Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forgotten Stars Pt. 6: Tony Armas

When a team that has as long a history as the Red Sox it is natural to have players who have been largely forgotten. These are some players who simply do not get mentioned anymore or are largely forgotten.
A Boston Red Sox hitter has lead the American League in home runs 19 times since 1901.  Some of the players who have done this are obvious.  Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz have all done it at one point.  But some other players are a little less memorable.  Tony Armas is one of these players.  Armas actually lead the American League in home runs twice during his career.  The first time was in 1981 when he tied in the strike-shortened season with Bobby Grich, Eddie Murray, and future Red Sox teammate Dwight Evans.  The second time was in 1984.  

Armas originally came up in the Pirates organization before establishing himself as a strong defensive right-fielder and power hitter for the Oakland Athletics.  Armas broke out in 1980 when he hit 35 home runs for the A's at the age of 26.  For the next several seasons he was one of the most powerful hitters in the league.  After the 1982 season, Boston sought some more power in their outfield after losing Fred Lynn to the Angels before 1981.  They had a surplus at third base with the development of Wade Boggs and traded Carney Lansford to the A's along with a couple of spare parts for Armas and Lansford.  It was a trade that worked out for both teams.
In 1983, Armas hit 36 home runs and drove in 107 runs but hit just .218/.254/.453.  He also was miscast defensively as a center-fielder, despite his strong arm.  Armas would not be moved from center during his time with the Red Sox due to the presence of the superior Dwight Evans in right and Jim Rice in left.  1983 was not quite the season Boston was looking for, other than the power.  Luckily the best would be yet to come from Armas.
In 1984, Armas had his best season as a Major Leaguer.  He hit .268/.300/.531 and lead the majors in home runs (43), RBIs (123), and total bases (339).  He also lead the league in strikeouts but his power made up for it.  Armas made his second All Star team and won the Silver Slugger award.  He finished seventh in the AL in the MVP vote.  
1985 saw a decline in Armas's overall numbers mostly due to injuries.  His batting line was close to the same as his '84 season, but he hit just 23 home runs and drove in 64.  Armas's days as an everyday player were over.  His 1986 season saw him hit just 11 home runs and he took a seat on the bench when Dave Henderson was acquired.  After the season he was granted free agency and signed with the Angels.  He played three more seasons before retiring.  
Armas did not last long as an elite power hitter, but he certainly had a memorable season in 1984.

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