The Red Sox opened the year fully expecting to be back in the postseason for the seventh time in Theo Epstein's eight years as general manager. Instead, they fell short of that goal for the first time since 2006. The Red Sox won 89 games but stayed in contention for a postseason spot until the final week of the season. A big reason they didn't reach expectations were injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury played in just 18 games because of ongoing left rib woes. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the team's emotional leader, broke the navicular bone in his left foot on June 25 and would play in just two games for the rest of the season. The final blow was the season-ending loss of slugger Kevin Youkilis, who tore the adductor muscle in his right thumb on Aug. 2. Center fielder Mike Cameron (sports hernia surgery) and Josh Beckett (back problems) were other players who were limited greatly by health problems.
That said, the Red Sox had several standout performers and performances. The night before Pedroia broke his foot, he had the game of his life, going 5-for-5 with three homers and five RBIs in a wild win at Colorado. Jon Lester had his third consecutive ace-caliber season and finished fourth in the American League Cy Young Award race. Lester was an All-Star for the first time , winning a career-high of 19 games and striking out 225. Clay Buchholz had a breakout season, winning the No. 5 spot in the rotation in Spring Training and winning 17 games. Buchholz's 2.33 ERA was second only to Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez in the AL. Offensively, Adrian Beltre, a free agent acquisition, exceeded all expectations, hitting .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs. David Ortiz also had a big year, belting 32 homers and driving in 102.
Take away the beginning (losses in the first six games) and the end (a 7-20 mark in September) and this would have been one of the finest seasons in Red Sox history. Instead, it will be remembered in infamy. When they lost a heartbreaking final game of the regular season at Camden Yards, the Red Sox became the first team in Major League history to hold a nine-game lead in the standings in September and miss the postseason. The breakdown of the starting rotation played the biggest role in the collapse. Injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka - neither of whom pitched after June - didn't help.
Still, there were some achievements to appreciate. Jacoby Ellsbury developed into a superstar and finished second in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting. Adrian Gonzalez was a hitting machine in his first year in Boston, hitting .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBIs. Coming off a broken left foot, Dustin Pedroia put numbers comparable to his MVP season of '08, hitting .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs while earning his second career Gold Glove. Gonzalez and Ellsbury were also Gold Glove winners. Tim Wakefield, Boston's venerable knuckleballer, had a magical night at Fenway on Sept. 13, earning career win No. 200.
Once the season ended, there was an overhaul at the top. Terry Francona parted ways with the club after eight highly successful seasons as manager. He was replaced by Bobby Valentine. Theo Epstein's nine-year tenure as general manager ended when he moved to the Cubs to become president of baseball operations. Ben Cherington was promoted into the GM spot for Boston.
With a new manager in Bobby Valentine, the Sox were billed as favorites entering 2012. Before the season, two stalwarts of Red Sox Nation, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield retired. But the team was still in good hands with David Ortiz back on a one-year deal, along with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester. Things started off slowly. Valentine and Youkilis had a public spat in April, and Youkilis was eventually traded to the White Sox to make room for rising star Will Middlebrooks. Injuries and communication issues marred the season, and a midseason meeting between players and ownership punctuated the disappointment. General manager Ben Cherington provided a wave of hope and also made his mark as a still-new GM in late August, when he pulled off a blockbuster with the Dodgers that sent out Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. That cleared payroll, and paved the way for a bright future.
Call this the World Series championship season that came out of nowhere. Coming off a last-place finish, the Red Sox had a new manager for the second straight year. But unlike Bobby Valentine, John Farrell wound up being the perfect fit, almost immediately changing the culture of the team. New faces like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara also played big roles. Bonded by the tragic Boston Marathon bombings that took place just miles from Fenway Park, the Red Sox developed a sense of unity with each other and the community. What followed was a 97-win season good for an American League East championship.
The Red Sox dispatched of the Rays in four games in their American League Division Series.
They were just four outs away from trailing the Tigers, 2-0, in the American League Championship Series, but David Ortiz hit a monumental, game-tying grand slam against Joaquin Benoit that completely changed the momentum. Boston won the series in six games and defeated the Cardinals in a hard-fought World Series that also stretched to six games. Boston trailed, 2-1, through three games, but then won the final three. In the clincher, the Red Sox got an early three-run double by Victorino and a brilliant pitching performance by John Lackey to set off a joyous celebration in which the Red Sox were able to win a World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. Ortiz had a World Series for the ages, hitting .688 with two homers and six RBIs. Ace Jon Lester was magnificent, winning games 1 and 5 and notching a 0.59 era.
After an 86-year championship drought, the '13 championship was Boston's third in 10 seasons.
After going worst to first the year before, the Red Sox did the exact opposite in an ill-fated title defense in '14. Aside from the marvelous David Ortiz, Boston's offense sputtered for most of a 71-91 season. Manager John Farrell started the season with three rookies in the starting lineup (Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr.) and all three struggled to stay consistent, through Bradley was spectacular in the field. As the Sox fell out of contention, even more youngsters got a chance to play, including the highly-athletic Mookie Betts and cannon-armed catcher Christian Vazquez. The big news of the season was the July 31 trade of ace Jon Lester, who was eligible to become a free agent at season's end. Lester spent two months with the Athletics and the Red Sox tried to bring him back as a free agent in December, but Theo Epstein's Cubs won those sweepstakes. Also in December, the player the Red Sox traded Lester for - slugger Yoenis Cespedes - was sent to the Tigers for righty starter Rick Porcello.
After signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to boost the offense, the Red Sox were hoping for a big turnaround. Instead, both those players struggled to live up to the hype and Boston endured a second consecutive last-place finish in the American League East. The good news was that several young players created excitement with their strong play, particularly outfielder Mookie Betts and rookie lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. Meanwhile, David Ortiz had yet another monster season (37 homers, 108 RBIs) and drilled career homer No. 500 on Sept. 12 at Tropicana Field. The best news came in the weeks following the season, when new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski signed ace David Price (seven years, $217 million) and acquired elite closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres.
The Red Sox won 93 games to win the AL East, but were swept in the Division Series by the Indians. The iconic David Ortiz delivered a magical final season in the Major Leagues, and perhaps the best ever by a 40-year-old, belting 37 homers to go along with 127 RBIs and a 1.021 OPS. There were also sparking individual performances from American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15 ERA) and Most Valuable Player Award runner-up Mookie Betts (31 homers, 113 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, Gold Glove in right field). There was great excitement at the Winter Meetings in December, when Boston acquired ace lefty Chris Sale for a package of prospects.
Chris Sale created instant excitement by dominating in his first season with the Red Sox. Backed by the lefty's 17 wins and 308 strikeouts, the Red Sox won back-to-back American League Division titles for the first time in team history, matching their win total from 2016. The Red Sox were eliminated in the Division Series for the second straight year, this time going down in a hard-fought four-game series against the eventual World Series champion Astros. Closer Craig Kimbrel had a stellar second season in Boston, posting a 1.43 ERA while striking out 126 and walking only 14 in 69 innings. Right fielder Mookie Betts won his second straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award. After the season, the Red Sox switched managers, as Alex Cora replaced John Farrell. It was a return to Boston for Cora, who played for the Red Sox from 2005-08.
It is a season that will never be forgotten in Boston - and possibly never be duplicated. The Red Sox won a franchise-record of 108 games under rookie manager Alex Cora. And they didn't stop there. In the postseason, Boston mowed through three quality teams (Yankees, Astros and Dodgers) with a combined record of 11-3 to win a World Series for the fourth time in 15 seasons. Mookie Betts had an epic regular season, winning the batting title, the Most Valuable Player Award and a Gold Glove. In his first season with the Red Sox, J.D. Martinez had one of the best all-around seasons for a right-handed hitting slugger in team history. Ace Chris Sale dominated when healthy, and threw the final pitch of the World Series to strike out Manny Machado. David Price bounced back from his shoulder issues from the year before and had his best season for Boston, also erasing the narrative that said he couldn't come through in the playoffs.