So I’ll meet you at the bottom
If there really is one
They always told me when you hit it you’ll know it
But I’ve been falling so long
It’s like gravity’s gone
And I’m just floating”
–Gravity’s Gone, Drive-By Truckers
Last year, when the Red Sox went an incredible 7-20 in the month of September, the team that had been leading the major leagues in most batting categories and had the best record in baseball fell out of the playoffs and kicked off a riotous off-season of recriminations and attempts to affix blame on various parts of the team. (out-of-shape and over-entitled players, a manager not willing to be tough on players, internal feuds between the business side and the “baseball guys” in the front office, out-of-touch owners.)
Well, they fired the manager, the GM departed on his own and several players were cut or traded. And then things got worse.
The 2012 Red Sox will end up with the worst record since 1965. If they lose tonight’s season finale to the NY Yankees, they will finish at 69-93–last in their division and a full 21 games worse than last year’s team. (Update 10/4/12–they lost 14-2 to the Yankees yesterday and today they fired Bobby Valentine as manager after one season.)
Three things stand out in this year’s collapse:
1) Manager. Bobby Valentine was the absolute worst choice for new manager. His predecessor, Terry Francona was known as a player’s manager–always positive and refusing to slander players in the media. Bobby V. is a manipulative, passive-agrressive asshole who never won the respect of the players or the coaching staff. He may be a bright tactician and able to coax better performances out of marginal players, but he was not suited to be a manager for this team. He has burned so many bridges his firing is a fait accompli.
2) Injuries. The Red Sox used 56 different players this year–a team record. The outfield seemingly had to introduce themselves to each other before each game. Even with so many people out of the line up, the patchwork offense was adequate until the end of the year when the entire team quit and the bottom fell out of the franchise.
3) Pitching. The Red Sox have little pitching. The starters are underwhelming, the closers can’t close, the set-ups can’t set up.
Last year, I claimed that the Red Sox could rebound quickly after the collapse. I’m not sure of that this year. The major deadwood of under-performing/over-entitled players has been dispatched. The Sox will surely have a new manager and new pitching coach. But the problems are more long-term issues: Recruiting and developing more top flight pitching. Trying to find some bats with more pop in the lineup. Becoming a smart, good-fielding team that limits errors and holds on to leads.
So, farewell to the worst Red Sox team since I became a fan as a seven year old kid during the Impossible Dream season of 1967. There’s nowhere to go but up.