FIVE FAVORITE PLAYERS
The Hit Dog had another big year for the Red Sox in 1997, but some cracks were beginning to show in his image. He dealt with injuries for a big chunk of the year, got in some trouble with the law, and there were starting to be serious concerns about whether he would stay with the Red Sox. Nevertheless, he hit .315/.420/.560 with 35 home runs and 96 RBIs.
Valentin was the subject of trade rumors coming into the season as he was set to lose his starting shortstop job to Nomar Garciaparra. Eventually he agreed to move to second base. Then after Tim Naehring went down for the season, he moved to third base where he played much of the rest of his career. He very quietly put together a good season, hitting .306/.372/.499 with 18 home runs and 77 RBIs.
Wakefield had moments where he looked like the 1995 version of himself. He ended up with only a 12-15 record, but his ERA was a decent 4.25 and he pitched more than 200 innings. He struck out 151 and pitched four complete games with two shutouts, both leading the team. He was the definition of a workhorse and that was something Boston sorely needed in 1997.
Flash started the season as the team's ace by default. He was the most consistent starter for the Red Sox but ended up with a losing record due to a lack of offensive support when he was on the mound. After the trading deadline, Gordon was moved to closer, a role in which he flourished, as will be seen in 1998. For the season, Gordon was 6-10 with a team-leading 3.74 ERA and 159 strikeouts. He also chalked up 11 saves after moving to the bullpen.
Jefferson had the highest batting average in the league for quite awhile but did not qualify for the title since he was platooning with Mike Stanley for most of the year. By the time he started to get enough at-bats to qualify, his average had dropped quite a bit. He still ended up hitting .319/.358/.470, leading the team in average. He also hit 13 home runs and drove in 67. He had a 22 game hitting streak in 1997 as well.
Sele showed flashes of brilliance but for the most part was very inconsistent. He ended up leading the team with 13 wins, against 12 losses, but his ERA was an unsightly 5.38 and he ended up with 122 strikeouts in 177.1 innings.
After a bit of a down season in 1996, O'Leary came back to be the most consistent Red Sox outfielder, which really is not saying much when the outfield consists of Darren Bragg and Wil Cordero. Still, he hit .309/.358/.479 with 15 home runs and 80 RBIs. Acceptable numbers for an outfielder, but nothing horribly impressive.
Naehring was having a breakout season in 1997, hitting .286/.375/.467 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs through 70 games. Then he went down with an injury. He never played again.
Frye came into the season as a jack-of-all-trades utility man and played every position but pitcher and catcher at some point in the season. He quietly put together a very nice season and ended up winning the starting second base job after Naehring got hurt and Valentin moved to third. He ended up hitting .312/.352/.433 with three home runs, 51 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases.
This is how bad Boston was at picking up new players. Their best acquisition was a middle reliever who pitched in 52 games. Corsi was pretty decent in the little work that he did, ending up with a nice 3.43 ERA and a 5-3 record, and he struck out almost twice as many hitters as he walked, but there is not much else to say.
I remember reading some analysts calling this a potential steal. Mack played in Japan the prior season. He ended up with a nice batting line, but only played in 60 games due to injuries. He hit .315/.368/.438, but only hit three home runs and drove in 17.
The biggest name acquisition the Red Sox got coming into the season was former two-time Cy Young winner Saberhagen. But due to an injury the prior season, he was not able to make his debut with the Red Sox until very late in the season and only ended up pitching in six games the entire year. How's that for making people forget about Roger Clemens?
FAVORITE MIDSEASON ACQUISITIONS
Boston made one trade at the deadline, trading off closer Heathcliff Slocumb who was getting bombed a lot to the Mariners for Lowe and Jason Varitek. It was one of the greatest trades the team ever made, though neither player did much in 1997. Lowe ended up pitching in eight games out of the bullpen, taking two losses, but with a decent 3.38 ERA.
Varitek had one at-bat and singled.
Could it be any one else? This is one of the greatest rookie seasons ever. Garciaparra was the leadoff hitter in 1997 and ended up hitting .306/.342/.534 with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs (a leadoff hitter record), and 22 stolen bases. He lead the league in at-bats, hits, and triples and finished second in runs and total bases. It was an incredible rookie season that ended up with him winning Rookie of the Year unanimously. He was also the team's lone All Star.
Hatteberg actually had a somewhat impressive rookie season as well that was completely overshadowed by Nomar's incredible season. He ended the season taking over the starting catcher job from Bill Haselman by hitting .277/.354/.434 with ten home runs and 44 RBIs. He actually drew more walks than the dangerous Garciaparra, an ability that would serve him well in his career.
Like Saberhagen, Avery was a former star pitcher Boston picked up as a reclamation project. Avery was mostly healthy though, he was just really bad. The left-hander ended up going 6-7 with an awful 6.42 ERA and 51 strikeouts versus 49 walks in 95 innings. He also got paid a lot of money to do it, then managed to have his contract for 1998 vest, meaning Boston was stuck with him for another year.
Cordero had been moved to left field where his fielding was actually decent for the first time in his career and he was hitting relatively decently for awhile too, that is until he was arrested for domestic assault, then gave a thoroughly embarrassing interview about it. That was it for Cordero with the Red Sox. He did hit 18 home runs though, so there is that.
Seriously, this is all Boston could get for Jose Canseco after a very good 1996? Wasdin was at least versatile, but he ended up with an ugly 4-6 record and a 4.40 ERA. He did pitch 124.1 innings and was used as a starter and reliever, even finishing ten games. His versatility was the lone good thing about him though. He coughed up 18 home runs, leading to the nickname "Way Back" Wasdin.
Another pitcher picked up on the cheap to help Boston fans forget Clemens. Checo had previously pitched in Japan and was expected to be a decent long-term investment. It did not work out that way. He ended up making it into only five games but did have a 3.38 ERA and struck out 14 in 13.1 innings. Unfortunately this was the high point of his career.
Like Dwayne Hosey in 1996, Pemberton came off an incredibly strong September the year before to win a starting outfield job. Also, like Hosey, he tanked. Pemberton was the starting right-fielder and ended up hitting .238/.314/.365 with two home runs in 27 games. He was done as a Major Leaguer.