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.

Cravath was a 27-year-old rookie when he appeared in 94 games for Boston in 1908.  He did not hit a lot, finishing the year up with just a .256/.354/.383 line with one home run, ten doubles, eleven triples and 34 RBIs.  He also stole six bases.  He bounced around for a few more seasons before landing with the Phillies to stay in 1912.  Cravath developed into one of the better power hitters in the game from that point on.  He led the league in home runs three times in a row, twice, including hitting 24 home runs in 1915, an amazing total for the Deadball Era.  Cravath was one of the biggest stars in the game during the Deadball Era.

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. 

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