2012 MLB Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

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2011 Boston Red Sox Season Recap

The way Red Sox fans reacted with anger, horror, disgust and disbelief when the 2011 regular-season concluded with their beloved team blowing its chance for the playoffs, it’s hard to remember that there even was a 2011 season before September. The Red Sox steered off a cliff in September rather than advancing to the playoffs in October and no one was in an understanding or forgiving mood. The season was like a feel-good movie all the way through with a sudden twist at the end with a likeable main character dying.

Until they went on an extended walkabout, the Red Sox were a bigger lock for an American League playoff spot than Barack Obama is to obtain the Democratic party nomination for president. And that is a surer lock than IRS agents knocking on your door if you forget to file an income tax return by April 15. Instead, Boston was left with one of the most reviled 90-72 seasons imaginable.

Rather quickly general manager Theo Epstein, the one-time boy wonder who assembled teams that won the 2004 and 2007 World Series, exited for the Chicago Cubs. Manager Terry Francona was not invited to return. Ace closer Jonathan Papelbon left in free agency. And it was discovered that starting pitchers hung out in the clubhouse eating fried chicken, drinking beer and playing cards instead of root, root, rooting for the home team when it wasn’t their turn in the rotation. Oh yeah, the Red Sox went out and hired disciplinarian Bobby Valentine to become the new warden.

Before the domino effect embarrassment kicked in, there were many good moments on the field for the BoSox. The team did win 90 games. Free agent acquisition Adrian Gonzalez proved to be a great signing deal as he almost led the American League in batting with a .338 average. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury turned in an MVP-caliber year, batting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. When he was healthy, Josh Beckett was good, going 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. Jon Lester was even better much of the season, going 15-9.

But the season will be long-remembered for The Great Collapse. The question is whether or not the Red Sox will be haunted by it in 2012, as well, and keep paying a harsh price for the mistakes of last September. It is as if the entire team suffered a season-ending injury, and until the games start for real again no one will be able to say with confidence that the injury has healed.