With their team in peril and their manager losing his authority, Red Sox pitchers were uniquely positioned to prevent the greatest September collapse in major league history. All they needed to do was not pitch all bad and stuff.
Instead, almost every pitcher on the staff was either hurt or ineffective. The ineffectiveness of every pitcher on the staff all at the same time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of giving up hits, allowing a whole bunch of runners, and pitching all bad and stuff while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.
The story of Boston’s lost September unfolds in part as an indictment of the pitching staff. But the epic flop of 2011 had many faces: awful pitching; bad pitchers; hurt pitchers; pitchers who couldn't pitch well; bad luck; worse pitching; and pitching all bad and stuff.
Staff ace Josh Beckett left a start on September 5 and missed two weeks. Clay Buchholz's season ended early with a back problem. Daisuke Matsuzaka needed Tommy John surgery. John Lackey tore his talent ligament, but tried to pitch through the pain he was causing fans. All of these injuries cost the Red Sox during the stretch run.
Management added depth to the rotation at the trading deadline, accurately predicting a need for more starting pitching, but it wasn't enough. They acquired Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners in a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Bedard had a secret.
"Turns out that Bedard had suffered through some injury problems in his career," said one source. "Like, a lot of injury problems. He didn't even tell us. Didn't mention a word." Sure enough, Bedard missed two weeks in September, when the Red Sox needed him the most. His replacements, as well as all of the pitchers the Red Sox used to fill gaps left by injury, pitched all bad and stuff.
One of the replacements was veteran Tim Wakefield, by far the longest-tenured player on the team. It turns out he was part of the problem, not the solution. "There were a lot of whispers in the clubhouse about how Wake was getting hit around," said another source who requested anonymity. "It turns out that he's 74 years old or something, and that the knuckleball is an extremely finicky pitch that's difficult to harness and master, even for experts. It's a pitch with a very small margin for error, and he wasn't throwing it with the finesse that he was accustomed to. That made him pitch all bad and stuff."
A lot of the blame also falls on Kyle Weiland, who made five starts for the Red Sox, mostly pitching all bad and stuff. Sources tell Baseball Nation that he allowed five home runs in those five starts, with the Red Sox winning only one of the games. Only once did he have a "quality start" -- six innings or more, with three runs or fewer allowed -- and that was a six-inning, three-run start that the Red Sox lost. "If he had pitched all good and stuff for just one of those games he lost," a management source said, "the Sox would have been fine."
The bullpen also had a knack of pitching all bad and stuff at the worst possible time. With two outs in the last game of the season, Jonathan Papelbon allowed a double to Chris Davis to extend the inning. It was the first time Davis had made contact with a pitch in the major leagues, and it eventually cost the Red Sox the win they needed to advance to a one-game playoff. Daniel Bard entered September with a 2.03 ERA. After pitching all bad and stuff, he contributed to four painful losses in the final month.
There were also rumors of poor conditioning. One anonymous source said that Bobby Jenks would often snort a whole fried chicken -- not even bothering with the typical mastication and swallowing method that most humans use. The source said Jenks has been doing this for years -- he'd just snort the whole thing up and make horrible, guttural groaning sounds for a few minutes while the chicken worked itself through. He was supposed to bolster the Boston bullpen, but instead he pitched all bad and stuff before he was all hurt and stuff.
In the end, the biggest problem the Red Sox faced was that when their pitchers threw a spherical object towards a white pentagon, uniformed opponents would swing a long, cylindrical piece of wood and hit the spherical object really hard. Then the opponents would run counter-clockwise around a diamond-shaped area, stepping on white squares along the way. This happened repeatedly over the last month of the season, and the Red Sox could not recover.
It will be a long offseason with painful questions. The front office is splintered, and manager Terry Francona has already left. There will be months to go over exactly what went wrong. But management knows that they'll have to pitch better and stuff if they want to compete next year.