2003 was a tough year. Boston had a great season until the ALCS. This was the year that Aaron Boone hit the walkoff home run for the Yankees that propelled them to the World Series and sent the Red Sox home. The Red Sox finished the season 95-67 and won the Wild Card. Manager Grady Little was fired after the season though. 2003 was the first season that Theo Epstein had a lot of control over the roster and he brought two big ideas to the team. He was successful in his goal of developing the lineup into a patient, OBP-oriented team, but his closer-by-committee failed miserably.
FIVE FAVORITE PLAYERS
It was not known at the time, but this was Nomar's final full season with the Red Sox. But he did have a good year. Nomar hit .301/.345/.524 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs. He lead the team in RBIs. He also hit 13 triples and stole 19 bases for one of his better speed/power combo years.
The great Pedro was hurt for part of the season which explains the fact that he only won 14 games, but he only lost four and had a 2.22 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 186.2 innings. He finished third in the Cy Young Award race, which is surprising given his low win total at a time when wins were a lot more important in the vote.
After a down season in 2002, the Red Sox catcher came back strong in 2003 and made his first All Star game. He had one of his best seasons hitting .273/.351/.512 with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. The legend of Varitek as a great game-calling catcher also started to grow that year.
Manny had another huge year in 2003, hitting .325/.427/.587 with 37 home runs and 104 RBIs. He lead the team in home runs and was second in the league in batting average. He also won the Silver Slugger and was named an All Star.
Nixon had quite possibly his best season in 2003, a season that went largely unnoticed because of his place on a team packed with stars. He hit .306/.396/.578 with 28 home runs and 87 RBIs. It was his career high in every category except RBIs. He also played terrific defense.
This was actually not a terrific season for Damon as he hit just .273/.345/.405 with 12 home runs, 67 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He lead the team in stolen bases of course but his OBP left something to be desired from a leadoff man.
Lowe had a decent year, but his high win total was more of a function of his run support than his own pitching statistics. He lead the team with 17 wins but only had a 4.47 ERA. His WHIP was a less-than-impressive 1.416.
The 36-year-old knuckleballer had another decent season in 2003, going 11-7 with a 4.09 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 202.1 innings. He started 33 games and finished two, picking up one save along the way.
Easily one of the best free agent signings the Red Sox ever made. The Twins have been kicking themselves ever since. Ortiz made waves as an MVP candidate late in the season despite not even starting the season as a regular. He hit .288/.369/.592 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs.
The story of how Kevin Millar came to Boston is a very interesting one, one which I actually wrote a paper on for my Conflict Resolution course. Millar hit .276/.348/.472 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs. He proved to be well worth the trouble. He was also a terrific clubhouse character.
Next to David Ortiz, Mueller was probably the Red Sox best signing. He made Shea Hillenbrand expendable with his hitting and won the Silver Slugger for third base. He lead the league in batting average with a .326 mark and hit 19 home runs with 85 RBIs. He had a terrific game in which he hit grand slams from both sides of the plate and added a third home, driving in nine on the day.
Timlin had been a successful pitcher for a long time before joining the Red Sox at the age of 36. He became the Red Sox most reliable setup man for the next several years. In 2003 he was 6-4 with a 3.55 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. He picked up two saves for the season.
Walker was acquired to be the team's new second-baseman and had a decent season for a middle infielder. He is often forgotten when talking about the 2003 season because it was his only year in Boston, but he hit .283/.333/.428 with 13 home runs and 85 RBIs.
FAVORITE MIDSEASON ACQUISITIONS
I have always liked side-arm pitchers and Asian players, so I was excited when the Red Sox acquired Kim, even though it cost Shea Hillenbrand. Kim pitched in a variety of roles in 2003 and lead the team with 16 saves. He solidified the back of the bullpen, though he did also start some games. He was 8-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 79.1 innings.
Another acquisition to shore up the bullpen, the former Rookie of the Year with the Reds was not great in the regular season, but he pitched great in the postseason. He still struck out 21 in 20.1 innings, and 14 in just eight innings in the playoffs.
Shiell was the only player who performed remotely well that was a rookie in 2003. Freddy Sanchez did not do enough and was traded, so the best rookie falls to Shiell who had a 2-0 record with a 4.63 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 23.1 innings over 17 games. He picked up one save as well.
Jason Giambi's younger brother was considered the Red Sox best acquisition of the offseason after hitting 20 home runs at age 27 the last season for Oakland and Philadelphia. It did not work out that way. He hit just .197/.342/.354 with five home runs and 15 RBIs and eventually lost the DH job to Ortiz.
One of the more disappointing members of the bullpen early on, Mendoza was picked up to be one of the members of the closer-by-committee experiment. The former Yankee setup man only went 3-5 with a 6.75 ERA in 66.2 innings.
Suppan was acquired at the trading deadline from the Pirates. He was one of the best starting pitchers available, but performed terribly for Boston and was left off the postseason roster. He was just 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 63 innings in his return to Boston, for whom he started his career. He also cost the team Freddy Sanchez.
Despite giving up the winning run in the ALCS, Wakefield pitched terrifically against the Yankees. He was 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings with 10 strikeouts in the ALCS.
Little was never the best manager in the world. He was often over-matched and made some strange decisions. His most costly was leaving Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS too long. A decision which lead to the Yankees tying the game and eventually winning. Little was fired shortly thereafter.