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A year after a 7-20 September cost the Red Sox a chance at the postseason, the club went 7-22 in September and October to close its worst season since 1965. Boston lost its last eight games, failing even in its role of spoiler as it was swept down the stretch by playoff contenders Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the rival New York Yankees.

That left the Red Sox in last place _ 26 games out _ for the first time since 1992 and out of the playoffs for the third year in a row.

“This year’s won-loss record reflects a season of agony. It begs for changes,” Lucchino said. “We are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade.”

What was supposed to be a season of celebration for Fenway’s 100th anniversary was instead the worst under the current management, which bought the team in 2002. And though injuries probably doomed the Red Sox anyway _ they used a franchise record 56 players _ Valentine’s clumsy handling of his players forced him into frequent apologies that undermined his authority in the clubhouse.

“There’s no single reason why we had this dismal of a season,” Lucchino said. “But certainly the epidemic of injuries and the injuries to key players were major factors. … Do I think there’s an element of unfairness, given the shortness of his duration, given the injury problems. … I think there is.”

The Red Sox had the AL’s best record and a nine-game lead in the wild-card race on Sept. 1, 2011, before missing out on a playoff berth on the final day of the season. Francona, who led the Red Sox to Series titles in 2004 and again in 2007, was let go after admitting that he had lost his touch in the clubhouse.

To replace him, the Red Sox picked Valentine, who took the New York Mets to the 2000 World Series and won a championship in Japan, but hadn’t managed in the majors in 10 years. The move was an intentional and abrupt attempt to change a culture that enabled pitchers to drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse during games on their off-nights.

“We felt it was the right decision for that team at that time,” Cherington said. “It hasn’t worked out, because the season has been a great disappointment. That’s not on Bobby Valentine; that’s on all of us. We felt that in order to move forward and have a fresh start, we need to start anew in the manager’s office.”

Valentine banned beer from the clubhouse, and didn’t hesitate to criticize his players publicly _ something Francona took pains to avoid.

But even before the season began, injuries began tearing the roster apart.

Crawford missed much of the season, joining pitchers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list before opening day. Potential closers Andrew Bailey and Bobby Jenks had offseason surgery; Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Beckett and Kevin Youkilis also spent time on the DL.

And many of those who remained resented the new accountability.

Youkilis lashed back after Valentine said he wasn’t as “into the game” as before, and Pedroia came to his teammate’s defense, saying, “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here.”

“He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here,” Pedroia said. “Maybe that works in Japan.”

The tension between Valentine and Youkilis continued to simmer and the third baseman was traded to the White Sox on June 25.

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