Thursday, November 3, 2016

Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1920-1929

Ugh, the 1920's.  Coming off of the team's most successful decade in history came their worst decade in history.  It started off terribly when, in early January 1920, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  Things did not improve from there.  It was a time of financial desperation for the Red Sox and the team was constantly selling off whatever few stars they had.  While the Yankees were blossoming, the Red Sox finished under .500 every year, including in dead-last place several seasons.  But the decade was not without some stars.  Unfortunately, few players stuck around very long, so there was often a choice to be made.

Catcher was a weak position for Boston this decade.  It was fairly close between Picinich, Muddy Ruel, and Johnnie Heving, with Picinich winning based on a higher WAR score over three years.  Heving had a .319 average one season and played more games and seasons, and Ruel was the best defender, but Picinich played three seasons with some high on-base percentages.  For his Red Sox career, Picinich hit .268/.373/.368.  Picinich was originally acquired in a trade with the Senators basically in exchange for Ruel.  Unfortunately, Ruel played much better than Picinich after the trade, which was not the case for his time in Boston.

A surprisingly strong position for the decade, Boston started the first two seasons with Stuffy McInnis, but Burns and Phil Todt were the primary competitors for the lead.  Todt played several seasons in Boston as compared to the two by Burns, but Burns was terrific in both of his seasons while Todt was basically average.  In 1922, Burns hit .306/.341/.446 with 12 home runs and 73 RBIs and then followed that up with a .328/.386/.470 with seven home runs and 82 RBIs.  Burns also turned an unassisted triple play at one point.  Burns was acquired along with Joe Harris for McInnis and was later traded away for a package including Bill Wambsganss and Steve O'Neill.  Burns later won the precursor to the MVP award with the Indians.

There was not a lot of competition at second base.  Pratt was terrific in a two-year stint and only Bill Regan, who played five years, comes close, and that is only due to the length of time he played.  Pratt was far and away the best player at the position for the decade.  Pratt was one of the few players the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees who actually played well for Boston, though he cost them Waite Hoyt and Wally Schang.  Pratt hit .324/.378/.461 with 10 triples, five home runs, and 102 RBIs in 1921 and then .301/.361/.427 with six home runs and 86 RBIs the next season.  He was also a great defensive second-baseman.  Pratt was later traded to the Tigers in a pretty good deal for Boston that brought them Howard Ehmke.

Another very weak position over the course of the decade, shortstop came down to Everett Scott, who played the first two seasons in the midst of his consecutive games streak, Rigney, and Buddy Myer.  Myer though will be dealt with later.  Rigney spent just one full season with the Red Sox and eight games the next season when he was traded for Myer.  Rigney hit .270/.395/.377 with 32 doubles, six triples, four home runs, and drove in 50.  He drew 108 walks and was a terrific defensive player.  Rigney was the best player on a bad Red Sox team in 1926.

Yes, Myer also qualified at third base and was the best option there, despite Doc Prothro's .313/.390/.383 line in 1925.  Myer played almost two full seasons with the Red Sox and was the best player on the team in those years.  He was primarily the team's shortstop, other than 14 games at third, in 1927, and played all of his games at third in 1928.  In 1928, he hit .313/.379/.390 and led the league with 30 stolen bases.  He was traded back to the Senators after the season for a bunch of players, who did very little.

Harry Hooper played just one more season in 1920, and was pretty good, but afterwards, Boston had some trouble filling the position the rest of the decade.  Ike Boone was one of the rare Red Sox players blessed with power during the decade.  Despite being a terrible defensive player, Boone was one of the better hitters Boston had in the 1920's.  His defensive deficiencies prevented him from having a long career, but his two-plus seasons in Boston were impressive as he hit .332/.404/.487 with 22 home runs and 168 RBIs.

A rarity for the Red Sox in the 1920's, Flagstead was a good player who actually stuck with the team for a number of years, in his case, seven years.  Flagstead was recently named to the team's Hall of Fame based on a line of .295/.374/.411 with 27 home runs and 299 RBIs.  Flagstead was acquired in a minor deal with the Tigers in 1923 and immediately solidified the center field position for the Red Sox and held it down the rest of the decade.

Left field has historically been a position of strength for the Red Sox, and the same was still true in the 1920's.  Mike Menosky, Ken Williams, and Bobby Veach all had decent seasons but were not good enough to unseat Harris.  Harris came to Boston in the same deal as George Burns and played three-plus seasons with the Red Sox, mostly in left field.  For his time in Boston, Harris hit .315/.393/.475.  His best year was 1923 when he hit .335/.406/.520 with 11 triples, 13 home runs, and 76 RBIs while walking almost twice as often as he struck out.

Utility came down to Wally Schang's excellent 1920 season (playing catcher and outfield) versus Rothrock's five seasons during the 1920's (and three more in the 1930's).  Rothrock was the very definition of "utility player" in 1928 when he played every position, including pitcher and catcher.  Rothrock mostly played infield, though he was the primary center-fielder in 1929.  With the Red Sox, Rothrock hit .278/.335/.375.  He had his best season in 1929, hitting .300/.361/.408 and stole 24 bases.  He was later part of the deal that brought Smead Jolley to Boston.

The Red Sox pitching staff of the early 1920's was still impressive as the team had a number of holdovers from the great staffs of the late 1910's.  Jones spent just two years with the Red Sox in the 1920's, one of which was a 13-16 season with a 3.94 ERA.  But in 1921, Jones finished with a 23-16 record with a 3.22 ERA.  He led the league in shutouts with five.  Unfortunately, he was traded to the Yankees the next season, although the Red Sox did receive Jack Quinn in the deal.

Pennock emerged as a star for the Red Sox pitching staff in 1919, and had three more good seasons in the 1920's.  In 1920, Pennock was 16-13 with a 3.68 ERA in 242.1 innings.  The next two seasons were not as impressive from a record standpoint, but those teams were pretty bad, so Pennock is not entirely to blame.  For his Red Sox career, which consisted of two stints (1915-1922 and 1934), Pennock was 62-59 with a 3.67 ERA.  Pennock was traded to the Yankees, where he excelled, after the 1922 season.  Pennock is one of four players from the Red Sox during this decade to make it to the Hall of Fame (Harry Hooper, Waite Hoyt, and Red Ruffing were the others).

Bush was another pitcher that was a major part of the 1918 Red Sox starting rotation.  After just two games in 1919, Bush made a big comeback and was 15-15 with a 4.25 ERA in 1920 and then 16-9 with a 3.50 ERA in 1921.  Bush was yet another star pitcher that was then dealt to the Yankees, in the same deal as Sad Sam Jones.

Quinn, like Del Pratt above, was one of the few players acquired by the Red Sox from the Yankees who actually played well.  Quinn was 38 when he was acquired, but went on to play several more seasons in the Majors.  Quinn was with the Red Sox from 1922 to 1925.  During his four years with the Red Sox, Quinn was 45-54 with a 3.65 ERA.  He was used both as a reliever and a starter during his stint with the Red Sox, giving the team a lot of versatility.  

The only no-hitter pitched by the Red Sox in the 1920's came from Howard Ehmke on September 7, 1923.  Ehmke was acquired from the Tigers and proceeded to win 20 games for a very bad Red Sox team that season.  He was one of the brightest pitching stars for the Red Sox in the 1920's.  The first year in Boston, he was 20-17 with a 3.78 ERA in 316.2 innings pitched.  The next season, he led the league in losses with 17, but also won 19 games.  He also led the league in innings pitched with 315 and had an impressive 3.46 ERA.  The next year, he dropped to 9-20, but still had a decent 3.73 ERA.  He further declined in 1926 and was traded to Philadelphia.

Near the end of the decade, Ed Morris emerged as a top-flight starting pitcher for the Red Sox.  After a short stint with the Cubs in 1922, Morris spent several seasons in the minors before finding a home with the Boston Red Sox in 1928.  He was an immediate success, managing to win 19 games (while losing 15) for a team that lost 96 games.  His ERA was an impressive 3.53 which also led the team.  Morris was both a starter and reliever that season before becoming primarily a starter in 1929.  The next season he was 14-14 with a 4.45 ERA.  Morris struggled a bit the next two seasons then died before the 1932 season when he was stabbed in an argument at a party then attempted to swim to safety.


  1. I'm liking these team of the decade posts. Just picked up that Buddy Myer card

    1. Thanks. This one was my favorite of these so far because it required a lot more research. There are not many well-known players from the team in the 1920's.