2022 was supposed to go very differently for the Boston Red Sox.
They’d bucked expectations in 2021, going six games into the ALCS a year after finishing last in the division.
The ALCS had ended in disappointment, but being there at all had been a pleasant surprise and something to build upon for the next year. Instead, the Sox are almost certainly a last-place team for the second time in three years.
So much went wrong for this team, especially in the injury department. Even blaming Chaim Bloom or the front office isn’t entirely fair; they took risks and made mistakes when building the roster, but plenty of the injuries were freak accidents, impossible to predict.
One injury stands out, though. Not because anyone is at fault, but because the ripple effect was so significant. In the early days of spring, a source high up in the organization revealed that if Triston Casas did well in the first few months of the season, the Sox planned to call up him and find a way to trade Bobby Dalbec.
Instead, Casas sprained his ankle in May and missed two months of the Triple-A season. By the time he returned to the WooSox lineup on July 22, the big-league club was already riddled with injuries and clinging to a 48-46 lead. His first night back in the Triple-A lineup was also the night the big-league club gave up a franchise-record 28 runs to the Toronto Blue Jays. By the end of the month, the Sox had gone 8-19 and been outscored 181-104.
How different would the Red Sox season be if Triston Casas hadn’t gotten injured?
Meanwhile, since Casas wasn’t an option, the Sox stuck with Dalbec and attempted to turn Franchy Cordero into a first baseman. When that didn’t work, they acquired Eric Hosmer from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. The veteran infielder joined the ranks of the Injured List after 12 games and isn’t expected back before the end of the season.
None of this is to say that Casas is to blame for the team’s collapse; the 2022 Red Sox are a combination of bad decisions, accidents, and underperforming, and no individual could counteract that recipe for disaster. JD Martinez’s sudden inability to hit home runs, every starting pitcher besides Nick Pivetta spending time on the Injured List, Chris Sale breaking his pinky and then his wrist, James Paxton tearing his lat in his first rehab start to end his season before it began, none of that has anything to do with Casas. His injury definitely impacted the season plans, but no one could’ve saved this ship once it began to sink.
An earlier arrival might have made the season more bearable, though. Maybe he would’ve been the infusion of new blood that helped the team pick themselves up off the mat. We’ll never know.
Now, as the Sox teeter on the brink of mathematical elimination and the season begins to fade into the rearview mirror, it’ll just be one of many ‘What Ifs’ to ponder all winter.