The Fenway Frauds suffered a catastrophic meltdown in 2011, which demanded an organizational reboot in 2012 in order to return to prominence in 2013. The Boston Red Sox won 90 games during the regular season, but the team posted a 7-20 record in September—including that infamous, last-day loss in Baltimore that cost the squad a playoff spot.
The organization responded by firing Manager Terry Francona, which was dumb, of course. When we look at the roster, we again see a lack of stars on PEDs, as the Red Sox were still hanging on to the threads of past glories and practices. Everything would change for this team by the end of 2012, but we will save a lot of that analysis for next time out.
Exhibit A: Marco Scutaro
Never anything more than a utility infielder, Scutaro’s weaknesses were always exposed the more he played. His career had peaked in 2009 with the Toronto Blue Jays at age 33 when he posted a .789 OPS. In 2010, with the Red Sox, his OPS dropped to .721 despite playing half his games in friendly-to-righties Fenway Park. But Boston was on the hook for $11.5M in salary still for 2011-12, so guess what happened?
You got it: Scutaro rebounded to post a .781 OPS at age 35. This was the second-best, full-season OPS mark of his career at an age when most guys with his talent level are long gone from the majors. When the Red Sox failed to make the postseason, though, they cut bait on the $6M still owed to Scutaro and dumped him on the Colorado Rockies for 2012—where one could expect him to thrive as a hitter, still?
No. The Rox got a .684 OPS from a $6M infielder, and they shipped him to San Francisco (see our analysis there). This really looks like PED use in Boston and San Francisco, where it was tolerated (and even encouraged), with the Colorado organization disproving of such shenanigans. Either way, Scutaro’s miracle run with the Giants in 2012 earned him another $26.6M from the S.F. organization! Shocking …
Exhibit B: Jason Varitek
Somehow, he avoided scrutiny here in this series until now. A lifelong Red Sox stalwart, Varitek actually hit rock bottom at age 36 in 2008, when he posted a crappy .672 OPS. His career mark (.776) was over 100 points higher, so it’s clear the veteran backstop was done at age 36. But after making $10.4M in 2008 alone, the Red Sox re-signed him for one year in 2009 at the cut rate of $5M. Guess what?
He didn’t recover by much, posting just a .703 OPS at age 37 in 2009. Varitek also played in only 109 games, his worst effort since 2001. Yet Boston decided to give him another $5M for 2010-2011 combined, and in 2010, Varitek boosted his OPS to .766, which was much more in line with his career number—despite the fact he was now 38 years old.
In this final season of his career, he did see his OPS slip to .723 at age 39, which is still a lot better than that bottom level posted in 2008. What got into Varitek over these final three years of his career? Money and (probably) a lot of coaxing from the organization to hang on a little bit longer, as the team tried to squeeze another World Series title out of its franchise catcher, who hitherto had been a “clean” player.
Exhibit C: David Ortiz
Much like we did with Barry Bonds in The House that Steroids Built series, we pretty much have to examine every year of this confirmed cheater’s career: In 2011, Ortiz continued his remarkable rebound from his rockbottom effort at age 33 in 2009. Now 35 years old, he boosted his OPS up to .953—a level he had not reached since 2007 when the team last won the Series. Coincidence? Probably not.
Ortiz also hit .309 at age 35, when we know he was not beating out infield singles. He also hit 40 doubles; even if we know the Green Monster helped, the legs were not responsible for those doubles. What is more incredible to us is that he cut his strikeouts down from a combined 279 Ks in 2009-2010 to just 83 Ks this season. What was that side effect of taking something like HGH? Improved eyesight. Bingo.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Ortiz was cheating. We know he did it in the past, and he suffered no consequences from it. So why would he not have switched from old-school steroids in the past to new-school HGH by this point? Less bulk, better stamina, etc. This is so obvious that we’re done beating the dead horse (for now, at least).
Conclusion: Missing the playoffs was unacceptable
Considering the money being pumped into this roster, for the Red Sox to miss the postseason twice in a row was a big blow. Ironically, the team made the playoffs just once between 2009 and 2016—and that was the World Series championship season of 2013. How does that happened when a team is cheating? Just goes to show that in addition to cheating, you also have to get a lot of balls bouncing your way.
Cheating and a high payroll are not guarantees in MLB, which is why teams like the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays can make the postseason quite often. But cheating, a high payroll, and a lot of good fortune created by those first two things can make a huge difference. These Red Sox came one out from making the postseason this year, and then maybe they could have won the Series. We will never know.
Point is, again, that cheating and a high payroll do not guarantee success in sports. Things can still go awry despite the best-laid plans, and that just makes it more frustrating for the front office—and the players who are doping, for whatever reasons (money, rings, etc.). Throw in the fans, and it becomes a volatile combination for disaster, as the city of Boston found out in 2012.