MLB Playoffs: Two Potential Boston Red Sox Articles for Next Week

John BowenContributor IIISeptember 21, 2011

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 20:   Mike Aviles #3 of the Boston Red Sox scores a run and is greeted by Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox in the fourth inning at Fenway Park September 20, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Article 1: 

With Boston’s loss at the hands of the Orioles in conjunction with the Tampa Bay Ray’s victory at home against the mighty Yankees, the greatest choke in the history of baseball is complete.

Despite entering September with an 83-52 record and the best record in the American League, the Red Sox slumped terribly while the young, scrappy Rays fought, clawed and battled their way to the American League Wild Card, despite a payroll less than that of the Red Sox bullpen.

The pieces were there—three bonafide MVP candidates in Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury (though giving the award to any of these gentlemen after the biggest choke in history would be nothing short of a sham). A rotation led by dual-aces Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. A bullpen anchored by Jonathon Papelbon. And the second highest payroll in baseball to fill in the gaps.

What separated the 2011 Red Sox from their 2004 and 2007 predecessors wasn’t talent, that’s for sure. It was fire. Passion. Desire. Kevin Millar. When the rag-tag Rays put together their late-season charge, there was too much panic in the clubhouse, not enough leadership. There weren’t any spark plugs, no cowboy-ups, no idiots. Just a stiff group of guys with big numbers.

That’s what we’ve come to expect from the Red Sox since 2008. Too many statistics. Not enough championships.


Article 2:

With a gutsy performance by Josh Beckett against the Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox staved off an attack by the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League Wild Card. This will be the seventh playoff appearance in nine years for a team expected by many to take their winning ways to another World Series title.

“We bent but did not break” Red Sox Captain Jason Varitek remarked in the champagne-soaked Baltimore clubhouse after the game.

“It’s a great group of guys” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “We came together; we were tested and we prevailed.”

They surely were tested, but they did not panic. With clubhouse veterans like David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and Kevin Youkilis providing the leadership this team needed, this rag-tag group of gamers withstood Tampa Bay’s late season charge and secured the American League Wild Card on the season’s final day.

With another playoff appearance in the books, the only question remaining: which of Boston’s three superstars—Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, or Adrian Gonzalez—should be this year’s American League Most Valuable Player?


The point here? The Boston Red Sox will likely make the playoffs, but there's about a 10% chance they won't. Theo Epstein has constructed an excellent all-around team—one that has also been absolutely hosed by injuries for the second year in a row. And the Rays, with their limited payroll might find a way to sneak into the playoffs, largely using sabermetric principles similar to those employed by the Red Sox. 

All of these things are true, and yet one thing that we can count on is that sportswriters—whether on blogs on writing for mainstream newspapers—can find a way to make two separate, antithetical sweeping generalizations about a team, its leaders, and its chemistry—depending on whether they make the post-season by a single game or miss by a single game.