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The end.

So, that happened. The Red Sox blew a huge Wild Card lead, including a game-162 blown save that saw the Rays storm back and eke their way into the playoffs. Now, it would be silly and childish to point fingers and try to assign blame for the collapse…so that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Theo Epstein: Start at the top with Theo Epstein. Theo assembled a hugely talented roster, and will probably not receive the credit he deserves for making the moves that kept this team afloat (acquiring Erik Bedard and Mike Aviles, among others). That having been said, he also assembled a starting rotation with three talented pitchers, and then waited months to acquire reinforcements when that (and the admirable-but-risky Andrew Miller experiment) didn’t work out. He also passed on an opportunity to get Rich Harden for basically nothing, and just kind of assumed that Kevin Youkilis could handle a full season at third base, when there was nothing but a pile of hope saying that was the case. Plus, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a fine player this season, keeping Victor Martinez around would have been nicer.
Should He Be Fired? No. Theo’s one of the three best GMs in the game, and even though I’m sure he has talented underlings to replace him, the chance that he’s replaced with someone more like Jim Hendry is terrifying.

Terry Francona: As the Red Sox started to slide, Francona took matters into his own hands in order to “shake things up” and put some life back into the Sox. Some, like putting Ryan Lavarnway in the lineup and asking Alfredo Aceves to pitch every single day and twice on Sunday, worked wonderfully. Others, like suddenly deciding to sacrifice way more often than he needed to (the Sox laid down 11 sacrifice bunts in August and September, as many as they had from April through July–and that doesn’t count the failed ones) or shaking up the lineup in the last week of the season to bat Carl Crawford second, did not.
Should He Be Fired? Eh. Francona’s an idiot, but every manager in baseball is an idiot. He usually sticks to the organization’s philosophy of not bunting or issuing stupid intentional walks (also known as “intentional walks”), and because of this he’s one of the better managers in baseball. If whatever new guy they bring in would do the same, while being similarly unobtrusive and not picking fights with players, sure. Fire him. But don’t do it just because of this.

The offense as a whole: There were some very big offensive outputs, but there were also plenty of duds; the Sox were held to four or fewer runs 16 times in the month of September, which made an already taxed (and terrible) pitching staff have to be that much better.
Should They Be Fired? I’d like to see Youkilis traded this winter, but he’ll probably need to prove his health next year. Crawford isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t think he should, though I imagine that will be an unpopular opinion. There will be an offseason preview post sometime before the end of the year, unless Theo announces that he’s going to Chicago and taking Dustin with him, in which case I’ll probably become a Nationals fan.

The Starting Pitching: Here’s your big culprit, folks. As you’ve read a thousand times, the Sox’ starters had an ERA of a gazillion in September, and if they had even had an ERA of like half a gazillion Boston would have coasted to the postseason. It sucks. Taking a closer look…

Josh Beckett: Dealt with an ankle injury, had a couple bad starts and a couple good starts, but pitched well overall.
Should He Be Fired? No.

Jon Lester: Took a lot of heat from a lot of stupid people for having three straight poor starts at the end of the year, then came back on three days rest for Game 162 and owned.
Should He Be Fired? Also no.

Tim Wakefield: I just wrote a big thing about Wake, so go read that. If he’s in the planned starting rotation in 2012, revise Theo’s “should he be fired?” to “yes, yes, dear God, yes.”
Should He Be Fired? Nah. Given a nice gold watch and firmly asked not to come back? I can see that.

John Lackey: Fuck John Lackey.
Should He Be Fired? Into the sun.

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