Sunday, February 26, 2017

Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1960-1969

The 1960's started off the same way the 1950's ended for the Red Sox.  They were a mediocre team with a few stars and not much prospect for the future.  The owner had mostly lost interest in the team and was not doing much to actively improve things.  They lacked exciting players to bring fans in.  Attendance was suffering.  It was not until 1967 when things took a dramatic turn-around.  Suddenly a bunch of young players clicked at the same time and the team turned their fortunes around.  The next couple of seasons were not as impressive, but at least the team gave fans reason to cheer.

Catching was mostly a weakness for the Red Sox during the decade, particularly on offense.  They had a few decent seasons, but it was mostly a black hole.  Bob Tillman edges out Jim Pagliaroni for the top catcher for the decade, mostly on the strength that he just lasted longer, but he also had the best individual season for a Red Sox catcher in the 1960's.  Tillman was with the Red Sox from his ML debut in 1962 until he was sold to the Yankees late in the 1967 season.  Tillman had a very good season in 1964 when he hit .278/.352/.445 with 17 home runs (a then team record for catchers) and 61 RBIs.  Tillman exploded onto the team in 1962, hitting 14 home runs in just 81 games.  Unfortunately, those were the only two seasons he hit more than eight home runs with the Red Sox.  During his Red Sox career, Tillman hit .236/.307/.372 with 49 home runs and 194 RBIs.  Jim Pagliaroni was the runner-up due to his huge power.

This was the toughest decision to make in this post.  My first thought was that George Scott would be the easy choice.  But Scott had one very bad season in 1968 and ultimately, it is tough to pass on a player who won two batting titles in the decade.  Runnels came to Boston in a trade with Washington in 1958 as a second-baseman, but his defensive skills at the position were a little questionable and he started transitioning to first in 1960, appearing in 57 games there.  He was a full-time first-baseman the next season.  Runnels came very close to winning his first batting title in 1958, but was edged out by teammate Ted Williams.  He did win in both 1960 (.320) and 1962 (.326).  He was a three-time All Star with Boston and hit .320/.408/.427 in Boston.  After he won the 1962 batting title, Runnels was shipped to Houston for Roman Mejias.

Andrews was a very underrated player during his time with Boston.  He was not a terribly good defensive player but he was a very good hitter for a second-baseman during this time period.  Andrews made his ML debut in 1966 and was one of the young stars of the team during the Impossible Dream 1967 season.  He had a good season, hitting .263/.346/.352 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs.  He improved slightly in 1968, but then he had the best season of his career in 1969 when he hit .293/.390/.455 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs.  He was named to the All Star team that season, his only such appearance.  He hit .268/.360/.385 with 47 home runs with the Red Sox.  Andrews beat out Chuck Schilling for this honor.  Schilling was a mirror image of Andrews, he was a poor hitter but a very good fielder.    

It took him a little while to get going, but Petrocelli became a great hitter for a shortstop.  He always had power and he was a gifted defensive player, but it was a while before his hitting truly came around.  Petrocelli had a massive season in 1969 though.  That season he hit 40 home runs which was an American League record for a shortstop for decades.  It was a big year for him all around as he hit .297/.403/.589, all career highs, while driving in 97 runs and scoring 92.  It was one of the best offensive seasons any Red Sox player had during the decade.  Petrocelli was an All Star in both 1967 and 1969.  He beat out the steady and dependable Eddie Bressoud who was also an All Star in 1964 and had a 20 homer season in 1963.  

For the second decade in a row, Frank Malzone is the third-baseman.  He was no longer winning Gold Gloves, due to the presence of Brooks Robinson in Baltimore, but Malzone was still a very good defensive third-baseman and he could definitely still hit.  He made the All Star team three times during the decade and had his best season from a power standpoint in 1962 when he hit 21 home runs.  For the 1960's, Malzone hit .271/.314/.392 with 80 home runs and 422 RBIs.  He finally started slowing down in 1965, which was his last season with the Red Sox.  Malzone beat out Joe Foy who had three decent seasons at the end of the 1960's.

Tony C. was one of the brightest young stars in the game during the mid 1960's.  Unfortunately, he has gone down as one of the most tragic stories in MLB history.  Conigliaro was just 19 years old when he made it to the Majors and he homered in his first at-bat in Fenway Park.  He hit 24 home runs in his rookie season.  The next year, at the age of 20, Conigliaro became the youngest player to win a home run crown in the AL.  In 1967, he became the second-youngest player to reach 100 home runs in his career.  The sky was the limit.  Unfortunately, he was beaned in the cheekbone by a pitch later in the 1967 season that caused him to miss the rest of the season and the entire 1968 season.  He returned impressively in 1969 and hit 20 home runs.  He had his best season in 1970, but his eye problems persisted and his career was cut short.  Lou Clinton is the runner-up.

One of the most underrated players in history, Smith is another player who broke out in the Impossible Dream season of 1967.  Smith was a rookie and finished second in the AL ROY vote as he hit .246/.315/.389 with 15 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases.  He was one of the most dynamic players on the team during the decade as he could do everything on the field.  He hit home runs, stole bases, and played terrific defense.  Smith won a Gold Glove in 1968 and led the league in doubles.  He had a great season in 1969 hitting .309/.368/.527 with 25 home runs and 93 RBIs and making the All Star team for the first of seven times in his career.  Smith would continue to play well for Boston through the 1973 season.  Gary Geiger is the runner-up.

By far the easiest selection of the team.  Ted Williams passed the baton to Yaz in 1961 and Yaz was definitely a worthy successor.  In just his third season in 1963, Yaz led the league in average, hits, and doubles.  He also won his first Gold Glove, an area in which he surpassed his predecessor.  Yaz had one of the greatest seasons in history in 1967 when he won the Triple Crown by leading the league in average (.326), RBIs (121), and tied for the lead in home runs (44).  He won the MVP and a Gold Glove and went on to have a terrific showing in the World Series loss to the Cardinals by hitting .400 with three home runs.  Yaz won his third batting title in 1968.  During the decade, Yaz won five Gold Gloves and went to six All Star games.  Though Yaz spent one full season in center field, he was far and away the best left fielder for the Red Sox in the 1960's.  Only Williams's final season came even close.  

I had to get this one in there somehow.  I considered putting Mantilla down as the second-baseman, but his best season in 1964 had him playing 45 games at second, 35 in left, and then several games at a number of other positions.  Mantilla was not a good defensive player, which is the primary reason for his bouncing around.  Prior to coming to Boston, Mantilla was not considered much with the bat either.  His first year in Boston though, he hit .315/.384/.461 with six home runs.  The next year he exploded, hitting .289/.357/.553 with 30 home runs and 64 RBIs.  He was an All Star in 1965 when he hit .275/.374/.416 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs.  He was primarily a second-baseman in 1965, but he still spent a lot of time at other positions.  

"Monbo" emerged as the Red Sox ace in 1960 and was the best pitcher on the team for a few seasons thereafter.  He was a four-time All Star and a 20 game winner for a team that was generally mediocre.  He had his first All Star season in 1960 as he went 14-11 with a 3.64 ERA and 134 strikeouts.  He had his best season in 1963 when he was 20-10 with a 3.81 ERA and 174 strikeouts.  Monbouquette threw a no-hitter in 1962 when he was 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA and 153 strikeouts.  He led the league in losses (18) in 1965, but had a decent 3.70 ERA.  After that season though, he began to decline and bounced around several teams.

Lonborg was the first Red Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.  Of course that happened in 1967 as he was yet another young star to break out that season.  He originally came up in 1965, but the team was bad and he lost 17 games in his rookie season.  He had a 4.47 ERA, so it was not just the bad team.  It was not until he was taught how to pitch inside prior to the 1967 season that he broke out, and he did in a big way.  He led the league in wins (22) and strikeouts (246) while finishing with a 3.16 ERA.  He was an All Star for the only time in his career.  He won two games in the World Series, but lost the last game.  Unfortunately injuries stalled his career for several seasons afterwards.

Wilson was the second black player to play for the Red Sox and the first pitcher.  He was also the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter, which he did in 1962.  Wilson always had electric stuff, but he had some trouble harnessing it and he walked too many batters for a few years.  Wilson broke out in 1962 when he was 12-8 with a 3.90 ERA and 137 strikeouts.  He had mostly mediocre records for his entire time with the Red Sox, but that was more due to pitching for bad teams.  Wilson was a terrific athlete and  had some impressive power as a hitter.  He hit 17 home runs for the Red Sox.  Wilson was 56-58 with a 4.10 ERA and 714 strikeouts with the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, he was traded away in a controversial move right before having the best season of his career. 

Culp only pitched two seasons for the Red Sox in the 1960's, but they were very impressive.  He was acquired in a trade from the Cubs to help shore up the pitching staff, which was largely viewed as the biggest culprit in losing the 1967 World Series.  But with Lonborg down with an injury, Culp became the de facto ace of the staff in 1968 by going 16-6 with a 2.91 ERA and 190 strikeouts.  He continued his impressive pitching in 1969 when he was an All Star for the only time in his career, going 17-8 with a 3.81 ERA and 172 strikeouts.  He was 71-58 with a 3.50 ERA and 794 strikeouts in his career for the Red Sox.  Other starters considered were Gene Conley, Gary Bell, and Dick Ellsworth.

Like Mantilla, I had to try to fit Jose Santiago in.  He was such a huge part of the 1967 season, even though he was primarily a relief pitcher that season.  In other seasons he was mostly a starting pitcher though.  After a few seasons of mediocre work with the Kansas City A's, Boston purchased Santiago and he made an impact.  He had a decent season in 1966, going 12-13 with a 3.66 ERA.  He was very impressive in the Impossible Dream season when he was 12-4 with a 3.59 ERA and 109 strikeouts, while also saving five games.  He was an All Star in 1968 when he was 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA.  Santiago had a big moment in the World Series when he homered in his first at-bat.

I feel comfortable in saying that Radatz would have been one of my favorite players had I been alive in the 1960's.  Nicknamed "The Monster" due to his imposing size (6'6" 230), Radatz had one of the most dominating peaks of any relief pitcher ever.  He exploded onto the scene in 1962 and was 9-6 with a 2.24 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 124.2 innings.  He saved 24 games.  The next season he was even better, going 15-6 with a 1.97 ERA, 23 saves, and 162 strikeouts in 132.1 innings.  In 1964 he set a record with 181 strikeouts as a reliever in just 157 innings.  He was 16-9 with a 2.29 ERA and a league-leading 29 saves.  Unfortunately he started declining from there.  With Boston he was 49-34 with a 2.65 ERA, 102 saves, and 627 strikeouts in 557.1 innings, all as a reliever.

One of the worst trades the Red Sox ever made was sending southpaw reliever Lyle to the Yankees for Mario Guerrero and Danny Cater.  Lyle had been a fairly impressive reliever already with the Red Sox, which is often forgotten.  He was a big part of the bullpen in the Impossible Dream season when he was 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA and struck out 42 in 43.1 innings.  He picked up five saves.  The next season he was 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 11 saves, followed by a great 1969 season when he was 8-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 17 saves.  For his Red Sox career, Sparky was 22-17 with a 2.85 ERA.  He struck out 275 and notched 69 saves.  John Wyatt was also considered as a reliever.

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