Monday, November 26, 2018

Slightly More than One-Year Wonder Pt. 6: Dave Henderson

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.
When I first started watching baseball, the Oakland Athletics were THE team.  They had been to the World Series each of the previous three seasons, winning in 1989 and had great hitters up and down their lineup, terrific starting pitching, and one of the greatest closers of all-time in the middle of his terrific run of success.  They had a truly outstanding outfield consisting of Jose Canseco in right, Rickey Henderson in left, and Dave Henderson in center.  All three would play for the Red Sox at some point, but at that point in time, Dave Henderson was the only one who had played for Boston in his career.  It was intriguing to me that this great team had players who were once Red Sox (of course Dennis Eckersley and Carney Lansford had also spent time in Boston).  

"Hendu" came up through the Seattle Mariners system and had a few good seasons but was largely viewed as not yet reaching his potential when he was sent to the Red Sox.  Boston was in the middle of a terrific season in 1986, on their way to the AL pennant, but had a couple of holes in their lineup: shortstop and center field.  At short, they were relying on the shell of Glenn Hoffman and the disappointing Rey Quinones.  In center, Tony Armas was well-past his prime.  Boston shored up both positions in a single deal by acquiring Spike Owen and Henderson for Quinones and three players to be named later.  

While neither player hit all that well the rest of the season, they were both instrumental in the postseason.  Henderson hit just .196/.226/.314 with just one home run and three RBIs.  He also stole a base.  He did not hit much in the ALCS against the Angels, but did hit one huge home run.  In the top of the ninth inning in Game 5, Boston was facing elimination 5-2.  Don Baylor homered to pull within one.  After the second out was recorded, Rich Gedman was hit by a pitch and Henderson was up with the season on the line.  He hit one of the biggest home runs in team history, putting Boston ahead.  The Angels would tie it back up, but Henderson came through yet again in the 11th driving in the winning run with a sac fly.  Henderson continued his hot hitting in the World Series by hitting .400/.448/.760 with two home runs and five RBIs.  It certainly was not his fault Boston lost the World Series.

Henderson went into the 1987 season as the team's starting center fielder.  He did not hit particularly well then either.  He played in 75 games with a line of .234/.313/.418 but did hit eight home runs and 25 RBIs.  Boston had two terrific prospects at center field in the minors in Brady Anderson and Ellis Burks.  Burks was ready to go and quickly took over.  Boston attempted to move Henderson, but did not find a taker until September when he was traded to the Giants for Randy Kutcher.  Henderson did very little for the Giants and joined the A's after the season.

Finally, Henderson was able to reach his potential with a terrific 1988 season.  He went on to be a major part of the Athletics semi-dynasty.  It is unfortunate that he never really played well for the Red Sox, but he will always be remembered for his heroics in the 1986 postseason, particularly Game 5 of the ALCS. 

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