Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 14: Jimmie Foxx

JIMMIE FOXX
Years with Boston: 1936-1942 (.320/.429/.605, 222 home runs, 788 RBIs, 1,051 hits)
Best Year in Boston: 1938 (.349/.462/.704, 50 home runs, 175 RBIs, MVP)
The Beast was another star bought by Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey in order to improve his new club that he purchased in the 1930's.  Foxx had been a terrific player for the Philadelphia Athletics under Connie Mack and had been a two-time MVP in 1932 and 1933.  But Mack had fallen on hard times and was selling off a number of his stars.  He had previously sent Lefty Grove to the Red Sox and now this time he sold Foxx and Johnny Marcum to Boston for $150,000.00 and George Savino and Gordon Rhodes, neither of whom did anything for the A's.  It was mostly about the money.

Foxx immediately stepped into the core of Boston's lineup and set the team record for home runs, breaking Babe Ruth's 1919 mark of 29.  In 1938, he broke his own team record by hitting 50 home runs, and that record would stand until 2005 when David Ortiz hit 54 home runs.  Foxx led the league in batting average and RBIs in 1938 and missed the triple crown because Hank Greenberg hit 58 home runs.  He also led the league in on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Foxx's numbers dipped a little bit in 1939, but by that season he was no longer the only slugger on the team.  Foxx helped Ted Williams along in his early years in the Major Leagues and protected the young slugger in the lineup.  Foxx's numbers again dropped in 1941, hitting just 19 home runs, but he still lead the league in walks and hit .300.

Unfortunately Foxx's numbers would continue to decline after that.  He played in just 30 games with Boston in 1942 and was placed on waivers, being selected by the Cubs.  He played just two more seasons after that and retired.

Foxx was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951, his sixth year on the ballot, though that is largely because the rules were not well-formulated at that time and he was nominated immediately after he retired.  Most voters thought he should wait a few years.  Foxx wears a Red Sox cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.  Though he had some terrific years in Boston, his time with the A's is what most people associate with Jimmie Foxx.  His time in Boston was important to his election to the Hall of Fame, but not the most important.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Unknown Heroes Pt. 39: Stan Belinda

Middle relievers are the ultimate unknown heroes.  Especially since card companies after the early 1990's started focusing on premium sets with fewer cards.  There just was not as much hobby love for the guys that came in to hold things down before the closer could shut the door.  That is unfortunate because middle relievers and setup men are very important to the team.

In 1995, Boston signed former Pirates and Royals middle reliever Stan Belinda in April, soon before the season started.  Belinda had saved a number of games for the Pirates but had been just another bullpen arm in Kansas City.  Belinda pitched from a three-quarters arm slot, almost a side-arm thrower, but not quite.  Boston had a number of problems with pitching early on in 1995, but their setup man was definitely not one of those problems as Belinda was a terrific under-the-radar pickup for the division winners.

Stan Belinda made it into 63 games for Boston in 1995.  He finished with an impressive 8-1 record and 10 saves.  His ERA was a very good for the time period 3.10 and he struck out 57 while walking 28 in 69.2 innings.  He also gave the Red Sox 1.9 WAR out of a middle relief spot, which is very impressive.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for his effectiveness in Boston.  He returned in 1996, but injuries limited him to 31 games with an ugly 6.59 ERA.  Belinda would go on to pitch a few more years, including some decent moments with Cincinnati, but 1995 was definitely the high point of his career.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Season in Review: 2011

Ugh, the 2011 season.  Honestly, I don't remember a more infuriating season.  After a terrific offseason in which the team picked up Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Boston started off the season terribly, losing their first six games.  Then they became the best team in the league.  Until September.  Somehow, that month they completely folded.  They ended the season at 92-70, in third place, and missed the playoffs.  After the season, Terry Francona was fired, GM Theo Epstein jumped ship, and stalwart players Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell, and J.D. Drew all retired.

FIVE FAVORITE PLAYERS
Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury should have been the AL MVP, but instead finished second, possibly mostly due to the fold at the end of the season.  Ellsbury became the first ever Red Sox player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases.  He finished at .321/376/.552 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.  He stole 39 bases and scored 119 runs.  He won the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove and was an All Star for the first time.  It was a terrific season that really stands out in looking at his career.

Adrian Gonzalez
After being acquired in a big trade in the offseason, Gonzalez did not disappoint.  He was one of the top hitters on the team and nearly won the Home Run Derby.  Gonzalez finished the season at .338/.410/.548 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and lead the league with 213 hits.  He won the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove.  It was a terrific season for the new acquisition.

Dustin Pedroia
Another player with a phenomenal MVP-type season, Pedroia ended with a line of .307/.387/.474 with 21 home runs, 91 RBIs, and 26 stolen bases.  He also contributed Gold Glove defense at second base.  It was somewhat lost in the midst of the seasons by Ellsbury and Gonzalez, but this was Pedroia's best season of his career.

David Ortiz
Also lost in the midst of the other good years was another great season from Ortiz, who hit .309/.398/.554 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs.  He won the Silver Slugger and made it to the All Star team, further distancing himself from the bad starts in 2008 and 2009.

Kevin Youkilis
Youkilis was starting to fade in 2011, finishing with a slash line of .258/.373/.459 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs.  It was a decent season, but was a far cry from his terrific seasons in 2008 and 2009.  Coming along with that was a change back to third base.  Youkilis was never as impressive defensively at third as he was at first.  But Adrian Gonzalez had to play somewhere.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Marco Scutaro
The shortstop quietly had a pretty good season and actually played quite well down the stretch.  He finished with a line of .299/.358/.423 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs.  He also played well defensively.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
In his first full season as the Red Sox catcher, Saltalamacchia hit 16 home runs and drove in 56 runs.  His slash line was not terribly impressive, but he showed an ability to come through in clutch situations and had some pretty good power for a catcher.

Jason Varitek
In his final season as a Major Leaguer, Varitek still provided some pop as a backup catcher.  He hit 11 home runs and drove in 36 in 68 games and announced his retirement at the end of the year.  It was a tough way to go out, but Varitek had a nice career.

FAVORITE ACQUISITIONS
Adrian Gonzalez
See above for why.

Alfredo Aceves
He was a little-mentioned pickup from the Yankees but really solidified the bullpen, going 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 110 innings.  He was also an imposing presence on the mound and fun to watch.

FAVORITE MIDSEASON ACQUISITION
Mike Aviles
Erik Bedard was the big name, but Aviles actually produced in short work.  He hit .317/.340/.436 while covering for the injured Kevin Youkilis at third base.

FAVORITE ROOKIE
Josh Reddick
Not technically a rookie, but Reddick had only played in 56 games before 2011 and was just barely passed his eligibility, Reddick was the only real young player to get much playing time.  J.D. Drew was hurt a lot, clearing the way for Reddick who had a memorable moment winning a game with a walkoff hit off Mariano Rivera.  His numbers were solid, but not spectacular.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
Carl Crawford
Who else?  Despite signing a huge contract and coming off of a terrific season, Crawford never really got going offensively and he struggled defensively as well.  His final slash line was a pretty bad .255/.289/.405 with 11 home runs and just 18 stolen bases.  It was a far cry from his previous season.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

1991 Topps #574 John Marzano

In this series, I will look at my first team set: 1991 Topps.  This was the set I started my baseball card collection with.
John Marzano was once a highly touted prospect.  He was the 14th overall pick in the 1984 draft by the Red Sox.  And that was just a few years after he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Twins but did not sign.  Marzano also played on the Olympic baseball team in 1984 with Mark McGwire.  His first baseball card comes from 1985 Topps and depicts him with Team USA.  He had a couple of nice seasons in the minor leagues, but for some reason he could not quite harness that talent in the Major Leagues.

Marzano made his Major League debut for Boston in 1987 and played fairly well for 52 games.  Then in 1988 and 1989, he only played in 17 games total.  Boston had a catching platoon in those two years of Rich Gedman and Rick Cerone.  In 1990, Marzano finally got his chance, albeit in a backup role as Cerone had left as a free agent and Gedman was traded to the Astros.  Marzano was the backup for starter Tony Pena and would remain in that role through 1992.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Boxscore: June 20, 2015: Royals 7 Red Sox 4

I forgot to post this.  I went to a Red Sox game in Kansas City last summer.  Prices for tickets had jumped because of the Royals' appearance in the World Series in 2014.  But my wife and I met by brother and his fiancee and her daughter and her boyfriend.  The one major thing that will stick in my mind will be how freaking hot it was.  It was high 90's with blazing sun and no breeze whatsoever.

The Red Sox did not have one of their better games.  Things started off great when Mookie Betts lead off the game with a home run.  But Rick Porcello was pitching and he was having a pretty rough year.  He gave up a game-tying home run to Salvador Perez in the bottom of the second, but Boston responded again on doubles from Blake Swihart and Brock Holt.  They then increased their lead to 4-1 in the fifth thanks to singles from Swihart and Betts and then a run-scoring groundout from David Ortiz and then another single from Hanley Ramirez.

Unfortunately, in the bottom of the fifth, Porcello imploded giving up five runs to fall behind, including a home run from Kendrys Morales.  The Royals would tack on another run and Boston's offense could not get anything else going the rest of the game.

The offensive stars were Betts, who homered, singled, scored twice, and drove in one, Swihart, who singled twice, Holt, who doubled, Ramirez who singled twice, driving in a run, and Alejandro De Aza who tripled and singled.  Dustin Pedroia, Rusney Castillo, Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw, Mike Napoli, and Sandy Leon also appeared.  No one really stuck out among pitchers.  Porcello gave up six runs.  Knuckleballer Steven Wright got a couple of outs but gave up the last run.  Tommy Layne and Craig Breslow also appeared.

It was a disappointing game to attend.  Especially since the Red Sox blew the Royals out of the water the next day by a score of 13-2.  I wish I had gone to that one.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Congratulations to Griffey and Piazza (My Annual Late Hall of Fame Post)

I'm late on this every year it seems like.  I always have goals to do a preview post, talking about what I think about everyone's chances and focusing on former Red Sox.  I completely missed the 2013 vote which featured Sandy Alomar Jr., my favorite player that did not play for the Red Sox.  So here I am late once again.  We already know that Ken Griffey Jr. sailed in and Mike Piazza finally made it as well.  It is kind of fun to see players that I grew up watching make it into the Hall of Fame.

So here is how the former Red Sox did:

JEFF BAGWELL:  315 votes, 71.6%
Bagwell should be able to finally make it in next season.  The first-baseman came up through Boston's minor league system, though he never played in the Majors for them.  He was traded away in a regrettable move for Larry Andersen, who did pitch well down the stretch for Boston but left as a free agent after the season.  Bagwell should be a Hall of Famer.

CURT SCHILLING:  230 votes, 52.3%
Schilling's vote total increased slightly, but his percentage jumped quite a bit.  This is due to the fact that a lot of voters who have not been actively covering baseball were jettisoned.  I'm not quite sure how to feel about his results.  I am thrilled he is above 50% but it seems like an empty increase.  I do strongly believe that Schilling was an absolutely dominating pitcher who belongs in the Hall of Fame.  I also think he should go in with the Red Sox but can certainly see arguments for the Diamondbacks and Phillies.  His mouth seems to be keeping him out at least somewhat.

ROGER CLEMENS:  199 votes, 45.2%
Clemens actually had fewer votes, but a higher percentage.  So again, I have no idea what to think of the results.  I think the anti-steroids argument for players who played at a time when there was no testing is kind of silly.  Clemens is one of the best pitchers of all time.  To not have him in the Hall of Fame is ridiculous.

LEE SMITH:  150 votes, 34.1%
The former closer is entering his final season on the ballot next season and it seems that his chances at being elected have disappeared with players like Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner appearing on the ballot this year and Mariano Rivera a couple years away.  Smith's best argument for the Hall of Fame is his saves total, which has been eclipsed by a couple of relievers.  I just don't see him getting in.

BILLY WAGNER:  46 votes, 10.5%
Wagner is in his first season on the ballot and the difference between his vote total and Trevor Hoffman's is shocking.  Sure, Hoffman played longer and had more saves, but Wagner's stats were generally better.  Wagner played only briefly for Boston but he was a big part of their pen in 2009.  He should have gotten more votes, but I don't necessarily believe he should be in.

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA:  8 votes, 1.8%
Nomar falls off the ballot in his second year.  I do think his career deserves stronger consideration.  He is basically Don Mattingly of the late 1990's.  He was SO good from 1997 through 2003 that he looked like an obvious Hall of Famer, but he completely fell apart afterwards, mostly due to injuries.  Honestly I think he should be given more time to look at his case.  I can't believe he lost 22 votes from last year.

DAVID ECKSTEIN:  2 votes, 0.5%
Like Bagwell, Eckstein came up through the minor leagues with the Red Sox though he never played for the Major League team.  He was exposed to waivers in order for the Red Sox to bring back Lou Merloni in 2000.  It would have made more sense for Boston to just promote him.  Eckstein had some speed back then.  He falls off the ballot and the only thing more surprising is that he got two votes.

MIKE LOWELL:  0 votes, 0.0%
Lowell had a few great years with Boston, including an amazing 2007 season in which he won the World Series MVP.  It is nevertheless not surprising that he failed to get a vote and falls off the ballot.  I really liked Lowell during his time with Boston.  I would have probably given him a courtesy vote if I had room on my ballot.

So that's it for the Red Sox on the ballot.  Next season we will see Bagwell, Schilling, Clemens, Smith, and Wagner return to the ballot and potential new appearances from Manny Ramirez, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Edgar Renteria, Jason Varitek, Julio Lugo, and Freddy Sanchez.  Of those, only Manny Ramirez seems likely to get any real consideration.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Redemption Substitution

A few years ago, I was on a Felix Doubront kick.  I picked up a redemption card for a triple relic autograph of him from Triple Threads and redeemed it immediately.  Unfortunately I never received the card.  It has been marked "Pending" for more than two years.  I forgot about it for awhile.  A few weeks ago I checked on it and nothing had changed.  Doubront has changed teams three times since then.  I decided to contact Topps and ask for a substitution.  The individual I spoke to was very cooperative and understanding and I made the request for a Red Sox card to substitute.  He could not promise anything but said he would make a note and see what they could do.  

A couple of days ago, this came in the mail:
So I got my Red Sox card and it was a triple relic autograph.  I am maybe slightly disappointed that it was Allen Webster.  Doubront had some good moments in Boston.  He had a pretty good rookie season in 2012 and a very good showing in the 2013 World Series.  Webster never did much in his couple of stints in Boston.  But I am glad that I was able to get a Red Sox card, no matter who it was.  I like this card just fine.