12 Biggest Winners from the Boston Red Sox Meltdown
On the morning of Sept. 4, 2011, Boston (84-54) woke up to a nine-game advantage over Tampa Bay (75-63) for the American League wild card. The Red Sox, the preseason favorite to represent the AL in the World Series, won just six more games in September.
Tampa went on to win 16 more, surpassing Boston in the late hours of the season's final day.
While the collapse taints the career resumes of everyone involved with the Red Sox, several others reaped benefits from Boston's meltdown.
12. Fred Wilpon
Fred Wilpon, the owner of the New York Mets, openly stated that Jose Reyes isn't worth "Carl Crawford money."
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In May, Fred Wilpon told Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker that he would not pay Jose Reyes as much as the Red Sox paid Carl Crawford.
Then Crawford hit just .255 with 11 homers, 56 RBI and a .289 OBP while playing poor defense—evidenced by his -2.2 UZR and remembered by his failure to catch Robert Andino's walk-off hit.
Could Crawford's failure to play to the demands of his seven-year, $142 million contract lower the price for Reyes this offseason?
Potentially but not necessarily.
Crawford and Reyes have been compared and contrasted because of Wilpon's comments, but they're different players and different people.
Crawford, who played an instrumental role in Boston's collapse, thrived in Tampa Bay's small market but couldn't handle the constant attention and pressure he received in Boston.
On the contrary, Reyes has proven he can thrive in a big market like New York, but his injury history is a concern to potential suitors.
Crawford is just the latest position player to sign a lucrative, long-term contract and fail to produce to its demands.
Vernon Wells is the most notable. The Toronto Blue Jays signed the center fielder to a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2008. In the four seasons since, Wells has a .262 batting average, a .309 OBP and 91 home runs.
Even Mark Teixeira hasn't played to the value of $22.5 million per year—his power and fielding have been very solid, but his batting average has declined precipitously to .248 in 2011.
Teams may be more wary to throw $140 million at Reyes because of his injury history and other mega-deals that resulted in busts.
If the price for Reyes declines enough, the Mets, who freed up payroll space during the season, could re-sign their shortstop.
11. Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles may have been the first 69-93 team to dogpile on the season's final day.
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The Baltimore Orioles finished 2011 with a 69-93 record, the fourth-worst in baseball. They shouldn't have had any reason to celebrate after winning on the season's final day.
However, Boston provided them an opportunity to play "spoiler," and Baltimore avidly adopted that role.
Here's to the Orioles: the team that walked-off against the Red Sox moments before Evan Longoria's home run sealed Boston's fate; the team with a .426 winning percentage that had something to play for on Sept. 28; and possibly the worst team to end a season in a dogpile.
10. Texas Rangers
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Now, the Rangers are four wins away from capturing the franchise's first World Series.
Could playing Boston in the ALDS instead of Tampa really have altered Texas' path?
In all likelihood, Texas would have advanced—the Rangers took the season series, 6-4, and the Red Sox would have backed their way into the playoffs.
However, Boston and Tampa are too very different teams. Boston led the majors in runs scored while Tampa finished No. 8 in the AL in the same category. The Rays allowed the least number of runs in the AL while the Red Sox ranked No. 9 in the AL.
Boston might have been colder than the fried chicken left over by Jon Lester, John Lackey and Josh Beckett, but the team could have been rejuvenated by the postseason's clean slate. If the ALDS evolved into a slugfest, who can guarantee that Texas would have advanced?
9. Popeyes and Beer
Jon Lester and fellow pitchers Josh Beckett and John Lackey have received lots of criticism for retreating to the locker room to eat fried chicken and drink beer during games.
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Following the collapse, a report stated that the starting pitching trio of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey frequently retreated to the locker room during games to eat fried chicken, drink beer and play video games.
Lester tried to downplay the impact on the September swoon, claiming the team just didn't play well.
"There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case," Lester said, according to the Boston Globe. "Was it a bad habit? Yes. I should have been on the bench more than I was. But we just played bad baseball as a team in September. We stunk. To be honest, we were doing the same things all season when we had the best record in baseball."
Nonetheless, Popeyes, which Lester claimed they ordered just once a month, and whichever beer appealed to the trio's tastes profited from the pitchers' collective indulgence.
After being eliminated from the playoff race, Terry Francona was free to provide color commentary during the first two games of the ALCS.
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If Boston had made the playoffs, Terry Francona would still have a job, and the Red Sox could have been alive during the ALCS, when Tito replaced Tim McCarver for the series' first two games.
Francona was a huge hit in the Fox broadcasting booth, receiving plenty of praise for his performance.
7. Ebay Seller Rvh95
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I don't know anyone who'd pay more than $15 for a John Lackey autograph—and that's only if they're feeling munificent.
Yet user rvh95 of eBay is going to make much more than that, promoting his Lackey autographed baseball as a piece of the collapse's history.
"The ball is pure John. It's covered in a little fried chicken grease, as were most of the balls John signed in 2011. The astute nose will detect a slight aroma of stale beer," reads the item's description.
After hitting eBay on Saturday Oct. 15 with a starting bid of $0.99, the ball is now at $16.50 with seven more days of bidding.
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A September meltdown of the caliber displayed by Boston can barely be explained, but several Red Sox offered their two cents.
According to the Boston Globe via ESPN, Jon Lester said, "We just played bad baseball as a team in September. We stunk."
Carl Crawford said, "We can only blame ourselves. We put ourselves in this position."
Unlike his teammates, Adrian Gonzalez didn't espouse the self-responsibility concept. Instead, he concluded supernatural forces must have altered Boston's path.
"I'm a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn't in his plan for us to move forward," Gonzalez told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
Maybe all you atheists out there should consider believing in God if the almighty is capable of erasing a nine-game lead with 24 to play. At least consider it.
5. Atlanta Braves
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Like the Red Sox, the Braves witnessed their lead improbably evaporate into thin air.
Still, on the final day of the season, Atlanta could have forced a one-game playoff with the Cardinals. However, they relinquished a ninth-inning lead to the Phillies and lost in extra innings.
Fortunately for the Braves, Boston's meltdown overshadowed their own. The Braves received almost no media attention after the playoffs commenced, but Boston is continually at the forefront of sports websites.
4. Yankee Fans
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In the mid-2000's, Boston appeared to be forming a dynasty that would remain a force in the next decade.
After rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, the Red Sox won the World Series. Then, they won again in 2007.
Sox fans constantly reminded Yankee fans of Boston's recent success and New York's constant failure, reaching a point where Yankee fans could only cite the franchise's then-26 championships—but how valid of an argument is that when we're talking about the present?
Even the 2009 World Series couldn't purge Yankee fans of the memories of the '04 collapse, though it did provide them with an upper-hand on Boston.
Now, Yankee fans can cite the '09 championship and Boston's '11 meltdown when Sox fans bring up the '04 ALCS and the '04 and '07 World Series.
3. Chicago Cubs
Theo Epstein has already ended the second-longest World Series drought. He'll attempt to end the longest in Chicago.
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Theo Epstein was always a candidate for the Chicago Cubs' GM job, but Boston's meltdown cemented him as a favorite.
Maybe Epstein would have bolted anyway, but it certainly would have been harder to leave a playoff team—maybe even a World Series winner.
Now, the Cubs, who haven't hung a World Series banner since 1908, have the general manager who brought Boston its first World Series since 1918. That doesn't necessarily guarantee that Epstein will be Chicago's savior, but it should leave Cubs fans optimistic.
2. The Media
David Ortiz created yet another story for the media, saying there was "too much drama" in Boston.
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The Red Sox collapse has created a multitude of stories that never would have surfaced if Boston reached the playoffs.
You have the reasons behind the collapse; the rumored rift between Terry Francona and Theo Epstein; the beer-drinking, fried-chicken eating, video-game playing trio of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey.
What about David Ortiz telling the media there's too much drama in Boston and implying he'd play for the Yankees?
Sports websites are teeming with Red Sox stories, proving the media has thrived off the meltdown.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Longoria and the Rays played well down the stretch, but they wouldn't have had anything to celebrate if Boston wasn't admirably bad in September.
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Tampa Bay reeled off 16 wins in the final 24 games of 2011. That and their "never say die" attitude are certainly worthy of respect.
However, you would expect a team trailing by nine games with 24 remaining to need more than a .667 winning percentage to make the playoffs.
The Rays didn't because Boston was admirably bad—the Sox won just six of their final 24 games. While a 7-17 finish would have been worthy of admonishment, that one extra win would have forced a one-game playoff.
An 8-16 stretch record would have earned a playoff spot.