Technically speaking, the Red Sox haven't been eliminated from playoff contention. And so, they soldier on, hoping against slim hope that the many teams in front of them will collapse, offering them a tiny window to the wild card.
They can fight the good fight, but deep down, even they know it's not happening.
Where did it go wrong? The eight-game losing streak in late July and early August? The 2-8 start on the first road trip? Yes and yes, and a handful of other lost opportunities, too.
But those are specific stretches of play or groups of game.
Ultimately, the Red Sox are going to miss out on qualifying for the playoffs for the same reason every other team falls short: the players didn't perform well enough. Some were injured. Some seemed to get old in a hurry. Others merely had off-years.
If players don't perform, no amount of wizardry on the part of the manager, coaching staff or front office is going to overcome that.
But part of the responsibilities of a manager and GM are to put those same players in a position to succeed, and for the 2019 Red Sox, there were too many instances of operator error at the top.
In that sense, the real downfall came from poor decision-making and philosophical slip-ups.
So, a deeper dive into the choices that sent the season off the tracks is in order, ranked in order of importance. (For the time being, we'll table contractual decisions since, say, extending Chris Sale past this season didn't contribute to his poor season).
1. The "Take it Easy'' approach in spring training.
In order to preserve and protect their veteran starters, who had heavy workloads the previous October, the team devised a plan to bring its rotation along slowly during the Grapefruit League season. Starters would do their throwing in less stressful environments -- on the backfields; in a simulated game; against minor league teams -- and, in theory, expend less effort and energy in March, the better to be at maximum strength in September and October.
Instead, what happened was