ORLANDO CEPEDA - 1973
Spoiler alert: Cepeda is the only Hall of Famer in this post. He was a Rookie of the Year winner with the San Francisco Giants in 1958, made seven All Star teams, and won the MVP in 1967 with the Cardinals. Cepeda was 35 years old when he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 1973 season. That season, the American League decided to experiment with a designated hitter to hit in place of the pitcher in the batting lineup. The Red Sox signed Cepeda specifically to play that position. Cepeda was not the first designated hitter to bat, that distinction went to the Yankees' Ron Blomberg, but Cepeda took to the position like a fish to water. He played all 142 games at DH and hit .289/.350/.444 with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The DH experiment was a success. The Red Sox released him prior to the 1974 season and the Royals picked him up, but it was clear he was about done. He wears a Giants cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
TED COX - 1977
As readers will see, there are not a ton of guys in this post. And so, just for fun, I decided to allow Ted Cox to appear. Mostly because he is the only player in Red Sox history whose name rhymes with the team name. Cox was a highly-touted prospect with the team, but ultimately busted. His career lasted five seasons with four teams, and he never played in more than 83 games. He was a rookie in 1977 and came up to the Red Sox toward the end of the season. He hit well enough, with a line of .362/.393/.500 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and six RBIs in 13 games. Cox was traded, along with Bo Diaz, Rick Wise, and Mike Paxton, to the Indians after the season for Dennis Eckersley and Fred Kendall.
TOMMY HELMS - 1977
Longtime Reds second-baseman Helms spent a very brief amount of time with the Red Sox as a 36-year-old trying to hang on. Helms had been a two-time All Star with the Reds in 1967 and 1968 and was the Rookie of the Year in 1966. He started the 1977 season with the Pirates, his third Major League team, playing in just 15 games before being released. The Red Sox picked him up and he played in 21 games, primarily at DH but also appeared second and third. Helms hit .271/.328/.356 with a homer and five RBIs. He was released by the Red Sox prior to the 1978 season and his career was over.
JOE RUDI - 1981
The Red Sox almost acquired Joe Rudi once before. In 1976 they bought him and Rollie Fingers from the Oakland Athletics, but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn intervened and nullified the sales. Fingers never made it back to Boston, but Rudi did very close to the end of his career. Rudi was a three-time All Star on the great A's teams of the early 1970's and finished second in the AL MVP vote twice. The Red Sox acquired him and Frank Tanana in a deal with the Angels for Fred Lynn prior to the 1981 season in a bad trade. Rudi made it into just 49 games with the Red Sox and hit a paltry .180/.239/.352 but did hit six home runs and drove in 24. He returned to Oakland the next season, but was clearly done.
JIM LEYRITZ - 1998
I remember being pretty excited about the Red Sox acquiring Leyritz. He had always been a pretty good hitter and was fairly versatile during his time spent mostly with the Yankees. He was capable of playing catcher and the corner infield positions. Boston picked him up in a trade from the Rangers along with Damon Buford for Aaron Sele and others. The hope was that he would be able to platoon at catcher with Scott Hatteberg and at DH with Reggie Jefferson. But then Jason Varitek developed and Leyritz was left with just DH. He hit well, with a line of .287/.385/.519 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 52 games, but he was not happy with the lack of playing time and asked to be traded. Boston complied, sending him to San Diego for a few young players who never panned out. Leyritz had some big postseason moments with the Padres later in the year.
BUTCH HUSKEY - 1999
The Red Sox were searching for a little more offense at the trading deadline, after losing Mo Vaughn in the offseason, and swung a deal with the Mariners for the hulking Butch Huskey. Huskey's name was very appropriate at 6'3" and 240 lbs. Huskey came up with the Mets and hit 24 home runs a couple years prior, but was horrible defensively. Playing in the American League masked that issue. Huskey did hit for power with the Red Sox, but little else, finishing with a line of .266/.305/.484 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs. The team did find offense out of cast-off Brian Daubach, making Huskey superfluous. He played for the Twins and Rockies the next year, but that was it for his Major League career.
GARY GAETTI - 2000
The longtime Twins third-baseman had been bouncing around a little bit, playing for the Angels, Royals, Cardinals, and Cubs, but still had some power. Gaetti was 41 and still trying to hang on when he signed with the Red Sox. He started at DH on Opening Day, but made it into just five games with Boston. He was hitless in eleven plate appearances, walking once, but did get an RBI. Gaetti had been a two-time All Star with the Twins and hit 30 or more home runs three times in his career, but he was clearly done by the time he made it to Boston.
CALVIN PICKERING - 2001
Though he never played much, Calvin Pickering was somewhat legendary for his power. Pickering was huge at 6'5" and 280 lbs. He hit more than 25 home runs three times as a minor leaguer, coming up with the Orioles system. He was brought up late in the season multiple times, with multiple teams, and always hit a few home runs. The Red Sox picked him up off of waivers from the Reds in September of 2001 and he made it into 17 games, hitting a pretty decent .280/.379/.480 with three home runs and seven RBIs. He later had a decent stint with the Royals, hitting seven home runs.
CARLOS BAERGA - 2002
There was a time when Carlos Baerga was a huge star. Playing second base for a young and rising Cleveland Indians team, Baerga had multiple 200 hit seasons and was a three-time All Star. Mysteriously, he started to struggle in 1996 and bounced around a little. He was out of baseball after 1999. In 2002, he decided to try to come back and hooked on with the Red Sox. He played primarily at DH but also appeared at second and third base. Baerga made it into 73 games with the Red Sox and hit reasonably well, with a line of .286/.316/.379. He hit just two home runs and drove in 19 runs. Baerga was a positive clubhouse presence and was able to parlay his year into becoming a role player for the Diamondbacks and Nationals for a couple more years.
JEREMY GIAMBI -2003
Theo Epstein took over the Red Sox prior to the 2003 season and set about undertaking a Moneyball philosophy, concentrating on players with high on-base percentages. One of the players he targeted was Yankees' star Jason Giambi's little brother who had a .414 OBP with the A's and Phillies in 2002. Giambi entered the season as the team's primary DH, adding a little extra wrinkle to the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. Unfortunately, Jeremy failed to produce anything close to what he did the previous season. In 50 games, he hit just .197/.342/.354 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He was eventually replaced by David Ortiz, a terrific move. Giambi never appeared in the Majors again.
THE BEST ONE-YEAR DESIGNATED HITTER
This was not at all close. Cepeda was the only one to play a full season with the team and the only one to hit more than eight home runs. Baerga and Leyritz were okay for what they were, but Cepeda had the only truly impressive season. Now, this could all change if J.D. Martinez somehow leaves the Red Sox after this season, but that does not seem all that likely. I hope.
This is Greek symphonic black/death metal band Septicflesh.