2012 Boston Red Sox
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|2012 Boston Red Sox
|Major league affiliations
|2012 Boston Red Sox
Managed by Bobby Valentine
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2012 Boston Red Sox headed into the season after 2011 had ended in a dramatic collapse, costing the team a seemingly certain postseason berth on the last day of the regular season. Manager Terry Francona was fired after the season among recrimination that he had failed to apply proper discipline in the clubhouse, with various players having been seen eating and drinking beer during games instead of focusing their attention on the action on the field. He was replaced with veteran manager Bobby Valentine, an expert at communications given his recent stint as a broadcaster. Also leaving was GM Theo Epstein, who was hired by the Chicago Cubs to occupy a more senior position, and he was replaced in-house by Ben Cherington. There was hope that 2012 would be a memorable season, because it marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park, an occasion that was marked by a patch on the sleeve of the team's uniform and by a lavish ceremony at the venerable ballpark on April 20th, but it would prove to be a season of turmoil.
If the previous fifteen seasons had been largely characterized by the Red Sox's rivalry with the New York Yankees, with both teams usually reaching the postseason out of the AL East, things had begun to change in 2008 with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays as the best young team in the American League, and a constant rival to the two old behemoths. The Yankees had been the first to pay the price, missing the postseason in 2008, but it was the Red Sox who had been left out in 2010 and 2011, and the fans at Fenway were becoming restless. With Major League Baseball's decision to add a second wild card team in each league in 2012, it seemed that the Red Sox would have little to worry about, but the season did not unfold as expected: the two weaker teams in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays, who had been slowly gaining strength over the past couple of seasons, and the revitalized Baltimore Orioles, emerged as solid teams also, who could not be easily shaken off from the playoff chase. With the Yankees and Rays continuing to play well, the Red Sox suddenly found themselves in the middle of a five-team fight in 2012, and without necessarily holding all the cards to emerge on top.
Things were difficult from the start in Boston. Before the end of spring training, it was announced that new closer Andrew Bailey, who had been acquired from the Oakland Athletics to replace fixture Jonathan Papelbon, gone via free agency, would be lost to injury for at least the season's first half. The bullpen was shaky when the season opened, and indeed, it imploded a number of times in the team's first few games. On Opening Day, April 5th against the Detroit Tigers on the road, Mark Melancon allowed the winning run in the bottom of the 9th, negating a two-run comeback in the top of the inning against Jose Valverde, who had not blown a save opportunity during the entire previous season. The Sox were then demolished, 10-0, in their second game, with starter Josh Beckett taking a beating, and had another bullpen meltdown the next day, allowing the Tigers to score three runs in the 9th to tie the game, and then 3 more in the bottom of the 11th to negate a 12-10 lead. Melancon was again the loser; he would be sent down to AAA on April 17th, sporting an ungodly 49.50 ERA. Daniel Bard, the set-up man over the last two seasons and Papelbon's heir apparent, had been moved to the starting rotation, but struggled as a starter, getting send down to AAA on June 5th. The Red Sox were thus 1-5 after a week, and 4-10 a week after that, entrenched in last place and with the fans groaning audibly. However, they had also begun 2011 stone cold, and had managed to right things before their end-of-year collapse, so there was still hope. Indeed, the team began to play much better, reaching .500 on the last day of April on the strength of a six-game winning streak. After another rough patch in early May, they reached .500 again on May 28th, but then failed to build from there, stalling around that mark for the next two months, and staying around 10 games out of first place, and out of the playoff picture. During that period, the Red Sox played a very strange game against the Orioles on May 6th, when both teams ran out of pitchers in an extra-inning marathon, which ended with 1B Chris Davis on the mound for the Birds, and OF Darnell McDonald pitching for the Red Sox, the first time two position players were facing each other on the mound since 1925; in keeping with the team's frustrating season, McDonald gave up a three-run homer to Adam Jones in the 17th inning to be charged with the loss.
Those early months were marked by injuries to key players, most notably OFs Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed much of the first half; in Crawford's case, he would play only briefly before undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of August. 3B Kevin Youkilis also struggled with his health, forcing the Sox to call up young Will Middlebrooks from the minors. He showed tremendous skill and potential in his first few games, allowing Boston to do something that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier: trade Youkilis. On June 24th, he was sent to the Chicago White Sox in return for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart, neither of whom were in a position to contribute much to the team. Youkilis had hit only .233 with 4 homers in 42 games. Middlebrooks did much better; in 75 games, he was hitting .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBI when his season ended on August 10th, the result of a broken wrist. That injury came barely 10 days after RF Ryan Sweeney had broken a bone in his hand after punching a door in frustration; he had hit .260 in 63 games, but had not hit a single homer and driven in a mere 16 runs. Stepping into the breach in the outfield was Cody Ross, who showed excellent power, and Daniel Nava, who displayed some good on-base skills. The lone All-Star and the man carrying the offense was Big Papi, DH David Ortiz, who was batting over .300 and slugging over .600, seemingly unaffected by the turmoil around him. But typical of that difficult season, Ortiz went down with an achilles tendon injury on July 16th, and only played one game the rest of the season, leaving another hole in the line-up.
Things came to a boil in late July when 1B Adrian Gonzalez, on behalf of the team's players, sought a meeting with owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino to express the players' frustration with manager Valentine. GM Cherington confirmed that: "There was a meeting in New York with ownership and players. There were a variety of topics covered and some frustrations expressed. No ultimatums were issued. The focus of the meeting was an airing out of issues in an effort to focus our attention on the field." Apparently, the tipping point had come in a game on July 22nd when Valentine had let veteran starter Jon Lester on the mound to absorb an 11-run beating at the hands of the Blue Jays. Valentine had earlier criticized Beckett's pitching style and questioned the commitment of veteran Youkilis before he was traded, something else that did not sit well with his players given Youk's spotless track record until then. Shortly after being traded to the New York Mets on August 14th, C Kelly Shoppach confirmed that, in spite of reassuring words from the owners, there was a deep rift on the team: "There is a disconnect in communication between the players and upper management" and added that the franchise's structure and climate "needed fine tuning".
On August 20th, Valentine dismissed pitching coach Bob McClure and replaced him with Randy Niemann in what was portrayed as a performance-based decision. Speculation was by then in earnest about a potential successor for Valentine, who seemed unlikely to be retained after the season, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Mike Scioscia, also on the hot seat because of the Halos' poor performance, seen as a possibility. To make the soap opera even more complete, that scenario would then see Francona take over for Scioscia in L.A. More wild rumors began swirling on August 24th, when it was learned that 1B Gonzalez, owed $127 million until 2018, had been claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers; this became the prelude to a blockbuster deal completed the next day which saw underperforming P Josh Beckett and OF Carl Crawford, out for the season, also moving to the West coast along with their huge contracts, in addition to veteran IF Nick Punto. In return, the Red Sox received a number of younger and cheaper players, freeing cash for a spending spree in the offseason. The players acquired included 1B James Loney, in the middle of a very unproductive season and seen as a mere stopgap, and youngsters Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Ivan DeJesus and Jerry Sands. De La Rosa, like Crawford, was already out for the year following arm surgery. The whirlwind then continued when Cherington suspended stand-in closer Alfredo Aceves for three games for "conduct detrimental to the team", having stormed out of Valentine's office the previous day after a save opportunity was given to the newly-returned Bailey and not to him, and the team proceeded to lose that night's game to the Kansas City Royals, 10-9 in 12 innings, after blowing a 9-3 lead. On August 31st, the Red Sox hit another low in a season of low-lights, losing 20-2 to the Oakland A's; it was their most lopsided loss in a decade. The next day, 2B Dustin Pedroia got into a shouting match in the dugout with Aceves as the Sox lost yet another game, after Aceves had made a couple of egregious mistakes during the game. The next day, GM Cherington admitted publicly that the current team was "hard to watch". By that point, the Red Sox had lost 8 of 10 games since the big trade. On September 14th, Valentine piled on some more, declaring the Red Sox had "the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball." He then tried to explain that he was not criticizing his players or the organization, but that he was instead commenting on the injuries and the fact that the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox was involved in the International League playoffs. The Red Sox ended up finishing last in the AL East, and Valentine was fired one day after the season ended. Their total of 27 players going on the disabled list at one point or another during the season set a major league record.
Awards and Honors
- AL All-Star: David Ortiz