Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1930-1939

The 1930's started out the way the 1920's ended: with the Red Sox in last place.  It ended with the Red Sox in second place.  What changed was ownership.  Tom Yawkey, a multi-millionaire, bought the team and immediately began making changes.  A number of high profile players were purchased and several good young stars were signed from the minor leagues.  The Red Sox were not quite contenders yet, as the Yankees were still blowing everyone out of the water, but they were in a much better place than the 1920's.

This is not close at all.  Catcher had been an offensive black hole for the Red Sox for years prior to Ferrell being traded to Boston.  Ferrell was an All Star every season he spent in Boston.  Even though he did not have much power, he was an excellent contact hitter and a very good defensive catcher.  Ferrell is also in the Hall of Fame and wears a Red Sox cap on his plaque.  For his Boston career, Ferrell hit .302/.394/.410 with 16 home runs, 111 doubles, and 240 RBIs in 522 games.  He actually spent more time with the Browns and Senators but was generally better with the Red Sox.  His best season was 1936 when he hit .312 with a career high eight home runs.  Gene Desautels is the runner-up.

Jimmie Foxx was already one of the top sluggers in the game when Boston engineered a trade to get him from the Athletics.  He had already been an MVP twice and would add one more to his resume with the Red Sox.  In his first season with Boston, Foxx shattered the team's single-season home run record previously held by Babe Ruth with 41 home runs.  But Foxx was not just a slugger.  He won his second batting title in 1938 with Boston when he hit .349.  Foxx set single season records with 50 home runs and 175 RBIs as well in 1938 and that was the year he was named AL MVP.  For his years in Boston, Foxx hit .320/.429/.605 with 222 home runs and 788 RBIs.  Foxx wears a Red Sox cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.  Dale Alexander is the runner-up after winning the 1932 batting title.

Second base is a weak position in the 1930's.  Bobby Doerr is the only player that really played well enough for long enough to get consideration.  And Doerr was not yet at his best in the 1930's.  He made his Major League debut in 1937 and played in just 55 games that season.  He was the regular second-baseman in 1938 and 1939 and he started showing signs of being the Hall of Fame second baseman he turned out to be.  1939 was his first great season and he hit .318/.365/.448 with 12 home runs and 73 RBIs and played a terrific defensive second base.  Doerr spent his entire career with the Red Sox and is in the Hall of Fame.  Max Bishop, Marty McManus, and Johnny Hodapp played well in limited time at second base.

Owner Tom Yawkey spent a shocking amount of money to pry Joe Cronin away from the Washington Senators.  He paid $250,000.00 (twice the amount Boston received for Babe Ruth) and an infielder named Lyn Lary.  Cronin was a terrific hitter for a shortstop and was also a manager.  He stepped in as player-manager when he joined Boston.  Cronin's best year in the 1930's for Boston was 1938 when he hit .325/.428/.536 with 17 home runs, 94 RBIs, and led the league with 51 doubles.  He drove in 100 runs three times with Boston and hit over .300 four times in years in which he was a regular player.  Cronin, like the three above players is also in the Hall of Fame with a Red Sox cap on his plaque.  

The first non-Hall of Famer on the team, Werber was an underrated player for the Red Sox in the mid 1930's.  He and George Pipgras were purchased from the Yankees early in 1933 in a rare deal that went well for Boston.  Werber did not do much that season but he led the league in stolen bases each of the next two seasons (40 in 1934 and 29 in 1935).  Werber could also hit for a high batting average (.321 in 1934) and had a little bit of power (14 home runs).  For his time in Boston, Werber hit .281/.367/.425 with 38 home runs, 234 RBIs, and 107 stolen bases.  He was a good defensive third baseman who also played shortstop and outfield for Boston.  He was later traded to the A's for Pinky Higgins, whose two consecutive seasons of 100+ RBIs make him the runner-up for third base.  Jim Tabor was also considered.    

Earl Webb did not play long for the Red Sox.  He came to the team in 1930 after bouncing around between the Majors and minors.  Webb could always hit, but he was not much of a fielder.  Immediately upon joining the Red Sox, it was clear that Webb was the best hitter on the team.  For his time in Boston he hit .321/.391/.509 with 35 home runs and 196 RBIs in two-plus seasons with the Red Sox.  It was 1931 that gained Webb notoriety.  That season he hit 67 doubles to set a Major League record that has yet to be broken.  Webb was traded in 1932 for Dale Alexander and Roy Johnson.  Ted Williams is the runner-up for his phenomenal rookie season in 1939 but since it was only one season and Williams will show up in the next two posts, Webb squeaks by.

Another castoff from the Philadelphia Athletics, Doc Cramer was a very good contact hitter.  He was a five-time All Star, including four times with the Red Sox after being acquired along with Eric McNair.  Cramer did not have much power, he hit just one home run his entire time with the Red Sox, but he did hit around 30 doubles each year.  Cramer had a 200 hit season with the Red Sox in 1940, leading the league in hits that year.  For his time with the Red Sox, Cramer hit .302/.349/.378 with 940 hits.  Carl Reynolds and Tom Oliver were the runners-up.

Left field was another weak position, though it will become a very strong position in the coming posts.  Johnson was acquired in the same trade as Dale Alexander, a trade that worked out quite well for the Red Sox.  Johnson was a very good contact hitter who had a little bit of speed and a little bit of power, but was not very impressive in the field.  In close to four full seasons, Johnson hit .313/.386/.458 with 31 home runs, 30 triples, 130 doubles, and 48 stolen bases.  Joe Vosmik is the runner-up.

Rick Ferrell's brother Wes was a terrific pitcher and a very good hitter as well.  He was such a good hitter that he was often used as a pinch hitter.  He actually has ten more career home runs than his brother, who was a position player his entire career.  Wes had been a four-time 20 game winner with the Indians when he was sent to Boston.  He continued his winning ways upon joining the Red Sox staff, winning 20 games two more times.  He had his best season with the Red Sox in 1935 when he was 25-14 with a 3.52 ERA.  He led the league in wins, complete games (38), innings pitched (322.1) and finished second in the AL MVP vote.  Ferrell was 62-40 with a 4.11 ERA in three-plus seasons with the Red Sox.  He was traded to Washington along with his brother in a deal that brought Ben Chapman and Bobo Newsom to Boston in 1937.

Grove was possibly the highest profile acquisition that Tom Yawkey made upon taking over the Red Sox.  Grove had been an MVP, won 20 games in seven straight seasons, and won four ERA titles in his time with the Philadelphia A's.  Grove was not an immediate success.  He was injured in 1934 and finished just 8-8 with a 6.50 ERA.  Not quite what Yawkey had in mind.  But Grove learned how to be a pitcher and not just a hard-thrower in his time with the Red Sox.  He won 20 games one more time and won four more ERA titles.  In his eight years with the Red Sox, Grove was 105-62 with a 3.34 ERA and 743 strikeouts in 1,539.2 innings.  His last win with the Red Sox (which was the last win of his career) was his 300th career win.  Grove wears a Red Sox cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Ostermueller was a decent pitcher that was used both as a starter and as a reliever for the Red Sox.  He came up in 1934 and had a pretty good year, going 10-13 with a 3.49 ERA.  He was at his best in 1938 and 1939 with the Red Sox when he was 13-5 with a 4.58 ERA and then 11-7 with a 4.24 ERA.  He was never really a top starting pitcher, but pitching is kind of weak in general for the Red Sox in the 1930's and is the primary reason they were not able to compete with the Yankees in the latter half of the decade.  Ostermueller was 59-65 with a 4.38 ERA in seven seasons with the Red Sox from 1934-1940.

Like Ostermueller, "Black" Jack Wilson was used frequently in relief as well as starting games.  Wilson was highly effective in 1937 when he was 16-10 with a 3.70 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 221.1 innings.  Though saves were not an official stat, Wilson was later credited with seven.  He also started 21 games that season.  In 1938 he was 15-15 and then 11-11 in 1939.  Wilson played for the Red Sox from 1935-1941 and was 67-67 with a 4.44 ERA and was credited with 20 career saves.  

Joe Heving was a rarity.  He was a relief specialist at a time when there were not many such specialists in the Majors.  Heving had varying degrees of success before joining the Red Sox in 1938.  He pitched in just 16 games that season but was 8-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 82 innings.  He started 11 of those games, but he was almost exclusively a reliever in 1939 when he started just five out of the 46 games he pitched.  He was 11-3 with a 3.70 ERA that season and notched eight saves.  Heving played one more season with the Red Sox and finished the Boston portion of his career 31-11 with a 3.83 ERA.  His brother Johnnie was a catcher with the Red Sox from 1924-1925 and 1928-1930.

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