In 2011, the colossal Red Sox collapse came in September. In 2012 it was a long series of frustrations, bad news, bizarre happenings, and off-the-field incidents for the Red Sox right from spring training. We take a look back at some of the biggest issues that have derailed Boston in 2012:
In January, Carl Crawford had surgery on his left wrist in Arizona. At the time, general manager Ben Cherington said Crawford should recover to play “the bulk” of the season. Crawford felt soreness when he started his offseason hitting workouts around Jan. 1st. He had an MRI that showed cartilage damage, and arthroscopic surgery was recommended. Crawford had wrist issues in the past, but the discomfort had always passed. He later had Tommy John surgery on his elbow before being traded to the Dodgers.
In February at spring training, Josh Beckett offered no apology for the chicken and beer episode when he arrived in spring training. He wasn’t very contrite about September’s collapse when he arrived in Fort Myers
Bobby Jenks said that an error during his surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital resulted in his needing emergency surgery in Arizona 18 days later. This episode raised questions about the team’s medical care. In March, Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence in Fort Myers. In July, the Red Sox reached a contract termination settlement with Jenks and he was placed on unconditional release waivers.
The former Sox starter, Curt Schilling, a longtime supporter of ex-Sox manager Terry Francona, may have started the anti-Bobby Valentine brigade when he spouted the following: “I thought that the manager that managed the Mets that I was not a big fan of was now going to be a different manager, and I don’t think there’s anything different at all, and I don’t think that that is going to be conducive to doing well here. There’s a lot of things I think that are happening not just from his perspective, but when you talk to these guys -- and I’m still talking to some of these guys -- I don’t think this is going well. And I think it’s going bad quicker than I expected it to.” Valentine quickly dismissed Schilling’s remarks. “I just consider the source when I hear stuff like that,’’ he said.
On April 2nd, Andrew Bailey, acquired from the Athletics in the offseason to replace Jonathan Papelbon as the team’s closer, needed the operation to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament on his right thumb. Bailey was originally expected back just after the All-Star break but he did not make his Red Sox debut until Aug. 14th.
Jacoby Ellsbury was injured in the home opener, April 13th, trying to break up a double play against the Rays. Fresh off a near-MVP season, would miss the next three months and struggle at the plate after his return.
On April 14th, Bobby Valentine’s decision to do a regular appearance on Yankees play-by-play broadcaster Michael Kay’s radio program in New York prompted some backlash among Red Sox fans. Valentine has ties in New York. “What, there aren’t any Red Sox fans in New York?” Valentine said. During another interview in April, Valentine was asked about Kevin Youkilis and said, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” The comment prompted Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia to come to the defense of Youkilis, saying, “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. Maybe that works in Japan.” Valentine apologized to Youkilis, but the third baseman was eventually traded to the White Sox.
In the game against the Rays, the Sox were down by four runs early, and then hit five home runs in their comeback and three more than they had in their first seven games. Mike Aviles was 3 for 5 and scored two runs. His solo home run in the seventh inning gave the Sox their first lead. David Ortiz was 4 for 5 with five RBIs. He had a two-run homer in the fifth to tie the game after the Sox were down, 5-2, then added a three-run double to the opposite field in the eighth.
On April 20th, the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, 6-2, on the day of the 100th anniversary celebration of the park. The next day fans witnessed one of the most stunning collapses in team history. Vicente Padilla and the Red Sox surrendered 14 runs over two innings to the Yankees on April 21st. The Sox blew a 9-0 lead after the Yankees posted back-to-back seven-run innings in the seventh and eighth in New York’s shocking 15-9 win over Boston.
Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford weren’t the only Red Sox players to have their mettle questioned by Valentine. A CBS Sports report during spring training suggested Valentine was not excited to use Aviles as his everyday shortstop, preferring prospect Jose Iglesias. New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden wrote that Valentine’s treatment of Aviles during an infield drill sparked a near-revolt by Red Sox players, according to a team source. Both Valentine and Aviles denied the incident ever happened.
Carl Crawford’s injury status expanded from his wrist to his elbow while he was trying to recover from January surgery on his wrist. Soreness in the elbow never abated, to the point where the Red Sox sent him to see specialist Dr. James Andrews. By the end of April, the expectation was that Crawford would miss at least three months.
In May, a Boston Globe analysis revealed that the Red Sox record-breaking sellout streak is actually more of a “distribution streak” where the team heavily relies on complimentary tickets to meet the sellout requirements. In one instance documented, free tickets were given out at the ticket window for a Red Sox game billed as a sellout.
Outfielder, Darnell McDonald pitched and took the loss against the Orioles on May 6th. It took 39 innings all together, but the Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Red Sox for the first time since 1994 with a 17-inning 9-6 win. Both teams used positional players as pitchers. McDonald took the loss after giving up a three-run home run to Adam Jones in the 17th. Orioles DH Chris Davis picked up the win.
In his first game back after missing a start with a sore lat muscle (a break in which he managed to squeeze in a round of golf) Beckett was hammered for seven runs in 2 1/2 innings by the Cleveland Indians at Fenway on May 10th. After the 8-3 loss, a defiant Beckett told the media regarding the outing on the links: “My off day is my off day... We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.” In the same game, a Red Sox fan wearing a bag on his head was visible in NESN’s camera shot behind home plate, and caused a stir across Red Sox Nation.
After seeing red-hot Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s on the lineup card before a game in Baltimore, backup catcher Kelly Shoppach complained to Valentine about his playing time. The manager shared the news with reporters. “He left angry,” Valentine said of Shoppach’s complaints. “And I like playing him when he’s angry, I guess.”
Although David Ortiz led an 11-hit barrage by going 3 for 4 two doubles and a solo home run, Daniel Nava delivered the crushing blow with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth on May 29th, as the Sox defeated Justin Verlander and the Tigers, 6-3.
On June 3rd, Daniel Bard was sent to the minors after yet another bad start on June 3rd. Bard, the reliever-turned-struggling starter, lasted just 1-2/3 innings for the Red Sox in Toronto, hitting two batters and walking six while allowing five earned runs in a 5-1 loss. He was subsequently demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and did not return to the Boston bullpen until August 30th.
In one of several out-of-town reports that was a harbinger for moves to come later in the season, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Red Sox had a “toxic” clubhouse. David Ortiz was quick to rebut Olney’s report. After multiple reports of players being unhappy in Boston, and friction between Valentine and his coaches, Ortiz was asked by reporters if he’s having fun playing in Boston anymore. “Not really. Too much [expletive], man. Too much [expletive],” Ortiz said. “It’s becoming to be the [expletive] hole that it used to be. … Playing here used to be so much fun. Now, every day it’s something new not related with baseball. People need to leave us alone [to] play ball, man.”
After questions surfaced about the late timing of a Red Sox team meeting called by David Ortiz went off on the perception of him not being a leader. In July David Ortiz told USA Today in an extensive Spanish-language interview that he felt “humiliated” and “embarrassed” about his contract situation. Ortiz, who was hitting .302 with 22 home runs at the time, accepted arbitration and then agreed in the offseason to a one-year, $14.575 million deal, a $2.025 million raise from the year before. He was seeking a two-year contract.
Will Middlebrooks drove in four runs, two with the tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, as the Red Sox rallied to beat the Miami Marlins, 6-5, on June 21st. It was five straight wins for the Sox and victories in seven of their last eight games.
Kevin Youkilis was saluted by the Fenway Park crowd on the day he was traded to Chicago, June 24th. Youkilis was sent to Chicago for righthander Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge. Boston also picked up $5.5 million of the $6.6 million Youkilis had remaining on his contract. Youkilis tripled in his final at-bat in a Red Sox uniform, during the seventh inning of a win over the Braves and received a huge Fenway ovation when he was removed from the game.
With injuries plaguing the Red Sox outfield, Boston made a deal with Theo Epstein’s Cubs to land outfielder Marlon Byrd, who was a spark plug for Boston early on before being released by the team on June 12th. On June 25th, MLB suspended Byrd for 50 games after he tested positive for Tamoxifen, which can reduce side effects of steroid use and increase testosterone. It is often used to treat breast cancer patients.
On July 16th, David Ortiz was injured on this home run by Adrian Gonzalez. Ortiz injured his right Achilles while rounding second base on Adrian Gonzalez’s three-run homer in the eighth inning against the White Sox. The injury wasn’t immediately thought to be as serious as it turned out to be, as he would play sparingly over the next two months. Ortiz was leading the team in many offensive categories at the time of his injury.
Cody Ross and Adrian Gonzalez more than made up for Ortiz's absence, on July 18th, making sure it didn't lead to a sudden power outage. Ross and Gonzalez combined to go 6 for 9 with 4 runs, 10 RBIs, and three home runs, including back-to-back shots in a four-run fourth to put the game out of reach, 8-1, over the White Sox. The next day, July 19th, Ross clobbering another three-run homer and lifting the Red Sox to a dramatic 3-1 walk-off victory before a euphoric Fenway Park crowd.
On July 22nd, Jon Lester allowed a career-worst 11 runs against the Blue Jays in a 15-7 loss at Fenway Park. Lester allowed nine hits and four homers in four-plus innings, walking five and striking out two. the start dropped his record and ERA to 5-8 and 5.46. The start was later reported as the apparent cause for a team meeting with ownership.
Former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, in his role as an ESPN analyst, met with players in the Red Sox clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. The sight of the team’s former manager sitting down and shooting the breeze with his old team didn’t sit well with some, particularly given the new manager’s inconsistent popularity with those same players. Francona later apologized to Valentine. Valentine said the apology wasn’t necessary, but he appreciated it.
In July, Ryan Sweeney hurt his hand by punching a door after he was made an out in the eighth inning of a game against the Tigers. Sweeney was soon deemed out for the season. Just a day shy of the trading deadline, he had been rumored to be involved in trade talks before his injury.
The Red Sox opened a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on July 30th. Clay Buchholz went eight innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits. Dustin Pedroia broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth when he took a fastball from Detroit starter Max Scherzer (10-6) and belted it into the Green Monster seats.
In August, Bobby Valentine said ownership came to him after someone went to them about comments he made to rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Valentine said they were playfully teasing comments after Middlebrooks had a tough inning in the field. In Valentine’s words: “[Middlebrooks] came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors, and I said, ‘Nice inning, kid.’ I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that and he would try to smile or relax a little. Maybe he grimaced, I don’t know, but somebody overheard it and decided that it was a very dreadful thing for a manager to say to a young player, and decided to repeat it a few times, this dreadful thing.”
On August 4th, the Twins, 16 games under .500 when they arrived in Boston, won their third straight game in Fenway Park in dramatic fashion. They scored four times in the ninth inning off closer Alfredo Aceves, including a three-run home by Joe Mauer. The loss was the Red Sox’ fourth in a row, and solidified their falling place in the playoff race.
On August 10th, Will Middlebrooks’ season ended with a cast on his wrist. Less than two months after trading away Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox lost another third baseman for the rest of the season. Middlebrooks, who had impressed early with his bat, broke his wrist after Cleveland reliever Esmil Rogers hit him with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
In August it was reported that Red Sox players blasted Valentine to team ownership during a meeting in late July after Valentine left starter Jon Lester in a game in which he gave up 11 runs. Chaos swirled around the team after the report, though the team and many players denied that there was a plea to fire Valentine. Kelly Shoppach, dealt to the Mets days earlier, was reportedly the man behind a text message that prompted the controversial players meeting with management.
In August pitching coach, Bob McClure was replaced by Randy Niemann for the remainder of the season. McClure and manager Bobby Valentine had a rocky relationship starting in spring training and there were multiple reports of poor communication between the two throughout the season. A newspaper story revealed relations between Valentine and his coaching staff, some of whom he was encouraged to hire by Red Sox management. At one point, bench coach Tim Bogar and pitching coach Bob McClure (who was later fired) considered asking for reassignments.
In August he team announced Carl Crawford would undergo Tommy John elbow surgery, with the hope that he would be able to return in time for the start of the 2013 season. On August 24th, the Sox dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for James Loney and four prospects. The move signaled that team executives were more focused on winning in 2013 instead of 2012. In the game against the Royals, David Ortiz was activated from the disabled list after missing 35 games with a strained right Achilles' tendon. Ortiz drove in Boston's first two runs with a single to center in the first inning. He then doubled to center in the third inning, showing a little more giddy-up than he did in his first at-bat.
On August 25th, the Red Sox suspended Alfredo Aceves for “conduct detrimental to the team” following a confrontation with manager Bobby Valentine. Aceves had a closed-door meeting in Valentine’s office after the Red Sox a game with the Royals in which he was angry that he was not used to close the 4-3 game. In September, during an interview with WEEI, Valentine said he would punch host Glenn Ordway after a question about whether he had “checked out” of his job. Valentine said he was joking. But the manager also passionately bristled at questions about his commitment and his personal schedule.
In perhaps the exclamation point that ended their postseason hopes, the Red Sox lost 2-1 in Seattle on September 5th, to finish a 1-8 road trip that also stopped in Anaheim and Oakland. The Red Sox were outscored 63-21 during the trip.
In September, Valentine said the Red Sox’ September depth chart was inadequate, especially with Pawtucket having played into its postseason for the AAA championship. Asked if there was a specific area of his roster that needed reinforcement, Valentine said, “Are you kidding? This is the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball. We could use help everywhere. We’ve got four outfielders and it’s September, yeah. We’ve got four infielders, it’s September. If there are people who could be brought up, we should bring ’em up, but I don’t know that there’s a lot of guys left.’’ Valentine later backpedaled from the remark, saying that he meant “weakest” in terms of quantity, not quality. In a radio interview, the Red Sox manager said he felt his coaches were disloyal, though he said that had “very little” to do with how the team struggled. There are situations during the year where I didn’t think it was all for one or one for all, or whatever it is,” he said, without naming the coaches.
Jacoby Ellsbury's fourth hit of the night scored Pedro Ciriaco from second base and dropped the Yankees into a tie for first place in the American League East with the Orioles, who beat the Rays, 9-2 on September 11th.
On September 19th, with a 13-3 loss to the Rays, the Red Sox ensured their first losing season since 1997. The loss dropped them to 68-82. Daisuke Matsuzaka took the loss to fall to 1-6. On September 30th a 6-3 loss in Baltimore dropped the Red Sox’ record to 69-90 and marked the first time they had hit that loss plateau since 1966. Every other team in MLB had at least one 90-loss season in the 46 years between the times the Red Sox recorded the dubious feat.
On September 23rd, however, Felix Doubront pitched the best game of his young career Sunday in a 2-1 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Facing a team fighting to win the division, Doubront allowed one run on four hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out a career-best 11 as the Sox avoided a three-game sweep.
Boston blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on October 2nd and lost 4-3 in 12 innings for its 92nd loss of the season. The defeat ensured that the Red Sox would hold sole possession of last place in the AL East when the season ends. It marks the team’s first last-place finish since 1992.
The Red Sox fell 14-2 in the season finale at the Yankees, On October 3rd, their 12th loss in the seasons’ final 13 games. They finished 69-73, their worst mark in 47 years. They were 26 games behind the first-place Yankees.