There is no worse feeling than what Red Sox Nation had to feel. They saw their team going to the playoffs and had it in their sights. Then the baseball gods brought down the rain in Baltimore and flushed away every fan and player's hope for this season.
After the rain delay, the Red Sox not only had to go out and try to finish off the Orioles, but they also knew that the Yankees were on their way to blowing a 7-run lead and the safety net the Red Sox thought they were going to have.
So who is to blame for this collapse? It takes a lot of factors to lose a lead like the Sox had built, not to mention enough bad luck to fill Yawkey Way. Let's take a look at what caused the downfall of one of baseball's most promising teams headed into the season.
What was looked upon as one of the strong points for the Red Sox going into the season let them down time and time again during September.
While they lost a lot of their talent to injury, most of the players they had just collapsed down the stretch. You can't expect a lot from players like Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, and Felix Doubrount, but you have come to expect a certain level of play from the one-two combo of Daniel Bard and Jonathon Papelbon.
Bard had by far the worst month of his career this September. In 11 IP, Bard let up 11 H, 9 BB, and 13 ER. He had an ERA of 10.64 for the month and just let the team down when they really needed him to step up. As one of the anchors and the closer in waiting, the Sox probably have an uneasy feeling in their stomach going into 2012.
Jonathon Papelbon had a phenomenal year, but a game like last night is like a punch to the gut to fans who want to keep him in Beantown. He was handed a save situation against the Orioles and could not deliver. He had a chance to lead his team into a playoff with the Rays and he did not deliver.
Over the last week, Papelbon has given up 3 ER in 4 IP, which gives him an ERA of 6.75 for the time period. This is far worse than his season ERA of 2.94, and one of the reasons the Red Sox were not able to reach the postseason.
Carl Crawford was by far the biggest letdown of the 2011 season. Whether it was in the batter's box or out in the field, Crawford continually failed to deliver for the Sox. It was a fitting end to the season to have Crawford miss the line drive on his dive.
With a stat line of 65 R, 56 RBI, 18 SB, and .255 BA, you would hope you are looking at someone making far less than what he is this season. In Tampa Bay, Crawford averaged 99 R, 77 RBI, 51 SB, and .293 BA. If those numbers do not jump out at you as being a let down, I don't know what will.
The only thing that Red Sox fans can hope is that he works hard in the offseason and gets back to being the player he used to be in Tampa. He knows he has let down the team and fans and not lived up to expectations. Let's just all pray he is not a Vernon Wells kind of player
There is no real good place to begin when it comes to the struggles of Boston's starting pitching. There were a lot of holes, a lot of problems, and a lot of frustration when it came to this part of the game in New England.
John Lackey was probably the biggest starter flop this season. The Sox expected him to be a solid No. 4 starter, but it turned out the only thing he could really be counted on was for giving up more than five runs in the first three innings off his starts. It was hard to watch him pitch at some points during the year, so hopefully a refocused offseason can help him to regain his form in 2012.
Another problem was Eric Bedard, who came over in a trade but was never really able to find his footing in Boston. He did not pitch terribly, but he was far from great and had trouble establishing himself in the rotation.
The catching position was one of the biggest holes for the Red Sox going into spring training, and it was never really plugged until the end of the season. Jason Varitek does not have a lot left in the tank, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was underwhelming at best.
I think it is time for the reigns to be passed to young Ryan Lavarnway, who showed a lot of promise in his short time in the big leagues. He has a lot of pop and can hit for power, if the Sox are able to coax 'Tek to play another season, I think Lavarnway can learn a lot from him and become one of the better catchers in the league.
As for what to do with Saltalamacchia, I do not think all hope is lost. He could be used as a bridge to Lavarnway because I do not think he is ready to come up and deal with the grind of catching a full season. With the help of both of these current Sox, I think Ryan Lavarnway is a great long-term answer at the catcher position in Boston.
I know injuries happen to every team, but it just seemed like the Red Sox could not catch a break during this season.
Anyone remember Clay Buchholz? Kevin Youkilis? Bobby Jenks? Daisuke Matsuzaka? They all still play for the Red Sox, but they are all just on the disabled list.
And it is not just these players. Carl Crawford missed time on the DL, as did Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro, and J.D Drew. Combine this with the time Dustin Pedroia missed for his knee problems and Josh Beckett's ankle problems, and the Red Sox had an injury at nearly every position on the field.
I also think that the offseason will bring to light the fact that Jon Lester was battling and injury during the end of the season. Over his last 4 starts he was nowhere near the pitcher he usually is, and I think this was mostly due to an undisclosed injury. I would bet that within the next few weeks a story comes out about the injury or he was battling or him having some sort of rehab or surgery.
The Sox hit a lot of bad luck this year, but fans have to keep a positive outlook going into 2012. They will once again have one of the most potent lineups in baseball, and everyone will hopefully be fully healthy and ready to bring the World Series Title back to Beantown.