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Since 1987, when such records were first kept, no team in baseball has used the disabled list more. The Sox had a franchise-record 56 players on their roster over the course of the season.
But even that doesn’t fully explain the degree to which injuries hampered the team. There were more than 75 days this season when the Red Sox played with a short roster because of players too injured to play.
Beckett, Pedroia, and Gonzalez were among those players whose minor injuries kept them out of the lineup for a series of days but weren’t deemed serious enough to warrant going on the disabled list.
“I thought the little injuries to Beckett were as disconcerting as anything to the [pitching] staff,” Valentine said. “We had to keep him, not disable him, and insert somebody in.
“These things happen in a particular season. But in this season, it added salt to the wound and the wound never healed.”
Still, the Red Sox were 48-45 on July 19, one game out of a wild-card berth. With 69 games left to play, they were legitimate contenders.
It was a mirage. Ortiz sat out that day with what the team said was a mild strain of his right Achilles’ tendon. The hope was that he would miss only a few days, but Ortiz did not return until Aug. 24. He lasted one game before returning to the disabled list.
Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, whose production had strengthened the middle of the order, was hit by a pitch Aug. 10 and broke a bone in his right wrist. That ended his season.
In effect, it also ended the season for the Sox. Beckett, Crawford, and Gonzalez were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers 15 days later.
“I think the guys kept working to fill the hole and then to fill the next hole,” said Valentine. “It seemed like they ran out of effort once David and Will got hurt. It was just too much.”
As injuries piled up, Valentine was forced to use a different lineup or defensive configuration almost every day. The Sox have had six players start at first base, seven at third base, eight in left field, and 11 in center field.
“You think I wanted to do that?” Valentine said. “If the injuries didn’t have anything to do with the season, then I’m missing something.
“The cloud of when guys were coming back, the uncertainty of it, disrupted everybody. At the beginning, I was trying to maneuver the situation so that when those guys came back, it wouldn’t be too disruptive. But they never came back.”
Valentine became part of the problem, making comments that created headlines and fighting with a coaching staff that was more loyal to former manager Terry Francona.
Sox players summoned owners John Henry and Tom Werner to New York in late July to complain about Valentine. He stayed on the job, but the sour atmosphere around the team never changed.
“It’s not Bobby’s fault, we’re the ones playing,” Pedroia said. “I’d play for him any time. Things haven’t been good for us on the field and we all know that.”
With four games remaining, Valentine looks certain to become the first Red Sox manager fired after one season since Bucky Harris in 1934. His Boston legacy will be presiding over one of the worst teams in franchise history.
But the Dodgers trade created vast payroll flexibility and with it the hope that the Sox can reverse course after what has become several years of dysfunction.
“It has to get better,” Buchholz said. “This season was as bad as it gets.”