS: when will one of their starting pitchers gain a victory in the post season? You know Red Sox Nation will be mighty skeptical until that happens. I suggest you don’t worry about that yet though. The Sox will have to make another post season before that even matters and that doesn’t seem to happen every year.

FOOTBALL CRAZE- Two weeks remain in the Vermont Football season in Division I and III and there are three weeks still to go in Division II. There are big games on tap in every division this weekend. Despite that, the terrible trend of too many games ending up with a final score of a lot to a little, has continued making the popularity of the sport trending backwards too many places each weekend.

To bring our running tally up to date, the winning teams have now outscored the losing teams in 2016 Vermont High School Football a lot (3835) to a little (978) and the average points per game for a score have basically not changed since I set the parameters of 40-10 following play in Week two. The exact numbers to date are 39.95-10.19 a game. It truly is an UNBELIEVEABLE stat.

Going a few steps further, the winning teams has scored at least 40 points 56 of 96 times or in 58% of the games and the losing team has tallied less than 10 points per game 52 times in the 96 contests, which translates to 54% of the action. Then under the category of anywhere near close games, only 13 of the 96 games played to date have been closer than 14 points. In other words 14% of the games have drawn much excitement or putting it another way, 86% of the games really aren’t worth watching. The state needs to go to four divisions before it is too late.

Having said all that, here is hoping that this week will be different. We can only hope.

This week we spoke to Woodstock Coach Ramsey Worrell, who did some real good coachspeak. What I mean by that is, Worrell’s team (6-0) faces Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax (3-2), who does not really look like a title contender in D-III, BUT, could possibly look like a contender, when they play a non-contender and some of that watching the Bullets did was likely against the lesser teams, has Worrell concerned.

Having been a high school coach in another sport, I am sure Worrell is concerned and his reasons are valid (“they present the challenge of the veer offense” and “BFA always has tough kids”), BUT, competition between the haves and the have nots seems so fake in 2016. Remember the average difference in every game played this fall is 30 points.

Woodstock has to win to set up one of those games of the year next week in D-III. Windsor (likewise 6-0) would set up a match of unbeatens in the final week of regular season play IF Woodstock does turn back BFA in the game Friday night at 7 p.m. in Woodstock and the Yellow Jackets can come out a winner in their Saturday afternoon 1 p.m.mismatch with Missisquoi’s (0-5) first year program. In other words, IF BFA does not pull the major upset over Woodstock, next Friday night two rivals Windsor and Woodstock could meet at Woodstock in the biggest showdown between the two, EVER.

“I have been around this series a long time,” Worrell told us and he went on to say, “I remember the time in my second year as a coach, they came in here and upset us, when we were playing for the higher seed I think. This is a rivalry where anything can happen. I can’t ever remember a meeting between the two of us for the number one seed and going undefeated. This is why you play football.”

Behind the top two in D-III, there is still competition for homefield advantage in a couple of weeks. Mill River and Otter Valley are both 4-2 and should land those spots, BUT, BFA and Union 32 are both (3-2) still alive to stake a claim. Obviously BFA would have to pull the shocker at Woodstock to help themselves and Union 32 is in the right place at the right time this weekend as they travel to Mill River Saturday at 1 p.m. Otter Valley does not have things so easy either this week, as they travel to D-II Mount Abraham (2-4) for an interesting Saturday 1 p.m. get together.

The final two play-offs spots appear headed towards Oxbow (2-4) and Springfield (1-5) in some order with this weekends games helping set that up. Oxbow (2-4) though is at Spaulding (1-5) Saturday at 1 p.m. with a possible play-off spot on the line and the Cosmos host Poultney/Mount Saint Joseph (0-6) Friday night at 7 p.m.

Division II could also be headed to a first place winner take all regular season showdown next week with Burr + Burton and Bellows Falls both at 6-0 on a collision course, BUT, their chances of such a showdown, are certainly less than the D-III scenario, because of a strong 5-1 Burlington team headed towards their own game of mammoth proportions Saturday afternoon at 1 the Falls. Burr + Burton should arrive at the Terrier meeting undefeated as they travel to Lyndon (0-6) for a Saturday afternoon affair.

Fair Haven (5-1) is in a third place tie with Burlington and travels to play the Seahorses next week on Friday night, and is homethis Friday at 7 against a physical Milton (2-4) team. Milton is presently in a four way tie recordwise in D-II for fifth place and would like to make some noise. Mount Abraham, one of the four teams tied, has that tough cross division match-up Saturday at home with Otter Valley and the other two (Mount Mansfield and North Country) also meet Saturday at Mount Mansfield.

Division I still has the most possible movement in the standings in the next two weeks and this weekend has some curious action. Maybe with this weekend’s schedule overall, there is a good chance to witness some very good games. The D-I NUMBER ONE GAME of the year highlights the D-I slate of games this week as Hartford and St. Johnsbury meet on top of the hill Saturday at 1 p.m. This is the GAME OF GAMES in the state this year.

Joining Hartford and St. J with 5-1 overall marks is Champlain Valley Union and they hope to keep pace, at least in record, with a victory at Mt. Anthony (0-6) Friday night at 7 p.m. The Patriots have had the task of facing Hartford and CVU on back to backFriday evenings. Middlebury (4-2), Essex (4-2) and Rutland (3-3) all still have hopes of grabbing on to the final homefield advantge seed when the play-offs begin. It will likely take a team to win each of the last two weeks to keep those hopes alive. Middlebury will host always in the mood to spoil things Rice (2-4) Friday at 7 p.m., Essex takes the long trip to Brattleboro (2-4) the same evening and Rutland is also on the road at Bellows Free Academy (2-4) at the same time. Last BUT not least Colchester (2-4) is at South Burlington (0-6) Friday at 7. Many of these D-I games are made much bigger, due to the fact, all the 2-4 teams hope to land the final two play-off positions.

For the most part, we have written these football columns this season without using the letters QPR. In the end, QPR will be the determining factor of the final seedings. More on those three letters next week.

Thank goodness may predictions are not seeded by QPR, BUT, regardless here are this weeks’ winners: Rutland, Essex, CVU, Colchester, Hartford, Middlebury, Bellows Falls, Burr + Burton, Fair Haven, Otter Valley, Mount Mansfield, Woodstock, Union 32, Windsor, Oxbow and Springfield.