One of the worst part of Boston's collapse was that the Sox weren't even losing to good teams. Over the last week and a half of the season, the Red Sox lost five of seven games against the last-place, 69-93 Baltimore Orioles.
In retrospect, those seven games may have done more than just knock the Red Sox out of playoff contention. They offered a preview of what was to come in 2012, suggesting that the Red Sox were not as strong as their record indicated and the Orioles were not as weak.
The Orioles opened the season 29-17 and though they've cooled off a bit since, Baltimore has remained in the playoff picture much longer than anyone expected under third-year manager Buck Showalter. With just 45 games to play, the Orioles lead the American League wild card race. Baltimore hasn't made the playoffs since 1997 and has finished higher than fourth in the AL East just once since then. They're on track to do both in 2012.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, haven't had the same success. Boston's struggles have been well-documented — both on and off the field — and at 57-61 and 6 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot, the Red Sox appear as if they will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, something the club hasn't done since 2000-2002.