Sure, both teams epically collapsed in September and blew enormous leads to miss the playoffs, but quick look at their seasons will provide some rationale.
The Braves entered 2011 as the heavy underdog in the National League East. They had a solid rotation with plenty of pitching depth, and one of the most promising bullpen duos in the National League. They also acquired Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins and gave him a huge contract amidst the lingering question of Chipper Jones' health.
The injury bug seemed to plague the Braves all year. From Chipper's troublesome knee to Martin Prado's staff infection to Brian McCann's oblique to Jason Heyward's shoulder – and one can throw in Peter Moylan, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens - it is a wonder the Braves were in any kind of position as late in the season as they were.
And that goes without mentioning the departure of Bobby Cox and the arrival of Fredi Gonzalez at the helm.
The Red Sox, however, were touted as the favorites by nearly everyone to win the World Series. With an already established track record of success for the past decade or so, they added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to compensate for the loss of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Gonzalez and Crawford combined were apparently going to team up with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis in baseball's version of the Power Rangers and give baseball fans a team for the ages.
Instead, Boston lost their first seven games. They did eventually catch fire and jockey with the New York Yankees for the American League East lead, but they then got just as cold – if not colder – than the Braves in September.
Though Gonzalez produced for them, Crawford never really lived up to the 20 homers and 50 steals that were expected of him. In fact, he only stole 18 bags all year while hitting a pedestrian .255.
Of course, the Braves saw Heyward struggle all season with a shoulder injury and hitting approach problems, as he suffered a forgettable sophomore slump.
But the Braves spent just over half what the Red Sox did – $87 million compared to almost $162 million – and they were not promoted as the team to beat by nearly every major media outlet.
Atlanta's internal changes were also much less drastic than Boston's. The Braves felt removing Larry Parrish as hitting coach solved their problems, but Terry Francona got out of dodge, and Theo Epstein bolted for the Chicago Cubs, leaving the Red Sox with an enormous mess.
All this comes with the realization by baseball fans that the Red Sox have turned into the same thing as the "evil empire" of the Yankees, a team that buys all their talent and really does not have depth in their farm system.
If they take all this into account, Braves fans should still not be content with how 2011 played out, but they can at least take comfort that the biggest pieces of their organization will not have to be replaced.Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, MLB