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The 2014 Red Sox were relying heavily on some youth heading into the season. Two lineup spots were to be played every day by rookies and another by a very young Will Middlebrooks. Jackie Bradley Jr, who had the starting center field job, failed to show he could hit major league pitching. Although his defense appeared elite, he hit under .200 and had an OPS just over .500. That offense is tough to roster no matter how good the defense is.
Xander Bogaerts also failed to live up to the hype. The top prospect hit only .240 on the year with an OPS below .700, while playing questionable defense at both shortstop and third base.
The last young disappointment for the Red Sox was Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks fell off the map. The exciting power he showed in 2012 when he hit 15 home runs in 75 games, appeared long gone. He hit only two home runs, batted less than .200, while struggling with ineffectiveness and injuries all year.
While no rookies except for Mookie Betts (.291 BA with 5 home runs and 7 steals in 52 games) really impressed, itís best that they could get some of their lumps out of the way in a low-pressure environment. Despite poor seasons overall, Rubby De La Rosa (4.43 ERA, 2.11 K/BB), and Allen Webster (5.03 ERA, 1.29 K/BB) all showed flashes of greatness. In addition to De La Rosa and Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and new acquisition Joe Kelly all got a chance to pitch for the Red Sox.
The biggest down year in 2014 was from Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia had the worst offensive year of his major league career. To be fair, he was reportedly battling a wrist injury all year, but he only hit .278 on the year, his lowest average ever, to go along with seven home runs and six stolen bases, both also career lows. The one bright stop for Pedroia was that his defense remained elite all year.
Daniel Navaís numbers were also down across the board. Itís probably unfair to compare Navaís numbers as his 2013 was a great season; however this was still production that the team lost in 2014. Navaís average was down 30 points, his on base percentage was down 50 points, and his OPS was down 125 points. Shane Victorino battled injuries all year and only appeared in 30 games.
The last hit the Red Sox batting order took in 2014 was with Mike Napoli. Napoli battled injuries all year and saw the lowest power numbers of his career. He hit only 17 home runs and had a career low ISO (Isolated slugging) of only .171.
Edward Mujica was signed to be the bridge to Koji Uehara and failed to produce when it mattered. His numbers at the end of the year actually turned out respectable due to a great second half, but in the first half, when the games mattered for the Red Sox, he was awful. Before the all-star break he posted a 5.45 ERA.
Jon Lester and John Lackey had a good year while they were on the Red Sox. The other three-fifths of the rotation however, did not follow suit. No one expected Clay Buchholz to put up the 1.74 ERA he put up in 2013, but he jumped all the way to the other end of the spectrum in 2014. He posted a 5.34 ERA this year, the worst mark in all of baseball for a qualified starter. Jake Peavy also struggled while a member of the Red Sox, posting a 4.72 ERA before going to the Giants and dropping his ERA by two runs. Then there was Felix Doubront. Doubront started the year as the number five starter and was terrible for the Red Sox in ten starts, ending up with an eventual demotion to the bullpen and a trade out of town. In 17 games for the Red Sox, Doubront posted an ERA over six, and saw his velocity and strikeout rate both continue to plummet. Doubront was traded to the Cubs.
The 2014 season was an experiment from the start. The Red Sox lost key players in the off-season in Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew and, rather than picking up free agents or even making a serious attempt to re-sign those players, they entrusted Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts and a short-term stopgap option in A.J. Pierzynski.
The offense was the biggest factor in the demise of the Red Sox this season as they fell from first in runs scored a season ago to a meager 18th this season, and 11th in the American League. The squad that barely scored four runs per game one season after averaging more than five was broken up, not just by the general manager, but by the players, too.
The A.J. Pierzynski signing did not turn out well. He hit .254 as a member of the Red Sox, with only four home runs, while allegedly causing some unrest in the clubhouse. He was cut from the team after 75 games. Grady Sizemore hit just .218 in 52 games before the Red Sox let him go. The Red Sox paid $10 million for Stephen Drew to leave Scott Boras' facilities in Florida and come play major league baseball again. The rust was unshakable. Drew hit .176 in 39 games before he was traded to the New York Yankees and hit .150 to play second base next to Derek Jeter
Mike Carp was a feel-good story of 2013 but was asking the Red Sox to let him go when he was bench-ridden on the 2014 squad. Carp was put through waivers.
The Jon Lester saga started with optimism when the left-hander announced he'd stay in Boston and take a contract extension much like Pedroia's. A hometown discount, it was deemed, but the Red Sox wanted him back at an even more generic price. The four-year, $70-million offer in spring training set the bar low and the Red Sox never got another chance to negotiate until Lester was a free agent.
David Ortiz and Mike Napoli continued to produce at high levels. Christian Vazquez's defensive skills behind the plate lived up to the billing. But Brock Holt proved to be one of baseball's most valuable bench players. He tore up the minor leagues, but few took him seriously. The Red Sox asked the Pirates to throw him in the Joel Hanrahan trade and they obliged, but even the Red Sox underestimated him a few times before Holt finally got his chance. He led the majors in hits for almost three months this year before a concussion ended his season early, but he remained the most successful of an otherwise dismal team.
The Red Sox started the season by taking 2 of 3 in Baltimore and then opened at home on April 4th. The 2013 championship pennant was raised and the team proceeded to be swept by the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was April 9th and the Red Sox needed a win to split the next home series with the Texas Rangers. David Ortiz supplied the heroics as he had done so often. His three run homer brought the Red Sox from behind for a 4-2 win.
Then on April 19th, rookie Brock Holt lashed a triple to score Mike Carp in a come-from-behind win against the Orioles at Fenway. The next night, April 20th, Dustin Pedroia scored on a two out error in the ninth inning to provide another dramatic victory. At the end of the month the Sox were a shade under .500 and only 2 1/2 games out of first.
All of the fans in Boston wanted Grady Sizemore to do well in his comeback attempt. He was the feel good story of the spring. His story peaked on May 6th when he knocked one off the Green Monster in the 12th inning to give the Sox a win over the Cincinnati Reds.
But the month of May was not a good one for the Red Sox. They lost 2 of 3 to the Twins, and were swept by Detroit, Toronto and Tampa Bay, and fell 8 games out of first place. At the end of the month they mounted a winning streak by sweeping the Braves and the the Rays at Fenway Park. On May 30th, A.J. Pierzynski enjoyed his best effort in a Red Sox uniform with a walk-off triple in the 10th inning over the Rays.
As the new month started, Jon Lester, aided by super-sub Brock Holt (4 for 4), pitched one of his dominating games on June 1st, by striking out 12 and shutting out the Rays. After dropping 10 straight, the Sox had won seven in a row and were just two games below .500
But the streak quickly ended as the Sox lost their next five in a row then played .500 baseball. On June 18th they were 34-38 and 6 1/2 games out of first, after Mike Napoli and David Ortiz hit back-to-back homers to beat the Twins in the 10th inning. The Sox finished June, staying right were they were, 6 1/2 games out of first.
A walk-off bloop single by rookie Jonathan Herrera on July 5th, put him in the spot light. Before the All Star break, Sox fans got additional heroics. On July 9th, the Red Sox scored three runs in the eighth and then two in the ninth to beat the White Sox, 5-4, and snap a four-game skid. Entering the day, they were 12 games below .500 and the club designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, starting five rookies for the first time since 1952.
Mike Carp had his last hurrah on July 10th. After recovering from a broken bone in his right foot, Carp as a pinch-hitter, slapped a line drive to left field with one out in the 10th to score Daniel Nava and give the Red Sox a 4-3 win over the White Sox.
The second half of the season started optimistically with a three game sweep of the Kansas City Royals and a five game winning streak. As he'd done numerous times over his two seasons in Boston, Jonny Gomes came through on July 18th. His two-run homer to center put the Red Sox in front, and fueled them to a 5-4 victory. Backed by Rubby De La Rosa's dominant performance, and a moon shot by Mike Napoli, the Sox then edged the Royals, 2-1 on July 19th. Finally, Jon Lester fired eight scoreless innings in a 6-0 win to complete the three-game sweep on July 20th. But this would be the highpoint for the season.
On July 31st Lester was traded to the Oakland A's for slugger Yoenis Cespedis and John Lackey was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Jake Peavy had already been moved to the San Francisco Giants and Doubront was off to the Cubs, leaving the Red Sox with just one starter from their opening day rotation. Drew was shipped to the Yankees, Gomes to the A's and Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles.
The only high point for the month of August, came on August 16th. David Ortiz launched a pair of two-run homers, the first of which was his 400th in a Boston uniform. And he wound up with six RBIs, matching a career high. Ortiz joined legends Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as the only players in Red Sox history to hit 400 home runs.
The Sox lost eight in a row in mid August and there was unrest in the Red Sox clubhouse. The Sox had won the World Series one year earlier, now they couldn't hit four end of the rotation pitchers. Some on the Red Sox wanted more accountability. Some just wanted to leave. By the first of September the Sox were 19 1/2 games out of first.
The season had slipped away, but there were still one highlight to be had in September. The Red Sox hadn't had many multi-run, late-inning comebacks in them this season, as they had in 2013. But on September 5th, against the Blue Jays, they had not just one, but two, both fueled by the bottom of the order. The Sox rallied from three runs down in the eighth and from two down in the 10th, capping the second with a Yoenis Cespedes walk-off single to deep center, to win, 9-8, in the first of a three-game set. It was their first victory against Toronto at Fenway in seven tries this season.
To Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, it hardly seemed possible that just 11 months ago his team was celebrating the World Series championship on the field at Fenway Park. Since then, the ball club plummeted to the bottom of the AL East standings, completing a roller-coaster ride from worst to first and back to the division cellar that is unprecedented in baseball history. In broad terms, the 2014 Red Sox will wind up as one of the worst defending champs in MLB history. Injury and under-performance were largely to blame.