Understanding how Boston blew its chances at a playoff spot this year
"You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains."
-Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh in Bull Durham.
Let us not talk of a curse. The Curse is over, dead and buried in 2004, when the angels finally came out of hiding for the Boston Red Sox and led that band of self-proclaimed "idiots" to their first World Series victory in 86 years. There was nothing cursed about the 2011 Red Sox. They didn't make baseball history with an epic collapse because they let Johnny Damon leave, first for the dreaded New York Yankees and then to the plucky Tampa Bay Rays. They didn't just blow a nine-game wildcard lead in September because they let the Farrelly Brothers film Fever Pitch at Fenway Park with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.
No, the Red Sox this year were not cursed. The team and its fans are not victims of some ethereal injustice. The Babe can rest in peace. The team was simply awful; bereft of heart, soul, stamina, focus, verve, and grace under pressure. It didn't lose hard-fought games it deserved to win. The Gods (and the umpires) didn't snatch defeat away from the jaws of victory. The Sox lost because they deserved to lose, because in the end, when they went 7-20 to finish the season, they were unable to go more than a few innings, sometimes no more than a few outs, without playing terrible baseball. There are no 1986 Bill Buckners on this team. There are no 1946 Johnny Peskys. No 1975 Ed Armbrister did them in. It wasn't just a single play or a single game.
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The 2004 championship team famously may have taken shots of Jack Daniel's before playoff games, but at least it was clutch. The 2011 team was unable to win two games in a row the entire month of September. The 2007 championship team played like the professionals they were, remorselessly overcoming their opponents with decent pitching, timely hitting and smart play. The 2011 team had the league's worst ERA for the month of September, the heart of its lineup was unable to hit when it counted, and the team offered up an error-per-game pace during the final stretch.