Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 32: Andre Dawson

Years in Boston: 1993-1994 (.260/.297/.441, 29 home runs, 115 RBIs)
Best Year in Boston: 1993 (.273/.313/.425, 13 home runs, 67 RBIs)
I was heartbroken in the offseason between the 1992 and 1993 seasons when Wade Boggs, my favorite player, signed as a free agent with the Yankees.  That was alleviated significantly when the Red Sox signed a fading future Hall of Famer of their own in Andre Dawson, who had been with the Chicago Cubs for the previous several seasons.  Boston had been trying to sign Kirby Puckett, who was still very productive, but Puckett ultimately chose to stay in Minnesota.  Dawson had a decent, but not great season with the Cubs in 1992 and there was hope that his power numbers would rebound in Boston.

Unfortunately, Dawson was largely a disappointment in Boston.  His knees were so bad by that point in his career he spent all but 20 games at designated hitter.  That was mostly the plan though, so that part was not the major disappointment.  Dawson simply did not hit enough.  He had never been great about taking a walk, but his on-base percentage in his time in Boston was significantly lower than his career mark and even his slugging percentage was down.

In 1993, Dawson hit .273/.313/.425 with just 13 home runs and 67 RBIs, numbers that were significantly lower than hoped.  He played in 121 games and hit 29 doubles.  His biggest highlight of the year, and of his time with Boston was hitting his 400th career home run.  In 1994, his numbers declined again, though he hit 16 home runs.  He hit .240/.271/.466, with 18 doubles and 48 RBIs.

After the 1994 season, Dawson signed a free agent deal with the Florida Marlins and closed out his career after two seasons on the bench there.  Dawson's best years occurred in Montreal and Chicago by far.  He was mostly just hanging on by the time he played for Boston and Florida.  The one thing he did provide in Boston was veteran leadership and guidance for up-and-coming star Mo Vaughn.  Dawson was on the Hall of Fame ballot for nine years before being elected.  He has a Montreal Expos cap on his plaque.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Your 1981 Red Sox Pt. 9: Rich Gedman

In this series, I will look at each player who played in 1981, the year I was born. Because, why not?
Rich Gedman was officially a rookie in 1981.  He played just nine games in 1980 and had a .208/.208/.208 line in 24 at-bats toward the end of the season.  After Boston foolishly, and possibly unintentionally, allowed All Star catcher Carlton Fisk to walk as a free agent after the season, the team needed a new catcher.  Gedman, who was an undrafted free agent in 1977, would eventually become an All Star himself.

The Red Sox started the 1981 season with Gary Allenson as the primary catcher and rookie Dave Schmidt as the primary backup catcher.  Allenson himself was in just his third season.  Gedman started the season in Pawtucket, but he had a hot start to the season and was called up in mid-May.  He would eventually become the primary catcher, other than an injury in June.

Gedman finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year vote in 1981.  The winner was Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti who was 8-4 with a 2.05 ERA.  Gedman hit .288/.317/.434 with five home runs, 15 doubles, and 26 RBIs.  The voting was not particularly close.  Righetti received 127 votes to Gedman's 64.  The vote might have been a little closer if Gedman had not missed a month and a half due to his injury.

Injuries would be a frequent issue with Gedman in the coming years.  It would be a couple years until Gedman would become the primary catcher for the team.  In 1984, Gedman emerged as a star for a few years.  He was an All Star in 1985 and 1986.  Unfortunately, injuries and ineffectiveness took their toll in the next few seasons.  He stayed with Boston into the 1990 season then played for Houston and St. Louis before calling it a career.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Slightly More Than One-Year Wonder Pt. 2: Deron Johnson

These players made it longer than one full season, but less than two seasons. They do not qualify as one-year wonders. They lasted slightly too long. But they still spent a brief part of their careers with the Red Sox.
Okay, I kind of broke my rule here.  Deron Johnson was actually with the Red Sox for parts of three seasons, but he did not come close to even a half season in any of the three seasons in which he appeared for the Red Sox.  In fact, he only played in 29 games with the Red Sox over the course of those three seasons.

Johnson came up with the Yankees in 1960 and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1961.  After a year back in the minors in 1963, Johnson caught on with the Cincinnati Reds and emerged as a legitimate power threat, hitting 21 home runs in 1964.  He followed that up with his best season, coming in fourth in the MVP vote when he hit .287/.340/.515 with 32 home runs and a league-leading 130 RBIs.  Johnson played a couple more years with the Reds then started to bounce around afterwards, playing with the Braves, Phillies, Athletics, and Brewers over the next several seasons.  He continued to show off some power, hitting 20 or more home runs six times.  He hit 245 home runs in his career.  He received MVP votes in three seasons.

In 1974, Johnson started the season with the Athletics, but struggled and was traded to the Brewers.  He did not do much better with Milwaukee and the Red Sox purchased him in September.  He played in 11 games for Boston, hitting .120/.115/.120 (how that is possible, I have yet to figure out).  He was released at the end of the season and signed on with the White Sox for the 1975 season.  He turned in a very good power season for Chicago, then was traded back to Boston in September again to help provide power in the absence of Jim Rice.  He appeared in just three games, but hit .600/.667/.900 with his final home run and three RBIs.  He came back to Boston in 1976, but appeared in just 15 games and hit .132/.233/.211, but he hit his final double and triple.  He was released in June and did not appear in the Majors again.  Johnson appeared at DH and first base while with the Red Sox.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

One Huge Trade

I made one of the biggest trades I have ever pulled off recently.  And every single one of the cards I received was from my want list.  It knocked several team sets off from the 1970's and 1980's.  

There are a ton of scans in this, so I will put in a page break.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Just a Quick Trade

It is a small trade, but it knocked three more cards off of my wantlist, including my first of the many 2017 Heritage SPs.
1.  2009 Topps Chrome Xfractor John Smoltz.  We start with short-term Red Sox pitcher and Hall of Famer John Smoltz.  Smoltz was pretty much awful in his stint with Boston.

2.  2017 Topps Heritage David Price SP.  The Red Sox have far too many short print cards in this year's Heritage.  Price, Sale, Ortiz, Pedroia, Bogaerts, Betts, and Bradley are all short-printed cards.

3.  2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Purple Xander Bogaerts.  Xander is going to be one of my guys this year I think.  It helps that he is on my fantasy team.

4.  2017 Topps Heritage 1968 Game Card David Ortiz.  I like these cards, but I liked the actual 1968 cards better.  I have all of the Red Sox, which were Carl Yastrzemski, George Scott, and Jim Lonborg.

5.  2017 Topps Heritage Robby Scott/Andrew Benintendi.  This was one of the cards I was most looking forward to from Heritage.  It is the first card of Robby Scott so far, though not likely the last.  Scott is establishing himself as a pretty good lefty out of the pen.  And yes, Benintendi is awesome too.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Red Sox Awards History: Gold Glove

The Gold Glove Award was introduced in 1957 to award outstanding defense for each position.  The voting has changed over the years and there have been a number of rather regrettable choices for the award (Derek Jeter).  The Red Sox have had at least one player at each position win the award.

Betts wasted no time establishing himself as an elite defensive player, despite the fact that he came up through the minors as a second-baseman.  In 2016 he was second in Defensive WAR, and was in the top five in assists and double plays.  He led the league in putouts and fielding percentage.

To date, Boddicker is the only Red Sox pitcher to win the Gold Glove Award.  I am a little fuzzy on why he won it.  He did not lead in any major fielding category, and he only picked off one runner.  It must have been due to reputation.

The Red Sox had two Gold Glove winners in 1990 as Burks emerged as a very good all-around player, winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.  He led center fielders in fielding percentage and was in the top five in assists.

Often overshadowed by Mark Belanger, Burleson finally broke through and managed to win his only Gold Glove Award in 1979.  Burleson always had a reputation for being a terrific defensive shortstop, but he finally won the award when he led the league in fielding percentage.  He is the only Red Sox shortstop to win it.

Though he was not gifted with the strongest of throwing arms, Ellsbury's speed and ability to get good jumps on balls hit into the outfield gave him a reputation as being a terrific defensive center fielder.  He led the league in putouts and fielding percentage in winning his only Gold Glove, though he probably deserved one or two more.

DWIGHT EVANS - RF (1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985)
The team record holder for most Gold Glove Awards is Dwight Evans.  Only three outfielders have won more of them than Evans.  His greatest strength was a rocket for an arm in right.  Evans led the league four times in putouts, three times in assists, three times in double plays, and three times in fielding percentage.  He is one of the greatest defensive right fielders of all time.  Another reason why he should be in the Hall of Fame.

On top of his Rookie of the Year Award, Fisk also won the Gold Glove Award.  It was his only Gold Glove during his very long and successful career.  Fisk led the league in putouts and assists and was second in the league in the number of base runners he caught stealing.

Gonzalez arrived in Boston with a reputation as one of the best defensive first-basemen in the game, and he did not disappoint.  He led the league in assists and was second in fielding percentage.  His acquisition moved Kevin Youkilis, himself a terrific defensive first-baseman, across the diamond.

DOUG GRIFFIN - 2B (1972)
It is a good thing Griffin was so good defensively, because he really could not hit.  Griffin was in the top five in putouts and range factor for second-basemen in 1972.  

Jackie Jensen was the Red Sox' answer to Mickey Mantle, though to a much lesser degree, other than one great season.  He could do everything on the baseball field, including play great defense.  He led the league in assists and double plays in his only Gold Glove season.  

FRED LYNN - CF (1975, 1978, 1979, 1980)
Lynn took the baseball world by storm in his rookie season of 1975, winning just about every award possible.  He would go on to win four Gold Gloves in his career, all while with the Red Sox.  He was a great defensive center fielder in his early years, and his all-out style led to making many highlight reel plays.

FRANK MALZONE - 3B (1957, 1958, 1959)
He won the first three Gold Glove Awards for third-basemen in the American League, but it was not long before Brooks Robinson took over the mantle as the premier defensive player at the position.  For a while though, Malzone was the best in the league.  He regularly led the league in several defensive categories.

DUSTIN PEDROIA - 2B (2008, 2011, 2013, 2014)
Since he is still active, it is possible that Pedroia will win more Gold Glove Awards.  He will also likely be the best defensive second-baseman in Red Sox history.  Pedroia is currently fourth all-time in fielding percentage in his career.  He is regularly among the league leaders in multiple defensive categories.

TONY PENA - C (1991)
Already a three-time Gold Glove winner while with the Pirates when the Red Sox signed him as a free agent, Pena won the award in his second season with Boston.  It was his last such award.  Pena led the league in putouts, double plays, and runners caught stealing.

Red Sox management made the rather baffling decision to try to move Piersall to shortstop his first full season, a move which would not help much in his descent into mental illness.  Piersall was a gifted defensive outfielder, which he took great pride in.  1958 was not one of his best defensive seasons, but it was the only year he won the award.

GEORGE SCOTT - 1B (1967, 1968, 1971)
Surprisingly athletic for his size, Scott won eight Gold Gloves at first base during his career, including three with the Red Sox.  Scott was so good defensively that he was moved to third base for most of the 1969 season.  "Boomer" led the league in a number of defensive categories several times in his career.

Smith is one of the most underrated players in baseball history.  He was an excellent five-tool player who quietly put together a terrific career.  He only won one Gold Glove Award during his career, and he did rank in the top five in most major defensive categories.

We now know that Varitek's pitch-framing skill was elite.  He was never really known for catching a lot of base stealers, but his calming presence on the pitching staff and game-calling were always highly touted.  2005 was not his best defensive season, but he was recognized for his career up to that point.

Victorino was a center-fielder for most of his career, but he was moved to right field when he signed a free agent contract with the Red Sox as Jacoby Ellsbury was in center.  Victorino had a strong arm and made several highlight reel plays, including the one pictured on this card.  

CARL YASTRZEMSKI - LF (1963, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1977)
Taking over for the great Ted Williams was not easy, but there was one aspect of the game in which Yaz was far and away superior.  He was a terrific defensive outfielder whereas Williams was more of an ambivalent one.  Yaz won seven Gold Glove Awards, second in team history, and he deserved most of them. 

Youkilis came up as a third-baseman and had the athleticism to prove it, so he made one hell of a good defensive first-baseman.  He won this award largely on the strength of his record errorless game streak for first-basemen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Worst Red Sox Team of All Time Pt. 6: Ed Connolly

Failure is often even more fascinating than success. I am definitely intrigued by the 1932 Boston Red Sox, the worst Red Sox team of all time. The team finished with a record of 43-111, for a winning percentage of .279 and very little went right.
Ed Connolly spent his entire four year Major League career as a reserve catcher for the Boston Red Sox.  His career was not terribly distinctive, but he does have one thing going for him to make him at least somewhat memorable.  He is mostly known for being one-half of one of the rare father-son duos to each play for the Red Sox.  

Connolly was young when he first made it, he spent just two years in the minors and made his Major League debut at just 21.  He was a decent hitter for a catcher in the minors and Boston signed him before his second season was complete.  He ended up playing in just five games for the Red Sox in 1929, but did not register a hit in eight plate appearances.  

He would gradually play more and more games each of his next three seasons in the Majors.  In 1930, he played in 27 games and hit .188/.250/.229 with two doubles and seven RBIs.  He played in 42 games in 1931, but his numbers were actually worse as he hit just .075/.131/.086 with three RBIs.  He was almost a regular in 1932 and his numbers were better, but he still hit a paltry .225/.289/.297 with eight doubles and 21 RBIs.  His lack of hitting led to an early exit from the game.  He ended his career with a line of .178/.239/.229 with no home runs, 12 doubles, four triples, and 34 RBIs.

Connolly's defensive abilities were much more impressive than his hitting.  For his career, he caught 41% of attempted base stealers and he was among the top five in the league assists in 1932, though he was also in the top five in errors committed and stolen bases allowed.  

His son, Ed Connolly Jr., also had a brief career in the Majors.  He pitched parts of two seasons in the Majors, with the Red Sox in 1964 and the Indians in 1967.  Connolly Jr. was 4-11 with a 4.91 ERA with the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, Ed Connolly Sr. died before ever seeing his son pitch in the Majors.  He died in November of 1963 and Ed Jr. made his ML debut in April 1964.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Diamond Kings is Kind of Awesome

A recent trade I made had a bit of a glitch in that the other party could not find one of the cards he was going to send me.  To make up for that, he sent me some Red Sox cards from a box of Diamond Kings.  I have to say, I really like these cards.  The design is pretty neat, but I really like the texture.  It occurs to me that they have been like this for a few years, but it never really made as much of an impression on me as it did when I saw these cards.    
1.  2017 Panini Diamond Kings Heritage Collection Jim Rice.  The back of this card refers to Rice as "beloved" at one point.  I was not really watching baseball until after Rice retired, but I never really got the impression that he was beloved.  Certainly not by teammates.  Maybe some older Red Sox fans can give me a better idea.

2.  2017 Panini Diamond Kings DK Originals Rick Porcello.  I mentioned before that Porcello will start showing up in a lot of inserts as a result of winning the Cy Young Award.  Well, here we are.

3.  2017 Panini Diamond Kings Curt Schilling.  I really like the player selection in this set.  It is kind of cool to see Schilling get some new cards.  I know that people don't like Schilling, but I definitely appreciate his role on two World Championship teams.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Small Trade Package Variety

A few small trade packages found their way into my mail box the other day.  I have been working on making a number of trades lately.  Mostly in an effort to track down my 2017 needs without buying too many packs.  So there were three trades made here:
1.  2017 Topps Heritage Chrome Purple Refractor David Ortiz.  This is my second of the purple refractors.  Although I still don't think they look all that purple.

2.  2017 Topps Heritage Team Card.  Rather than try to identify all the players present here, I just chalk these up as team cards now.  I do note that I can see Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, Travis Shaw, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, and a player who is either Ryan LaMarre or Pat Light.

3.  2017 Topps 1987 Andrew Benintendi.  Benintendi is one of the players I am most excited about this year.  He has not done much yet, but no one really has.

4.  2017 Topps Rediscover Bronze Jon Lester.  I am not the biggest buyback fan, but I do enjoy adding them when I can.  It is weird to have a buyback of a card that is only eight years old though.

5.  2017 Topps Gold David Ortiz.  And I keep adding Ortiz cards.  He is pulling ahead of Pedro in my collection.

6.  2015 Bowman Prospects Autographs Blue Nick Longhi.  Longhi has not done much since being drafted.  He is falling behind on prospect charts to a couple of other first basemen in Sam Travis and Josh Ockimey.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Donruss Jumbo Pack Break

It was late at night on Saturday and I had to go get something from the local-ish Walmart, so I bought some cards against my better judgment.  I gave it a shot, but was not optimistic.  It was a 30 card pack, so I should have been able to get one card, but I have not had much luck lately, and I certainly have not pulled anything that was not base.  Yet this is what I pulled:
2017 Donruss The Rookies Andrew Benintendi.  This is the first non-base Red Sox card I have pulled from a pack this year.  And the fact that it came from a 30 card jumbo pack is that much better.  Benintendi had a big three-run home run on Opening Day and is the favorite coming into the season for the Rookie of the Year.  I am fairly happy with this.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Heritage Trade

This trade knocked off a bunch of the base cards I still needed from 2017 Topps Heritage, as well as knocking off one of the Chrome cards from my wantlist.  Heritage is often one of my favorite sets because of the large size, player selection, and the fact that it is often the first time new acquisitions appear, even if they are photo-shopped.  
1.  2017 Topps Heritage Jose Altuve/Dustin Pedroia/Mookie Betts.  This is the batting average league leaders card.  Boston has not had a batting title since Bill Mueller in 2003, which is a fairly significant drought for this team.

2.  2017 Topps Heritage Rick Porcello/J.A. Happ/Corey Kluber.  This is the wins league leader card.  Porcello is the first Red Sox pitcher to lead the league in wins since Josh Beckett won 20 in 2007.  Beckett though did not win the Cy Young Award like Porcello did.

3.  2017 Topps Heritage Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez was one of many players to be slowed by the flu early in the season.  Hanley is approaching 100 cards in my Red Sox collection, though he is helped significantly by having been a semi focus back when he was a prospect in the Red Sox system.

4.  2017 Topps Heritage Chris Young.  This is one of the better examples of the great player selection in Heritage.  Young has only appeared in a couple of sets so far with Boston, despite being a very impressive player in part-time work.

5.  2017 Topps Heritage Mitch Moreland.  This is my first Moreland card.  He was one of three big acquisitions by the Red Sox after winning the Gold Glove for first-basemen last year.

6.  2017 Topps Heritage David Ortiz AS.  It won't be long now for Ortiz to stop showing up in sets.

7.  2017 Topps Heritage Mookie Betts AS.  Betts has also been a victim of the flu situation.  So he has not played much yet.

8.  2017 Topps Heritage Chrome Chris Sale.  This is my second Chris Sale card.  I picked up the Topps Now card the day after the trade.  Sale had a very impressive debut with Boston, but did not get the win as Boston is having trouble scoring often.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Small GQ Trade

I'm trying hard to pick up most of the 2017 Red Sox base cards without buying too many packs or boxes.  This trade brought me a few star base cards from 2017 Gypsy Queen.  It is not a lot, but each of these players made a big impact in 2016.
1.  2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Rick Porcello.  Of course Porcello probably made the biggest impact as he led the league in wins and won the Cy Young Award.  I never get tired of saying that.  He was Boston's first Cy Young winner since 2000.

2.  2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez went on a tear in the second half and ended up hitting 30 home runs with more than 100 RBIs.  He will be counted on to be the big power hitter in the lineup in 2017.  Unfortunately he has been dealing with the flu so far, like a lot of other players.

3.  2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Xander Bogaerts.  Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger Award and appeared in his first All Star game.  He looks ready to take the next step and become a big star this season.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Right Field

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.

In the first season of the Boston American League franchise's history, a number of players arrived with very little experience.  Hemphill was one of these players.  He played with St. Louis and Cleveland in 1899 and did not appear in the majors in 1900.  He was the primary right-fielder in the inaugural season and he was known as a very poor fielder.  He made 17 errors and had a .925 fielding percentage in his sole season with the Red Sox.  He was not really a terribly good hitter in his only season with Boston either as he hit .261/.312/.332 with ten doubles, ten triples, three home runs, and 62 RBIs.  He did go on to some much better hitting seasons with the Browns and Highlanders (later to be called the Yankees).  Hemphill was never really a star, but he was often a solid hitter, though he never did improve his fielding much.

Though he was never really a star, Dave Philley had a very long career, and yes, he did play briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies.  He made his Major League debut in 1941, then missed a few seasons due to military service, and finally played his last game in 1962.  He was never named to any All Star games, but he did have some very minor MVP consideration in three seasons.  Philley played for eight teams during his career, with his most significant time being with the White Sox.  Philley was at the end of his career when traded by Houston to the Red Sox for Tom Borland.  He played in just 38 games with the Red Sox and hit .143/.250/.190 with two doubles and four RBIs.  He spent the vast majority of his time in Boston as a pinch hitter and only played four games in the field, all in right.  He was released after the season and retired.

Another former White Sox star who closed out his career with the Red Sox was Jim Landis.  Landis was a five time Gold Glove winner, finished seventh in the MVP race in 1959, and was an All Star in 1962, all with the White Sox.  He was primarily a center fielder with the White Sox, but appeared in right field in all of his games with the Red Sox.  Landis started the 1967 season with the Tigers, but was released in August, which allowed him to catch on with the Impossible Dream Red Sox on their way to the pennant.  Boston had need of a right fielder after losing Tony Conigliaro to a horrific beaning, but Landis was not the answer.  They eventually picked up Ken Harrelson and Landis appeared in just five games.  He hit the final home run of his career, but that was his only hit with Boston as he hit .143/.250/.571.  He was released by Boston less than a week after he was signed and that was it for his career.

Though he was much better known as a center fielder with the Baltimore Orioles, Brady Anderson started his career with the Boston Red Sox.  He played in 41 games with the Red Sox in his debut 1988 season, appearing in 25 games in right and 17 in center, so he barely qualifies more as a right fielder in his time with Boston.  Anderson started in center on Opening Day, but as Ellis Burks was emerging as a star, it was his position to lose.  Anderson did not hit much with Boston, with a line of .230/.315/.304 with no home runs, but at the time he was known much more for his speed and defense.  It was much later that he managed to hit 50 home runs in a season.  Anderson did contribute three triples and four stolen bases.  Anderson was traded to the Orioles near the trading deadline along with future star Curt Schilling for Mike Boddicker.  The deal worked out well for both teams as Boddicker helped solidify the rotation for the next couple of seasons and Anderson eventually became a big star with a rejuvenated Orioles team, appearing in three All Star games.  Schilling also became a great player but not before switching teams a couple more times.

Though he was coming off of an injury-plagued season with Montreal in 1992, Calderon was acquired in a trade by Boston for Mike Gardiner as part of a massive lineup overhaul.  His last full season in 1991 saw him named to the All Star team while hitting 19 home runs and stealing 31 bases, so there was hope that he could still be a productive player.  And he was just 31 years old, so he should have had something left in the tank.  Unfortunately, it did not work out that way.  Calderon played in just 73 games with the Red Sox and was mostly brutal at the plate.  He hit just .221/.291/.291 with eight doubles, two triples, one home run, 19 RBIs, and four stolen bases.  His offensive struggles led him to being benched and Carlos Quintana and Bob Zupcic spent quite a bit of time in right field.  Calderon returned to the White Sox later in the month and finished the season up with them.  It was his last Major League appearance.  Calderon was murdered in Puerto Rico in 2003.

ROB DEER - 1993
After Calderon's struggles and relief, Boston acquired power hitter Rob Deer from the Tigers.  Deer was known for having big-time power, but also striking out a ton while with the Brewers and Tigers.  He had hit 25 or more home runs six times, but also led the Majors in strikeouts four times, including a mind-boggling 186 in 1987.  Deer was as-advertised in his very brief time with the Red Sox in 1993.  He played in just 38 games and hit .196/.303/.399 while striking out 49 times in 165 plate appearances en route to leading the league with 169 strikeouts.  He did hit seven home runs though, including one in his first at-bat with the Red Sox.  Deer was not brought back after the season and spent the 1994 and 1995 seasons in Japan before returning with the Padres in 1996 for a brief, ugly stint. 

The Red Sox were again overhauling their roster prior to the 1995 season and acquired a couple of power hitters to bolster the heart of their order.  Jose Canseco worked out when he was healthy.  Mark Whiten did not.  He had a strong season in 1994 with the Cardinals and hit 25 home runs in 1993.  Boston sent Scott Cooper and Cory Bailey for Whiten and Rheal Cormier.  Only Cormier had a decent season of any of the four players.  Whiten played in just 32 games for the Red Sox in 1995, hitting .185/.239/.241 with just one home run and ten RBIs.  Luckily, Boston benefited from the emergence of Troy O'Leary in right field, which made it easier to dump Whiten in a trade with the Phillies for Dave Hollins.  Whiten went on to have some success in the next few seasons while playing mostly in platoons from that point on.  

Coming off of a serious ankle injury that limited him to just 45 games with the Giants in 1994, Willie McGee signed a free agent contract with the Red Sox in June to attempt a comeback.  McGee had been a standout player with the Cardinals for many years in the 1980's, winning the 1985 NL MVP, and even managed to win the 1990 NL batting title, his second, despite playing the last 29 games in the American League.  His acquisition gave the Red Sox three former MVPs, and the eventual MVP winner that season.  McGee was acquired by the Red Sox when Whiten was struggling and the team needed some more consistency.  McGee played in 67 games with the Red Sox in 1995, appearing in 47 games in right field, 27 in center, and three in left.  He was not bad, hitting .285/.311/.400 with two home runs, 15 RBIs, and five stolen bases.  McGee appeared in two games in the ALDS against the Indians, picking up two hits and an RBI.  After the season, he returned to St. Louis for a few more years to close out his career.

Another former MVP that signed on with the Red Sox as part of a comeback attempt, Kevin Mitchell, who won the 1989 NL MVP with the Giants, was coming off of a season spent in Japan.  Despite the fact that he hit 30 home runs with a .326/.429/1.110 line in 1994 with the Reds, he chose to avoid the strike and play in Japan.  He came back to the U.S. with the Red Sox and significant weight problems.  Despite this, he actually hit reasonably well with Boston, hitting .304/.385/.413, but with just two home runs and 13 RBIs in 27 games.  Mitchell was traded back to the Reds at the July trading deadline for two minor leaguers that never appeared in the Majors with Boston.  He played quite well for the Reds to close out the year and played a couple more seasons, but never to the same success as he had prior to heading to Japan.

Gilkey was yet another longtime National Leaguer that arrived in Boston briefly as part of a comeback attempt.  Gilkey had risen to stardom with the Cardinals and Mets, with a particularly impressive 1996 season with New York, but he had a couple of down seasons and injury problems leading up to his June 2000 release by the Diamondbacks.  Boston picked him up as a depth option a few days later and he finished up the season with the Red Sox, appearing in 36 games and hitting .231/.327/.341 with one home run and nine RBIs.  After the season, Gilkey signed on with the Braves for his final Major League season.

There had been rumors for several years that Boston was trying to acquire Jay Payton.  The Georgia Tech alum attended college with Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.  Finally, prior to the 2005 season, they got their man.  And then they traded him away by mid July.  Payton was part of the return Boston received when Dave Roberts was sent to the Padres and he was expected to be the right-handed part of a right field platoon.  He started on Opening Day, but only ended up playing in 55 games with Boston with a line of .263/.313/.429 and hit five home runs, driving in 21.  Trot Nixon ended up making a comeback and Payton, not happy with his lack of playing time, asked for a trade.  Boston consented and sent him to Oakland for reliever Chad Bradford.  Payton played a few more years, but never played quite as well as his early years with the Mets and Rockies.

JOSE CRUZ JR. - 2005
In the late 1990's Cruz was one of the brightest young stars in the American League.  He finished second to Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in the AL Rookie of the Year race in 1997 after being the subject of a foolish trade by Seattle to Toronto.  He then had a couple of down seasons before emerging as a true power/speed threat.  In 2001 he joined the 30/30 club with the Blue Jays.  He then started to bounce around a little bit, but remained a power threat.  In 2005, Cruz's career was started to head down the tubes.  He started the season with Arizona, hitting 12 home runs, but with a .215 average.  He was traded to the Red Sox for a couple of minor leaguers in July, but played in just four games with Boston.  He had three hits, including a double in 13 plate appearances before being placed on waivers and being claimed by the Dodgers.  He played well for the Dodgers the rest of the way and returned to them in 2006.  He then bounced around a little before retiring.

Baldelli's career was unfortunately cut short by a rare mitochondrial disease, which is a shame as he was a very talented player.  He was one of the first very good players the Tampa Bay Devil Rays developed and he finished third in the Rookie of the Year race in 2003.  He had another very good season in 2004, hitting .280/.326/.436 with 16 home runs.  It was 2005 that the condition struck and he was out the entire season.  When he returned in 2006, he was no longer able to play full time.  He stuck around for a few more seasons in Tampa Bay, then signed a free agent contract to provide right field depth and platoon with J.D. Drew for the Red Sox.  He played in 62 games for Boston, hitting .253/.311/.433 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs.  But his condition continued to limit his ability to stay on the field.  He returned to Tampa Bay for one more season in 2010.

CODY ROSS - 2012
Originally signed as right-handed depth in the outfield for the Red Sox in 2012 (Ellsbury, Crawford, and Sweeney were all left-handed hitters), Ross was thrust into regular duty partially as a result of injuries to a number of other players, and partially as a result of his very impressive hitting.  Ross had been a decent hitter previously with the Marlins, but he ended up having quite possibly the best season of his career with Boston in 2012.  Ross showed a propensity for clutch hits and ended up the season with a slash line of .267/.326/.481 with 22 home runs, 34 doubles, and 81 RBIs.  He was one of the most consistent hitters on the team all season long, due to a ton of injuries and struggles.  Unfortunately Boston showed no interest in bringing him back after the season.  He left for Arizona and played a couple of seasons there before ending his career with the Oakland Athletics.  

Sweeney was acquired in a trade with the Athletics along with All Star closer Andrew Bailey for a package headlined by young outfielder Josh Reddick.  He was considered a decent contact hitter and a very good defensive outfielder.  Power was never a big part of his game as evidenced by the fact that his career high for home runs was six.  Unfortunately, due to injuries, Sweeney was only able to play in 63 games with the Red Sox.  He did not hit a home run, though he did pick up 19 doubles, and he hit just .260/.303/.373.  He came back to Boston for Spring Training in 2013, but was squeezed out by a number of new acquisitions and was released just prior to the season.  He played two seasons with the Cubs before his career ended.

And it is not even close.  First of all, Cody Ross is one of only two players from this post to be a full-time regular for an entire season.  Second of all, Ross had a very good, underrated season.  He was a lot better than Charlie Hemphill, and he played a lot more than Kevin Mitchell or Willie McGee.  Still to this day I do not understand why Boston did not bring Ross back.  It worked out just fine as he was basically replaced by Shane Victorino, who had a terrific 2013 season.  So, Ross will have to settle for being the best one-year right fielder in Red Sox history. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1970-1979

The Red Sox were a very good team throughout most of the 1970's and were in contention several years.  They appeared in the World Series in 1975 against the Cincinnati Reds, though they lost in a thrilling seven game series.  They famously lost a one-game playoff to the Yankees in 1978 after looking like a championship team for most of the season.  The Red Sox of the 1970's did have one of their most iconic looks in their history with the red caps in the late 1970's.  And they of course had a number of terrific players.

It is very likely that Fisk is not just the best Red Sox catcher of the decade, he is the best Red Sox catcher of all time.  Fisk exploded onto the scene, winning the Rookie of the Year unanimously in 1972 and also picking up his only career Gold Glove.  He was an All Star six times in the 1970's and had one of the most iconic World Series moments of all time in Game 6 of the 1975 Series.  Fisk had some terrific seasons during the 1970's, including hitting .315/.402/.521 with 26 home runs and 102 RBIs in 1977.  Fisk is a Hall of Famer and wears a Red Sox cap on his plaque, due mostly to his work during the 1970's.  There really is no other choice at catcher than Fisk.

We go from one of the easiest selections to one of the hardest.  I had a lot of difficulty deciding between George Scott and Cecil Cooper at first base.  Cooper had the better individual season in 1975, but it was in just 106 games, but Scott had significantly more power and played in more games at first than Cooper.  Scott had been with the Red Sox since 1966 and was traded after the 1971 season.  He won a Gold Glove in 1971 and hit .263/.317/.441 with 24 home runs.  He was traded back to the Red Sox after the 1976 season, oddly for Cecil Cooper.  He had his final great season in 1977, hitting .269/.337/.500 with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs in his return, but age slowed him down afterwards.  Cooper went on to have a terrific career with the Brewers.

Second base was rough for the Red Sox in the 1970's.  Only one player turned in an All Star season, and that was Jerry Remy who played just one full season with the Red Sox in the 1970's.  Denny Doyle had the best offensive season in 1975, but it was in just 89 games, as he was an in-season acquisition.  So we end up with Doug Griffin, who played the most games at second for the Red Sox during the decade and who was mostly valuable due to his impressive defense.  Griffin won a Gold Glove in 1972 and was fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1971.  He was not much of a hitter, hitting .245/.299/.299 with just seven home runs during his career.  Remy and Doyle had better individual seasons as hitters, but Griffin was terrific with the glove.

One of the more underrated players of the 1970's was Rick Burleson.  The Rooster was a terrific defensive shortstop, who unfortunately was overshadowed by Mark Belanger.  He did manage to win his only Gold Glove in 1979.  He was also a decent contact hitter who did the little things to help win ball games.  Burleson was an All Star in three consecutive seasons from 1977 through 1979.  He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1974.  He had his best season for the Red Sox in 1976 when he hit .291/.365/.383 with seven home runs, 42 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases.  He also played his fairly typical great defense.  Burleson was named the Red Sox Team MVP in consecutive years in 1979 and 1980.  Burleson's career was unfortunately shortened by significant injuries after being traded to the Angels prior to 1981.    

After several seasons as the Red Sox starting shortstop, Petrocelli was moved to third base for the 1971 season to accommodate the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio.  He had his last great season in 1971 when he hit .251/.354/.461 with 28 home runs and 89 RBIs as the Red Sox third-baseman.  He had a few more decent seasons with the Red Sox from 1973 through 1975, hitting around 15 home runs and generally being a league-average hitter.  Petrocelli did have an impressive performance in the 1975 World Series, hitting .308.  He played great defense at third base, with a .970 career fielding percentage at third.  Butch Hobson comes in as the runner-up, mostly due to the strength of his 1977 season when he hit 30 home runs and drove in 112.  

One of the many young stars during the 1975 season for the Red Sox, Evans actually went on to have one of the best careers among Fisk, Lynn, Rice, and Burleson.  That he is not a Hall of Famer yet is a mistake.  Evans did not fully develop into a star right away, though he was named an All Star in 1978.  He showed off some power, hitting more than 20 home runs in 1978 and 1979, but he was mostly just a good hitter during the 1970's.  He was a great defensive player though, winning three Gold Gloves and showing off a rocket for an arm.  He made a terrific catch during the 1975 World Series.  Evans spent the vast majority of the decade as the Red Sox right-fielder, but the best was yet to come from him. 

The first player to win the MVP and the Rookie of the Year Awards in the same season, Lynn had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time.  He was a terrific five-tool player.  He led the league in doubles (47), runs (103), slugging (.566), and OPS (.967).  He hit .331/.401/.566 with 21 home runs, 105 RBIs, and ten stolen bases and also won the Gold Glove.  Lynn was an All Star every season he played for the Red Sox and actually had his best season in 1979 when he won the batting title by hitting .333/.423/.637 with 39 home runs and 122 RBIs.  He led the league in average, OBP, and slugging, yet finished just fourth in the MVP vote.  Lynn also won four Gold Gloves with the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, he was traded to the Angels after the 1980 season and was just very good for several seasons, instead of great.  Lynn was one of the most dynamic players on the team in the 1970's.  Reggie Smith had a few good seasons in the early part of the decade too.

I could have complicated the first base position even more than it already was.  Yaz played a lot of first base during the 1970's and was actually the primary first-baseman from 1973 to 1976.  But he also still played a lot of left field, winning Gold Gloves in 1971 and 1977.  He had his last terrific power season in 1970 when he hit .329/.452/.592 with 40 home runs and 102 RBIs and led the league in runs, OBP, and slugging.  He was still a very good hitter after 1970, though age started to take its toll on the legendary player.  He was still an All Star every season in the 1970's, but he was not the Yaz of 1967.  He was still a very good, even great player.

The designated hitter position was created in 1973 and Boston had the first winner of the Designated Hitter of the Year Award.  But Jim Rice was the first huge Red Sox star that spent a significant amount of time at DH.  He played a lot at the position in the early years as Yaz was still a better defensive player than Rice for a few years.  But Rice's bat was far more powerful, so he needed to be in the lineup somehow.  Rice was the runner-up to Lynn for the Rookie of the Year in 1975 when he hit .309/.350/.491 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs.  He was an offensive force from 1977 through 1979 and won the MVP with a terrific 1978 season when he hit .315/.370/.600 and led the league in most offensive categories.  While Rice played a lot of left field, he played the most games at DH of any Red Sox player in the 1970's.

Another of the big stars of the team during the 1975 season, Luis Tiant was captivating to watch as he had a truly unique windup and threw a number of different pitches from a number of different arm angles.  Formerly a power pitcher for the Indians, Tiant was forced to reinvent himself as a crafty, finesse pitcher after suffering a serious arm injury.  Boston picked him up off the scrap heap, and after a rough 1971 season, he led the league in ERA in 1972 with a 1.91 mark.  He won 20 games three out of four seasons from 1973 through 1976 and was the big pitching star for Boston in 1975.  Tiant is another member of this team that should be re-examined for the Hall of Fame.

Although Eckersley only spent two seasons with the Red Sox in the 1970's, they were quite possibly his best seasons as a starting pitcher.  He was acquired from the Indians in a lopsided deal prior to the 1978 season and he was the big winner for Boston that season.  He had his only 20 win season that year, going 20-8 with a 2.99 ERA and struck out 162 batters.  He had another great season in 1979, going 17-10 with an identical 2.99 ERA and struck out 150 batters.  Somehow he did not make the All Star team in either season, though he did receive some Cy Young votes both years.  Eckersley is in the Hall of Fame, though this is mostly due to his exceptional work as a closer.  He was just not good enough for long enough as a starting pitcher.

Wise led the Red Sox in wins in the 1975 season.  Not Tiant.  Not Lee.  Rick Wise.  He was originally acquired in a somewhat regrettable trade with the Cardinals in which Boston sent athletic outfielder Reggie Smith to St. Louis, but that is largely made up for when Wise was later traded for Eckersley.  Wise was known for being involved in poor deals as he was also once traded for Steve Carlton.  He was not great in his time with the Red Sox, but he did have a very good 1975 season when he was 19-12 with a 3.95 ERA and struck out 141 batters.  He never won as many games with the Red Sox again, but he was at least a decent starting pitcher for two more seasons.  He is mainly here for his 1975 season.

Siebert was the Red Sox ace during the early years in the 1970's, though he was not really among the elite pitchers in the league.  He was acquired in the trade that sent popular outfielder Ken Harrelson to the Indians.  That trade did work out well for Boston over time as Siebert had some nice seasons.  In 1970, he was 15-8 with a 3.44 ERA and 142 strikeouts.  He was an All Star in 1971 when he went 16-10 with a 2.91 ERA and 131 strikeouts.  He had a surprisingly good season with the bat that year as he hit a shocking six home runs and batted .266.  He had never hit more than two before.  The next year though he was just 12-12 with a 3.80 ERA and was traded early in the 1973 season.

After a few years in the bullpen, Bill "Spaceman" Lee was moved to the rotation in 1973.  He was decent out of the bullpen, including a very good 1971 season in which he was 9-2 with a 2.74 ERA.  But the outspoken southpaw really came into his own when he was given a chance to be a regular starting pitcher.  He won 17 games three seasons in a row from 1973 through 1975.  He had his lone All Star season in 1973 when he was 17-11 with a 2.75 ERA and struck out 120.  Lee was famous for being a great quote and having some wild ideas.  He was unconventional to say the least, but he was also a fiery competitor and a talented pitcher.  He had some injury problems in the late 1970's and did not get along with Boston manager Don Zimmer, which led to his eventual trade to the Expos.  Gary Peters and Mike Torrez were considered for the team as starting pitchers.

Moret spent just over half of his 116 games pitched for the Red Sox as a starter.  He had a couple of exceptional seasons which he split as a starter and reliever.  After a few seasons of appearing in just a handful of games, Moret made it to the big leagues to stay in 1973.  That season, he was 13-2 with a 3.17 ERA and struck out 90 in 156.1 innings.  After a decent season in 1974, Moret put together a 14-3 record in 1975.  He had an ERA of 3.60 and struck out 80 that season, but off-the-field problems led Boston to trade him to the Braves.  Unfortunately, Moret was never again the pitcher that he was in Boston.

"The Steamer" emerged as a great relief pitcher in 1978, his second season in the Majors.  He was decent in 1977, while pitching primarily out of the bullpen.  In 1978 though, he was a workhorse, appearing in 52 games, all but three of which were out of the bullpen, and throwing 141.2 innings.  He was 15-2 with a 2.60 ERA and picked up ten saves.  In 1979, Stanley started 30 out of 40 games and was 16-12 with 3.99 ERA and appeared in his first All Star game.  Stanley would pitch several more seasons with the Red Sox, with varying degrees of success.

The first major free agent that the Red Sox signed was Bill Campbell.  He was coming off of a season in which he was 17-5 with a 3.01 ERA and 20 saves, all as a relief pitcher, and teams were beginning to gravitate toward having a designated relief ace, which would eventually move toward the one-inning closer.  Campbell was great in his first season with the Red Sox in 1977, putting up similar numbers to Cy Young Award winning reliever Sparky Lyle.  He was 13-9 with a 2.96 ERA, a league-leading 31 saves, and 114 strikeouts versus 60 walks in 140 innings.  Unfortunately, the huge workload took its toll on Campbell and he was never quite as good.  But his 1977 season was the best season of the decade by any Red Sox relief pitcher by a wide margin.  Bobby Bolin and Dick Drago were also considered for the team.