Monday, November 12, 2018

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Utility Players

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.

Every great team needs some depth.  The 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox proved that axiom with terrific pinch-hitting appearances by players like Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and others.  Even Steve Pearce, the World Series MVP, was not typically a starting player most of the time.  And so, I decided to do one more position player post for the All-Time One-Year Wonder team: multi-positional players.  Please note, we are talking bench players here, there will not be a lot of household names, so this might be somewhat boring.

UTILITY
HARRY WOLTER - 1909
A steady right-fielder with the New York Yankees in the early 1910's, Wolter spent the 1909 season playing several positions for the Red Sox.  He played in 54 games with the Red Sox, including 17 at first base, 11 as a pitcher, and nine as a right-fielder.  Wolter did not hit much for the Red Sox, with a line of just .240/.292/.372, but he did hit two home runs, which for the Deadball Era was pretty impressive for a part-time player.  Among his 11 games pitched, Wolter started six and had a record of 4-4 with a 3.51 ERA.  He struck out 21 and walked 30 in 59 innings pitched.  The Yankees snagged him on waivers from Boston and he went on to have three fairly impressive seasons, with a bright spot in 1911 when he hit .304/.396/.440 and stole 28 bases.

FRANK O'ROURKE - 1922
Boston had Roger Peckinpaugh for a very short amount of time.  This was at a time when the team was hemorrhaging money and selling off any and all players they could.  Peckinpaugh was acquired from the Yankees, one of the few really good players Boston received in their massive flurry of trades with the team, but they immediately shipped him off to Washington for O'Rourke and Jumpin' Joe Dugan.  Dugan was traded to the Yankees very quickly, while O'Rourke lasted through the season.  He split time at shortstop and third base for Boston and hit a reasonable .264/.335/.370 in 67 games.  The Tigers snagged him off of waivers and he eventually turned into a pesky contact-hitting infielder.  He had a few decent seasons and even picked up some MVP votes in 1927 while with the Browns.

BERNIE FRIBERG - 1933
Friberg spent almost his entire career in the National League with the Cubs and Phillies, other than his last season in 1933.  He always played a number of position but found some stability at third base for a few years at least.  He hit over .300 four times as a semi-regular player and even received some low votes on the MVP ballot in 1929 when he hit .301/.370/.437 with Philadelphia.  Friberg found himself in Boston for the 1933 season as a free agent.  He did not play much, making it into just 17 games, almost equally spread out between second, short and third.  He had a decent year at the plate though, hitting .317/.404/.390 with three doubles and nine RBIs.  He walked six times compared to just one strikeout.  He was then traded to a minor league team (that happened in those days) for Bucky Walters, a pitching prospect who eventually turned into a very good third-baseman.

EDDIE JOOST - 1955
Mostly known for his time as a shortstop with the Philadelphia Athletics, Joost also spent time with the Braves and Reds.  He was a two-time All Star while with Philadelphia and had some surprising power for a shortstop of that time period.  Joost twice hit 20 or more home runs.  He was not a great contact hitter, but had great strike zone judgment.  Joost walked more than 100 times six seasons in a row.  He spent the final season of his career with the Red Sox in 1955 and played in 55 games.  The Red Sox used him almost equally at second and short and also chipped in a few games at third.  He did not hit much for Boston, finishing with a line of .193/.299/.336, but he did hit five home runs.  Joost was released by the Red Sox after the season and retired.

AL SMITH - 1964
Smith had an interesting career in which he was twice the other part in trades involving Hall of Famers (once with Early Wynn and then with Luis Aparicio).  He was a three-time All Star who spent most of his career with the Indians and White Sox.  In 1955 he was third in the AL MVP race when he hit .306/.407/.473 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs while leading the league in runs.  Smith played in the outfield and at third base.  He was in the final year of his career in 1964 when he signed with the Red Sox in August, splitting time between third and the outfield.  He played in 29 games with the Red Sox and hit .216/.385/.412 with two home runs and seven RBIs.  They were the last of his career.

DON LOCK - 1969
Lock had a short career unfortunately, but he had quite a bit of power in the early years.  He came up with the Washington Senators and made an immediate impact with his bat.  In his second year in the Majors he hit 27 home runs.  In 1964 he had his best year, hitting 28 home runs and driving in 80 runs.  Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.  Lock spent most of his career in center field, but by the time he was finishing up his career with the Red Sox in 1969, he was appearing in all three outfield positions as well as first base.  He hit .224/.348/.293 with one home run in 53 games with the Red Sox after being acquired from the Phillies for Bill Schlesinger.  That was the end of his career.

JEFF RICHARDSON - 1993
It's my list and if I want to have a player on here who only played in 74 total games over parts of three seasons in here, I can.  Richardson played in 53 games for the Reds in 1989 and that was the only time he played in more than 15.  So why is he here?  Well, because he is from Grand Island, Nebraska.  My first job as a lawyer was in a small town 20 minutes north of there and I once ate at the bar he owned at the time.  Richardson played in 15 games with the Red Sox and appeared at second, short, third, and DH.  He hit just .208/.240/.292.  He did not play much in the minors either that season so I suspect he was injured.  This was the last of his Major League service.

JEFF MANTO - 1996
The only player so far in these posts to have played for the Red Sox twice, Manto is here because both of his stints occurred in the same season.  He had a whirlwind 1996 season, which he started off in Japan.  The Red Sox signed him as a free agent in May, then he was traded to the Mariners for Arquimedez Pozo, then the Red Sox selected him off of waivers in August.  Manto was a minor sensation the previous season when he hit 17 home runs in 89 games for the Orioles.  His first Red Sox stint lasted ten games and he hit two home runs with a line of .267/.353/.633.  He did not do much with the Mariners and then hit .111/.304/.111 in his second stint with Boston, resulting in a line of .208/.333/.438 in 22 games.  Manto played all four infield positions for Boston.

MANNY ALEXANDER - 2000
After being considered the heir apparent to Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop, the Orioles finally decided to set Alexander free.  He then bounced around with a couple of organizations.  The Cubs traded him to the Red Sox for Damon Buford prior to the 2000 season.  Alexander was expected to be a utility player, but ended up spending about a third of the season at the hot corner due to injuries and ineffectiveness of a long line of players.  Alexander did not really help much.  He hit just .211/.261/.325.  He hit four home runs and drove in 19 runs while also stealing two bases.  He did contribute three triples.  He also appeared at second, short, and DH.  Alexander continued to bounce around after leaving Boston.

CHRIS STYNES - 2001
A tough, hard-nosed player, Stynes had long been known for his versatility while with the Royals and Reds.  The Red Sox acquired him for a couple of players who were no longer prospects prior to the 2001 season ostensibly to play third base.  But he ended up getting pushed into more of a utility role with the emergence of Shea Hillenbrand.  Stynes played almost equally at second and third and also appeared in the outfield.  He was a decent hitter and had a good year at the plate, hitting .280/.322/.410 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs.  He also stole four bases.  Despite his hard play, versatility, and decent year, the Red Sox non-tendered him in December and he went to Colorado.

DAMIAN JACKSON - 2003
The 2003 Red Sox were not a team blessed with much speed.  They mostly had slow, lumbering sluggers and contact hitters.  Johnny Damon and Nomar Garciaparra were pretty good on the basepaths and the team decided to bring in Jackson to be a utility man and provide some more speed, he had stolen more than 20 bases three times.  Jackson played every position, except pitcher and catcher.  He mostly played second base and the outfield.  He did not hit much, with a line of .261/.294/.323 and had virtually no power (one home run, seven doubles) in 109 games.  But Jackson did have speed, finishing third on the team with 16 stolen bases.  He is mostly known for colliding headfirst with Damon in the postseason which resulted in Damon having to be carted off the field.  He also continued to bounce around after the season. 

BILL HALL - 2010
Once a rising star with the Milwaukee Brewers, Bill Hall had fallen out of favor and was shipped off to the Mariners during the 2009 season.  He did not do much and the Mariners moved him to Boston after the season in exchange for Casey Kotchman, another former rising star that had stagnated.  Hall ended up playing every position for the Red Sox, except catcher and first base.  He even pitched an inning.  He mostly appeared at second and left field.  Hall had a decent year at the plate, hitting .247/.316/.456 and crushed 18 home runs, driving in 46 runs, and even stealing nine bases.  His pitching appearance resulted in no hits, no walks, and just three batters faced.  The Red Sox had interest in bringing him back, but Hall was given a chance to start for the Astros, though it did not work out well.

NICK PUNTO - 2012
A longtime fan favorite with the Minnesota Twins, Punto signed with the Red Sox after a detour in St. Louis to serve as a utility man.  He played all four infield positions and DH for Boston over the course of 65 games.  He did not hit, at all, with a line of just .200/.301/.272 with just six doubles, one home run, and 10 RBIs.  Punto did steal six bases without being caught and provided versatility as expected.  For reasons that are still unclear, Punto was part of the massive trade with the Dodgers that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to LA for James Loney and some prospects.  He continued to provide versatility for the Dodgers.  

THE BEST ONE-YEAR UTILITY PLAYER
I do not usually like to use the same card picture, but unfortunately I did not have much choice on this one.  This came down to Chris Stynes, Damian Jackson, and Hall, all of whom were fairly versatile.  Stynes had the highest average by far of the three, but he was the least versatile, playing mostly second and third.  Jackson provided a ton of speed, but not much else.  Hall, on the other hand, may have had a low average, but blasted 18 home runs and could steal the occasional bag.  He also had the highest slugging percentage by far of the three.  Hall had a very good year, was very versatile (even pitching an inning), and played basically a full season though he did not have a set position.  What else would you want in a utility man?  I was disappointed Boston was not able to bring him back in 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I really like these posts. Don’t find these boring in the least. You always manage to find the long forgotten player.

    ReplyDelete