Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Rest of the East: Boston Red Sox

In this series of posts, I will discuss other American League East teams. This post will focus specifically on the Yankees arch rivals: the Boston Red Sox.

At this time last year, the Red Sox were, on paper, the team to beat in the AL East. Many were predicting a World Series appearance for the Sox. Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and getting back Pedroia from his 2010 injury were the final factors that would lead the Red Sox to the division title.

They began the regular season terribly, in a way that would foreshadow their September collapse. The players were frustrated and nothing was going their way. This would change a week later (of course, while playing the Yankees). From that point on, they were the best team in baseball from May to August. They were winning at an amazing pace and were already looking toward the playoffs.

The Yankees came into Boston on the last day of August and beat the Sox two times in a three game series. From that point forward, the Red Sox collapse became increasingly more the topic in baseball. Boston's pitching went into a tailspin. Their starters had a 7.08 ERA collectively in the month of September, a mark that is atrocious. Their bullpen fell apart as well, with Bard losing his control and blowing eighth inning leads.

On the last day of the regular season, it seemed that regardless of the Red Sox September record they would still make the postseason. The Yankees were beating Tampa Bay by seven runs and the Red Sox had a lead over the Orioles going into the ninth inning before Andino dunked a single into left that just missed the glove of Carl Crawford. The Red Sox hopes of making the playoffs hinged on result on game going on in St. Pete. The Red Sox season came to an end when Evan Longoria wrapped a home run just within the foul pole in left. The Tampa Bay Rays were the American League wildcard team, with Boston going home.

The team was largely impacted by the September 7-20 collapse. Manager Terry Francona was fired, GM Theo Epstein chose to go to the Cubs, and Boston fans were ready to jump off the deep end.

I don't see Boston being a major factor this season in the AL East. The hiring of Bobby Valentine will help the Sox in terms of discipline, but I don't see the players taking to Bobby V's methods. Papelbon leaving Boston for Philadelphia and trading Lowrie to the Astros leaves them without an everyday shortstop and a legitimate closer. They acquired Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon but not without losing their right fielder, Josh Reddick.

The Red Sox will settle somewhere within that 89-92 win spectrum, with a third place finish in the AL East behind the Yankees and Rays, respectively.

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