Friday, May 27, 2016

Red Sox With No Cards: 1998

Pacific helped avoid a lot more players appearing on this list.  Online featured the only cards available of players like Mark Lemke, Brian Shouse, Mike Benjamin, Rich Garces (though he would later appear in more sets), and Jim Corsi.  Butch Henry appeared in two different Pacific sets.  Unfortunately, not everyone could appear in Online and there were a few players to not appear on cardboard with the Red Sox.

This long-time Dodgers prospect-in-waiting was gifted with a ton of power, but he could just never crack through the lineup for any significant amount of time.  The most games he ever played in was 81 in 1995.  He hit eight home runs that year, and nine the next year.  Just prior to the 1998 season, the Dodgers gave up on him and released him.  Boston signed him for some bench depth.  He made it into 13 games for Boston, hitting .292/.346/.792 with three home runs, three doubles, and seven RBIs.  Not bad for such a short stint.  That was it for his Major League career though.

Johns was a journeyman infielder who played for a number of organizations, but only made it to the Major Leagues in one season.  He played in just two games in 1998 with the Red Sox, but only had one plate appearance.  He did draw a walk in that plate appearance though.  Johns played two innings at second base in one of the games with an assist, a double play, and a put-out.  He continued to bounce around after 1998.

1998 was Mahay's third season with the Red Sox, and his second as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Mahay pitched in 29 games, his career high to this point, and again pitched fairly well.  He was 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA.  Unfortunately he walked more batters than he struck out and he gave up a hit per inning pitched.  Ultimately Boston cut ties with him because he was just not effective enough.  He was placed on waivers just prior to the 1999 season and was claimed by the A's.  He bounced around quite a bit after that.

The long-time Pirates star (by default since Pittsburgh purged their roster of most good players after 1992) spent a very short amount of time in Boston.  He was acquired at the trading deadline along with fellow No Card member Greg Swindell for a few minor leaguers from the Twins.  Swindell was the player Boston really wanted though.  Merced appeared in nine games with the Red Sox, with 12 plate appearances.  He did not get a single hit.  He walked twice, though he did have two RBIs.  He was released a month later and picked up by the Cubs, his third team of the year.

Kevin Mitchell's cousin did not have the same level of talent.  Mitchell was never quite able to crack into the Majors for good, or for more than one season at a time.  After short stints with the Braves, Mariners, and Reds, it was time for him to try his hand with the Red Sox (one of three teams for whom both he and his cousin played).  Mitchell made it into 23 games and hit reasonably well.  His slash line was .273/.400/.333, and he drove in six runs.  Despite being just 28, Mitchell never made it back to the Majors.
A lot of Boston's mid-season trade acquistions were denied cards.  Reyes was picked up in a trade with the Padres along with a couple of players yet to come in this post.  Jim Leyritz was sent to the Padres in the deal.  Reyes was the best of the players the Red Sox received in this trade.  He pitched in 24 games with a 3.52 ERA.  After the season though, he returned to the Padres, and had a pretty good year.

Romero was one of the other players to be acquired from the Padres in the Leyritz trade.  Romero was a backup catcher for the Red Sox and played in just 12 games.  He hit .231/.375/.308.  He hit one double among his three hits.  The next season he was traded to the Mets for Kelly Ramos, a minor league catcher who never made it to the Majors.  Romero would resurface in the Majors with the Rockies in 2003.  Romero did appear in some minor league sets in 1999.

After a few seasons as a backup infielder for the White Sox, Boston picked up Snopek in a minor deal in which they gave up former first round pick Corey Jenkins.  Snopek played in just eight games with the Red Sox though, spending almost equal time at second, third, and designated hitter.  He had two hits and two runs batted in over 14 plate appearances.  1998 was his last year in the Majors, despite playing for a number of other organizations.

Once an All Star starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, Swindell enjoyed a career renaissance as a relief pitcher in the mid 1990's.  The southpaw was acquired from the Twins in the same trading deadline deal as Merced above.  Swindell was the primary piece Boston wanted and he pitched fairly well down the stretch.  He pitched in 29 games and had a 2-3 record with a 3.38 ERA.  He made it onto the postseason roster and pitched an inning and a third of scoreless relief.  After the season, he was signed to a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks.

Valdez previously appeared in just 11 games with the Giants in 1995.  He pitched in just four games for the Red Sox in 1998 and did not allow a run.  He had a 1-0 record and struck out four while walking five in 3.1 innings.  He pitched in Japan in 1999.  Valdez did appear on some minor league cards with the Red Sox organization.

The last of the three players Boston acquired in the Leyritz deal, Veras was another relief pitcher.  He was the least-used of the three players.  He pitched in just seven games, and with a 10.13 ERA, it is not hard to see why that may have been.  He gave up 12 hits and walked seven in just eight innings, while only striking out two.  He played all over the world after 1998.

West was a well-traveled left-hander who returned from Japan to the  Majors in 1998.  1998 was his last appearance in the Majors and he made it into just six games.  He had a 27.00 ERA over two innings as a lefty reliever.  He did strike out four, but walked seven.  The West experiment did not work out and was abandoned quickly.

Of these players, I would most like to have seen Swindell get a card.  He was a valuable bullpen piece and even played in the postseason with the Red Sox.  I liked Swindell a little bit when I first started following baseball too.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

One-Year Wonder Pt. 27: Rey Sanchez

Every once in awhile, the Red Sox pick up a veteran player for a year, or just the stretch run that was a star at one point that I become fascinated with. It's a player that is basically only a role player at that point in their career, but may show flashes of their old brilliance. It's so unusual to see them as a member of the Red Sox, that I try to find as many of their cards as possible. This series will be about some of those players.

Rey Sanchez was a very good-fielding middle infielder who did not hit a lot.  He came up with the Cubs and played mostly shortstop for them for several years.  He moved over to second base after Ryne Sandberg retired.  Sanchez bounced around a little bit after that, playing with the Yankees, Royals, Giants, and Braves.  He solidified his reputation as a good defensive player while hitting just enough to stay in the lineup.  

Boston signed him prior to the 2002 season to solidify second base after purging the roster of Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman, Lou Merloni, and Chris Stynes the previous season.  He proved to be everything he was advertised to be as he hit .286/.318/.345, decent numbers, but certainly not dazzling.  But he was once again terrific in the field.  He never hit for much power, but he managed to hit his first home run since 2000 that season.  For the season, he was a 1.4 WAR player, much of that coming from his defensive prowess.

Sanchez was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season.  Boston decided to go with a more offensive player at second base, picking up Todd Walker, himself only lasting one season.  But where Walker was better with the bat, he was a significant step down with the glove. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One-Card Wonder Pt. 28: Tim Young

Tim Young's Major League career consisted of just 18 games over two seasons, spread across three years.  He was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1996, yet managed to move quickly through their system, making his Major League debut in 1998.  He did not pitch well in 10 games and did not make it back to the Majors until 2000, after he had signed on with the Red Sox.

Young pitched in eight games with the Red Sox, mostly in May.  Again, he did not pitch well.  The southpaw pitched seven innings, giving up five runs.  He struck out six and walked just two over those seven innings, but gave up seven hits as well.

After the season, Young was sold to the Hiroshima Carp of Japan.  He signed back with the Boston organization before the 2002 season, then bounced around from team to team, never making it back to the Majors.  As a left-handed pitcher though, he was a valuable commodity, even if he didn't make it back to the big leagues.  He left baseball after the 2004 season.

Somehow he managed to appear on a Major League card with the Red Sox, despite sharing it with Israel Alcantara.  He did have a few cards with the Expos previously as well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Topps Now May 8, 2016

The next Topps Now card features David Ortiz and Carl Yastrzemski.  On May 8, Ortiz hit two home runs, the first to tie Carl Yastrzemski's Red Sox home run mark, and the next one passed him.  Ortiz is now #2 on the Red Sox all-time home run record.  If Ortiz does indeed retire this year, he will not have a chance to break Williams's mark.  As of today, Ortiz has hit 456 home runs with the Red Sox.  Williams hit 521.  So Ortiz is still quite a way off from the all-time team record.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 19: Lou Boudreau

Years with Boston: 1951-1952 (.265/.350/.393, 5 home runs, 49 RBIs)
Best Year in Boston: 1951 (.267/.353/.396, 5 home runs, 47 RBIs)
Another player who was past his prime when he was acquired by Boston was longtime Cleveland Indians shortstop and player-manager Lou Boudreau.  Boudreau had long been a tormentor of the Red Sox, having guided his team to a one-game playoff win over Boston in 1948.  He was named MVP that year and was a one-man wrecking crew in the one-game playoff, hitting two home runs in four hits.  He was also one of the managers to utilize the shift against Ted Williams.

Boston acquired him in late 1950 largely with an eye towards him taking over as manager.  Boudreau did not play a lot in 1951, his first year with Boston.  Johnny Pesky was still going strong as the shortstop, with Vern Stephens also still in the fold.  Steve O'Neill had taken over as manager the previous season after Joe McCarthy was fired.  Boudreau was reasonably productive in 82 games, hitting .267/.353/.396 with five home runs.

The next season, Boudreau was named player-manager, though he did not play very often.  He appeared in just four games, without a hit.  He would manage the team through the 1954 season, attempting to bring in an infusion of youth.  He alienated many of the team's stars, leading to the retirements of Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio and the trade of Pesky.  His managerial record with Boston was 229-232.

Boudreau is in the Hall of Fame for his time with the Indians.  He was a great player with Cleveland and won the MVP in a terrific 1948 season.  His time in Boston is not terribly relevant to his Hall of Fame career, and his managerial stint is best forgotten.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

1991 Topps #702: Tim Naehring

In this series, I will look at my first team set: 1991 Topps. This was the set I started my baseball card collection with.
Though he was not the most heralded rookie in 1990, Tim Naehring would actually go on to have the best career of all of the players to make their Major League debuts with Boston that season.  Phil Plantier was the rookie that received the most fanfare, and with good reason at the time.  But Naehring was impressive in his own rights.  Naehring was an eighth round draft pick in 1988 and moved quickly through the system.  It would take him a few years to make the Majors for good due to injuries and ineffectiveness, but he had a good start to his career.

Naehring played in 23 games for Boston, coming up in July to provide some middle infield depth.  He spent most of the time in 1990 at shortstop which was his expected position early on.  He hit .271/.333/.412 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.  His impressive output positioned him to be the starting shortstop on Opening Day in 1991.  Unfortunately he did not play well, and was injured and Luis Rivera reclaimed his job.

Naehring became a regular 1994, mostly playing second base in place of Scott Fletcher, but he also played shortstop and third base.  In 1995, Naehring was the starting third-baseman, which is where he stayed until suffering a career-ending knee injury in 1997.  He had been a productive and consistent player until that time.   

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Red Sox With No Cards: 1997

1997 was a little bit better from a card standpoint.  Oddly, most of the players who have no Red Sox cards are players who have appeared in one of these posts before.  So a number of these players have actually been with the Red Sox spanning multiple years.  Yet, they have no cards.

Borland had been a fairly important part of the Phillies bullpen for several years coming into the 1997 season.  The year before, he pitched in 69 games with a 7-3 record and a 4.07 ERA.  The Phillies traded him to the Mets prior to the 1997 season with Ricardo Jordan for Rico Brogna.  He appeared in 13 games for the Mets before being traded to the Red Sox for fellow No Card Member Ricky Trlicek.  Borland pitched in just three games for Boston, with a 13.50 ERA.  He never pitched in more than 18 games again after 1997.  Toby Borland was not related to former Red Sox pitcher Tom Borland.

1997 was Brandenburg's second season with the Red Sox and his last season in the Major Leagues.  He was used frequently by Boston, pitching in 31 games, but was inconsistent at best.  He finished the season 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA.  The side-arming reliever did pick up 34 strikeouts versus 16 walks in 41 innings.  After the season, Brandenburg was traded back to the Rangers along with Aaron Sele and Bill Haselman for Jim Leyritz and Damon Buford, though he did not pitch in the Majors for them.

After a one-game stint with the Red Sox in 1996, somehow Ken Grundt made it back to the Big Show in 1997.  This time, he pitched in two games, but he wasn't much better than he had been the previous season.  He pitched three innings, compared to the 0.1 inning he pitched in 1996, though with a 9.00 ERA.  Grundt pitched one more season in the minor leagues in 1998 before hanging it up.  Despite pitching for four organizations, Grundt only ever pitched in the Major Leagues with the Red Sox, and never had a Major League card.

Hudson's third season with the Red Sox was his best one yet.  Yet, he still did not get a proper Major League card with Boston.  He pitched in 26 games with a 3-1 record and a 3.53 ERA.  He did have a little trouble with the free pass, walking 14 while also striking out 14 in 35.2 innings.  Hudson did not pitch in the Majors for the Red Sox in 1998, despite staying in the organization.  He was traded at the trading deadline to the Brewers for Eddy Diaz in a very minor trade.  Diaz never played for Boston and Hudson made it into just one game for Milwaukee.  That was his last appearance in the Majors.

For a short amount of time in 1997, it looked like Kerry Lacy might emerge as the Red Sox closer.  He picked up three saves over the course of about 12 days.  That was his save total for the season though.  Lacy's opportunity arose as a result of Heathcliff Slocumb's ineffectiveness.  Lacy was also in his second season with the Red Sox after being acquired in the same trade as Mark Brandenburg (for Mike Stanton).  Unfortunately, Lacy's overall season was not very impressive.  He had a 6.11 ERA over 45.2 innings and issued more walks than strikeouts.  He never appeared in the Majors again after 1997.

After a season away from the Majors, Mahay made it back to Boston in 1997.  This time, he was a left-handed relief pitcher after transitioning away from the outfield.  Mahay was very impressive in his first season as a reliever, showing up in 28 games, oftentimes as a lefty specialist.  His ERA was a sparkling 2.52 and he was 3-0 with 22 strikeouts versus 11 walks in 25 innings.  Mahay would bounce back and forth between the minors and majors over the next couple of seasons but would eventually have a long Major League career as a lefty reliever.  Mahay did not appear on many cards over his career, which had more to do with his status as a former replacement player than it did as a reliever.

The longtime Twins pitching prospect made the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox in 1997 after a coming over from Minnesota toward the end of the 1996 season.  Mahomes pitched in ten games over the first month of the season before being sent to the minors, and eventually Japan.  Mahomes was 1-0 with an 8.10 ERA.  One of the major things that sunk his season was giving up 10 walks in just 10 innings and only striking out five.  He would make it back to the Majors in 1999 with the Mets, for whom he turned in a good season.  He would then pitch in the Majors for a few more years.

McKeel played a bit more often than he had in his debut season in Boston in which he appeared just once, as a defensive replacement.  He still appeared as a defensive replacement a couple of times, but he actually accumulated three at-bats.  Four of his games were as a catcher, with one as a first-baseman.  McKeel did not get a hit in his three at-bats and struck out once.  He would resurface with the Rockies in 2002 and actually pick up four hits in 13 at-bats.

Pride was always an interesting player.  He was the first deaf player in Major League baseball since 1945.  He was coming off a fairly successful season with the Tigers in 1996 and played reasonably well again for Detroit in 1997.  He was picked up as a free agent in late August by Boston and made it into two games for the Red Sox, both as a pinch hitter.  In one of those at-bats, he homered.  Pride would bounce around a bit over the next several seasons, and even returned to Boston in 2000.  He was a fascinating story.

Making his second appearance on one of these posts, Trlicek last appeared for Boston in 1994.  Since that time, he bounced around several organizations, playing in the Majors for the Mets in 1996.  Trlicek began the 1997 season on the Opening Day roster for Boston and pitched in 18 games for the Red Sox, going 3-4 with a 4.63 ERA.  Not good, but not terrible either.  He walked 18 though and just struck out 10 in 23.1 innings, which was definitely not good.  Trlicek was eventually traded back to the Mets for Toby Borland and pitched in nine games with an 8.00 ERA.  That was his last appearance in the Majors.

If I had to pick just one player from this group who I would most like to see in a Red Sox uniform on a card, I would pick Curtis Pride.  His story is inspirational.  Deaf from birth, he had to overcome a lot to make it to the Major Leagues.  And in just two pinch-hit at-bats with Boston, he picked up a home run.  I would have liked to see bullpen stalwarts like Mark Brandenburg, Joe Hudson, Kerry Lacy, and Ron Mahay as well, and we likely would have had 1997 been more like the early 1990's when companies were producing cards of many more players.  Someone like Ken Grundt or Walt McKeel likely would never have seen any cards.  Their Major League careers consist of just a few games each.