Double Pahk the Kah in Boston Yahd: Your 2009 Boston Red Sox Preview

The 2008 Boston Red Sox did not repeat as champions but most teams don't in this era and the target is always bigger on the defending champs back.

That isn't to say the Red Sox season wasn't a success. The team won 95 games to secure a wild card berth in the brutal AL East.

Outside of the obvious disappointment, (not winning another title) the 2008 season was marred by drama, prospect failures and a severe case of aging.

The drama was created by Manny Ramirez who, for the fifth or sixth year in a row, wanted a trade out of town. If you think the Chicago media is bad, check out the Boston folks. Ramirez was tired of it and the attention he got and he wanted out.

Boston was in no such position to move him as he is one of the best hitters in baseball. But as time went out Ramirez went the old school way of punching a ticket out of town.

Just act like an idiot until they can't stand it anymore.

And goof it up he did. There are so many memorable plays from the last couple months of the Ramirez era but general manager Theo Epstein may have decided he had seen enough when Ramirez reportedly accosted a traveling secretary.

Exit Manny stage left to Los Angeles and enter Jason Bay.

Bay performed well for the Red Sox and pumped out a 30-100 season but it wasn't enough to fill Ramirez' protection void.

Designated hitter David Ortiz looked lost and old without his friend and finished with his worst numbers since the year before he came to Boston from Minnesota.

Recently extended World Series MVP Mike Lowell looked like he was out of gas as well.

After a career year in 2007, Lowell reverted back to his old form dropping in every single statistical category.

Equally old, catcher Jason Varitek pumped out some of the worst stats of his career as well. Varitek barely kept his head above water in hitting .220 for the season.

On top of certain players getting older, some younger players didn't exactly pan out in the rotation.

Clay Bucholz is still somewhat of an unknown quantity despite being hyped beyond imagination and failing miserably in 2008.

Michael Bowden still doesn't figure into the 2009 plans either and Craig Hansen was sent out in the Bay-Ramirez deal.

While all that is nitpicking a team probably returning to the playoffs, it is still easy to see the Red Sox falling below the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East pecking order.

The back end of the rotation is filled by damaged goods which means they can either be awesome or horrendous. Those two players are John Smoltz and Brad Penny.

Ace Josh Beckett didn't have a good year either with an ERA of 4.00 and only 12 wins. If he doesn't bounce back you are looking at a very average rotation.

Boston's offense should still be rock solid with reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia and established stars like Kevin Youkilis, who experienced a breakout season in 2008.

But if the older players continue to regress, I could easily see the Red Sox missing the playoffs in 2009 because of their division.