Every once in awhile, the Red Sox pick up a veteran player for a year, or just the stretch run that was a star at one point that I become fascinated with. It's a player that is basically only a role player at that point in their career, but may show flashes of their old brilliance. It's so unusual to see them as a member of the Red Sox, that I try to find as many of their cards as possible. This series will be about some of those players.
Second base had been a position with a lot of turmoil in the 90's and early 2000's for the Red Sox. Jody Reed started the decade as a capable regular, but Boston had trouble finding consistency after he was selected in the expansion draft. Scott Fletcher had a very good season in 1993 highlighted by impressive defense but he faltered in 1994. Luis Alicea took over in 1995 and turned in average offensive and defensive numbers. 1996 saw Boston run their team like a fantasy team, bringing in offense-first players at several positions, one of which was second base with Wil Cordero. His defense was so bad though he was moved to left field where he could not hurt the team as much. Then Boston went through a bunch of players over the next few years at the position. Jeff Frye, Mike Benjamin, and Lou Merloni all proved to be better off as utility players than everyday second basemen. John Valentin was moved to second to accommodate Nomar Garciaparra, then moved to third after Tim Naehring went down, which was much more successful. Donnie Sadler was unable to translate his minor league success into the Majors. Mark Lemke suffered a concussion and could not hit. Jose Offerman then had an All Star season in 1999 but later on proved to be a very expensive bust. Mike Lansing was acquired solely for Boston to be able to get Rolando Arrojo and played like a throw-in, albeit a $7 million one. Chris Stynes could not stay healthy and finally Rey Sanchez was a very good defensive player, but a complete zero at the plate. Which brings us to 2003 and Todd Walker. He would not be a long-term solution either.
2003 was the first season under Theo Epstein as general manager. He brought a Moneyball-esque philosophy to building his team. Walker had the ability to get on base, even though he was largely considered a bust after being the eighth overall pick in the 1994 draft. He did not get along well with managers or players and he did not hit nearly as well as he was expected. Nevertheless, Walker was a decent buy-low candidate for the Red Sox vacant second base position. All he cost were two failed prospects in their own right, Josh Thigpen and Tony Blanco. Only Blanco made the Majors, and he did not live up to expectations.
Walker came in and performed as advertized. He was often the #2 hitter on the team and provided some decent offense without providing much on defense. He finished the season at .283/.333/.428 with 13 home runs and 85 RBIs. The Red Sox were an offensive juggernaut that season and having a second baseman hitting like that was a big reason why.
Walker really impressed in the postseason, hitting five home runs, including a controversial home run against the Yankees in the ALCS. It was certainly not Walker's fault that the Red Sox were not able to beat the Yankees in the ALCS as he hit .370/.414/.704 with two home runs, a triple, and two RBIs.
After the season, Walker was allowed to leave as a free agent and Mark Bellhorn replaced him. Bellhorn was basically the same player as Walker, but slightly better in all categories.