Boston returned to the playoffs in 1998 after winning the Wild Card at 92-70. Unfortunately they were knocked out in the ALDS by the Cleveland Indians i four games. The big change was the acquisition of 1997 NL Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez.
FIVE FAVORITE PLAYERS
Coming off a fantastic rookie season, Nomar was even better in 1998. He moved down into more of a run production spot in the order and responded with another great season. He finished second in the AL MVP race and probably should have won it. He hit .323/.362/.584 with 35 home runs and 122 RBIs. His stolen bases dipped to 12 and hits to 195, but otherwise he had better numbers than his rookie season.
The Hit Dog had his last great season of his career in 1998. It was also his final season in Boston, which was fairly heartbreaking. Vaughn crushed 40 home runs and drove in 115. He also finished second in the AL batting race to Bernie Williams, ending with a season line of .337/.402/.591. He also had a strong performance in the ALDS.
Flash's first full season as closer was a resounding success. He accumulated a team season record of 46 saves and set a Major League record in consecutive save opportunities converted. He also made the All Star team and won the Rolaids Relief Award winner in a no-brainer. He also had a 7-4 record, 2.72 ERA, and 78 strikeouts.
The knuckleballer had a very good season in 1998, finishing second on the team with 17 wins which would be a career high. His overall numbers were 17-8, 4.02 ERA, and 146 strikeouts in 216 innings. He was once again a workhorse for the Red Sox.
Valentin had a tough season in 1998, but he did finish with some decent numbers. Unfortunately it would be his last good season with Boston as injuries would start to take their toll. Valentin hit .247/.340/.442 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs. He was also very good defensively in 1998 at third base.
Saberhagen won the Comeback Player of the Year in 1998 as he finished with a very successful season. He had a record of 15-8 with a 3.96 ERA and 100 strikeouts versus just 29 walks in 175 innings.
The only outfielder with a decent season, O'Leary developed into a fairly potent middle of the order bat with his first 20 home run season. O'Leary hit .270/.314/.468 with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs. It was his first season in left field.
Dealing with injuries most of the season lead to Jefferson playing in only 62 games in 1998. He hit well in those games, as he typically did. Jefferson finished with a line of .306/.374/.520 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs.
There is no doubt that Pedro Martinez was the best pickup of the year for the Red Sox in 1998. The right-hander solidified the rotation and gave Boston the ace it had been lacking since Roger Clemens. Martinez finished second in the Cy Young race after finishing second to Clemens in the three main pitching categories. He went 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 233.2 innings.
It was Eck's final season of his Hall of Fame career. He was brought in to serve as a mentor for Gordon in his conversion from starter to closer, which was something Eckersley himself did. Eck went 4-1 with a 4.76 ERA and one save. He was dominating, but he got the job done.
Lewis was brought in to infuse some speed into Boston's lineup and defense into the outfield. He succeeded on both fronts stealing 29 bases and playing well in the outfield. He also had a decent year at the plate, hitting .268/.352/.362 with eight home runs and 63 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
Acquired in a trade with Texas, Buford performed very well as a backup outfielder. He hit .282/.349/.523 with ten home runs, 42 RBIs, and five stolen bases. It was his best season in the Major Leagues.
FAVORITE MIDSEASON ACQUISITION
Stanley made his second stint with the team after being traded in 1997 to the Yankees. This time he was acquired in a deadline deal with the Blue Jays for Peter Munro and Jay Yennaco, neither of whom did anything for the Jays. Stanley helped after the injuries to Jefferson hitting .288/.388/.500 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 47 games.
It was the second consecutive year that Boston had an impressive rookie catcher. Varitek essentially took the starting role from Scott Hatteberg by the end of the season after hitting .253/.309/.407 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs.
Sadler was supposed to be the next great middle infielder Boston developed after Garciaparra. He was billed as being a good contact hitter with blazing speed. Sadler started on Opening Day but proved he was not ready yet after hitting just .226/.276/.395.
I really liked the acquisition of Leyritz, even though it cost Aaron Sele who had a great year for Texas in 1998. Leyritz even hit well for his time in Boston with a line of .287/.385/.519 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. But Leyritz was not happy with his role. He was brought in to platoon at first base, catcher, and designated hitter. But Varitek developed into a good player, squeezing Leyritz out of one position. He complained and was eventually traded to San Diego.
This was more of a personal disappointment for me as I always liked Lemke when he played for the Braves. He was brought in as depth if Sadler disappointed. He did, and Lemke took over until he went down with a concussion. His career was over.
Garciaparra hit .333/.333/1.000 in the ALDS with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
Gordon had some difficulties with nerves in the postseason and it showed. He blew a save and took the loss in the final game of the series.