I have always been a fan of closers. I am not really sure why, but next to catcher, closer is my favorite position. Maybe because there are so few really good ones. It takes a lot of talent to put together a Hall of Fame career, or even a long-lasting career as a closer.
That being said, the Red Sox when I first started watching were on a pretty good hot streak with closers. They had a lot of good ones.
Let's look at some of these players:
LEE SMITH (1988-1990)
Lee Smith was a mountain of a man, and an incredibly intimidating presence on the mound. He was acquired from the Cubs for Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper before the 1988 season and put up some big numbers for the Red Sox. In 2+ seasons with Boston he went 12-7, with a 3.05 ERA, 209 strikeouts in 168.2 innings, and 58 saves. He was traded to the Cardinals for Tom Brunansky during the 1990 season, a trade that was not particularly great for Boston.
JEFF REARDON (1990-1992)
Signed as a free agent from the Twins before the 1990 season, his signing necessitated the trade of Smith. He was not quite as good as Smith though, going 8-9, with a 3.41 ERA, 109 strikeouts in 153 innings, and 88 saves. Reardon did break the team record for saves in a season in 1991 when he saved 40 and was selected to the All Star Game that year. The next year, Reardon broke Rollie Fingers's career record for saves, which was soon surrendered to former teammate Smith. Reardon was traded to the Braves during the 1992 season for Nate Minchey and a minor leaguer.
JEFF RUSSELL (1993-1994)
Jeff Russell was signed as a free agent from the Athletics and was part of the overhaul of the Red Sox in 1993. Russell had a good year in 1993, going 1-4 with a 2.70 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 46.2 innings, and 33 saves. His numbers completely fell off a cliff in 1994 though and he was traded to the Indians for Chris Nabholz and Steve Farr.
RICK AGUILERA (1995)
Rick Aguilera was picked up from the Twins in July of 1995 for the stretch run since the Red Sox were in contention and really did not have a closer. Aguilera went 2-2, 2.67, with 23 strikeouts in 30.1 innings, and 20 saves, almost single-handedly saving the team's season. He was allowed to leave as a free agent after the year and returned to the Twins.
So, what is the secret to being a great closer from 1988-1995? Look closely:
IT"S THE FACIAL HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Papelbon, take note.