It is now December in the year of our Aceves 2019, which means that everyone who is anyone is doing some sort of content creation to mark the end of the decade. It is horribly unoriginal, which I do not say derisively because I’m doing it too! It’s practically legally obligated! Anyway, I’m going to be counting down the top moments of the decade for the duration of the month. We’ll start with our honorable mentions in which I’ll put down my numbers 11-20 moments of the decade and then after that each of the top ten moments will have their own standalone post. This is all totally subjective (obviously), and it’s also specifically not the best moments. In other words, i’s not all good, though most of it is. Okay, that’s enough, right? I don’t need to explain the concept of a top moments of the decade series, right? You get it.
You know how I said these are specifically not the best moments.....
Remember December of 2010? Yours truly was a sophomore in college, only just starting to consider the possibility of writing about baseball. Black Swan was just being released. The Black Eyed Peas were absurdly popular. The Red Sox were coming off a disappointing few seasons and were looking to shake it up. So, they let Adrian Beltre walk and brought in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The excitement was palpable. Two legitimate stars added to a roster that was already pretty solid? Who in their right mind wouldn’t be excited? It was perhaps the most excited I’ve ever been during an offseason, a combination of great moves and the amount of free time you have on your hands in college. It resulted in some of the most absurd hype (both in hindsight but also in regular sight) of any team ever.
And then the season started. It did not go well. With all of the excitement, the last thing this team needed was to stumble out of the gates, but that’s exactly what happened. They lost six in a row to start the season and 12 games in they were sitting at 2-10. All of that goodwill just went right out the window about two weeks into the year. That’s not what you want!
The bookends are obviously what stand out about this season as we look back on it, but it’s worth remembering the middle of the year. Now, does what I’m about to say change anything about how this season ultimately went? Of course not. This season will always be a dark spot in the franchise’s history. That said, after that initial 12-game stretch through the end of August, the Red Sox went 81-42, a .659 winning percentage and a 107-win pace over a full season. Based on talent combined with the way they were playing, for that stretch in the middle of the year I still think that might have been the best Red Sox team I’ve ever seen. Again, not in totality, just for that stretch. They were good at just about everything. By the time they were heading into September, they were a 1.5 games up on the Yankees in the division and had a nine-game cushion for a playoff spot. It was supposed to be cruise control into October.
Except, well, we know that wasn’t the case. The cushion over the Rays for the wildcard only dropped by a game over the first week, but then the collapse happened. They lost five in a row in the middle of the month, a stretch that included three losses to Tampa Bay. By the final week, the lead was down to three games. Boston would lose two of three to the Yankees before splitting the first two games of a three-game set against Baltimore. Just like that, the wildcard race was all tied up heading into the final game of the year.
To say there was a pit in the stomach of every Red Sox fan at this point would be an understatement. This was a total disaster, but it could still be salvaged. Just get into October and anything can happen. Baseball is weird. On the plus side, Boston had Jon Lester starting Game 162 against Alfredo Simon. Down in Tampa, David Price was starting against Dellin Betances.
In Baltimore, the Red Sox scored first in the top of the third, but Baltimore came right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Fortunately, Boston came back with a run in each of the next two innings, and they had a 3-2 lead. Jon Lester held that lead through six, and then Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard combined to keep the lead into the ninth.
At the same time, the Yankees were giving us the help we wanted, jumping all over Price and the Rays to the tune of seven runs in the first five innings while the Rays couldn’t get on the board. It was all aligning for Boston, which was a rare feeling in this month of constant dread.
And then, well, we know what happened. In Baltimore, Jonathan Papelbon got two quick outs before giving up two straight doubles. Just like that, the Orioles tied it up with Robert Andino coming up. Robert Andino! He hit a flare out to right field that fell in, Nolan Reimold came around the score, and that was that. The Red Sox lost, and they were now at the Yankees mercy. Meanwhile, the Rays rallied for six in the eighth before Daniel Johnson — Daniel Johnson! — tied it with a homer in the ninth. In extras, just minutes after Andino’s double, Evan Longoria walked it off. In the span of about 10-15 minutes, the Red Sox went from being an out away from locking up at least a play-in game to absolute, total heartbreak. The worst collapse in baseball history combined, all in the worst possible fashion.
From the outside, this was an absolutely incredible moment, and it actually sort of overshadowed the fact that the Braves suffered a nearly equally horrific collapse themselves. It led to the dismissals of Tito and Theo, which in turn led to Bobby V. It sparked the chicken and beer controversy. It led to Justin Verlander stealing the MVP award from Jacoby Ellsbury, the only award result I am legitimate angry about and will never get over. It also led to MLB starting every Game 162 at the same time, one of my favorite league decisions in recent years. They’ll never recreate this moment, but it’s always worth a shot. More than anything, though, this season put that little nugget in the back of all of our heads, constantly reminding us that nothing is over — whether it be a season or a game — until it is truly over.