A team battles through its final frustrating weeks, waiting for the end to mercifully put a stop to the struggles. A front office rolls up its sleeves, ready to get to work in an off-season that could well decide if fans are willing to embrace the team after such a disappointing season. Fans talk about free agents, looking for a sign that will give them hope for the future.

This is where the Red Sox are in September of 2006. It’s also where the Bruins were five months ago.

It’s been awhile since Boston’s baseball team could learn anything from its hockey brethren. The Red Sox have been the Kings of the Hill, dominating the local sports landscape (even as the Patriots were in the midst of winning three Super Bowls in four years.)

Suddenly, the Bruins have become a model for the Red Sox. This summer, the Black and Gold wasted no time moving forward after a dismal season. They made changes throughout the organization and vowed to operate differently.

As we all know, the Bruins made brutal personnel decisions in the seasons leading up to the NHL lockout of 2004. They let talented players like Brian Rolston, Mike Knuble and Sergei Gonchar get away.

After stumbling to the end of the season last spring, the team began wholesale changes. Most importantly, it quickly added the biggest free agent name available. Zdeno Chara was the biggest man out there (6-foot-9), but he was also the best player. His signing sent a quick message to other players that the Bruins were ready to spend money to build a contender. Other solid players like Marc Savard, Shean Donovan, and Paul Mara quickly found their way to Causeway St.

Equally as important for the Bruins was the message sent to fans. These signings quickly built new interest, as hockey fans began to talk about the team trying to start anew. It’s called buzz, and the Bruins hadn’t had any in some time.

Now the Red Sox need to create some buzz. As the final games are played out, it’s time to look to the future. There is some young talent to be sure, but it’s time to make a move. Curt Schilling said this week that he expects his team to spend significant money in retooling its roster.

It should, and it should start with pitching. Jason Schmidt is probably the best free agent pitcher available, and it will cost plenty of money to sign him. The Sox should spend it.

They should also return Jonathan Papelbon to the starting rotation. Papelbon says he expects to start next year, and I’ve now come around a full 360 degrees on this. I loved what he did as a closer, but I think relievers are easier to come by, and the Sox need a better starting rotation.

They should also make a full-court press to get Roger Clemens to put off retirement for another year. He’s posted an ERA of 2.52 with Houston this season, and can clearly still get the job done. Earlier this summer, he reportedly told friends he made a mistake not coming back to Boston. Now he’ll get another chance to correct that mistake.

You want buzz? How about Schilling, Clemens, Josh Beckett, Papelbon, and Jason Schmidt as a rotation? Tim Wakefield can start when needed, or pitch long relief.

The team also needs offense, and should do whatever it takes to get Andruw Jones out of Atlanta. He’s entering the final year of his contract, and the Braves need to rebuild, too. A heart of the order featuring David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Jones would be remarkable.

There are still two weeks of baseball to be played, and we won’t learn much from what happens in those games. We will, however, learn plenty about this team in the days and weeks that follow the season. And the Sox, for a change, could learn a lesson from what the Bruins did last season.

Lewiston native Tom Caron is the studio host for Boston Red Sox telecasts on NESN.


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