Thursday, February 23, 2017

Red Sox With No Cards: 2010

Upper Deck lost their MLB license in 2010.  That did not stop them from releasing one series of cards, but the loss would be felt with a lot of players not getting cards starting in 2010.  That left just Topps making baseball cards.  

How did this happen?  Atchison pitched for the Red Sox for three straight years, appearing in more than 40 games twice.  Yet somehow, he never got a card with the Red Sox.  Atchison originally came up with the Mariners in 2004 and moved up and down between AAA and the Majors through 2007.  He signed a free agent contract with the Red Sox originally in December 2007, but was released and went to pitch for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan for a couple of seasons.  He returned to the Red Sox for the 2010 season.  He was decent, if not overly impressive, going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 60 innings over 43 games.  He struck out 41 and walked 19.  He actually started a game against the Phillies in June, throwing three innings in the only game he ever started as a Major Leaguer.  You can expect to see Atchison in the next two posts to find out where he went from 2010.

One of the best names in baseball in recent years, Bonser was a prospect for the Giants who was involved in the A.J. Pierzynski trade that brought Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan to the Twins.  Bonser was given multiple chances with the Twins but never managed to develop into the starting pitcher he was projected to be after a fairly impressive rookie season.  Bonser was traded to the Red Sox in December 2009 as part of a minor deal.  He spent only a short amount of time in the Red Sox organization.  He pitched in nine games with the Pawtucket Red Sox and two games in Boston.  In those two games, he pitched two innings with an 18.00 ERA, giving up six hits and two walks with no strikeouts.  He was released by the Red Sox in June and ended up with the Oakland A's, for whom he appeared in 13 games with a 5.09 ERA.  That was his last stint in the Majors.   

Cabrera was in his second season with the Red Sox organization in 2010.  The big righty spent almost the entire season with Pawtucket as their closer.  For the second straight season he saved 22 games for the PawSox, but he had a 4.30 ERA.  Cabrera appeared in just one Major League game with the Red Sox and pitched an inning and a third, giving up three earned runs on two hits and two walks with no strikeouts.  That was his final appearance in the Major Leagues, though he did pitch in a couple of other organizations.  Cabrera does have minor league cards with the Red Sox.  

Though he was already with his third Major League organization, Coello made his ML debut with the Red Sox in 2010.  He had actually been signed by the Red Sox for the 2009 season, but he spent the entire season in the minors.  He spent most of the 2010 season in the minors too, but was impressive enough to receive a late-season call-up.  He pitched in six games for the Red Sox with a 4.76 ERA over 5.2 innings.  He walked five and struck out five.  Coello was traded to the Cubs in a minor deal for Tony Thomas in Spring Training of 2011.  He has bounced around ever since, making brief appearances for the Blue Jays and Angels.  Coello has never appeared on a Major League card, but he does have some minor league cards with the Red Sox organization.

Fox was originally a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2004, the 35th overall pick.  He had a long and winding road to the Majors, finally making it to the Twins for just one game in 2010.  He was placed on waivers in September and the Red Sox took a flyer.  He pitched in three more games for the Red Sox, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings over three games.  He walked one and did not strike out anyone.  He spent the entire 2011 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox and had a decent season and was named to the All Star Game.  He bounced around after that, but he never appeared in the Majors again.  He hung it up after the 2013 season.  Fox does appear in Pawtucket sets.  

Like Atchison, this one is really annoying.  Boston native Hill spent parts of four seasons with the Red Sox.  It is a little more understanding in 2010 though.  Hill had been a promising southpaw for the Cubs for several years, but could never really be consistent enough to be a full-time starter.  He spent the 2009 season in Baltimore before coming to the Red Sox in 2010.  Hill was signed by the Red Sox in June of 2010 and was a lefty out of the bullpen for six games for the Red Sox, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  He struck out three, walked one, and gave up five hits.  Hill will be in several of these posts, because despite pitching in 44 games for the Red Sox over four seasons, he never had a Boston Red Sox card, though he does have one minor league card with the Red Sox.

The acquisition of Felipe Lopez was an ill-fated attempt at adding a cheap draft pick from the 2011 draft.  Lopez was going to be a Type B free agent after the season, meaning that the team that signed him as a free agent had to give up a second round draft pick.  Lopez was a slick-fielding shortstop for a number of teams and had some decent decent seasons with the stick as well, including a .291/352/.486 line in 2005 with 23 home runs.  He spent most of the 2010 season with the Cardinals, but struggled at the plate and was released in late September for bizarre reasons.  Boston scooped him up to try to take advantage of the free agency compensation.  He appeared in four games with the Red Sox and hit .267/.313/.467 with a home run and an RBI.  He appeared at second, third, and short in his brief time with Boston.  Unfortunately, the free agency thing did not work out as Lopez signed a minor league deal with the Rays in February 2011.  The fact that it was a minor league deal meant that Boston did not get the compensation.  

Yet another pitcher that the Red Sox tried out in 2010, Manuel was originally an undrafted free agent with the Mets.  He bounced around several organizations before making his Major League debut in 2009 with the Reds, appearing in three games.  Later that year he was traded to the Mariners, then placed on waivers before being selected by the Red Sox in November.  He spent most of the 2010 season in Pawtucket and was very impressive, going 8-2 with a 1.68 ERA and 13 saves.  He spent a couple of short stints with the Red Sox, going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 12.2 innings over ten games.  He struck out five and walked seven.  He played for an Independent League team in 2011 before quitting baseball.  Manuel does have a minor league card with the Red Sox organization.

After appearing in eight games for the Royals in 2006 at the age of 22, it took Sanchez a few years to make it back to the Majors.  Sanchez was signed as a minor league free agent by the Red Sox in November of 2009 and played in just one Major League game with the Red Sox in 2010.  He was hitless in three at-bats while playing shortstop.  He hit .274 in 62 games with Pawtucket.  In July, he was traded to the Astros for catcher Kevin Cash, who was coming to Boston for the second time.  Sanchez spent the rest of the season in Houston and actually hit pretty well with a .280/.316/.348 slash line.  He also spent the entire 2011 season as a utility man for the Astros.  It was his only full season in the Majors.  He last appeared in 2013 with the White Sox.  

Shealy was a top prospect with the Rockies, showing some big-time power in the minor leagues, including seasons in which he hit 29 home runs in AA and 26 in AAA.  Unfortunately he played first base, a position occupied by franchise legend Todd Helton.  After a couple of unimpressive stints with Colorado, he was traded to the Royals for Jeremy Affeldt.  Over the course of three seasons with the Royals, Shealy played in 123 games and hit 17 home runs.  He was very impressive in 2008, hitting seven home runs with a .301 average in 20 games.  Shealy signed with the Rays as a free agent in December 2009 and played in the minors until the Red Sox signed him in June.  He played in five games with the Red Sox, but was hitless in seven at-bats.  He was released by the Red Sox and never appeared in the Majors again.  

Only Scott Atchison appeared in more than ten games for the Red Sox, so he is the player I am going with for the player I am most disappointed that he did not receive a card.  There were a couple of legitimate Major Leaguers that played for Boston in 2010 that did not get cards, such as Felipe Lopez and Rich Hill, but Lopez only appeared in four games at the very end of the season and Hill pitched in six games.  Still, if Quilvio Veras received a card in 2001 when he never played for Boston, Lopez and Hill could have.  Still, Atchison is my pick for 2010.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

One-Card Wonder Pt. 39: Rudy Seanez

Middle relievers just do not get enough cards these days.  Seanez had a long 17-year career and he has fewer than 80 cards, and yes, that includes all of the parallels of him.  He spent parts of two seasons with the Red Sox and only appears on this card (and all of the parallels).

Seanez made his Major League debut with the Indians in 1989 at just 20 years old.  He would eventually pitch for nine Major League teams and had his best seasons with the Braves in the late 1990's.  He was primarily a setup man.  He never started a game in the Majors and never saved more than three games in any season in his career.

The Red Sox signed Seanez as a free agent in May of 2003, but spent most of the season in the minors.  He appeared in just nine games with Boston, but was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA.  He struck out nine, but walked six in 8.2 innings.  After the season, he bounced around a bit more, but returned to the Red Sox in 2006.

Seanez was a big part of the Red Sox bullpen in 2006, appearing in 41 games until he was released in August.  He was 2-1 with a 4.82 ERA and finished 16 games, though he did not pick up any saves.  His strikeout rate was still impressive, striking out 48 in 46.2 innings, but he walked 26.  He was released and ended up in San Diego.

I remember Seanez pretty well because he pitched in both games I saw in 2006, including the only game I have seen at Fenway so far.  He picked up a hold in that game, pitching 1.2 innings with a strikeout, though he gave up three hits.  The second game was not as impressive, he gave up a home run in a loss to the Royals in 1.2 innings.  He gave up two hits and a walk.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 30: Wade Boggs

Years in Boston: 1982-1992 (.338/.428/.462, 85 home runs, 687 RBIs, 2,098 hits)
Best Year in Boston: 1987 (.363/.461/.588, 24 home runs, 89 RBIs, 200 hits)
And now we come to one of my all-time favorite players.  Boggs was my first favorite player when I started watching baseball in the early 1990's.  It helped that he was born in Omaha, Nebraska, though he actually grew up in Florida.  Boggs had a rough path to the Majors.  He was drafted in the seventh round and was never considered a top prospect, despite hitting at every stop in the minors.  It took several years before he made it to the big leagues because he was not a power hitter and he struggled defensively at third base.  Boston also had Carney Lansford at third basem, who won a batting title in 1981.
But Boggs made the Majors in 1982.  He rarely played early in the year, but when Lansford went down with an injury, Boggs took over at third and never looked back.  He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote with a very impressive .349/.406/.441 line.  His batting average and on-base percentage were both tops among AL rookies.  He would have won the batting title had he played in more games.  Willie Wilson won it with a .332 mark.
Boggs followed up his impressive rookie season with his first of five batting titles, his first of seven consecutive 200 hit seasons, and his first of six Silver Slugger Awards.  He also led the league in OBP for the first of six times.  He was not an All Star though oddly.  1984 saw him take a back seat to Don Mattingly, but he still had a terrific season.  1985 was the first of 12 consecutive All Star seasons and was one of the best seasons of his career.  He led the Majors in hits with 240, which was the 13th highest single-season hit total in history.  He finished fourth in the MVP vote, which was the highest finish of his career.  He won the batting title for the second time and the first of four consecutive times.
He appeared in the postseason for the first time in 1986 after helping to lead the team to the World Series against the Mets.  Boggs had a great season yet again, winning the batting title once more, and also led the league in OBP and walks.  He struggled in the ALCS, but hit .290 in the World Series.  1987 was the best season of his career.  He was often criticized for not hitting for enough power, but he hit 24 home runs, more than twice as many as his next highest number.  He led the league in average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+.  1988 was the last time that he won the batting title, but he had a career high 125 walks and 128 runs.  He hit a career high 51 doubles in 1989, but missed out on the batting title.
1990 was a tough season as he barely finished over .300 with a .302/.386/.418 line and also failed to get to 200 hits for the first time since his rookie season.  1991 was his last great season with the Red Sox as he hit .332/.421/.460 with eight home runs and 44 doubles.  He struggled greatly in 1992, hitting just .259/.353/.358.
For some reason the organization was never truly enamored of Boggs.  He was always quirky (he ate chicken before every meal), but some of his quirks were a little too strange.  He was viewed as a selfish player who was more concerned with his own stats than the team's.  He also had a number of off-field issues that were distracting to the team and was considered a below-average fielder, which was not true.  So when Boggs struggled in 1992, the team made no effort to bring him back and he went to the Yankees.  He had a few more decent seasons, won a World Series, and eventually got his 3,000th hit with the Devil Rays.
Boggs was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, his first year on the ballot and wears a Red Sox cap on his plaque.  He had all of his best seasons with the Red Sox.  Looking back at his career from a sabermetric stance reveals that Boggs was likely the best player in the league in the mid 1980's.  His number 26 was retired by the Red Sox in 2016.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Your 1981 Red Sox Pt. 7: Dennis Eckersley

In this series, I will look at each player who played in 1981, the year I was born. Because, why not?
I do not want to get too much into Dennis Eckersley's Red Sox career.  After all, I did just cover this part of his career a couple of months ago when he appeared in my Red Sox in Cooperstown series.  Essentially, he came over from Cleveland as a young, very talented pitcher and was the ace of the staff for a couple of years early on.  Then he went through some up and down years before being traded to the Cubs for Bill Buckner.  Later, after becoming a terrific closer, he finished his career as a setup man for the Red Sox in 1998.  
Now that we have that out of the way: 1981.
1981 was one of the tough years in Eckersley's career as a starting pitcher.  He was coming off the worst season in his career to that point when he was 12-14 with a 4.28 ERA.  In the strike-interrupted 1981 season, he was not much better.  He finished the season with a winning record, 9-8, and his ERA was just one hundredth of a point lower at 4.27.  His FIP improved from 3.87 to 3.07, but his WHIP increased from 1.174 to 1.266.  It was certainly not a return to form from Eckersley, being mostly in line with his 1980 season.
From there he would improve in 1982 to the point that he was an All Star, then follow that up with a terrible 1983 season.  And after starting off rough in 1984, he was traded.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Red Sox Awards History: Designated Hitter/Edgar Martinez Award

The American League adopted the designated hitter position in 1973 in an effort to increase offense and draw in fans.  Initially, it was planned to be a trial for a few years, but it worked out well and the league kept it in place.  That first season a new award was created for the player who had the best year as designated hitter.  The name was originally just the Designated Hitter of the Year, but it eventually changed to the Edgar Martinez Award to honor the Mariners great who won five of them.  I doubt it would happen, but perhaps the name should be changed to the David Ortiz Award.

These are the Red Sox to win it:
The designated hitter position was created for guys like Cepeda.  He was still an outstanding hitter, but he could barely move in the field.  Cepeda was in his mid 30's and coming off of a season in which he hit just four home runs in 31 games.  Boston signed him specifically to be their first DH and he came within minutes of being the first official DH.  He was the first really good one though as he hit .289/.350/.444 with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs.  He even received some MVP votes.  It was his last great season.

JIM RICE - 1977
Rice was a still young hitter in 1977 who spent most of the season as the team's DH as a result of Carl Yastrzemski still going strong in left field.  Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans were both terrific defensive players, so it was between DH and left field for Rice.  He ended up playing in 116 games at DH and 44 in the outfield.  Rice had his first truly great season in 1977 as he hit .320/.376/.593 while leading the league in home runs (39), total bases (382), and slugging percentage.  He also drove in 114 runs and was an All Star while finishing fourth in the MVP vote.

Another aging star whose career was extended by being a DH, Baylor was in his first, and only, full season with the Red Sox in 1986.  He was coming off of a season in which he won the award for the Yankees in 1985.  He was traded to the Red Sox for Mike Easler prior to the season and had a little better season in 1986, hitting .238/.344/.439 while helping to lead Boston to the World Series.  He led the team with 31 home runs and drove in 94 runs.  Baylor also won the Silver Slugger and picked up some MVP votes.

DAVID ORTIZ - 2003-2007, 2011, 2013, 2016
David Ortiz will go down as one of the greatest designated hitters of all time.  He has won the award eight times, three more than the guy the award is currently named after.  He might have won a couple more if injuries had not ended his 2012 season early, and he could have won in both 214 and 2015.  Here is the breakdown on the years he won:
2003: .288/.369/.592, 31 home runs, 101 RBIs
2004: 301/.380/.603, 41 home runs, 139 RBIs
2005: .300/.397/.604, 47 home runs, 148 RBIs
2006: .287/.413/.636, 54 home runs, 137 RBIs
2007: .332/.445/.621, 35 home runs, 117 RBIs
2011: .309/.398/.554, 29 home runs, 96 RBIs
2013: .309/.395/.564, 30 home runs, 103 RBIs
2016: .315/.401/.620, 38 home runs, 127 RBIs

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Last Remaining Red Sox Free Agent has Signed

Aaron Hill has signed a minor league free agent contract with the Giants.
I was initially intrigued by the trade that brought Hill over from the Brewers.  It did not cost Boston much, just a couple of minor leaguers who were not high on the team's top prospects list.  And Boston needed production from third base with injuries and ineffectiveness to Pablo Sandoval and Brock Holt and a prolonged slump from Travis Shaw.  Hill was also capable of filling it at second if need be.  At the time of the trade, he was hitting .283/.359/.421 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs.  He was having a decent year.
Unfortunately some times things just do not work out.  Hill's numbers took a nose dive and he never looked comfortable in Boston.  Over the next few months, he hit just .218/.287/.290 with just two home runs, three doubles, and nine RBIs.  Pathetic numbers really.  He ended up buried on the bench in the postseason and only had one plate appearance, he struck out.  So it was no surprise at all that Boston never seemed interested in bringing him back.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One-Card High Tek Post

Just a quick trade here.  I received a High Tek base card of embattled lefty Henry Owens.  Topps is pretty obsessed with Owens right now.  Despite very poor numbers in 2016, he continues to appear in a number of sets.  Still, this was a card from my wantlist so I am happy to add it.  Owens will start the season in Pawtucket this season and be rotation depth for now.  He is running out of chances to prove he belongs in the Majors.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The 30th Anniversary of the Wood Paneling Set

I really liked the 1987 Topps set.  It was one of my first handful of team sets for my Red Sox collection and it is easily one of the most distinctive sets in Topps history.  So I was definitely interested when I heard that Topps would be doing a lot of insert sets using the 1987 Topps design.  This trade included a number of those cards.
1.  David Ortiz.  Well this is the only one without the wood paneling design.  Ortiz won the Hank Aaron Award last year with his outstanding season at the plate.  It is good to see we will still be getting some Ortiz cards early this year.

2.  David Price.  This is one of the cards only available in promo packs.  As I do not have a local card shop any more, I was particularly excited to add this card.

3.  Xander Bogaerts.  Something about this photo seems off.  The uniform seems photo-shopped, but I cannot figure out why that would be.

4.  David Ortiz.  See?  Lots more Ortiz cards.

5.  Dustin Pedroia.  Nice action shot of Pedroia turning a double play here.  Pedroia remains one of the best defensive second-basemen in the game.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Worst Red Sox Team of All Time Pt. 4: Charlie Berry

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.
Charlie Berry had been with the Red Sox for four full seasons coming into the 1932 season, but he would not play through the entire season with Boston.  In fact, Berry would only last ten games with the Red Sox in 1932.  He had been a solid and dependable catcher for the Red Sox, but was traded to the White Sox early on.  During his entire career, Berry only appeared behind the plate.

Berry made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925, but played in just ten games.  He was sent to the minor league Dallas Steers of the Texas League before being sold to the Boston Red Sox in September of 1927.  He made it back to the Major Leagues the next year where he would stay for the next several seasons.  

In 1928, Berry appeared in 80 games total, 63 of them as a catcher and the rest as a pinch hitter.  Berry was a decent hitter and hit .260/.342/.350 with one home run and 19 RBIs.  He followed that up with a .242/.302/.348 line in 1929.  He finished in the top five in caught-stealing percentage both seasons.  

The next season saw Berry turn into one of the better hitting catchers in the league as he contributed a .289/.331/.441 slash line with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 88 games.  He continued his strong showing in 1931 when he hit .283/.337/.389 with six home runs and 49 RBIs in 111 games, which is the most games he appeared in during his career.  Berry's strong defensive numbers continued as well as he still finished in the top five in most catching-specific defensive categories.  

In 1932, Berry appeared in just ten games with the Red Sox and managed just six hits in 35 plate appearances, three of which were doubles.  He drove in six runs and walked three times.  His slash line for those ten games was just .188/.257/.281.  Berry was traded, along with Jack Rothrock, to the White Sox for Smead Jolley, Bennie Tate, and Johnny Watwood in late April.  He had a strong season the rest of the way with the White Sox and later returned to the A's. 

Charlie Berry had a decent career, playing eleven seasons in the Majors and hit for a .267/.327/.384 line.  He played almost twice as many games with the Red Sox than his other teams.  Berry did not play much in 1932, but had been the primary catcher for four years prior to that season.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Shortstop

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.

LYN LARY - 1934
I admit I did not really know much about Lyn Lary prior to doing this post.  I was aware he was with the Red Sox for a short amount of time, and I knew that he was the return the Red Sox sent to the Senators along with $250,000.00 for Joe Cronin.  But that was it.  Lary had a 12-year career with the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals, Browns, Indians, and Cardinals.  He hit for a decent average most years, finishing with a career .269 mark.  He had a very good year in 1931 with the Yankees, hitting .280/.376/.416 with 10 home runs and 107 RBIs.  Lary was traded to the Red Sox for Freddie Muller and $25,000.00 after playing just one game in the 1934 season.  He played in 129 games for the Red Sox and hit .241/.344/.322 with two home runs and 54 RBIs and stole 12 bases.  It was not one of his better seasons.  He was traded to Washington afterwards and had some good years later on with the Browns, including 1936 when he hit .289 and led the Majors in stolen bases.  Lary is most notable though for being involved in the trade for Cronin.    

Quinones did not have a long Major League career, just four years, but there are not a ton of options available here.  He was a highly-touted prospect when he arrived in Boston for his Major League debut.  He was not terrific defensively, but he had some pop for a middle infielder.  Quinones played in 62 games with the Red Sox, but hit just .218/.279/.295, though he did hit two home runs and 12 doubles.  He drove in 15 runs and stole three bases.  But he committed 15 errors in those 62 games for an unsightly .940 fielding percentage.  Quinones was traded to the Mariners in August in the deal that brought Spike Owen and Dave Henderson to Boston.  Quinones was the Mariners starting shortstop the next two seasons and hit 12 home runs each year.  The following year he was traded to Pittsburgh but struggled all year and was done as a Major Leaguer.

Grebeck was a diminutive infielder with the White Sox in the early 1990's when the team was becoming relevant once more on the backs of Frank Thomas and Jack McDowell.  He was mostly used as a backup for Ozzie Guillen at short, Robin Ventura at third, and Joey Cora at second.  He played quite a bit and was a pesky contact hitter.  He bounced around a little after that and had a very good 2000 season with the Blue Jays when he hit .295/.364/.411.  He was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent in January 2001 due to ongoing injuries to Nomar Garciaparra.  He started the season as the Red Sox shortstop but only played in 23 games, hitting an unsightly .049/.093/.073 for a laughably bad .166 OPS.  That was it for his career.

Another player who mostly got his chance to play with the Red Sox due to injuries to Nomar Garciaparra was Calvin "Pokey" Reese.  Once so highly touted that the Reds refused to include him in trade talks with the Mariners to acquire Ken Griffey Jr., Reese had a few decent years, but largely did not live up to his promise.  Reese was fast and stole 38 bases one season and also won two Gold Gloves.  He was actually acquired by the Red Sox twice.  He was traded to Boston by the Colorado Rockies in December of 2001 for Scott Hatteberg, but both players were non-tendered and signed by other teams shortly thereafter.  Reese signed as a free agent with the Red Sox to shore up the middle infield, backing up Nomar and Mark Bellhorn.  He was the primary shortstop for most of the season though as Nomar was still injured.  Reese played in 96 games and hit .221/.271/.303 with three home runs and 29 RBIs.  He hit two home runs in the same game, including an inside-the-park job.  He continued to play excellent defense, but was mostly shifted into a backup role after Boston acquired Orlando Cabrera.  He was used as a defensive replacement in the postseason and fielded the ground ball to end the ALCS.  He bounced around after 2004, but never made it back to the Majors.  

A longtime Expos shortstop, Cabrera was a slick-fielder who could hit a little bit.  He won two Gold Gloves in his career and had a little bit of home run power, though he was mostly a doubles hitter who hit more than 40 doubles four times in his career.  The Red Sox needed a more stable offensive player who could also play defense.  Nomar was hurt and not likely to produce much going forward so he was shipped to the Cubs in a four team deal that brought Cabrera to Boston.  He was an immediate success, hitting a home run in his first game for the Red Sox.  He hit .294/.320/.465 down the stretch with six home runs and 31 RBIs while playing Gold Glove quality defense.  He was decent in the postseason and was terrific in the ALCS against the Yankees, against whom he hit .379 with five RBIs.  Cabrera was very valuable member of the team that finally won the World Series after 86 years.  Unfortunately, he was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season and played for another seven seasons.

It was a mistake to let Orlando Cabrera go, but Boston management had its eye on bringing Edgar Renteria to the Red Sox.  Renteria had the game-winning hit in the 1997 World Series for the Marlins and had been a four-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and three-time Silver Slugger with Florida and St. Louis.  He made the final out in the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals, then appeared at shortstop for the reigning World Champions on Opening Day the following year.  He had a rough season with Boston, hitting .276/.335/.385 with eight home runs and 70 RBIs.  He stole only nine bases.  His numbers were not completely out of line with his career averages, but they were disappointing.  His fielding really suffered as he committed 30 errors.  After the season, despite having signed a four-year contract, Boston sent him to Atlanta for Andy Marte.  Renteria resurrected his career and had several good seasons in the coming years and also had the winning hit for the Giants in the 2010 World Series.  

Again, there are not many options for this post, so I decided to include Green, even though he only played more than 90 games three times in his career.  He bounced around throughout is career, playing for the Braves, Devil Rays, Yankees, and Mariners before joining the Red Sox in 2009.  He was a decent fielder who could play most positions.  Boston signed him as an infield depth option in January 2009, but Green ended up playing more games at short than anyone else that season due to injuries and ineffectiveness from Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie.  Green started off fast and was hitting nearly .300 in June, but he went on a slump afterwards and his numbers tailed off significantly.  Eventually Boston re-acquired Alex Gonzalez (who avoided inclusion in this post because of it) to play short the rest of the season.  Green hit .236/.303/.366 with six home runs and 35 RBIs for Boston.  After the season he continued to bounce around, playing for the Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Marlins.

This was the toughest post to do so far in this series.  There were not a lot of choices available and all of the choices have issues, most of whom just were not that good.  So it came down to Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera.  Renteria's season was disappointing, but it ultimately was not really THAT bad.  The main point against Cabrera is the fact that he only played two months with the Red Sox.  Even so, he hit only two fewer home runs than Renteria.  He had a higher OPS and actually had a higher WAR (1.8 to 1.4) in significantly fewer games.  Ultimately, Cabrera was just better, even though he played less than the other options.  And I am looking for the best, not the player that played the most.  So therefore, Orlando Cabrera is the best one-year Red Sox shortstop.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1950-1959

The 1950's were rough for the Red Sox.  They started off reasonably well and they finished third with a 94-60 record.  Helping them along was the fact that the Red Sox as a team hit .302.  But it was a steep dropoff after that.  A number of longtime stars left over the next couple of years and the team tried to strike gold with young stars.  Very few of the moves paid off.  The biggest problem was the fact that Boston waited until 1959 to bring up their first black player, years after the color line was broken.  This put them way behind other teams in talent.  By the end of the 1950's the team was mired in the second division.

Sammy White was the only real option at catcher as he was the regular catcher each year from 1952 through the end of the decade.  He was a decent enough hitter, but he was a far more valuable defensive catcher.  He was among the league leaders in most defensive categories every year, including leading the league in caught-stealing percentage twice.  White had an impressive rookie season in 1952 that led to him placing third in the Rookie of the Year vote when he hit .281 with 10 home runs.  He was an All Star for the only time in his career in 1953.  He had his best season in 1954 when he hit .282/.307/.426 with 14 home runs and 75 RBIs.  White's numbers declined after the 1955 season, particularly his power numbers, but he continued to be one of the best defensive catchers in the league.  

First base was a tougher position, but I ultimately went with a player who spent six seasons as the regular first-baseman.  Gernert was not the best player, but he had some power and hit 101 home runs with the Red Sox through the 1950's.  He had his best season in 1956 when he hit .291/.399/.484 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.  That was far and away his best batting average though, typically he hit around .260.  Boston started the 1950's with a huge season from Walt Dropo, who won the Rookie of the Year when he hit .322 with 34 home runs and 144 RBIs, which is the top season for a first-baseman in the 1950's, but he declined significantly after that.  They tried to replace Gernert with Harry Agganis and then Norm Zauchin who both had decent seasons, but Gernert ultimately played the most games at first and was fairly decent, with a .788 OPS with Boston. 

Goodman started out as a man without a true position.  He was primarily a first-baseman when he came up, played all over the place in 1950, which was his best season, and then eventually converted into the starting second-baseman for several seasons.  In 1950, Goodman led the league in batting average with a .354 mark, splitting time in the outfield and third while also spending time at several other positions.  Goodman finished second in the MVP race and finished the season at .354/.427/.455.  In his Red Sox career, Goodman hit .306/.386/.387 with 1,344 hits.  He did not have much power, but his hitting ability and his versatility were huge assets.  He played more career games at second than any other position and was a two-time All Star.  Pete Runnels was the runner-up with two great seasons in 1958 and 1959, but the best was yet to come for him.

Shortstop was tough.  A number of players came and went at the position, including future Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau.  But honestly, most of the players just were not very good.  So ultimately it came back to the 1940's pick for the position, Vern Stephens.  Stephens spent two full seasons at short for the team in the 1950's, but they were far and away better than anyone else who played the position.  Particularly his 1950 season when he tied for the league lead in RBIs with teammate Walt Dropo (144) and hit 30 home runs.  Those kinds of numbers were virtually unheard of for a shortstop.  He hit .295/.361/.511 that season.  The next year he hit .300/.364/.501 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs.  He was traded the next season when his numbers declined significantly.  Don Buddin was considered, but his defense was so bad that it was not a difficult decision.

I have previously discussed why Frank Malzone should have been the Rookie of the Year in 1957.  He narrowly makes it as the third-baseman on the 1950's Team of the Decade.  Malzone was a terrific defensive third-baseman who won three Gold Gloves, all from 1957-1959.  He was an All Star six times in his career, including from 1957-1959.  If he had started his career at a younger age, he may even have been a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.  As it was, he had three good seasons toward the end of the 1950's, hitting between .280 and .295 and 15 to 19 home runs each season.  He drove in 103 runs in his 1957 season, which was a career high.  He would have several other good to great seasons into the mid 1960's and go down as one of the team's best third-basemen of all time.  Malzone beat out George Kell, who had one great season with the Red Sox and played parts of two others.  

Jackie Jensen won the 1958 AL MVP.  That's all I really have to say to explain why he made it.  It is very hard to pass up a player who won the league MVP award.  Jensen was a terrific all-around athlete who also played football in college.  He came up with the Yankees, who really did not have a place to play him and moved him to the Senators who later shipped him to the Red Sox.  It was with the Red Sox that Jensen really shined as he had several great seasons in a row.  He regularly drove in more than 100 runs, he was a great defensive player who won a Gold Glove, and he was a 20/20 man when such a thing was nearly unheard of.  Jensen was a two-time All Star with the Red Sox and won the MVP in 1958 when he hit .286/.396/.535 with 35 home runs and a league-leading 122 RBIs.  He followed that up with a terrific 1959 season when he again led the league in RBIs and had his second 20/20 season.  He then retired for a season due to his fear of flying before coming back in 1961.  He retired for good after that season.

In a move that made sense to almost no one, especially Piersall himself, the Red Sox decided to try to turn him into a shortstop his first full season.  Piersall had never played shortstop before, he had always been an outfielder, and took this to mean Boston did not want him around.  When he moved back to center field, he became the player he was expected to be.  Piersall was a gifted defensive outfielder who should have won a lot more than the two Gold Gloves he won.  He was also a pretty decent hitter.  He had his best season with the Red Sox in 1956 when he hit .293/.350/.449 with 14 home runs, 87 RBIs, and a league-leading 40 doubles.  Piersall of course suffered from some mental health issues that made him practically a household name, but it is often forgotten that he was a pretty good player.

The Splendid Splinter continued his quest to become the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived throughout the 1950's, despite the fact that he missed most of two seasons due to flying combat missions in the Korean War.  His power declined somewhat, due to a series of injuries, but he had one of the greatest batting eyes in the game.  He had an incredible season in 1957 when he was 38 years old when he nearly hit .400 for the second time in his career.  He hit .388/.526/.731, all of which led the league, with 38 home runs and 87 RBIs.  Yet he finished just second in the AL MVP vote.  The next season he became the oldest player to win a batting title with a .328 mark.  Williams was the biggest draw on the team for most of his career, but this was especially true in the 1950's when the rest of the team was mostly mediocre.  There is just no contest here.    

Parnell's best seasons were behind him by the time that the 1950's rolled around, but he had several more good seasons.  He was an 18 game winner in both 1950 and 1951 while continuing to put up decent numbers.  He had his last great season in 1953 when he was 21-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 241 innings.  Unfortunately, arm injuries ruined his career from there and he won just 12 games over the next three seasons.  He pitched a no-hitter in his last season in 1956.  He was still one of the top starting pitchers on the team in the 1950's.  There is no telling what his career numbers may have looked like had he not broken down so young.

One of the hardest throwers in the game in the 1950's, the only problem with McDermott was that he never really knew where the ball was going.  He racked up a lot of strikeouts, but also walked far too many hitters, which is why it took so long before he really started to produce for the team.  He was used mostly in relief in 1950, but gradually became more of a starter.  He had a breakthrough season in 1953, going 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA and 92 strikeouts versus 109 walks.  For the Red Sox, he was 48-34 with a 3.80 ERA in 773.2 innings.  After his great 1953 season, he was traded to the Senators for Jensen.  He never had a season quite like his 1953 season and started to decline due to off-the-field reasons.

Sullivan is most likely the top starting pitcher for the Red Sox during the 1950's.  He came up in 1953 for a brief showing and was a 15-game winner the next season.  He had a breakout season in 1955, leading the league in wins with an 18-13 record and a 2.91 ERA.  He also led the league in games started and innings pitched and notched 129 strikeouts.  He was an All Star in 1955 and 1956.  He was 14-11 with a terrific 2.73 ERA in 1957.  Sullivan's record might have been even better had the Red Sox been a better team in his prime.  For the Red Sox, he was 90-80 with a 3.47 ERA in 1,732 innings and struck out 821 batters.  He declined toward the end of the decade and was traded after the 1960 season.

Tom Brewer spent his entire eight-season career with the Red Sox.  Like Sullivan above, Brewer's record might have been more impressive if Boston had been a better team during his career.  He had a great season in 1956 when he was 19-9 with a 3.50 ERA while striking out 127 and walking 112 in 244.1 innings.  It was his only All Star season and he also received some MVP votes.  For his career, Brewer was 91-82 with a 4.00 ERA.  He struck out 733 and walked 669 in 1,509.1 innings.  He was also a surprisingly good defensive pitcher who led the league in putouts twice, assists twice, and range factor twice.

After a couple of impressive seasons primarily as a starter, "Old Folks" was shifted into the bullpen in the early 1950's.  From 1951 through 1953, Kinder was one of the best relievers in the game.  He was 11-2 with a 2.55 ERA and led the league in games (63), and saves (16) in 1951.  He finished seventh in the MVP vote that season.  He finished 41 games while starting two and struck out 84 and walked 46 in 127 innings.  He was 5-6 the next season, but with a 2.58 ERA.  Then, in 1953, Kinder had a terrific season in the bullpen, pitching in 69 games, all in relief, with a 10-6 record, 1.85 ERA, and a ML-leading 27 saves.  He was a little more ordinary his last two seasons in Boston but still pretty decent.  He saved 93 games in his Red Sox career.

If not for seven games with the Orioles in the second half of the 1963 season, Delock would have been one of the more obscure players in my Loyalty and Longevity series.  Delock spent the rest of his career with the Red Sox, mostly as a starter, but with a couple of seasons as a reliever as well.  He was primarily a reliever in 1956 when he was 13-7 with a 4.21 ERA, 105 strikeouts and 80 walks in 128.1 innings.  He picked up nine saves.  Then from 1958 to 1959, he was one of the better starting pitchers on the team.  He was 11-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 1959.  For his Red Sox career, Delock was 83-72 with a 4.01 ERA.  He struck out 661 batters.