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Starting in September, the Red Sox led Tampa Bay by nine games for the Wildcard. With Boston’s superstar-studded roster, nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong. Tampa just kept on winning, while Boston kept on losing. A steady diet of beer and fried chicken will do that. Boston found themselves tied with Tampa on the season’s final day. All they had to do to stay in the hunt was beat the Orioles, one of the easiest feats in baseball.
They took a 3-2 lead into the 9th inning, when Jonathan Papelbon threw his last pitches for the team. He got the first two batters swinging, but then gave up three straight hits to blow the save (again) and the season. Tampa won the same night over the Yankees, 8-7, in 12 innings.
Now, Papelbon and John Lackey are gone through free agency and injury respectively. The bullpen is undergoing major retooling, as is the starting rotation and managerial and front office positions. With their power-packed offense (less Carl Crawford, of course), the Red Sox should fulfill their potential in 2012 as long as the new pitching works out.
The Red Sox entered 2011 as the “best team ever” and an automatic lock for the World Series. Their offense did not disappoint, but their pitching was mediocre, at best. Despite a nine-game lead on the Rays entering September, the Red Sox went 7-20 and missed the playoffs by one game. From the collapse came Terry Francona’s firing, Theo Epstein’s departure, the beer/chicken/video games stories, and eventually Bobby Valentine’s hire. Crazy. – KC
This is the biggest story of the year because I can’t even (or possibly subconsciously refuse to) find the words to encapsulate its magnitude. It brought a “nation” to its knees and restored a fan base to its desperate, depraved depression at near pre-2004 levels. There was nothing more talked about or dissected in greater detail by fans, by the media, or by the general public than this story. – Nick