Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Evolution of My Favorite Players

I became a fan of the Red Sox when I was about ten years old. Since that time, I have had five favorite players. My favorite player changes when the player leaves the team. Unfortunately, in baseball today there is not a lot of loyalty. That does not mean that it was always the player's fault in leaving, sour relationships with management have often lead to them leaving. That's one of the frustrating things about baseball sometimes. It is a business, and the Red Sox are run like a business.

WADE BOGGS (1991-1992)
My first favorite player was the Red Sox third-baseman. I am not exactly sure what made me decide Boggs was mu favorite player. He was a phenomenal hitter, but he was mostly a singles hitter. Boggs was often criticized for caring too much about his own statistics and not enough about the team. I am not sure that is true, I recall vividly seeing video of him crying in the dugout after the Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series. Nevertheless, Boggs did not have much power, but was one of the best contact hitters in the game and was extremely adept at taking a walk, leading to astronomical on-base percentages. He did not have much power, but was decent in the field after some conditioning. Boggs suffered through a miserable 1992 and was stolen away from the Red Sox by the Yankees (one of my early memories of despising the Yankees). It did not seem Red Sox management was terribly interested in bringing him back though, he was never very popular in Boston, and they handed the job off to Scott Cooper, who was an All Star the next two years, albeit undeservedly.

ROGER CLEMENS (1992-1996)
Roger Clemens inherited the favorite player position after Boggs left for pretty obvious reasons. He was the longest tenured player and biggest name on the team. Even before Boggs left, Clemens was the star of the team. One of the best pitchers in the game, not only in his generation, but all-time. Clemens was a three-time Cy Young Award winner and could have won a couple more by that point. He already looked well on his way to Cooperstown. Of course, Clemens had a couple of subpar years, suffering through injuries and ineffectiveness. By the end of 1996, he looked to be back to his old self and even capped the season off with a 20 strikeout game, tying his own record set ten years earlier. Of course, Boston's GM refused to meet Clemens on his contract demands and stated that he was in the twilight of his career. Clemens signed with Toronto as a free agent for the 1997 and promptly won the Cy Young Award each of the next two years.

MO VAUGHN (1996-1998)
Mo Vaughn became the big name player on the team after Clemens left. A larger-than-life figure, Vaughn was a beast of a player with tremendous power, great contact hitting ability, and the ability to take a walk. Vaughn had lead the team in home runs and runs batted in each of the seasons since 1992. He won the American League MVP in 1995, although he did not really deserve it. As big as his bat was, Vaughn's heart was even bigger. He was the emotional core of the team and he engaged in a lot of charity work in the offseasons. The big burly first baseman himself looked to be headed to Cooperstown, but he did not age well after leaving Boston. He left after then GM Dan Duquette insulted him with a low offer. Vaughn went off to play for the Angels.

Vaughn's replacement was also already on the roster. Garciaparra came on strong with a magnificent rookie season and then followed that up with an even better year in 1998. Garciaparra had good power, better ability to hit for contact and was one of the better all-around players the Red Sox had ever produced. The shortstop was not great defensively, but had a knack for making spectacular plays on occasion. His throwing arm was one of the best at the position. Garciaparra also had decent speed. He would go on to win the batting title in 1999 and 2000, even flirting with the magic .400 number late into summer in 2000. However, in 2001, injuries started taking their toll. He never again hit for the ridiculously high batting averages of 1999 and 2000, but his power did come back. Garciaparra also began sulking in 2004 after he was part of a rumored trade to Chicago for Magglio Ordonez, if the Red Sox managed to trade Manny Ramirez to Texas for Alex Rodriguez. He did not play much in 2004, citing ankle injuries and was traded to the Cubs at midseason in a four-team deal that brought Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins and Orlando Cabrera from the Expos to the Red Sox.

JASON VARITEK (2004-present)
Jason Varitek quickly became my new favorite player. Although not the dynamic offensive player that some of his peers were, Varitek still had very good power and was a fine defensive catcher. I always liked catchers and it was good to see the Red Sox finally had a good one long-term. Varitek had already been an All Star in 2003 and finally looked to be living up to his expectations after having some injury problems early on. 2003-2005 were great years for the catcher, as he was named the starter on the 2005 All Star team, and won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. He was brought back to Boston as a free agent after the 2004 season and was named the team captain, wearing a "C" on his jersey from that point on. Varitek's leadership skills and work with the pitching staff remains top-notch even as his offensive abilities have diminished. Varitek even took to being relegated to backup duty this past year graciously, continuing to show the characteristics of strong leadership and a team-first attitude that he has become synonymous with. Varitek is a free agent this year. I am worried that he may not be back next year, if that does occur, I am not sure who will take his place as my favorite player.

1 comment:

  1. I think Varitek became the favorite of a lot Red Sox fans in 2004 after planting his glove in ARod's face.