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What Happened to the Red Sox?

Oct 12, 2009, 8:50 AM EDT

Despite their late season charge, everyone kind of figured that the Twins would fall to the Yankees in the ALDS.  While some morons totally blew the call on the Cardinals-Dodgers series, it’s not like the Dodgers winning was a total shocker either. But did anyone really think that the Red Sox would simply roll over and play dead like they did against Anaheim?

Actually, maybe some folks did.  Here’s Theo Epstein after yesterday’s loss: “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out
of the blue.  We saw things that
were reflected early in the season.”

What kinds of things?  For one thing, the shakiness of Papelbon.  No, you can’t pin this all on him — and let’s be 100% clear here: the Sox “fans” booing Paps after the top of the ninth was a totally bush league move from folks who should know better — but the fact is that Papelbon v.2009 was not the same pitcher we grew used to seeing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  His velocity is down and when you have a merely superior fastball as opposed to an otherworldly one like he’s had in the past, you’re going to get smacked around a bit.  And you get the sense that he knows his kung-fu isn’t what it used to be. He went 3-0 on Chone Figgins before getting anything over in the ninth. The same Chone Figgins who had been 0-12 prior to that at bat.  Papelbon should have been throwing his version of batting practice fastballs to him, challenging him to do something with the ball. Except now Papelbon’s version of a batting practice fastball is no longer an above-average major league fastball, and his tentativeness simply underscored this.

But like I said, hanging this on Papelbon is to miss the real story here, and that’s the story of an aging and incomplete offense that feasted on the Orioles and in home games all year but which was really exposed against the Angels pitching.  Ortiz was 1-12 with zero extra base hits. Lowell had an RBI yesterday, but was 0-7 in the two games in Anaheim. Jason Bay was 1-8. There was a lot of that.  It’s just not a team with a bat that strikes fear into the heart of a pitching staff anymore.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan went so far as to pine for Manny Ramirez yesterday.  

I don’t know if it’s that bad, but the 5-1 lead in yesterday’s game was, in hindsight, a mere blip on the radar screen. The one run and eight hits they gathered in two losses in Anaheim was far more indicative of the state of the Sox against good pitching.

It’s going to be a slightly longer offseason than expected in Boston this year, but from the looks of things Theo Epstein is going to need all of the extra time he can get in order to cure what ails the Red Sox.

  1. Tony Quinn - Oct 12, 2009 at 9:53 AM

    The Sox pitching at the beginning of the season was all the rage. Bottom line, they depend too much on the fast ball as an ‘out’ pitch – a pitch that becomes very familiar to ‘expecting’ hitters and a bit tired at the end of the season.
    Also, (did any one else see this), the mood/energy in the dugout this year was very different. Big Papi’s poor start and low batting average throughout the season had him in a funk all year. It looks like it was contagious.
    This outcome of this series is not the reason to rebuild – it was the 2nd half swoon. Too many broken parts for a team that has lots of cash.

  2. Bobby Townsend - Oct 12, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    What Bob Ryan says is true, but who would think Ortiz average would hover between .220 and .230 all year. That bat should have struck fear in a pitching staff but it did not.
    The Red Sox would only beat up on bad pitching staffs (hence the Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians etc) but how about the 31 straight scoreless innings against the Yankees in early August. If they went up against any pitcher with even modest credibility, their bats just turned to putty.
    Also, the Sox did not play enough SMALL BALL, only 19 sac bunts all season. I wished they had signed Alex Cora in the off-season. Not much reaction from Red Sox nation when he left but I was upset because he gave the team a certain dimension no others on the current roster could produce.
    Back to Papelbon, can anyone explain why he stopped throwing his split which in the past, was a very effective pitch for him. He just resorted to just throwing his live fast ball past major league hitters which is not enough. It caught to him. If he is going to stop throwing his split, he needs to come up another pitch if he is going to be as effective, not just have teams sitting on his fastball
    AS FOR WAKEFIELD, I think the world of the guy but I think its over for him. At 43 now, its not fair to expect him to bounce back from injuries as quick as he once did. He only made four starts after the All-Star break and even those were a major chore. He was effective to the team for a long time because he can go out and eat up alot of innings every 4 or 5 days but I think those days are going going gone. He and others roughly his age (Smoltz and Randy Johnson) can no longer hold up over the long season. This being said, I am not if Wake is under contract for 2010 or if there is an option.
    I also think the world of Rocco BALDELLI but to me a distrubing trend has developed when he twice went on the D.L. not including his exclusion on the ALDS roster because of an injury totally unrelated to the others that put him on the D.L in April and August. I was expected him to play in about 80 (half) games and get about 250-300 at bats, given his condition that came to light during the off season. He did not come close to either and started in just 37 games. It really pains me to write this paragraph since I may be one of his biggest fans and besides, he went to high school just down the road from where I live and got to see many of his games there. What a talent but the Sox have a decision to make, similar to what the Rays had to make a year ago.
    I don’t think the Sox have to blow up the roster but they may if they cut ties with Varitek and Bay.

  3. fanamine - Oct 12, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    They a better team than what has been reflected this season. At the start they fared well, but injuries and player decisions affected the chemistry. Smoltz and Penny failed. Lowell has a gimp. Too many career innings is catching up to Dice-K. Age is catching up to Wakefield. Big Poppy looked lost. While bringing in Martinez was, at first, a good move, the Martinez-Varitek-Youkilis-Lowell competition for playing time had its downside. There was something amiss in the heart and desire of the team since mid-season. Tough decisions are ahead. I am not a Sox fan, but the rivalry depends on their being competitive.

  4. Geek - Oct 12, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    The red sox were a very good team, just not good enough.
    Boston fans have no shame and act childish in the way they attack players, even their own when things don’t go perfectly.

  5. Bobby Townsend - Oct 12, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    YES GEEK, the booing of Papelbon was sickening!!!! but Pedroia complaining about the infield at Fenway was rather lame. The grounder in question apparently hit a spot (those things can happen anywhere) and did not take a true hop. But yes, bad hop grounders are part of the game so deal with it so Dustin just sounded like a whining baby. I really like the guy but he is out of line here

  6. fanamine - Oct 12, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    You are not the only one who feels that way. They believe every player in the league should jump at the chance to be a part of the ‘Nation.’ That is why A-rod and Texeira are booed mercilessly. How dare they not sign into the kingdom! They are so full of themselves.

  7. kevin stewart - Oct 12, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    Red Socks have a great organization and will address the situation in the off-season. I have faith in the SOCKS!!!!!

  8. Alan - Oct 12, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    Listen Boston fans. Don’t let this writer Craig Calcaterra make you believe his annoying sensationalism. He just wants you to react. All horrible writers do this. The Red Sox had a great year, you can not beat everyone every year. Some players had bad years and perhaps it an injury or just a bad year. Embrace what the Sox did this year. The second best record in the AL east. This kind of horrible reporting is now mainstream in circling the bases. Instead of reporting on the positives Craig makes up negatives to get you to react. Hey Craig why not report something good for a change. Why not how Dustin Pedroia has become a better all around player or what a healthy Big Papi will mean next year, or the emergence of Clay Bucholtz or why the Sox need to keep Jason Bay?

  9. Josh - Oct 12, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    This is truly disappointing to see. One thing that I predicted ever since the trade has certainly come true: Jason Bay disappearing in the postseason. Prior to coming to the Red Sox, the biggest stage that he played on is Opening Day. Jason Bay fades in the postseason, but the Red Sox wouldn’t have made it this far without him.
    And how in the world could Fenway boo Papelbon? That’s just despicable. He gave it his best, and this time he fell short. Now this team has a very solid pitching staff (with the true emergence of Buchholz finally, with Bowden and Tazawa waiting in the wings), but unless the offense is seriously addressed, this Red Sox team will fall into the trap of the Braves of the 90′s. Alot of pitching and not much hitting will get you into the postseason, but it will not win a championship.

  10. Barry - Oct 12, 2009 at 2:38 PM

    The cold hard fact is the players no longer display the unity that made them great in 2004 and the other year they won the WS. The length of their trousers is inconsistent and the loss of Juan Valdez left them disoriented. Bad umpiring also played a role as did the replacement of the infield dirt. But most of all, the swine flu caused their lethargic play. If a few more of the team had been vacinated the outcome would have been different in some way.

  11. Swinto - Oct 12, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Hey Barry- I remember the first time I sniffed glue

  12. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 12, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    Alan — if you want to say that an ugly sweep at the hands of the Angels is the definition of success for this Red Sox team, go ahead and say it. I just don’t think that you can expect the majority of Sox fans to agree with you.
    And if you take issue with any of my assessments, feel free to tell me where I’m wrong. Papelbon was great, yes? Ortiz and the rest of the bats were fabulous but just were out-fabuloused by a better Angels team?
    Please. If you want to read a press release, go read press releases. We traffic in opinion around here.

  13. Bill Lynch - Oct 12, 2009 at 3:20 PM

    The sox need a new batting coach, along with several new players who will be able and willing to show agression at the plate. Ever notice how many times the Sox left their bats on their shoulders with the first pitch?(usually a fast ball right down the middle). often that was the best pitch they got from the good pitchers. Why lay off? All it does is put you behind as a batter. The Sox lineup is old and tired and the pitching staff is not nearly as good as other teams. Papelbon is not nearly as overpowering as in the past. The Red Sox need to be re-tooled and re-juvenated with young, speedy, agressive players. Too bad, but Papi, Lowell, Varitek, and JD all need to call it a day. They were just flat out beaten by the Yanks and the Angels. No excuses.

  14. nats apologist - Oct 12, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    Alan, the Red Sox are now the equivalent to the yankees and will get the articles written about their failures. They expect (and pay) with the sole goal of winning the World Series. A sweep in the ALDS is a disappointing ending. There are big questions for the Red Sox going forward. Do they go young and bring up some of their minor league talent and start phasing out Ortiz, Lowell, Varitek and Wakefield? Is Papelbon the long term answer at closer (closers not named Hoffman or Rivera have a short shelf life)? Do you resign Jason Bay long term? Why have they not been able to address their SS issues since ’04? Why did everyone assume the off-season signings of Penny, Smoltz and Baldelli were good? The Yankees aren’t going anywhere, Rays still have a ton of talent, Orioles are improving. Its not a given that they can squeak into the playoffs every year with that many questions.

  15. Terry G - Oct 12, 2009 at 3:26 PM

    you dumb red sucks fans your team is just as bad as the mets without the injuries. how come when u c tom brady wearing a yankee cap u morons lose your minds?

  16. SEAN - Oct 12, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    @Barry
    Got anymore excusses you can think of????
    They were out pitched, out hit, out managed, and even the Anaheim fans were better.
    The better team won! Period!

  17. Ted - Oct 12, 2009 at 3:39 PM

    Here’s the way I see it …. The sox were off the second half. Ortiz looked stiff on every swing. He ran like it hurt. He needs to lose a few pounds and limber up. Clearly he started to hit better but he’s not back. With the right off-season training he can be his old self. Jason Bay had a great first half but it seemed like he stopped swinging at good pitches. How many called 3rd strikes? …. too many. Magadden needs to step in. Lowell – hurt. Someone said that the ’09 sox didin’t strike fear in the pitchers they faced … absolutly true. They can and need to get that back. They have the talent. The line up is solid now with Gonzales at short. Yuke, Pedrioa, Elsbury, Drew, Martinez all played very well. Get the others back on track and the team will be an absolute contender next year.

  18. Rick P. - Oct 12, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    I may be old school, but any team that feels they have the need or the “right” to celebrate a wild card spot, while losing five games in a row and backing in to the playoffs, is suffering from a defect in character. Even prior to that, to hear some of the players “disregard” their mounting losses by saying “we’re doing some things right, and we are right where we need to be”, shows a team with a collective hubris that does not bode well for their future. Needless to say, that future is now, and they are paying the piper. BTW–this is hard for me to say, as I am a life-long Sox fan. But their behavior and attitude the past few weeks did not show a team that was willing to look at their deficiencies, and attempt to make the needed changes (assuming there was indeed something they could change!)

  19. peteinfla - Oct 12, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    I know that as a Yankee fan, I am supposed to do nothing but bash the Red Sox, but at the sake of being run out of the Yankee fan club, I will try to say something nice about the hated Sox.
    The Red Sox are a very good baseball team, with a great management that is willing to spend the money neccessary to be competetive. It is a luxury that we Yankee fans understand, and are blasted for by the fans on small market teams for. (By the way, when did the Abgels become a small market team?) Welcome to our world, Red Sox fans. Although as fans of these “Goliath” teams, we sometimes expect our team to win it all, I think we sometimes forget that the game is still played betwwen the lines. A big payroll and “Star” players guarantees us nothing. We yankee fans have gone throught this the last few years, while the Red Sox played into late October. Now it is the Sox fans turn. Don’t throw yourselves onto knifes just yet!
    You have a great nucleus of players, and probably only need to solve some secondary issues to go from very good back to great. Hell, you’ve got Lester, Beckett and Buckholtz already in the rotation next year, and a farm system loaded with pitching. Even with the inconsistency of the bullpen, you start next year with Papelbon, Delcarmen, Bard, Ramirez… not bad at all. Youkilis and Pedroia are great players, Ellsbury is really good, let’s see if Drew and Bay come back, but you know if not them, Epstein will get someone else up to the task. Seems like you really only have questions in the infield. Varitek seems done, Martinex can hit, both they both threw out around 15% of baserunners this year, well below league average. Lowell is a good player, but getting older, and somewhere they need to find a shortstop.
    All in all, I would expect the fine management in Boston to address whatever the problem areas are, and for your Sox to be right back in the middle of it all next year. Too bad they lost to the Angels, it would’ve been great to see the rivalry settled face to face.

  20. Dick - Oct 12, 2009 at 5:26 PM

    I’m a Brewer fan from MA.
    Only have basic cable so i don’t get to see my team much, if at all.
    Living closer to albany NY than to Boston MA, i am able to catch
    quite a few games of each team.
    I watch the sox a lot and i’m able to watch from a different
    perspective than most sox fans , just as a sox/yankee fan
    would be better able to analize the brewers than me.
    Without trying to be to smart or longwinded, let me just say….
    I would,
    1. Trade- Veritek, Ortiz, lowell, Byrd, Tazawa, Wakefield,
    and…………no i’m not kidding, dice-k, while he can
    still get you something in return.
    From what i’ve seen, he is another Ken Brett.
    2. Find a new pitching coach.
    3. Have some bunting practice now and then. (inclue the pitchers)
    Good luck next year.

  21. BC - Oct 12, 2009 at 6:44 PM

    Alan total BS from Craig C he is just like all the talk radio jocks who say stupid things to get fans to call in. His lack of knowledge about the sox is so lame that he deals in generalities to make his point. Yes the Angels won this series and sometimes that just the way it goes in a short series, I really dont think 3 games defines any teams year and the team that gets hot at the right times sometimes beat a better team. Until some of these other teams play in the AL east which is the toughest division in baseball I give those teams Yankees, Red Sox and Rays a significant level of quality above other teams. I give the Angels credit and wish them good luck but it no coincidence why the Red Sox had beaten them year in and year out its because they play in a tougher division over the course of the season which is the true indication of how good a team is. So CC keep peddling your BS it is all in an effort to have people respond to your lame theories.

  22. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 12, 2009 at 6:51 PM

    Wasn’t my lame theory, BC. Read the linked article. It was Theo Epstein’s. You gonna disagree with Theo when he says that the loss reflected many of the team’s shortcomings? If so, why?
    And tell me this: do you think the Sox should just stand pat this offseason? If not, aren’t you too admitting that they have some problems that need addressing?

  23. bh0673 - Oct 12, 2009 at 7:06 PM

    I could be wrong but to me I think Papelbon’s head became bigger then it should have. The whole issue he had with Billy Wagner being traded for kind of confirmed in my head what I had thought. His ego got too big. Rivera in comparison never seems to have a swelled head and just comes out and does what he does.

  24. Brian - Oct 12, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    What happened to the Red Sox? The Angels happened to the Red Sox, that’s what.

  25. I-now-hate-baseball - Oct 12, 2009 at 8:48 PM

    You Yankee fans and Red Sox fans make me sick. One bad post season and the world is coming to an end. Your teams compete every year. Try being a fan of a small market team. If we blow during the playoffs it could be years, if not decades before we return. Now that’s heartbreaking. Or, how about if you don’t compete, what happens then? FIRE SALE! Then you get to watch your last two Cy Young award winners win the opening game of their new team’s playoff series. This is the reason this is no longer America’s favorite game.

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