The short answer is, we didn't. And although some may feel otherwise, there has been no towel thrown into the ring, nor do I feel there will be until the last out of the final regular season game has been recorded. This team has faced a seemingly insurmountable amount of adversity this year by name of injuries, players not living up to their contracts, and poor decisions by managerial staff and the Front Office.
Undeniably, this has been one of the hardest seasons for the Red Sox in recent memory. The plethora of injuries has put the 2010 campaign officially on the shelf, save for a few "never-say-die" Sox fans here and there. With the 2010 season winding down, what in the world has happened to our team? Why did we give up?
The obvious cause for concern would be the injuries. Lots of 'em. Beltre's knee introducing itself to Ellsbury's ribcage, in a way, set the tone for how the 2010 season would be. Are the injuries really to blame, or how they were handled by the Sox staff? The latter may come to light as more of a factor as time goes on, but I have to say that most of the injuries were just freak of nature in addition to wrong place, wrong time woes. Pedroia's broken foot, then days later Tek's nearly identical injury, Youk's torn thumb ligament, Salty's leg infection soon after the Sox acquired him - it seems a new curse is upon us (this year, anyway). If we don't see as many injuries next year, I say we win at least five more games than the final we end up with this year - and I think that's a conservative number.
In a lot of posts recently, there has been a lot of scrutiny for the Sox managerial staff in general. Some of this, I feel, is warranted - Tim Bogar has definitely cost us a fair amount of runs, and games, by sending SO MANY runners to the plate - only to be thrown out by a mile. But to question every single move by Tito and the front office... is it really necessary? After all, this front office has converted a team hanging on the edge of despair into a virtual contender every single year. They've made some bad decisions, sure - Lugo comes to mind, and some would argue now trading HanRam for Beckett and Lowell was terrible - but to be honest, these are only bad deals in retrospect (although Lugo could be argued either way). In fact, on paper, I say we win the division at the beginning of the season. A stacked rotation and an absolutely brutal lineup - but instead we've seen a lot of struggles. Lackey has been mediocre and Beckett has had those back problems. Many criticize the Lackey deal and the Beckett extension, but I think at the time, they had to be done. Lackey was easily the top FA pitcher last year, and Beckett, well, is Beckett - the spitfire "ace" who keeps the pitching staff on its toes. They may have floundered a bit this year but I will withhold judgment until July of next season. Could we have made better use of our money? Possibly, looking back in retrospect. But at the time, the right cards were played. A deal is made more on past performance than in potential output. Both are factors but you need to look at the scale they are weighed on.
As for Tito, I don't think he's made all that many bad decisions given the hand he's had to play. You don't want to overwork your starters and blow their arms out, so when it comes time when the starter is tiring and a bullpen choice needs to be made, what do you do when you can only truly rely on 10% of the pen? You've got to put someone else in, but you take the fall when they do poorly. The bullpen is a serious issue that needs to be addressed if we are to go anywhere next year, and it will be interesting to see the deals that will be made and who we sign/release, but all the blame for the awfulness of the bullpen can't be thrown onto the manager's back - the players are the ones who win or lose, and it's the manager's job to make the best decisions based on both stats and situation. Which is why we need a new 3B coach.
There has definitely been a lot of good stories this season - The emergence of Nava (who I believe still has the tools to do well), Kalish, the constantly changing rotation performing adequately most of the time (save for a lot of defensive strife - 8th in the league isn't very good). Considering this has been "The Replacements: Red Sox", it's not been terrible to watch most of the time. A lot of it has even been fun.
All said and done, the Red Sox have a great team on paper heading to 2011 with just a few issues that need to be addressed. If everything pans out, at the end of next year, 2010 could be considered a fluke year of misfortune. We are still an elite team and, like everything else, things just have a way of working out - sometimes it just takes longer than we would like.