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Red Sox Put Cherry on Wild Card Collapse Sundae by Imploding One Last Time

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIISeptember 29, 2011

It's over for this season and maybe for Jonathan Papelbon's career in Boston
It's over for this season and maybe for Jonathan Papelbon's career in BostonGreg Fiume/Getty Images

If Boston Red Sox fan Stephen King was to write a horror story devoid of gore that featured his beloved Red Sox as the hapless victims, he could not have written this script.

With a 3-2 lead over the Orioles and the Yankees possessing a 7-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays—holding the same Wild Card-leading record as the Sox on the final day of the regular season—things unraveled again for Boston, as the 3-2 lead became a 4-3 loss and the 7-0 Yankees advantage became an 8-7 Rays triumph. 

Curse? This wasn't a curse. This was a collapse.

Who gets the blame? Wow, that's a long list. The Red Sox have a 40-man roster and a ton of front-office people. Not to mention managers and coaches.

When all is said and done, this will go right up with all the epic chokes in Red Sox history. Young Sox fans now have their 1978, 1986 or 2003. Older, more seasoned, but as of late not as cynical Sox fans can start to drift back to the period before Oct. 17, 2004. That was the night Dave Roberts stole second, Bill Mueller drove him home and then the Sox walked off behind David Ortiz's 12th-inning home run. That sent the Red Sox into a period of unprecedented success, but that's all gone as of now.

Kiss it goodbye. 

The Red Sox are in a downward spiral of serious proportions, and they have only themselves to blame after over-managing their roster and overspending on numerous free-agent busts.

Perhaps the Red Sox should spend less time counting pitches and more time coaching abstract concepts like baserunning. Yes, that little thing that players do to travel between bases. The Red Sox have a problem with baserunning: They're not good at it. It's not a big deal right now because they can work on it until April, which is the next time they take the field.

Crawford exits the Sox dugout after almost making a big play on Wednesday
Crawford exits the Sox dugout after almost making a big play on WednesdayGreg Fiume/Getty Images

Tonight's epic loss, which will get pegged on Jonathan Papelbon, should never have been close enough to even need him on the mound. All the Red Sox had to do was run the bases in a somewhat sensible way. They couldn't do that though. David Ortiz decided to try and stretch a single into a double. An interesting decision considering that he's about as slow a player as any major league team has on their roster.

Then in the seventh inning with one out, Marco Scutaro was on first base and Carl Crawford hit a double to the gap in left-center.

Scutaro had hesitated between first and second thinking that a play might be made in the outfield. Instead the ball dropped in for what could have been $142 million man Carl Crawford's first clutch hit of the season. Scutaro was sent home but was thrown out at the plate.

This is the same Red Sox team that had runners thrown out on the base paths three innings in a row this past Sunday in the Bronx. This is the same Red Sox team that has labored pitifully through the final month of the season struggling to score runs when there are men on base. Unable to close out innings. Consistently getting poor starts from talented pitchers and poor at-bats from good hitters.

Rather than run down the very, very, long list of those that shoulder blame for this collapse instead here's a list of all the Red Sox that don't deserve blame. 

Jacoby Ellsbury.

David Ortiz realizes he's not a speedster after getting called out trying to stretch a single to a double
David Ortiz realizes he's not a speedster after getting called out trying to stretch a single to a doubleRob Carr/Getty Images

Dustin Pedroia.

See, that's a nice tidy list. No clutter, no mess. Those two guys hung tough all month. Fatigue? Injuries? Poor play? It didn't happen.

Ellsbury's worst play of the month was not making a spectacular catch this past Monday against the Orioles. The ball would become a three-run inside the park home run. I'm not really sure what the worst play of the month Pedroia made was but I'm sure at one point he did something wrong. No matter, though, because the rest of their teammates more than made up for the great baseball played by Pedroia and Ellsbury.

The starting pitching imploded, the bullpen imploded, and the lineup, with those two notable exceptions, imploded also. Remember when Adrian Gonzalez was not just an MVP candidate but the frontrunner? If that seems like a while ago that's because it was. Gonzalez didn't have a terrible September but it was among his worst months of the season.

Tonight's final game featured David Ortiz needing a fly ball to score Jacoby Ellsbury from third with one out in the top of the ninth and instead he produced a ground ball that travelled about two feet in front of home plate.

The starting pitching and the bullpen actually hung tough negotiating their way out of a few jams. That is until Jonathan Papelbon got stuck in a two out, no one on situation in the bottom of the ninth. That was too much for him to handle as he gave up a double down the right field line to Chris Davis.

Then Papelbon worked Nolan Reimold within one strike of ending the game until Reimold slammed a double to right center that plated Davis with the tying run. Robert Andino then closed the season when he hit a sinking line drive to left field that Carl Crawford the $20 million man himself almost came up with.

He didn't, though, and Reimold scored the game winning run. Crawford almost made the play. The Red Sox almost made the playoffs and now the Red Sox fans can almost stomach to watch postseason baseball. 

At least we don't have to worry about John Lackey pitching that one-game playoff in Tampa later today, right?

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