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Thursday, September 29, 2011

So I Guess The Season Is Truly Over For The 2011 Boston Red Sox, Good Riddance!

No matter how long any of us live, I guarantee that we'll never see a final day of an MLB regular season like the one we just witnessed tonight.

With both Wild Card spots up for grabs and four games going on simultaneously, it was baseball porn for a sport that desperately needs more moments like that. At the end of it all, the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals-two teams that came back from historical deficits-captured the Wild Cards while the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox likewise suffered catastrophic collapses.

Baltimore (69-93) had a walk-off win at Camden Yards, 4-3 on Robert Andino's single which mercifully ended Boston's season. Moments later at the Trop, Evan Longoria hit a walk-off homer in the 12th for an 8-7 Rays win over the Yankees, ensuring that there would be no one-game playoff on Thursday vs. the Red Sox.

Good lord, where to begin with this train wreck of a month that was capped off by tonight? The Yankees led the Rays 7-0 at one point while the Red Sox were ahead 3-2 on the Orioles before a rain delay of one hour and 25 minutes during the seventh inning.

Bottom line, the two teams that most deserved to make the playoffs made it. New York will host Detroit and Texas hosts Tampa Bay beginning on Friday. In the NL, Philly hosts St. Louis and Arizona travels to Milwaukee on Saturday.

This was a game that the Red Sox (90-72) shouldn't have lost but given the way September unfolded-tying the worst Sept. mark in franchise history-the end result was entirely predictable for anybody that was paying attention.

Jon Lester wasn't great but he gave them a decent enough start on three days rest. He went six innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

In possibly his final game with the Red Sox, closer Jonathan Papelbon (4-1) blew the save in crazy fashion. He was down to the last strike with the bases empty before Chris Davis doubled, Nolan Reimold tied it with a ground-rule double and then Andino hit a sinking liner which most people not named Carl Crawford might have had a chance on. Don't ask me how a guy who won a Gold Glove last season could become this much of a liability in one year.

Alfredo Aceves had pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 seventh (his fourth consecutive day of work) while ultra-shaky setup guy Daniel Bard had a clean eighth to get it to best closer in franchise history.

To blame Papelbon is short-sighted and dumb. This was a teamwide failure on so many levels; it should have never gotten to this point. As GM Theo Epstein pointed out after the game, if they had only won two more games (9 instead of 7 out of 27) in September, they'd be in the playoffs.

Firing Terry Francona is probably the most likely option since who would ever take on Crawford, John Lackey, etc. at this point? However, while Francona's approach of not calling out players didn't help, ultimately it's the players that get the job done or not. Rumors of Theo going to the Cubs make sense and I wouldn't blame him for wanting a new challenge at this point in his career. Winning World Series championships in 2004 and 2007 changed everything for the Red Sox, the team and the fanbase just doesn't have the same passion and I don't that they ever will again.

The only positional players that showed up tonight for Boston were Dustin Pedroia (3 hits) and Marco Scutaro (2 hits). Pedroia had an RBI single in the 3rd (1-0) and solo homer in the fifth (3-2 Red Sox; 21st of the season). Scutaro scored on a balk in the fourth (2-2) and the pair also combined on a sick double play to get out of trouble in the sixth.

As every Red Sox fan thought during the slide, if only we had a couple more guys with the heart and desire of Pedroia. His energy and enthusiasm for the game can only go so far though. He's a winner and hopefully he plays for Boston his entire career.

Scutaro is a free agent and he figures to move on from here but he is also guilt-free as him and Jacoby Ellsbury (who should be AL MVP) basically tried to will this team offensively in September when every other bat flat-lined and any form of pitching was a disaster.

J.J. Hardy got the O's on the board with a two-run shot in the third which put Baltimore ahead 2-1.

Starter Alfredo Simon was pulled after 4.1 innings (3 earned runs, 6 hits, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts) but Troy Patton (2.1 innings), Willie Eyre (1 out), Pedro Strop (1 inning) and Jim Johnson (6-5; 1 inning) combined to close the door on Boston's ill-fated season.

This loss should serve as a painful reminder to both the team and fans that getting to the playoffs and winning a World Series isn't a birthright by any means (in case we forgot). The Red Sox haven't won a playoff game since 2008 and this marks the second straight season that they've missed the playoffs (something they hadn't done in consecutive years since 2001). Hell, they only had one more win this season than last year's joke of a campaign. And please don't start with the injury excuse, in baseball everyone has a ton of injuries after the grueling 162-game regular season.

Let's remember that winning the offseason like the Miami Heat in the NBA or Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL doesn't mean anything. The results are all that matters and right now, this team has dissolved into one that lacks character and substance. We can only hope that this bitter end gets things turned back into a winning direction moving forward.

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