MLB: Why the Boston Red Sox September Collapse Is Overrated
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Now that the dust has settled on what baseball writers are calling the single biggest collapse in baseball history, with due diligence and devoid of emotion, we can begin to examine what happened to the Boston Red Sox.
On September 28, their season was officially over, after a disastrous 7-20 month that saw them drop five of six to the Baltimore Orioles, including blowing a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two strikes.
Following the fallout, the baseball world went blame crazy on the Red Sox.
They blamed everybody from Terry Francona to Theo Espstein to the signing of John Lackey and Carl Crawford, two players who received monster contracts only to turn around and horribly under-perform.
The baseball writers however, are only part right, here's the part they forgot to mention. Boston was ravaged by injuries.
Daisuke Matsuaka was lost back in May for the season, the first of two starting pitchers to end up on the disabled list for an extended period of time and/or the season.
Their second loss, and the biggest of their rotation, came on June 16, when starting pitcher Clay Buchholz was lost for most of the season with a back injury.
His last start ironically, was a shortened outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, a game in which Boston won 4-2. Prior to his injury, Buchholz had won five out of his last nine games, four of them no-decisions.
Then the month of August rolled in, and once again, Boston was hit with a devastating injury as third baseman Kevin Youkilis ended up on the DL on August 18 following a back injury.
The injury hampered Youkilis the rest of the season and eventually put an end to his 2011 season.
Youkilis returned on September 2nd, going 6-for-36 with no home runs and just two runs batted in. He ended up back on the DL for the last time after September 15 and from that point on, Boston finished just 3-9.
Injuries decimated the Red Sox more than lack of production from Lackey and Crawford. Buchholz was the third ace pitcher for Boston and Youkilis was the tie in on the batting order between Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
Whose to blame for the Red Sox collapse?
On September 28, Sports Illustrated ran a piece entitled "Under the knife: Loss of depth squeezes hopes of Braves, Red Sox" in which writer Will Carroll explained how the loss of Youkilis destroyed Francona's flexibility with his roster.
Youkilis could play DH, 1st and 3rd base. His injury however, forced the Red Sox to make a roster move and acquire Mike Aviles from the Royals to play 3rd base.
Aviles' play at third was commendable. His bat however, was lackluster.
In the end, the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs and that's the final writing on the wall that most baseball writers and fans will take away.
Two straight seasons, the Red Sox have failed where the New York Yankees have succeeded, making the playoffs and, for the second straight season, injuries played a major role in the final outcome.
A team that finished 7-20 in the final month of the season doesn't deserve to make the playoffs. However, when one looks at the root cause of the collapse, injuries more than lack of production cost the Red Sox a sport in the 2011 playoffs.
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