Thursday, March 21, 2013

Season in Review: 1996

Kevin Kennedy's second and final season as the Red Sox was a letdown after their AL East Championship season of 1995.  There was again a lot of roster turnover and Boston consulted with an individual more known for rotisserie (fantasy) baseball which lead to some slightly unusual personnel decisions.  The team got off to a dreadful 6-19 start which they never really recovered from, despite the fact that they were one of the top teams during the summer.  This was a year when they traded off a lot of players.  Unfortunately, most of the players they acquired did very little.  They finished the season at 85-77, in third place

Mo Vaughn
After his MVP season of 1995, Vaughn was under some pressure to repeat his performance.  If anything, he was better.  Vaughn was the sole All Star for the Red Sox in 1996 as he hit .326/.420/.583.  He lead the league in plate appearances and finished in the top ten in just about every major offensive category.  He hit 44 home runs with 143 RBIs.  It was a monster season for the Hit Dog.

John Valentin
Unlike Vaughn, Valentin was not able to continue his success from the previous season.  He was still decent though, if a little bit more average in 1996.  Valentin ended the season at .296/.374/.436 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.  He also stole nine bases while being caught ten times.  His numbers across the board were down.  With the impending emergence of Nomar Garciaparra, Valentin's name started getting bandied about in trade rumors.

Roger Clemens
Despite a losing record, The Rocket was back in fine form.  He finished the season with a 10-13 record, but lead the league with 257 strikeouts and had a 3.63 ERA.  Clemens also replicated his record 20 strikeout game late in the season, this time against the Tigers.  Unfortunately this was the final season for Clemens in Boston.

Jose Canseco
Canseco was on his way to one of his best seasons until missing a month and a half with an injury.  He ended up only playing in 96 games, but finished with a batting line of .289/.400/.589 with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs.  Had he played the full season, he would have likely ended up with 40 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Tim Wakefield
The knuckleballer was nowhere near as impressive in 1996 as he had been the previous season.  He still won 14 games, but lost 13 and finished with an ERA of 5.14.  But he was a workhorse, pitching 211.2 innings and striking out 140.  Such is the plight of the knuckleball pitcher.

Tim Naehring
The longtime prospect continued to improve.  He looked like a good bet to become a star after hitting .288/.363/.444 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs.  He did only get 16 doubles, which is kind of an odd thing for someone with that many home runs.

Mike Greenwell
It was Gator's final season in Boston.  1996 ended up being his final season in the Major Leagues despite an attempt with the Reds.  He ended up only appearing in 77 games, but had a high point when he had a nine RBI game, accounting for all of Boston's runs, a record.  His season line was .295/.336/.441 with seven home runs.

Reggie Jefferson
Jefferson had bounced from team to team for years before finally breaking through in 1996.  He was able to play in over 100 games for the first time due to injuries to Canseco and Greenwell.  He responded with a terrific season, hitting .347/.388/.593 with 19 home runs and 74 RBIs.

Mike Stanley
One of the rare players to come to the Red Sox directly from the Yankees and actually do well.  Stanley was 33 years old but a terrific hitter.  He was not quite the same behind the plate though and 1996 would be his last season as a full-time catcher.  He ended up hitting .270/.383/.506 with 24 home runs and 69 RBIs.  He also walked more than he struck out, unusual for a catcher.  It was the best offensive season by a Red Sox catcher since Carlton Fisk.

Tom Gordon
The diminutive right-hander was brought to Boston to be a number two starter, but he did not end up having a terribly good year.  His record was 12-9 which was a little deceptive because his ERA ended up being 5.59.  He did strike out 171 hitters in 215.1 innings though.

Heathcliff Slocumb
Since Rick Aguilera left as a free agent, Boston swung a trade with the Phillies to acquire closer Slocumb.  He got off to a horrific start but calmed down to become one of the most reliable closers in the league.  He ended up with 31 saves for the Red Sox and 88 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

Darren Bragg
As I mentioned earlier, Boston traded off a number of players in 1996, including Mike Stanton, Jamie Moyer, Kevin Mitchell, and Jeff Manto.  Bragg was acquired in the Moyer trade and ended up having the longest tenure in Boston of any of the new players.  He hit .252/.357/.365 with Boston and became the team's starting center fielder.  He was always a hard-nosed player which endeared him to the fans.

Mark Brandenburg
This is the closest I could find to a decent rookie in 1996.  The side-arming Brandenburg was acquired in the Stanton trade and ended up with a 4-2 record, 3.81 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 28.1 innings.  Not bad.

Kevin Mitchell
After playing in Japan in 1995, Mitchell returned to the Major Leagues with the Red Sox and was one of the more unusual acquisitions by the team.  He was expected to add some extra pop to the lineup but ended up playing only 27 games.  He hit reasonably well with a line of .304/.385/.413 but only hit two home runs and drove in 13.  He was later dealt to the Reds for two players who never made the Red Sox big league team.

Wil Cordero
Cordero was yet another player acquired because of his offensive ability, despite the fact that he was something less than a wizard in the field.  He was more a disappointment due to getting hurt early on and only playing in 59 games.  He did hit .288/.330/.404 with three home runs and 37 RBIs.  Boston ended up getting Jeff Frye to make up for losing Cordero for most of the season.

Alex Cole
This one is more personal.  I am not sure anyone really expected much out of Alex Cole, but I always liked him.  He was fast and he wore goggles.  It was endearing.  He ended up only playing in 24 games with the Red Sox with a terrible .222/.296/.319 line.  He did steal five bases, but he was caught three times.  Not impressive at all.  He was only brought in, along with Milt Cuyler, in case Dwayne Hosey was a fluke, which he was, but neither Cole nor Cuyler were any good either, so Boston did the sensible thing and brought Lee Tinsley back and then acquired Bragg.  It worked out, sort of.

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