Thursday, December 1, 2016

All-Time One-Year Wonder Team: Second Base

I'm going to do something a little different with the One-Year Wonder posts. I have decided to go position-by-position and see if I can determine who the best player at each position would be who only spent one year with the Red Sox. This requires a lot of time and research. I am not naming every single player who spent just one season with the Red Sox at each position, but just the better-known players. At the end of the post, I will pick the single best player for each position.

More of a rental than anything, LaPorte was traded to the Red Sox by the New York Highlanders as part of a three-team deal in which original Boston shortstop Freddy Parent was sent to the White Sox and Jake Stahl moved from Chicago to New York.  LaPorte had been a decent infielder with New York, playing a variety of positions.  He played just 62 games with Boston before being traded back to New York in August for Harry Niles.  LaPorte hit .237/.296/.282 with one single and three triples.  He drove in 15 and scored 14 times.  LaPorte would hit over .300 three times before his career was over.  One of those seasons was with Indianapolis of the Federal League when he also led the league in RBIs.

Hodapp had been a pretty good player with the Indians for several seasons and was just 27 in his sole season with the Red Sox, yet that was the end of his Major League career.  Hodapp was terrific in 1930, leading the league in hits and doubles and batting .354 with 121 RBIs.  Hodapp struggled with injuries in 1932 and was traded to Boston in a multi-player deal along with Bob Fothergill, Greg Mulleavy, and Bob Seeds for Ed Durham and Hal Rhyne.  He had an impressive comeback season, hitting .312/.365/.424 with three home runs, 27 doubles, and 54 RBIs.  Hodapp was an impressive contact hitter and only struck out 14 times while walking 33 times in 452 plate appearances.  After the season he was sold to the Cardinals in a transaction that brought Fritz Ostermueller to Boston.  But Hodapp never played in the Majors again.  Hodapp had suffered from knee injuries prior to coming to Boston, but those issues looked to be in the past during the 1933 season.  But it was not enough to keep him in the Majors.

Johnny Hodapp's position was taken by another player who managed just one season with the Red Sox.  Oddly enough, the two were once traded for each other, with Hodapp going to Chicago and Cissell to the Indians.  Cissell was a step down from Hodapp but was still a decent enough player.  Previously a pretty good player with the White Sox in the late 1920's, Cissell was acquired in a trade with the Indians for Lloyd Brown.  He had been a shortstop for the White Sox, but was moved to second due to defensive deficiencies.  Cissell hit .267/.315/.346 with four home runs and 44 RBIs for the Red Sox in 1934 and stole 11 bases.  After the season, Cissell was sold to a minor league team.  He made it back to the Majors in 1937 with the Philadephia A's.

Mexican native Bobby Avila was the AL batting champ in 1954 and a three-time All Star with the Indians.  He was nearing the end of his career in 1959 when he played for three teams.  He started the season with the Baltimore Orioles then was placed on waivers when he was picked up by the Red Sox in May.  He spent two months with the Red Sox playing in 22 games and hitting just .244/.333/.444.  He did hit three home runs, but with just six RBIs.  Avila was placed on waivers again in July and picked up by the Milwaukee Braves.  1959 was Avila's last season in the Major Leagues.  

The switch-hitting Alicea was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals prior to the strike-shortened 1995 season.  All he cost was a couple of former prospects that would never play in the Major Leagues with St. Louis.  And Alicea put up a pretty decent season for the Red Sox and was one of the more underrated players to help the team win the AL East.  Alicea hit .270/.367/.375 with six home runs and 44 RBIs and scoring 64 times.  Alicea also stole 13 bases and walked more than he struck out.  He was a decent defensive second-baseman and was also one of the few players to perform well in the postseason, hitting .600 with a home run and a stolen base in the three postseason games Boston played.  He also homered from both sides of the plate in one game.  All of this was not enough to keep Alicea with Boston however.  After the team acquired Wil Cordero from Montreal, Alicea was likely headed for a bench role.  He was placed on waivers and re-acquired by the Cardinals.  He continued to play for several more seasons with the Cardinals, Angels, Rangers,and Royals and returned as a coach for the Red Sox in 2007.

"Lemmer" was a favorite under-the-radar player of mine from his days with the Braves.  He was never really that great of a hitter, but he was a good defensive second-baseman and was a player who did the little things.  He spent his entire career with the Braves prior to being signed as a free agent by the Red Sox prior to the 1998 season.  But Lemke never really hit with the Red Sox, even less than he had with the Braves.  He played in just 31 games, hitting .187/.232/.231 with four doubles.  He continued to play good defense, not making a single error, but his season, and ultimately his career were cut short by a concussion in May.   

Sanchez was a longtime Cubs middle-infielder who also played with the Yankees, Giants, Royals, and Braves before coming to Boston in 2002.  Boston had been cursed with poor defense from the likes of Jose Offerman and Mike Lansing for several years and decided to go in a more defense-oriented direction.  It was a very good move as Sanchez made just four errors at second base all season and one as a shortstop.  Surprisingly, Sanchez was fairly decent at the plate, hitting .286, though it was an empty .286 as he did not have any power.  After the season, Sanchez was allowed to leave as a free agent and went on to play for the Mets, Mariners, Devil Rays, and then again with the Yankees.

Surprisingly, after having a decent experience with the glove-first Sanchez, Boston went back for a more offensive-minded second-baseman in 2003, acquiring Todd Walker in a deal with the Reds for minor leaguers Josh Thigpen and Tony Blanco.  Walker paid off from an offensive perspective, hitting .283/.333/.428 with 13 home runs and 38 doubles.  Eight players from the Red Sox drove in at least 85 runs, and Walker was one of them.  Walker was also on fire during the postseason and could have won the ALCS MVP if Boston had won it as he hit .370 with two home runs, a double, and a triple against the Yankees.  Walker was a free agent after the season and signed with the Cubs where he continued to produce.

The 2005 season can best be described as a giant hangover after the Red Sox finally won the World Series after 86 years.  A number of big producers from the 2004 season declined dramatically.  One of those was Mark Bellhorn who had a very good, underrated season.  But in 2005, he seemingly forgot how to hit entirely.  Boston eventually realized they needed a better second-baseman to stay in contention as production from the position was non-existent.  They traded with the Royals for Graffanino in July and released Bellhorn a month later.  Graffanino fit right in and batted .319/.355/.457 with four home runs and 20 RBIs down the stretch.  He was not great defensively though and made a critical error in the postseason.  Prior to the 2006 season with Mark Loretta taking over at second, Graffanino was exposed to waivers and was picked up by the Royals again.

Somehow, Boston managed to trade a backup catcher for a solid, everyday second-baseman.  The Red Sox sent Doug Mirabelli to San Diego for Mark Loretta.  Loretta ended up starting the 2006 All Star game, beating out the Yankees' Robinson Cano.  At the end of the season, it was hard to imagine how that happened, but Loretta had a pretty good season.  He ended up hitting .285/.345/.361 with 33 doubles, 5 home runs, 75 runs scored, and 59 RBIs while making only four errors at second base all season.  It was a very solid season from the second-baseman.  But Loretta was only a stopgap as Dustin Pedroia was ready to take over by the end of the season.  So Loretta was allowed to leave as a free agent, joining the Astros.

It was close.  Other players hit for higher batting averages (Hodapp), other players hit for more power (Walker), and other players played better defense (Sanchez), but Luis Alicea was the best all-around player.  It helps that Alicea leads all of the other players in WAR for his one season (2.3) and had one of the higher OPS scores (.740).  Alicea also performed very well in the postseason, which certainly helps his case.  I have mentioned before that I really liked Alicea in 1995, but that did not effect my decision.  I really thought as I was putting this together that I was going to go for Hodapp, but he was not good defensively.  Alicea wins it for being the best all-around player, playing very good defense, and playing well in the postseason.  

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