But I'm going to start with the one guy who hasn't gotten as much of it as he should, at least not for what I blame him.
I blame Terry Francona. No, not exclusively. There are others who will need to look in the mirror.
You definitely have to give GM Theo Epstein a healthy portion, particularly for the woefully inexplicable signing for way-too-much-money of John Lackey. You could add Carl Crawford to that, but in looking at his detailed stats, there is reason to believe he'll be better in at least a few of his years to come. Not $20 million worth better, but better.
And Theo Epstein gets the blame for a minor league system which, right now, has one and only one player who may make an impact at the major league level next year, shortstop Jose Iglesias. He's not much of a hitter, but has speed and great defensive skills. Three out of five tools. Lefty hurler Felix Doubront will likely be a contributor, but he's spent as much time at the major league level in the last two years as he has in the minors so I'm not counting him. Other than that, the cupboard is full of Single A potential and AA and AAA struggles.
The players didn't perform, so the easy thing to do is to speculate on the mental makeup of the individuals who failed. Was the tailoff in Adrian Gonzalez production due to fatigue, stress of the race or injury? Was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he of the lengthy last name, a fair hitting catcher with occasional power, or did pressure and focused pitching turn him into a non-hitting catcher? Sure they lost Kevin Youkilis to injury, and that sucked a 5 hole hitter from the lineup, one who could protect David Ortiz, but Youkilis wasn't tearing it up even before his season ended. Neither Josh Beckett nor Jon Lester, purported to be TweedleDum and TweedleDee as staff aces, performed like aces in the last month of the season. The Sox needed those aces to be solid every start. They weren't.
But I blame Francona. I watched him mismanage his pitching staff all year, and I grumbled about it repeatedly to those willing to listen. Remember, he managed a team with a relatively set lineup and an everyday DH. There were very few interleague games requiring double switches and hitting for the pitcher. No, his job was to manage the pitching staff. And he did a lousy job.
He pulled pitchers who were pitching well too early; he allowed others to struggle when they weren't. He had no faith in anyone in the bullpen not named Aceves, Bard or Papelbon, largely because he didn't allow anyone else to build confidence during the successful summer months so they'd be ready when the September crunch came. The two or three members of the bullpen who had been reasonably successful elsewhere weren't allowed to be successful here.
Dan Wheeler. He spent the previous three years in Tampa succeeding in the bullpen. About 67 appearances each year, ERA around 3.20, and far fewer hits than innings pitched. Not great, but solid, dependable. This year he was used only when the Sox were either far ahead or far behind, and only 47 times overall. And he wasn't reliable when Francona needed him to be reliable.
Matt Albers. He actually did pitch pretty darn well most of the year. But Francona didn't use him in a way that could make him most successful, and most helpful to the team. Francona wanted a formula - "Bard in the 8th, Papelbon in the 9th". But he didn't set up anyone else to be Bard and Papelbon when Bard and Papelbon couldn't be Bard and Papelbon. You have to have an alternate plan when either of those two is too tired to go, or is on one or another rare occasion, struggling. He didn't. Matt Albers could have been an alternate.
And let's not talk about Kyle Weiland and Andrew Miller. For some reason other teams seem to bring up during the season relatively successful AAA pitchers who are then relatively successful in the bigs. Boston doesn't. Both of these pitchers have good stuff, and fairly good command. Clay Bucholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka go down, and you need one of these guys - just one - to get you five or six innings relatively regularly. You have to wonder how well the manager helped them prepare for their outings.
Miller had two reasonably good starts - wins - near the end of August, then one terrible start and one meh start at the beginning of September. He never got the ball again as a starter, or even as a reliever in a close game. Given how the rest of the Sox starters performed in September, particularly the aforementioned Lackey, he should have gotten the ball again.
Successful managers may start with pitchers who are less than dominating, but if the team is going to succeed then the manager has to take those pitchers and mold them into a staff. Each pitcher may have a role, but each needs to be helped to be successful, and they each also have to at times step in and do the job if another falters. Francona didn't get the most out of this staff, he got the least.
They could have used more hitting in September; they could have used more pitching; they could have used a better rested Bard and Papelbon; they could have used a couple of more reliable relievers; they could have hoped for better from their "aces". They could have used a manager who developed pitching rather than burning it out. They got none of the above. Congratulations, Sox, and good luck with the rebuilding.
9/29/11 2024: Here's a painful assessment from the Boston Globe's Chad Finn. "Coco Crisp with a lousy glove" indeed. And this, on Lackey: "Not only is he coming off the worst season a Red Sox starting pitcher has ever submitted, but he's a miserable, dim, finger-pointing, unaccountable wretch of a teammate, and those may be his good qualities." Finn defends Francona, but I wish he'd have a look at how Francona manages pitching. He might change his mind.
The Herald's John Tomase points out that the 69-93 Baltimore Orioles, one of the worst teams in baseball, beat Boston in five of seven games at the end of the season. Ugh.
9/29/11 2040: Video of the demise at HotAir from Allahpundit. Double ugh.