Celebrations like this one were few and far between for the 2012 Red Sox.
The Boston Red Sox, as an organization, are steeped in history. Most of this history is good.
They would have been tantalized if someone had told them at the beginning of the season that this team would accomplish something that no Sox team had done since 1965.
Indeed they did set a new mark for the modern era of this storied franchise; unfortunately, it is a bit of a dubious distinction.
At 69-93, the 2012 Boston Red Sox were the worst baseball team to take the field at Fenway in almost half a century.
It was a performance so staggering that fans and commentators were often at a loss for words. The Sox managed to destroy themselves with injuries, infighting and completely horrible play.
New manager Bobby Valentine, who was supposed to restore order after the disarray that marked the collapse of 2011, proved to be an unmitigated disaster who only added to the dysfunction.
It was a year many would like to forget, certainly. With the season now three weeks gone and free agency set to begin after the World Series, it’s time to look at the grades of the Sox’s overall efforts in 2012 and start to look forward to 2013:
While they endured bouts of inconsistency, the Sox’s bats generally had a solid season in 2012. They finished 8th in MLB in runs scored (734), and likely would have finished in the top five had they not elected to play a Triple-A caliber lineup for most of September.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Cody Ross and Dustin Pedroia all enjoyed fine offensive seasons, with each contributing solid numbers. The biggest impediment to the Sox’s ability to score was injuries; their projected starting nine never once took the field together as they lost Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks for significant portions of the season.
Nevertheless, the offense this season was one of the few areas that wasn’t a problem for the Sox.
Fans likely are not going to remember the Sox’s defense from this season. There were no performances that stood out for either good or bad reasons, and the statistics bear out this idea exactly.
The Sox were 13th in MLB in team fielding percentage (.983) and 14th in errors (101), both pretty much right in the middle of the 30 teams. The only issue that bears watching is Will Middlebrooks, whose nine errors in 72 games would likely put him in the top five in MLB over a full season.
On the other side of the spectrum, Pedroia may win another Gold Glove for his work at second base. While he did not have a particularly outstanding season in the field by his standards, his hustle and highlight-reel plays make him a favorite for the award every year.
The depths of despair the Sox stuff sunk to this season have been well-told:
The lowest ERA of any regular starter was 4.56.
The bullpen ERA (3.88) was 19th in the league despite an incredible run in the month of May.
The staff ERA (4.70) was 27th in MLB.
These numbers don’t lie; the Sox pitchers were universally terrible this season, and more than anything else the pitchers’ heinous performance is to blame for the horrible results on the field.
Brief spurts of competency would quickly be offset with prolonged periods of staggering ineptitude as the team dug themselves enormous holes early, then squandered the few leads they had late.
The pitchers don’t get a failing grade simply because Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales and Scott Atchison proved that they could be valuable pieces going forward as the Sox try to repair this broken staff.
While the Bobby Valentine era was brief, it was not without its share of drama.
The Sox’s skipper was at the center of controversy early and often, and his inability to shut his mouth ultimately proved to be his undoing. He simply did not know when to stop, agitating his players and needlessly stirring the pot at times where it simply was not appropriate.
It’s not exactly a good sign for a coaching staff when the pitching coach is fired during the season, the manager is dismissed the day after the season ends and the hitting coach flees a couple weeks later.
The Sox’s coaching staff will have a completely new look in 2013, which is (obviously) sorely needed. The old coaches seemingly had a hard time communicating with the players, and if previously written reports are to be believed, did not care for one another.
Another group that deserves a share of the blame, the Sox management team of GM Ben Cherington, CEO Larry Lucchino and owners John Henry and Tom Werner, only barely escape a failing grade for this season as well.
The only reason they pass is because of their miraculous August trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for some actual, high-quality prospects. In one move they put some nice pieces in place for the future while also freeing up a staggering amount of payroll room.
The bad outweighed the good, though. Cherington’s first major move, when he sent Josh Reddick (32 home runs) to Oakland in exchange for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, looks to be poor at best. The Daniel Bard starting experiment was an abject failure from the beginning.
Lucchino sent out a patronizing letter to season ticket holders, trying to sell them on the team by referring to the players as “cheerful” and “friendly.” They allowed the team to spiral out of control with in-fighting and newspaper gossiping while they seemingly sat back and did nothing.
Let’s hope next year is better.
At the beginning of the season, fans couldn’t wait to see this team get back on the field and prove that the end of 2011 was simply a fluke.
By the end, they just wanted it all to be over.
This year was a wire-to-wire disaster, from the bumbling Bobby Valentine hiring to the bullpen blowing an Opening Day win to the final moments of a 14-2 loss to the Yankees at the season’s close. Each loss was worse than the last, or so it felt.
Still, there were several bright spots to point to going forward: Will Middlebrooks looks like a future star. David Ortiz can still rake. Felix Doubront is an MLB starter. The team now has lots of payroll room to play with. The farm system is being restocked.
While the 2011 hangover killed this team’s chances before they even had an opportunity to take root, the future still looks bright for this team.