It was nice to see the Red Sox win four of the last six games against the Yankees over the past two weekends, leading to the Yankees accepting the Wild Card entry into the playoffs as opposed to the division championship. This was a bittersweet ending to a season that was very frustrating. Here are my Top Ten reasons why the Red Sox are not in the playoffs this year:
#10. J.D. Drew — With all the injuries, the Red Sox really needed J.D. Drew to live up to his $14 million salary. Instead, he had his worst year in a Red Sox uniform, and made one of the stupidest plays of the year, when he caught the foul ball in Tampa at the end of August, which lead to the Rays winning a game that effectively ended the Red Sox season.
#9. Kevin Youkilis’ thumb — Youkilis was sorely missed in the last two months of the season, for both his intensity and his contributions on the field.
#8. Jacoby Ellsbury got fewer at bats than Eric Patterson! — The loss of Ellsbury at the top of the order was a real blow to this team. When Ellsbury gets a single or a walk it is almost as good as a double. When he is on base, the opposing pitcher has to pay so much attention to him, and that can only help the man at the plate. Ellsbury’s injury meant that Marco Scutaro, who would have been an acceptable number eight or nine hitter, became the leadoff hitting, a role that did not suit him.
# 7. Theo Epstein gave up — It bothers me every time someone in the Boston media says that Theo Epstein “couldn’t” make an impactful trade to help the team. Of course he could have. The problem was he didn’t. Epstein’s job is to help the team during the season, and he didn’t do his job. Now, as I’ve acknowledged all along, not trading prospects for a loaner player might have been the right move — we’ll really never know. But it is clear that Epstein decided this team’s chances of making the post season were not worth gamblin any of his precious prospects. Epstein quit on this team.
#6. They were still paying Julio Lugo $9 million — I’m convinced that one reason the Sox passed on trading for Kerry Wood — who they could have gotten for a song — is that their payroll was into luxury tax territory and they didn’t want to be on the hook for Wood’s salary plus the tax. This is a position they would not have been in had they not still been paying Julio Lugo’s salary of $9 million!
#5. They left their heart in San Francisco — During three inter-league games against the San Francisco Giants at the end of June, the Red Sox suffered a spate of injuries, but none worse than the loss of Dustin Pedroia, the heart of the team! Boston hasn’t been so interested in anyone’s foot since Adam Vineteri left town.
#4. Run prevention is for sissies! — In retrospect, Theo Epstein’s “Run Prevention” approach reminds me of the nerdy kid on the playground who claims to know karate when the bullies gather round. It didn’t help that this team sucked at preventing runs –inconsistent starting pitching, a bullpen that could hardly have been worse had it literally held male cows instead of a passel of rag arms, and too many players who forgot how to field their positions.
#3. Two over-paid pitchers from Texas — Between them, John Lackey and Josh Beckett were paid over $30 million this year, but could only muster 20 total wins.
#2. Bad start in April — The writers all said not to worry. The Sox would right the ship and be contenders by summer. And, to some extent that’s what happened. But the Red Sox really never overcame their bad start. On April 19, 13 games into the season, the Sox were 5.5 games behind the Yankees and Rays who were tied for the division lead. When the season ended yesterday, the Sox were 6 games behind the Yankees for the Wild Card and 7 games out of first. The Red Sox only fell behind another half game in the 149 games that followed the slow start.
And the NUMBER ONE reason the Red Sox are going to be watching this year’s playoffs on TV:
The bullpen (except for Dan Bard) — The bullpen looked shaky even last January when I wrote about it as being the team’s major weakness, and it turned out to be THE Achilles heel over 162 games — in fact, it was even worse than I feared it would be, with Jonathan Papelbon’s deterioration. Papelbon had nine blown saves. If he had had just three, the Sox could well have made the playoffs despite everything else that went wrong. Think about that!