Is that the reason the Red Sox fell apart?
Well, it depends upon who you ask. Adrian Gonzalez certainly thinks so.
"Definitely injuries," he said when asked if physical ailments hurt the cause. "[Clay] Buchholz, you have Buchholz in the rotation, just that one guy. Daisuke [Matsuzaka], you have him in the rotation all year long. That’s 10 more victories. We probably win the division. [Kevin Youkilis] not having Youk in the lineup the last month.
"It’s always injuries. Any time a team that doesn’t make the playoffs and is supposed to is because of injuries. Plain and simple."
The Buchholz injury was a damaging one. The rotation never quite recovered and then it crumbled completely in September. But that was one guy and it was June. There was plenty of time to recover and more than enough opportunity for the others to do the right thing and step up. Nobody did.
Youkilis going down did not help either, but other teams survived similar losses. Just look at the American League playoff teams. The Yankees lost their star third baseman for nearly two months. The Rangers lost theirs for a month down the stretch. The Rays saw theirs fight through pain all season in what was statistically a down year (last night’s heroics notwithstanding). The Tigers had six different players start a game at third base, three of them for at least 30 games. Their leader at the position, Brandon Inge, hit .197.
Missing Youkilis for two weeks in August and two in September should not make or break a season, with all due respect to his contributions.
Again, it depends upon who you ask. David Ortiz would beg to differ from Gonzalez, or at least he did after the regular season home finale last week.
"We got a lineup out there with the exception of Youk, but our whole lineup is there," Ortiz said at the time. "We got a rotation of starting pitchers with the exception of Buchholz. If you have two guys of the 25 guys you break camp with out there, you’re doing pretty good.
"I don’t think injuries are related to what’s going on in here right now."
When it was all said and done, the man who put together this team that was "supposed to" go to the playoffs (in Gonzalez’s words), agreed with Ortiz’s assessment from a week before.
"We don’t have any excuses," general manager Theo Epstein said. "Things went wrong from an injury standpoint, luck or fate or what have you, but the overriding factor was just poor play."
Injuries happen. The best teams are the ones that recover from them. Boston’s were significant, but not nearly as significant as many other teams that have done much, much more. Gonzalez may be on an island with this one.