Pundits across the baseball universe are characterizing the twin September collapses by the Red Sox and Atlanta Braves as the worst choke jobs in the history of Major League Baseball, and some have said they may be the worst collapses in the history of all professional sports. It’s hard to disagree with either assessment… no matter how painful the acknowledgment.
What makes it harder to digest is the level of expectation that was built around the 2011 edition of the Red Sox—a team that was purportedly “built to win this year.”
Amid all of the buzz that accompanied the team back in spring training, I expressed deep reservations about whether this team would live up to heightened expectations. While Red Sox Nation was largely in the habit of speculating that the ballclub would win 100 or more games, I warned that we should lower our sights.
I cautioned that injuries could derail the ’11 Express. I alluded to the lack of physical condition of some of the players (while simultaneously praising John Lackey and David Ortiz for being in exceptional condition). I openly hoped the club would part ways with Tim Wakefield (because of age, increasing ineffectiveness, and the fact that his presence on the roster might inhibit a useful swing man from accepting a contract with the organization).
Injuries bit us once again. Physical conditioning again sidelined Clay Buchholz, who needs to become a workout warrior this offseason. John Lackey’s personal problems (wife’s cancer and impending divorce) distracted him throughout the campaign.
Wakefield was pitiful, yet again, and it is again my hope and expectation the front office will part company with him (or will they submarine yet another season due to blind loyalty because they want to let him make a run at the club record for career wins?).
And then there were the failures—the players who didn’t produce to the level of their abilities. In some instances it was a year-long problem, in other instances it all came down to swallowing a chicken bone in September. Whatever your take on the September swan dive into an empty pool, here is my list of the Top 10 Reasons for the Red Sox September Collapse: