As Evan Longoria’s line drive home run landed just beyond the low fence in Tampa’s left field, the post-mortems for the Boston Red Soxs were being written on MLB Network.
A dismal September record was mentioned. Injuries to the pitching staff was brought up. A month’s worth of what seemed like consistently atrocious starts by the pitching staff burned an already taxed bullpen. A whole host of reasons for this Mets-esque collapse were offered. Oh, don’t forget Carl Crawford’s being such a disappointment that some Red Sox fans started to joke that Tampa was still paying him to sabotage Boston’s playoff chances.
The earliest sign that this Red Sox team was not the juggernaut the Boston media made it out to be was in front of all us back when there was still snow on the ground in New England. After the winter acquisitions of perennial MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez and speedy outfielder Carl Crawford, the AL East looked like it would be a two-team fight between the Yankees and Boston.
Then they started to play meaningful baseball in April. Boston stumbled out of the gate, losing their first six games, leaving them with a 2-10 record after 12 games. At the time, the blogosphere was of two minds. The first camp pointed to the fact that only two teams had started off as poorly as Boston and made it to the playoffs.
The other contingent came to the table with two arguments. First, they hypothesized that if this swoon had been in midseason, it wouldn’t have been as big a story as it was during the first twelve games of the season. Second, they argued that 12 games is such a small amount that statistically speaking it is hard to prognosticate based on that sample size.
Both camps were right. But as the Red Sox make their way to back to a somber Boston, leaving jubilant Tampa in their wake, lets piece together that abysmal April stretch with the stunning September collapse. In the month of the September, the Boston Red Sox, once touted as the best team ever, went 7-20 down to close the season. To begin and end the season, Boston won 9 games and lost 30. Those 39 games are just a shade under a quarter of a season.
It is also a winning percentage of .231. In a competitive division like the AL East where the Yankees will match Boston dollar for dollar, the Rays are are helmed by Manager of the Year Joe Maddon who oversees a stable of young prospects, and the Blue Jays are no cakewalk, it was the Orioles who brought the curtain down on Boston’s season. Just one more win in those anemic stretches would have forced a one-game playoff with Tampa. An additional win would have meant that Boston would be the AL Wild Card winner. No team who has a winning percentage that low for so long a stretch of the season deserves to be in the playoffs.
It is going to be a long winter in New England.