Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One-Card Wonder Pt. 33: Quilvio Veras

Quilvio Veras?  Yep, Quilvio Veras.  But, don't go poring over his career statistics looking for how he did in Boston.  You will not find anything.  Veras never played a single game with the Boston Red Sox.

Veras began his career with the Florida Marlins and led the league in stolen bases in his rookie season.  After a disappointing season in 1996, he was traded to the Padres where he continued to hit for a reasonable batting average while stealing a bunch of bases from the leadoff position.  After three seasons with the Padres, he was traded again to the Braves.  He spent about a season and a half in Atlanta where he was plagued by injuries.  He was released by the Braves in early August of 2001.

Shortly after his release, Veras was snatched up by the Red Sox and continued to rehab.  He ended up playing three games in Pawtucket and never saw action with the big league club.  He was allowed to leave as a free agent to the Dodgers after the season, but never saw Major League action again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's About Damn Time

Three cards arrived in my mail box today.  For those that don't know, I get my cards mailed to my office address so I get stuff right away in the morning, instead of having to wait until I get home at night.  That way it can be a nice pick-me-up before heading into work.  Today, I received three cards, but one in particular was a card I had been eagerly anticipating for quite some time.

Up first was a one-card trade that brought me a pink refractor of Brian Johnson who, to this point, has only pitched one game for the Red Sox:
Johnson has dealt with some hardships this year.  He was car-jacked at gunpoint last October and has been dealing with anxiety issues stemming from the incident.  He has been pitching well of late and a return to the Majors could be in the cards in the near future.

Up next is a Topps Now card commemorating Mookie Betts and Daniel Murphy being named their league's respective Players of the Month Awards:
Mookie has emerged as a potential MVP candidate as he has made it to 30 home runs and is closing in on 100 RBIs.  He also plays terrific defense and has 21 stolen bases.  Betts is a five-tool player.

And finally, the card I am very excited about:
This is the very first card of Steven Wright with the Red Sox.  Wright was initially acquired in a minor trade with the Indians for Lars Anderson in 2012 and made his Major League debut with the Red Sox in 2013.  He has pitched in 49 games to date in the Majors over the past four years, and yet, this is his very first card of him with the Red Sox.  The knuckleballer has been extremely impressive this season, being named to the All Star Game and winning 13 games to date.  He also pitched this complete game shutout of the Dodgers.  I expect Wright to be in Topps Update later this year, and you can bet I will be seeking out every single card of him.  He is one of my favorite stories of the season.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 23: Luis Aparicio

Years in Boston: 1971-1973 (.253/.303/.320, 7 home runs, 159 runs, 133 RBIs, 22 stolen bases)
Best Year in Boston: 1973 (.271/.324/.309, 49 RBIs, 56 runs, 13 stolen bases)
Luis Aparicio is one of a number of players who spent just a short amount of time with the Red Sox.  Aparicio was at the end of his career when he joined the Red Sox.  He spent three seasons with Boston and was released prior to the season in 1974.  That was the end of his Major League career.

"Little Looie" was well-known for his time with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.  He had been an All Star seven times with those two teams and led the league in steals nine times in a row to start his career.  He was the Rookie of the Year in 1956 and won the Gold Glove nine times.  He was second in the MVP vote with the White Sox in 1959.  It was Aparicio's legs and his defense that led him to the Hall of Fame.

In 1970, Boston's middle infield was made up of Rico Petrocelli and Mike Andrews, but management decided to go for a more defensive-minded middle infield, sacrificing some power.  Andrews and Luis Alvarado were sent to the White Sox to acquire Luis Aparicio.  Petrocelli was consulted and agreed to move to third base to make room for Aparicio.  Boston also acquired Doug Griffin to take over at second base.  And thus Boston had a new middle infield.

Aparicio was definitely past his prime in Boston but put up a couple of decent seasons.  He was an All Star in both 1971 and 1972 and even picked up some MVP votes in 1972.  He had his best season for the Red Sox in his final Major League season.  Aparicio never had much power, his career high was 10, and he only hit seven home runs over his three seasons with Boston, and none in his last season.  He did steal nearly as many bases as he had in previous seasons, his high with Boston was 13.  

Unfortunately, his time in Boston is remembered for more ignominious moments, both of which occurred in 1972.  That season he went 44 at-bats without a hit, one at-bat away from the record.  In what would have been the record-tying at-bat, he hit a grand slam.  Then, late in the season Aparicio stumbled trying to score on an extra base hit by Carl Yastrzemski and had to return to third.  Yaz was also arriving at third and was tagged out.  Boston lost that game and lost the division by half a game in a strike-shortened season.

Aparicio was at the end of his career with Boston.  The three seasons he spent with them were his last in the Majors.  He still had decent seasons, but nothing quite like the seasons that got him into the Hall of Fame with the White Sox and Orioles.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

1991 Topps #792: Mike Greenwell

In this series, I will look at my first team set: 1991 Topps. This was the set I started my baseball card collection with.
Finally, I am at the end of this series.  Mike Greenwell was the fourth Red Sox card I received in a pack, and my fifth card overall.  He was also the first card of a very good player I got in my Red Sox collection (Dennis Lamp, Tom Bolton, Dana Kiecker, and Greg Harris came in before this card).  He was also my first position player.  

Greenwell was coming off of a bit of a disappointing season in 1991.  Greenwell had been an All Star in 1988 and 1989, but he was not chosen for the game in 1990.  He struggled early on in the season and it wasn't until heating up in the second half that he was able to get his stats back up to a more acceptable level.  He ended up hitting .297/.367/.434 with 14 home runs and 73 RBIs.  He also stole just eight bases after hitting double digits the previous two seasons.  His numbers were certainly not bad, but after the previous two seasons of output, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Unfortunately, this was the real Mike Greenwell.  A batting average around .300, around 15 home runs, and around 75 RBIs.  When he was healthy, these were the numbers he would put up.  Greenwell was no longer an elite player, but merely a good player, an above-average regular that was seldom great.  There is nothing really wrong with that.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Red Sox with No Cards: 2001

2001 was not a great year for the Red Sox.  It started promisingly enough.  Before the season Boston signed Manny Ramirez to a massive eight-year contract with two option seasons.  Unfortunately, Nomar Garciaparra was hurt before the season due to an injury he sustained after being hit by a pitch on the wrist.  Nomar was out for all but 21 games.  Pedro Martinez would also go down with an injury early on, come back, then go back down.  Jason Varitek was lost to a season-ending elbow injury in June.  Despite all of that, Boston was playing well until completely folding in the second half, culminating in the firing of Jimy Williams and the hiring of Joe Kerrigan as manager.  There were not a ton of players to wear a Red Sox uniform who did not appear on a piece of cardboard for them.

A former third-round draft pick of the White Sox in 1994, Castillo spent a few seasons with Chicago as a reliever.  He was at his best in 1998 when he appeared in 54 games and had a 6-4 record.  Castillo was never a closer, but more of a long man out of the pen.  Castillo was released by the White Sox before the 2000 season and was picked up by the Marlins, though he never appeared for them.  He was picked up by the Red Sox in June, but spent most of his stint in the Boston organization in the minors.  He finally made an appearance with Boston in 2001, but appeared in just two games.  He pitched three innings and gave up two runs for a 6.00 ERA.  He was released in September.  Castillo does appear in a minor league set with the Red Sox.

Boston tried out a ton of bullpen options over the course of the 2001 season, and a lot of them did not pan out, obviously.  Todd Erdos pitched in 36 games for the Yankees and Padres during the 2000 season with a high ERA.  It is fairly surprising then that he was given another opportunity, but Boston picked him up before the 2001 season.  He spent most of the season in Pawtucket and pitched surprisingly well.  For that he was given a chance out of the Red Sox bullpen and he made it into 10 games down the stretch.  He pitched 16.1 innings with a 4.96 ERA, striking out seven while walking eight.  He was back in the Red Sox minor league system in 2002 and then bounced from organization to organization, never making it back to the Majors.  Erdos also appears in a Red Sox minor league set.

Bryce Florie was in his third season with the Red Sox, and still, no Red Sox cards.  Florie was coming off of his serious injury after taking a line drive to the face.  Florie made it into just seven games with the Red Sox in 2001, giving up 11 runs in 8.2 innings.  He struck out seven, but also walked seven.  He was released in July and was picked up by the Tigers, the team that traded him to Boston.  He never made it back to the Majors but did spend a few more seasons bouncing around from organization to organization.

"The Little Hurt", a nickname given Grebeck by White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson, had been a longtime ChiSox middle infielder.  He was a decent contact hitter and walked quite a bit.  Combined with his impressive defense, Grebeck should have been given more chances for a starting spot.  But the White Sox had Ozzie Guillen and Joey Cora in the middle of their infield for most of Grebeck's tenure.  After leaving Chicago, Grebeck jumped from team to team.  He was brought to Boston in 2001 at the beginning of the season to cover for Nomar Garciaparra's injury.  He had just hit .294 the previous season with Toronto.  Unfortunately, Grebeck was washed up as a Major Leaguer.  Through 23 games and 43 at-bats, Grebeck only had two hits.  He scored a run, doubled, and drove in two runs, but ended up with an ugly line of .049/.093/.073.  That was it for Grebeck's career.  

Marcus Jensen appeared in just one game for the Red Sox.  The catcher rarely even rose to the level of a backup catcher throughout his career.  He appeared in more than fifty games just once in his career, in 2000 with the Twins.  Jensen played for seven teams over the course of his seven years in the Majors.  Boston had some catching problems in 2001.  Starter Jason Varitek suffered a season-ending elbow injury in June and backup Scott Hatteberg could not throw well enough to be a starting catcher.  The Red Sox eventually solved their problem by trading for Doug Mirabelli but before doing that, they tried out Jensen in early June.  Jensen played the whole game and hit a single in four at-bats.  He was given the unenviable task of catching Tim Wakefield in that one game.  He was waived by Boston shortly thereafter and picked up by Texas, for whom he played 11 games.  Jensen does appear in a Red Sox minor league set.

Nomar Garciaparra's injury had Boston scrambling to find a shortstop all season.  Craig Grebeck, John Valentin, and Lou Merloni all struggled in the spot.  Mike Lansing started the most games at the position.  Nomar came back very briefly, only to go back on the shelf.  James Lofton, no relation to Kenny, was given a chance late in the season and played in seven games.  Lofton batted .192/.214/.231 with a double out of five hits in 28 plate appearances.  He did steal two bases.  Lofton never had a Major League card of any type, of course he only appeared in the Majors with the Red Sox in 2001.  He does have a minor league card with the Red Sox organization.

Another relief pitcher given a brief tryout by the Red Sox was Allen McDill, who had never pitched in more than 13 games at the Major League level prior to 2001.  He had just 23 games over the course of three out of the previous four seasons and had pitched for the Royals and the Tigers.  The southpaw appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox from late August to the end of the season.  He actually had decent strikeout numbers, striking out 16 versus just seven walks in 14.2 innings.  Unfortunately, his ERA was an unimpressive 5.52 on the season.  Naturally he was better served pitching only against left-handed batters.  He bounced around from organization to organization after his appearance in Boston but never appeared in the Majors again.  McDill is another player that does appear in a minor league set for the Red Sox.

After a successful first season in the Boston bullpen in 2000, the longtime Royals reliever Pichardo was brought back to be a major piece in Boston's bullpen in 2001.  Unfortunately he was not nearly as successful.  Pichardo pitched in almost as many games, but only slightly more than half as many innings.  His ERA was a less impressive 4.93 and he had a 2-1 record.  Most of his rate stats were slightly worse in 2001 than they were in 2000 as well.  Pichardo was injured in August and did not make it back to Boston.  He signed as a free agent with Houston the next season but only appeared in one game, pitching just one-third of an inning.  Annoyingly, Pichardo has an Astros card from the Upper Deck 40 Man set, but no Red Sox cards despite appearing in 68 games for Boston over two full seasons.

At one time Bill Pulsipher was part of a trio of great young pitching prospects for the Mets.  They were all supremely talented and heavily hyped.  Unfortunately, none of the trio, which included Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson, quite lived up to their expectations.  Isringhausen had some very good years out of the bullpen for the Athletics and Cardinals.  After several years of being tried out as a starter with the Mets and Brewers, the Red Sox attempted to use Pulsipher out of the bullpen.  He pitched in 23 games for the Red Sox in 2001, exclusively in relief.  His ERA was a disappointing 5.32 but he did exhibit some signs of becoming a decent reliever.  The lefty pitched in 22 innings over those 23 games with no record and 16 strikeouts versus 14 walks.  In August, Boston gave up on the experiment and placed him on waivers.  The White Sox picked him up and he finished the season in Chicago.  He did not appear in the Majors again until 2005 with the Cardinals, ironically reuniting with Isringhausen.  Pulsipher somehow has a card with the Devil Rays, despite never appearing in a Major League game with them, but none with the Red Sox.  Pulsipher does have minor league cards for the Red Sox organization.

As mentioned before, there are not a lot of 2001 Red Sox with no cards.  There really are not any glaring omissions.  Hipolito Pichardo pitched in the most games with Bill Pulsipher not too far behind him.  Craig Grebeck appeared the most amongst the position players, but nobody appeared in more than 30 games.  Bryce Florie and Pichardo had both been in Boston the previous season.  If I had to pick one player I would have liked to have seen get a card, it would probably be Grebeck.  He had an interesting career and was actually expected to help out after a pretty decent season with the Blue Jays the year before.  Grebeck also played in the no-hitter pitched by Hideo Nomo.

Friday, August 26, 2016

One-Card Wonder Pt. 32: Bob Howry

Like Willie Banks, Bob Howry is a reliever who would not have a Red Sox card were it not for Upper Deck 40 Man.  Howry had been the White Sox closer in 1999, saving 28 games as a 25 year old in his second season.  Despite this, he did not return to that role.  Maybe some White Sox fans have a better idea of what happened with that.

In 2002, Howry was traded to the Red Sox at the trading deadline for minor league pitchers Byeong-Hak An and Frank Francisco.  Francisco would go on to a 10 year Major League career, mostly with the Rangers.  He was a closer for a few seasons himself.  Howry was expected to help out in the bullpen, but he ended up 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA.  He did have 14 strikeouts as compared to just 4 walks in 18 innings, but he was definitely not the bullpen savior Boston had hoped for.

In 2003, Howry was one of the players expected to fill out the disastrous bullpen-by-committee experiment at the beginning of the year.  But after four bad outings in which he blew a save on April 1 and had a 12.46 ERA before being hurt.  He did not make it back to the Majors with the Red Sox.

Howry's career continued for several seasons with five more teams.  He never had a chance to close again but he did not have a few productive seasons, particularly with the Cubs.

Topps Now: July 31 and August 3, 2016

Boston has been playing a bit better of late, so these cards are welcome.  Here are the most recent Topps Now cards to hit my mailbox:
On July 31, Boston beat the Angels thanks to back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning by Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts.
On August 3, top prospect Andrew Benintendi made his debut and hit two singles.  He had been a sparkplug for the offense until going down with an injury earlier this week.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 22: Carlton Fisk

Years in Boston: 1969, 1971-1980 (.284/.356/.481, 162 home runs, 568 RBIs)
Best Year in Boston: 1972 (.293/.370/.538, 22 home runs, 61 RBIs, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove)
One of the most iconic moments in Boston Red Sox history is the image of Carlton Fisk waving his arms, desperately trying to will the ball he hit in the bottom of the 12th inning of the sixth game of the 1975 World Series to stay fair.  It did, and thus ended one of the greatest World Series game ever played.  It was a moment so unforgettable that it helped lead to Fisk's Hall of Fame plaque depicting him in a Red Sox cap, despite playing 350 more games with the White Sox.

Fisk was a 1st round draft pick by the Red Sox in the 1967 draft and made his Major League debut in 1969.  He played in just two games that year and was hitless in five at bats.  He did not play in 1970 but arrived in the Majors for good in late 1971.  1972 was Fisk's official rookie season and he was unanimously selected as the AL Rookie of the Year after a terrific season that saw him hit .293 with 22 home runs and lead the league in triples.  He was also very impressive defensively and won the only Gold Glove Award of his career.  He also finished fourth in the AL MVP vote.

Fisk's batting average decreased the next season, but his power numbers actually increased.  Unfortunately injuries started interrupting his career in 1974 and 1975.  When he was healthy, Fisk was easily one of the best players in the league.  1975 saw him play in the only World Series of his career and of course, he had his career-defining moment in Game Six.

Healthy again in 1976, Fisk had a tough season.  He hit just .255, but did contribute 17 home runs.  He had a terrific season in 1977, hitting a career high, to that point, 26 home runs and 102 RBIs.  He batted .315 that year, terrific numbers for a catcher.  Fisk continued to play with the Red Sox through the 1980 season.  He is still the team's offensive leader in a number of statistical categories and appeared in seven All Star Games with the Red Sox.

Unfortunately, due to a colossal blunder, Boston management did not mail Fisk a contract by the deadline and he became a free agent.  Contract talks were fairly acrimonious in the first place, but to lose such a great player to a mistake is embarrassing.   Fisk left to join the White Sox and spent the rest of his career there.  Fisk was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000 and, as mentioned, wears a Red Sox cap on his plaque.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

1991 Topps #763: Dana Kiecker

In this series, I will look at my first team set: 1991 Topps. This was the set I started my baseball card collection with.
One of the strengths of the 1990 Red Sox team was the pitching staff, which helped lead Boston to the AL East division title.  Roger Clemens and Mike Boddicker came into the season as the clear favorites to lead off the rotation, but after those two, it was not settled who would make up the rest of the starters.  But Boston lucked out and benefited from surprisingly strong seasons by Greg Harris, Tom Bolton, and Dana Kiecker.

Kiecker was the biggest surprise as the 1983 8th round draft pick was 29 years old in 1990 and had never played in the Majors.  He made his Major League debut on April 12 out of the bullpen and pitched four innings.  By mid-May, Kiecker had stepped into the starting rotation and he stayed there for the better part of the season.  He finished the year 8-9 with a 3.97 ERA, solid numbers for a back of the rotation starter.  He struck out 93 and walked 54 in 152 innings.     

Kiecker started one game in the ALCS against the Athletics, pitching 5.2 innings in Game 2, giving up just one earned run.  He struck out two and walked one.  Unfortunately the bullpen gave up the tie-breaking runs and the Red Sox lost.  They were swept in the ALCS.

1991 was Kiecker's second, and final, season in the Major Leagues.  Injuries and ineffectiveness ended his career just as quickly as he started.

This Dana Kiecker card was my third Red Sox card, ever.  It came in the second pack of cards I ever bought.  My first pack included both Dennis Lamp and Tom Bolton.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Topps Now: 2016

This card took a long time to get here.  This celebrates Ortiz being named the starting Designated Hitter in this year's All Star Game.  It should have arrived a few weeks ago when I got the Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. cards.  But it didn't.  This was Ortiz's final All Star Game and he walked in one of his two plate appearances.  I think he should have been allowed to play the whole game personally, but I can't claim to know what was discussed between him and the AL manager.  It may have been his idea to take only two at-bats.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Red Sox With No Cards: 2000

2000 saw more of the same from card companies.  Smaller sets, with very few exceptions.  Unless you were a regular player, you were not likely to get a card.  Boston had a number of veteran players with long histories show up very briefly in 2000.  Many of those players did not appear in a Red Sox uniform on cardboard.

Boston might have been able to make it to the postseason in 2000 if it were not for the fact that they had virtually no production at all from the third base position.  The incumbent John Valentin played in just 10 games, top rookie prospect Wilton Veras was a bust, and the team was left with a number of retreads and never-weres like Lou Merloni, Manny Alexander, and Ed Sprague.  Sean Berry was another name on that list.  The former Expos and Astros third-baseman had had some good years in the past, but was basically done by 2000.  He started the season with the Brewers, but was not hitting and was released in June.  Boston picked him up to help with their third base problems, but he ended up playing in just one game for them.  In four at-bats he failed to get a hit and struck out twice.  He was released a couple of weeks later.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a fan during the Dan Duquette regime was the fact that the team simply was not able to produce very many of its own players.  A lot of the reason for this is the fact that Duquette made so many trades involving a lot of prospects.  Duquette was not afraid to make deals when the team needed something.  The bullpen was a problem in 2000, so Duquette spent time trying to upgrade it.  One deal involved acquiring Hector Carrasco from the Twins.  To get him, Duquette gave up Lew Ford, a five tool player who would play five years for the Twins and was a pretty good player in 2004 when he hit 15 home runs and stole 20 bases.  Carrasco, on the other hand, pitched in just eight games for the Red Sox in 2000, going 1-1 with a 9.45 ERA.  He struck out seven in 6.2 innings, but also walked five.  After the season, he left as a free agent.  It is safe to say the Twins won that trade.

A very unpopular trade among the players in the clubhouse in 2000 was the trade of Jeff Frye, among others, to the Rockies.  Frye was a popular player to the team, and Nomar Garciaparra in particular was outraged.  That deal was mostly made in order to improve the team's pitching.  Along with Frye, Brian Rose and John Wasdin were shipped to the mountains in exchange for starting pitcher Rolando Arrojo, infielder Mike Lansing, and reliever Rich Croushore.  Croushore was more of a throw-in in the deal and only pitched in five games for the Red Sox.  He was 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in five games.  He walked more than he struck out and was traded to the Mets before the 2001 season for Frank Graham.

In his first full season with the Red Sox, after being acquired in a midseason trade from the Tigers in 1999, Florie had his career-defining moment.  Unfortunately that moment was being struck in the face with a line drive, causing multiple broken bones and eye damage.  Florie had been a fairly reliable bullpen arm until that moment.  He was 0-4 on the season with one save in 29 games.  He struck out 34 and walked 19 in 49.1 innings.  Florie had been a starter at times earlier in his career so he was often use for more than one inning in relief.  Florie is an annoying example of a player without any Red Sox cards because he spent parts of three seasons with Boston and appeared in 50 games and 88 innings.

The longtime Minnesota Twins fan-favorite third-baseman was at the end of his career in 2000.  He had bounced around a little bit in previous seasons, from the Angels to the Royals to the Cardinals to the Cubs, but was still capable of hitting for some power.  Boston decided to bring him in as a right-handed platoon partner for Brian Daubach at designated hitter after an impressive Spring Training.  Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that Gaetti was done.  He started the season 0 for 10 with just one RBI and three strikeouts.  To his credit, Gaetti realized he was done.  He voluntarily retired after just five games.

Another longtime star approaching the end of his career to show up in Boston in 2000 was Bernard Gilkey, who had some impressive seasons with the Cardinals and the Mets in the early to mid 1990's.  Gilkey had been released by the Diamondbacks in June of 2000 after a disappointing stint in which he hit just .110.  Boston gave him a shot and he made it into 36 games in the second half.  He hit .231/.327/.341 with a home run, five doubles, a triple, and nine RBIs.  Not bad numbers for a fourth outfielder, really, and he was acceptable in the field as well.  Gilkey played enough that he could have been included in an extended set, or in early sets from the next season.  He was let go as a free agent after the season and returned to the Cardinals, the team he started his career with before bouncing around.  He last appeared in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves.

To say that Steve Ontiveros had an uneven career would be an understatement.  He made his Major League debut in the mid 1980's with the Oakland Athletics and looked to be a decent starting pitcher after winning 10 games in 1987.  Unfortunately injuries started to take their toll and he pitched in just a handful of games over the next three seasons.  He was out of baseball for the entire 1992 season due to injuries before re-emerging in Seattle in 1993.  He shockingly led the league in ERA and WHIP for Oakland in 1994, despite pitching in more games as a relief pitcher than a starter.  In 1995, he was an All Star, winning nine games for a bad Oakland team.  Then he spent four seasons in the minor leagues before showing back up in Boston late in the 2000 season.  He made one start, giving up six runs in just one inning, then pitched out of the bullpen for two more games.  He was 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA.  He pitched in the minors for two organizations the next season then retired.

Left-handed relievers who throw hard are a valuable commodity.  It was with that in mind that the Red Sox executed a minor deal with the White Sox to acquire Pena despite a 5.40 ERA in 20 games and walking nearly as many hitters as he struck out.  Pena made it into just two games for the Red Sox in 2000, pitching three innings, walking three, and striking out just one.  His ERA was 3.00.  He spent the entire season in 2001 in Boston's minor league system but was not brought back to the Majors.  He bounced around for a couple of seasons after that, but his very brief stint in Boston was his last Major League action.  Pena does appear in a minor league set with the Red Sox.

Like Bryce Florie, Hipolito Pichardo spent a large amount of time in Boston's bullpen in 2000.  He was tied for fifth-most games for a Boston pitcher in 2000 (38) and also started a game.  Pichardo had been a reasonably effective reliever for several seasons with the Kansas City Royals after arriving in the Majors as a starter at the age of 22 in 1992.  He was injured the entire 1999 season and sought to resurrect his career with the Red Sox in 2000.  He was largely successful, finishing with a record of 6-3, though he lost the game that he started.  His ERA was a very impressive 3.46 and he even picked up a save.  Pichardo returned to Boston in 2001, pitching in 30 games that season exclusively out of relief.  He finished the season 2-1, but with a 4.93 ERA.  The next season he pitched for Houston, but struggled and was done in the Majors.

Curtis Pride was in his second stint with the Red Sox in 2000, after a very brief two at-bats in 1997, which included a home run.  Pride was somewhat renowned for making it to the Major Leagues despite being born deaf.  He spent a little more time with the Red Sox in this stint, but that is not saying much.  Pride played in nine games with 21 plate appearances.  He hit .250/.286/.300 with only a double as an extra base hit.  After the season, he returned to Montreal, where he started his career, and continued to bounce between the Majors and Minors, coming up when a team needed a bat off the bench.

Never really known for his bat, Andy Sheets typically had a job because he was versatile and steady in the field.  He was brought to Boston mostly to serve as the backup shortstop to Nomar Garciaparra but also played a game at first.  Unfortunately, he was completely inept at the plate in 2000, hitting just .095 in 21 at-bats before being sent to the Minors.  Sheets played for the Mariners, Padres, Angels, Red Sox, and Devil Rays in his seven-year career.  He just could not get anything going in his very brief time in Boston.  Sheets does appear in a minor league set with the Red Sox.

Like Jesus Pena, Dan Smith's career with the Red Sox consists of just two games.  The former Expos right-hander pitched just 3.1 innings while giving up three runs, walking three, and striking out just one.  He had been a starter the year before in Montreal, but pitched in relief for Boston.  Smith spent the next season in the minors before returning to the Expos in 2002 where he actually pitched well out of the bullpen.  He spent another season in the Montreal bullpen in 2003 but was not nearly as impressive and was out of the Majors for good after the season.  Smith does appear in a Red Sox minor league set.

After spending a considerable amount of time in the Marlins bullpen in 1997 and 1998, Rob Stanifer found himself in the minors for the entire 1999 season before making it to Boston early in 2000.  Unfortunately, he did not pitch very well and was sent back down to the Minors where he actually had some good numbers.  It is surprising he was not given another chance in the Majors after that.  Stanifer pitched in just eight games for the Red Sox and was 0-0 with a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings.  Stanifer does appear in some Red Sox minor league sets.

A lot of these players played for just a handful of games for the Red Sox, with a few exceptions.  Hipolito Pichardo, Bernard Gilkey, and Bryce Florie all appeared for a significant chunk of the season and probably should have been given a card by someone.  Gary Gaetti was probably my favorite player that did not get a card.  I always liked him when he played for the Twins, Angels, and Royals.

Friday, August 19, 2016

One-Card Wonder Pt. 31: Willie Banks

I have mentioned before how much I loved Upper Deck 40 Man.  Without it, we would never have a Red Sox card of players like Willie Banks here.  This was right at the time when very few sets were concerned about player selection.  There were a few larger sets such as Topps, Topps Heritage, and Fleer Tradition that had a bunch of cards for each teams, but unless the player was a regular or a rookie, they were not getting a card.  So, middle relievers, backup catchers, utility infielders, and short-term callups were left out in the cold.  That always bothered me because I have always liked getting a variety of players.

That brings us to Banks here.  Willie Banks was a top prospect for the Twins in the early 1990's and was a part of the Twins World Championship team in 1991, though he did not play in the postseason.  Banks had his first full-time season in 1993 and went 11-12 with a 4.04 ERA.  The next year, he was traded to the Cubs and was 8-12 with a 5.40 ERA in the strike-shortened season.  After that however, his career stalled.  He bounced from team to team for several years but never played more than 10 games until 1998.    That year, he found full-time work in Arizona's bullpen.

The next year, Banks found himself in Japan briefly before returning to the U.S.  He did not make it back to the Major Leagues until 2001 when he re-emerged briefly in Boston's bullpen.  He made it into five games late in the season with a 0.84 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.  That showing was impressive enough to get him to stay in Boston for the majority of the 2002 season.  Banks was an important member of the bullpen that season, pitching in 29 games with a 2-1 record and a 3.23 ERA.  He picked up one save in a 22-4 drubbing of the Rays in which he pitched the last four innings of the game, giving up just two hits and no runs.  He was released during Spring Training of 2003 and never made it back to the Majors.

Banks had a brief stint with the Red Sox, but he was a major bullpen contributor in 2002.  If it were not for 40 Man, he would not have any cards with the Red Sox.

One Card Refractor Mailday

Nothing exciting today.  Just a one-card trade that brought me this refractor of Boston's current closer.  Kimbrel has had an up and down season.  At times, he looks brilliant, but other times he is maddeningly wild.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 21: Carl Yastrzemski

Years in Boston: 1961-1983 (.285/.379/.462, 452 home runs, 1,844 RBIs, 3,419 hits)
Best Year in Boston: 1967 (.326/.418/.622, 44 home runs, 121 RBIs, MVP, Triple Crown)
When compiling a list of the best players in Red Sox history, Carl Yastrzemski's name most likely comes up second only to Ted Williams.  There is a good reason for that, Yastrzemski's hitting numbers may not have been quite as impressive, but he was an incredible hitter in his own right and his career lasted longer than any other player in a Red Sox uniform, covering 23 full seasons and 3,308 games.

Yaz came up the season after Ted Williams retired from baseball and took over Williams's position in left field.  Though there were seasons in which he played other positions (center field, first base, designated hitter), he will likely be remembered as a left fielder more than anything else.  He was the second link in the chain of three Hall of Famers to patrol left field for the Red Sox from 1939 through 1989.

Carl Yastrzemski was not an immediate success.  He was good, but not great for the first season of his career, gradually developing into a better and better hitter.  Then, in 1963, he won his first batting title and his first Gold Glove, while also smacking 40 doubles.  He led the league in batting average, doubles, hits, and walks and was named an All Star for the first time.  He hit 20 home runs for the first time in 1965.

Then, in 1967, Yaz had the greatest season of his career, and quite possibly the greatest season of any Red Sox player ever.  In WAR, it certainly is a record, a 12.4 WAR season.  He won the Triple Crown, en route to the AL MVP and the Gold Glove in the Impossible Dream Red Sox season.  What is even better is that he was an incredible clutch hitting machine, having a terrific final couple of weeks of the season and continuing that magic stretch through the World Series by hitting .400 with three home runs.  It was an incredible offensive season and the greatest moment in a terrific career.

The next season, he again won the batting title, though with just a .301 mark, the lowest batting average to ever win the batting title in the Year of the Pitcher.  His other numbers took a tumble too, but he still had a decent season.  The next two seasons, Yaz hit 40 home runs each year.  After that point, Yaz was no longer a top offensive player, but he would still be a productive hitter and a stalwart of the Red Sox offense.

Yaz started shifting around the diamond and gradually became the starting first baseman in the 1975 pennant winning season.  Yaz had a subpar season for him but turned it on again in the World Series.  His power numbers increased the next couple of seasons as he led a powerful Red Sox offense.

During the 1980 season, Yaz collected his 3,000th hit.  He is the only Red Sox player to have 3,000 hits all with this franchise.  Yastrzemski completed his career in 1983.  He spent his entire career with the Red Sox, setting franchise records for hits, games, runs, runs batted in, and extra base hits.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1989.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

1991 Topps #761: Larry Andersen

In this series, I will look at my first team set: 1991 Topps. This was the set I started my baseball card collection with.
The most infamous deal Boston has made since the Babe Ruth sale to the Yankees was the deal in which the Red Sox acquired Larry Andersen.  Of course that is not because Boston picked up Andersen but because of who they gave up when they got him: Jeff Bagwell.  

In hindsight of course the trade looks absolutely terrible.  Boston gave up a slugging first baseman who is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in order to get an aging middle reliever who they ultimately only had for 15 games.  Boston was in contention in 1990 but was having some difficulties with their bullpen due to injuries to closer Jeff Reardon and ineffectiveness of other pitchers.  So they needed to get a good arm in the bullpen.  And Andersen fit the bill.  He pitched in 15 games with a 1.23 ERA, striking out 25 and walking just three in 22 innings.  He picked up a save.  Andersen pitched in three games in the postseason, and did lose one of those games.  He left as a free agent to the Phillies after the season.

On the other side was Bagwell.  At the time, Bagwell was a third baseman in AA ball, but Boston already had Wade Boggs at the position and expected him to be there for a couple more years at least.  They also had Scott Cooper ahead of Bagwell on the depth chart for third base.  I do not know why Boston did not consider moving him to first base, but they probably should have.  Bagwell did not have much power in the minors, but he would certainly not be the only player to develop power at the Majors.  It is likely that Boston simply did not know what they had with Bagwell.

Ultimately, this was not a good trade.  But that does not mean that it did not make sense at the time.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Topps Now: July 20 and an A&G Blaster

I have been very busy lately.  I know I say that a lot.  I have jury trials coming up soon so my collecting has taken a back seat.  I have not been buying many packs and I have not been making many trades.  Most of my new cards coming in have been the Topps Now cards.  As bad as Boston has been lately, they still manage to get an inordinate amount of these things.  Just look at July 20, when Boston got two cards.
This first card features a number of players wearing throwback uniforms.  Xander Bogaerts is featured here in a 1970's uniform.  I would have liked a picture of the red caps though.   The late 1970's red Red Sox cap is a personal favorite of mine because my first cap was a 1975 replica.  This card features several other players as well, notably Albert Pujols and Bartolo Colon.
The other card features Hanley Ramirez, who hit three home runs in the Red Sox win over the Giants.  Hanley has a tendency to go on tears and this game was certainly evidence of that.

Today, I decided to buy a blaster of Allen & Ginter, which is never one of my favorite sets of any year.  I tend to not buy much of it mostly because I don't care for the non-baseball player cards.  But I will usually buy a blaster or a few packs, just because.  I did okay for my Red Sox collection:
The very first card out of the box was Mookie Betts.  I had one card in mind that I really wanted to get in this, which usually does not work out too well for me.  I did not get that card, but I did get the mini version.  The Ryan LaMarre is the card I wanted the most out of this set because it will likely be his only Red Sox card.  He played in six games, with five at-bats and also pitched an inning.  But then he was released.  So when I saw he was in this set, much less having a short print, I decided it was the card I wanted the most out of it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Topps Now: July 10, 2016

On a day in which the Yankees have completely overhauled their minor league system, I am showing off a true gem in the Red Sox system.  Yoan Moncada homered in the All Star Futures Game to win the MVP.  He is the second player from the Red Sox organization to be so honored.  Hopefully Moncada will have a better career than the last one: Che-Hsuan Lin, who never really was given a decent opportunity in the Majors in my opinion.  Moncada could be up in the Majors later this season and is Boston's top prospect.