Tuesday, February 28, 2017

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Catcher

I'm going to do something a little different with the One-Year Wonder posts. I have decided to go position-by-position and see if I can determine who the best player at each position would be who only spent one year with the Red Sox. This requires a lot of time and research. I am not naming every single player who spent just one season with the Red Sox at each position, but just the better-known players. At the end of the post, I will pick the single best player for each position.

In the Red Sox first season of existence, their catcher was an emerging star named Ossee Schrecongost.  Schrecongost had an impressive season in 1899 splitting time between Cleveland and St. Louis before spending a year in the minors in 1900.  Boston brought him over when they formed to be their primary catcher and he had a terrific season hitting .304/.356/.386 with 38 RBIs.  He had some decent speed for a catcher, hitting five triples and stealing six bases.  He was a decent defensive catcher and caught 45% of potential base-stealers, but committed 30 errors to lead the league.  Boston had another emerging catcher named Lou Criger though and elected to trade Schrecongost to Cleveland for Candy LaChance.  He was quickly traded to Philadelphia where he spent several seasons and became an elite defensive catcher and had some decent seasons at the plate as well.  He finished with a .271/.297/.345 line over eleven seasons.  

A long-time star with the Cleveland Indians, O'Neill had a terrific season for the team that won the World Championship in 1920.  He hit .321/.408/.440 with three home runs and 55 RBIs that season, which was the start of a three-year string in which he hit over .300 each year.  O'Neill was a very impressive hitter for a catcher for several years until he hit 30 years of age, at which point his average plummeted.  He was brought to the Red Sox after his first bad season in a deal that also brought Bill Wambsganss in return for George Burns and others.  It was not a trade that worked out in Boston's favor.  O'Neill had declined as a hitter and managed just a .238/.371/.293 line with no home runs and 38 RBIs.  He was not as effective behind the plate either, but still caught 50% of potential base-stealers.  He only played three part-time seasons after 1924 with the Yankees and Browns.  For his career, O'Neill hit .263/.349/.337.  He would manage the Red Sox briefly in the early 1950's.

A four-time All Star with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1940's, Owen was known as a very good defensive catcher who set a record for consecutive chances without a fielding error.  Owen was not much of a hitter and finished his Major League career with a .255/.318/.322 line with 14 home runs and 378 RBIs, but he was well-respected and played for four teams over his 13-year career.  Owen served in the military during the 1946 season and attempted to play in Mexico upon his return.  He made it back to the Majors with the Cubs for a few seasons, then did not play in the Majors again until Boston signed him as a free agent prior to the 1954 season.  He made it into 32 games with the Red Sox and hit .235/.309/.324 with one home run and 11 RBIs.  It was his last appearance in the Majors.

Gene Oliver had some big power for a catcher in the 1960's.  He also spent a lot of time at first base and the outfield and rose to stardom with the Cardinals and Milwaukee Braves.  He had his best season for the Braves in 1965 when he hit .270/.336/.482 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs.  It was his fourth season in a row of more than 10 home runs.  Unfortunately, it was his last really good season.  Oliver was not a very good defensive catcher, which explained his playing other positions.  After a decent season in 1967 split between the Braves and Phillies, during which he was traded for Bob Uecker of all people, the Phillies traded him to the Red Sox along with Dick Ellsworth for Mike Ryan.  That trade mostly worked out well for the Red Sox, but not due to Oliver, Ellsworth had a 16 win season.  Oliver played in just 16 games with Boston before being sold to the Cubs.  He hit .143/.250/.143.  He was very close to the end of his career.

JOE AZCUE - 1969
Like O'Neill, "Immortal Joe" Azcue had several very good seasons with the Cleveland Indians.  The Cuban native was an All Star in 1968 when he hit .280/.331/.342 with four home runs and 42 RBIs.  His power was a little down, but he had a few seasons earlier on when he hit around ten home runs.  Azcue was a very good defensive catcher who regularly finished in the top ten in caught stealing percentage.  After playing in just seven games in the 1969 season with the Indians, Azcue was traded to the Red Sox along with Vicente Romo and Sonny Siebert in the controversial trade that sent fan favorite Ken Harrelson to Cleveland.  Harrelson would have a reasonably productive season to finish up the year, but Siebert had several good years.  Azcue though, would play only 19 games with Boston before being traded to the Angels for catcher Tom Satriano.  In those games, he hit .216/.273/.255 with three RBIs.  Azcue was close to the end of his career as well.

In the late 1970's, the Red Sox started churning out a lot of young catchers who would go on to have reasonably long careers in the Majors.  Ernie Whitt, who was mostly known for his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, was one such player.  Whitt made his Major League debut with the Red Sox in September of 1976 and played in just eight games.  He did hit his first ML home run and hit .222/.300/.500 with three RBIs.  Whitt was left unprotected in the expansion draft after the season due to the presence of Carlton Fisk and Bob Montgomery in the Majors and Bo Diaz in the minors.  He was taken by the Blue Jays in the draft and emerged as a full-time catcher in 1980.  He would go on to appear in the 1985 All Star Game and had several impressive seasons as the Blue Jays' primary catcher.  He hit 15 or more home runs six seasons in a row.  He later played for the Braves and Orioles.

BO DIAZ - 1977
Another young catcher who came up briefly for the Red Sox before emerging as a star elsewhere was Bo Diaz.  Diaz had some decent seasons in the minors for the Red Sox organization and played in just two games in 1977 with Boston.  He had one at-bat and struck out.  After the season, Diaz was part of the return to the Indians in exchange for Dennis Eckersley.  Diaz emerged as a star in the strike-shortened 1981 season when he hit .313/.359/.533.  He had some impressive seasons with the Phillies and Reds and was an All Star for the second time with Cincinnati in 1987.  Diaz died in a freak accident just a year after retiring from baseball when a satellite dish he was adjusting fell on him.  He was 37.

I considered leaving Rader off this post, but he had a pretty decent year in short work for the Red Sox in 1980.  He was the starting catcher for the Giants for several seasons in 1970's and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote in 1972 when he hit .259/.306/.333 with six home runs and 41 RBIs.  He played for the Giants through the 1976 season then spent one year each with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Phillies before finally arriving in the American League with the Red Sox in 1980.  Rader ended up being the primary backup catcher for Boston after longtime backup Bob Montgomery retired.  Rader was acquired in a trade for Stan Papi, who was notable for being the return the Red Sox received when Bill Lee was traded to Montreal.  Rader played in 50 games for the Red Sox and hit .328/.388/.474 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.  He was expendable though with the emergence of Gary Allenson and Rich Gedman and was allowed to leave as a free agent.  He never appeared in the Majors again. 

Dave Valle was mostly known as the Mariners' starting catcher for several seasons from the late 1980's through the early 1990's.  He was a decent hitter and had three seasons of hitting more than ten home runs.  He had the best full season of his career in his final season with Seattle in 1993 when he hit .258/.354/.395 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs.  Boston's catching situation was dire in 1993 when starting catcher Tony Pena hit .181 on the season.  Valle decent defensively and expected to be an upgrade offensively.  Unfortunately it did not work out well and he was hitting just .158/.256/.250 with one home run and five RBIs in 30 games when he was traded for offensive help in the outfield.  Valle was sent to Milwaukee for Tom Brunansky and finished the year strong, hitting .389 in 16 games for the Brewers.  He spent two more seasons as the Rangers backup before calling it quits.  

The Red Sox acquired a completely new catching platoon after the disastrous hitting in 1993 from Pena, Bob Melvin, and John Flaherty.  Along with Valle, Damon Berryhill was signed as a free agent to be the primary backup.  Berryhill was a very good defensive catcher with the Cubs and Braves for several seasons before joining the Red Sox.  He had been the Braves' primary catcher for the previous two seasons despite not being a good hitter.  Berryhill was expected to be a backup for the Red Sox but became the starter when Valle struggled with the bat.  He surrendered some playing time to rookie Rich Rowland, who was also acquired as a new catcher in 1994, but played in 82 games in the strike-shortened season.  He hit .263/.312/.416 with six home runs and 34 RBIs.  He finished fourth in fielding percentage among AL catchers.  He later played for the Giants and Reds.

After the new catching platoon did not really work out in 1994, the Red Sox brought in a new pair in the shortened 1995 season.  Longtime Royals catcher Mike Macfarlane was signed as a free agent to be the new starting catcher and Bill Haselman was the backup.  He was coming off of a season in which he hit .255/.359/.462 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs.  He hit 17 home runs in 1992 and 20 in 1993, so the Red Sox knew they were getting a catcher with some pop.  He did hit home runs, 15 in 1995, but his overall offensive numbers declined to .225/.319/.404.  He played reasonably well defensively and had three hits in ten at-bats in the postseason.  After the season he returned to Kansas City and hit 19 home runs.  He later played for the Athletics.

Joe Oliver was the starting catcher for the Reds in their World Championship 1990 season in his first full season.  Oliver also had some pop and hit 10-15 home runs in seven seasons.  He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Reds before bouncing around from team to team.  Over the rest of his career, Oliver played for the Brewers, Reds again, Tigers, Mariners, Pirates, Mariners again, Yankees, and finally the Red Sox.  He started the 2001 season with the Yankees but only played in 12 games for them.  He signed as a free agent with the Red Sox after Jason Varitek went down with an injury, but only appeared in five games with Boston at the end of the season due to the emergence of Doug Mirabelli.  Oliver doubled among three hits and had a line of .250/.308/.333 with an RBI.  It was Oliver's final season.

One of the top power-hitting catchers of all time is Javy Lopez, who hit 260 career home runs with the Braves and Orioles.  He ended his career with the Red Sox in 2006, but was unable to hit a home run in his short stint with them.  Lopez was a big part of the Braves teams that contended every year in the National League in late 1990's.  Despite his impressive power, he was only an All Star three times in his career.  He was also suspect defensively.  Lopez's best season undoubtedly was his 2003 season in which he hit .328/.378/.687 with 43 home runs and 109 RBIs.  His monstrous season landed him an All Star selection, the Silver Slugger and placed him fifth in the MVP vote.  It was his final season in Atlanta and he signed a big free agent contract with Baltimore, which was somewhat disappointing.  Toward the end of his disastrous 2006 season, Boston sent a Player to be Named Later (Adam Stern) to solidify their catching due to injuries to Varitek.  Lopez did not help much and hit just .190/.215/.270 with five doubles and four RBIs in 18 games.  It was the end of his career. 

Pierzynski was a polarizing player.  You loved him or you hated him, but he could definitely hit.  After a couple of down seasons with the bat, he came roaring back in 2012 with a 27 home run season for the White Sox.  He spent the 2013 season with the Rangers and hit 17 more home runs with a .272/.297/.425 line.  He signed with the defending World Champion Red Sox to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia who joined the Marlins as a free agent.  Unfortunately, he seemingly forgot how to hit upon joining the Red Sox.  He was also not well-liked in the clubhouse.  Pierzynski hit just .254/.286/.348 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 72 games.  He was released in July and picked up by the Cardinals, but did not do much better for them.  He joined the Braves in 2015 and had a comeback season.  

It is a little disappointing that the Best One-Year Catcher is a player who does not actually have any cards with the Red Sox, but here we are.  Schrecongost is the only player in this post who was a regular player and had an above average OPS+.  He was also the WAR leader among the players in this post.  Only Macfarlane and Rader really came close.  Schrecongost had a pretty good year, both offensively and defensively, and it was enough to take the title.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: 914-918

This is my first mailday for awhile.  I am trying to cut way back on spending and I have not been able to work out many trades of late.  I did recently sell a card and was very disappointed that I was outbid on a nice Varitek card earlier, so I bought these.  None of these are terribly exciting, just some random parallels that I did not have.  The first card is one of the 2011 Factory Set bonus parallels.  The second is a base card I did not have that was on my wantlist.  The next three are all parallels from 2008-2009 which was about the time that Varitek stopped being my primary focus.  Now that he is again, I am picking up stuff I still needed.  But I am now up to 918 Varitek cards.  82 to go.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1960-1969

The 1960's started off the same way the 1950's ended for the Red Sox.  They were a mediocre team with a few stars and not much prospect for the future.  The owner had mostly lost interest in the team and was not doing much to actively improve things.  They lacked exciting players to bring fans in.  Attendance was suffering.  It was not until 1967 when things took a dramatic turn-around.  Suddenly a bunch of young players clicked at the same time and the team turned their fortunes around.  The next couple of seasons were not as impressive, but at least the team gave fans reason to cheer.

Catching was mostly a weakness for the Red Sox during the decade, particularly on offense.  They had a few decent seasons, but it was mostly a black hole.  Bob Tillman edges out Jim Pagliaroni for the top catcher for the decade, mostly on the strength that he just lasted longer, but he also had the best individual season for a Red Sox catcher in the 1960's.  Tillman was with the Red Sox from his ML debut in 1962 until he was sold to the Yankees late in the 1967 season.  Tillman had a very good season in 1964 when he hit .278/.352/.445 with 17 home runs (a then team record for catchers) and 61 RBIs.  Tillman exploded onto the team in 1962, hitting 14 home runs in just 81 games.  Unfortunately, those were the only two seasons he hit more than eight home runs with the Red Sox.  During his Red Sox career, Tillman hit .236/.307/.372 with 49 home runs and 194 RBIs.  Jim Pagliaroni was the runner-up due to his huge power.

This was the toughest decision to make in this post.  My first thought was that George Scott would be the easy choice.  But Scott had one very bad season in 1968 and ultimately, it is tough to pass on a player who won two batting titles in the decade.  Runnels came to Boston in a trade with Washington in 1958 as a second-baseman, but his defensive skills at the position were a little questionable and he started transitioning to first in 1960, appearing in 57 games there.  He was a full-time first-baseman the next season.  Runnels came very close to winning his first batting title in 1958, but was edged out by teammate Ted Williams.  He did win in both 1960 (.320) and 1962 (.326).  He was a three-time All Star with Boston and hit .320/.408/.427 in Boston.  After he won the 1962 batting title, Runnels was shipped to Houston for Roman Mejias.

Andrews was a very underrated player during his time with Boston.  He was not a terribly good defensive player but he was a very good hitter for a second-baseman during this time period.  Andrews made his ML debut in 1966 and was one of the young stars of the team during the Impossible Dream 1967 season.  He had a good season, hitting .263/.346/.352 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs.  He improved slightly in 1968, but then he had the best season of his career in 1969 when he hit .293/.390/.455 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs.  He was named to the All Star team that season, his only such appearance.  He hit .268/.360/.385 with 47 home runs with the Red Sox.  Andrews beat out Chuck Schilling for this honor.  Schilling was a mirror image of Andrews, he was a poor hitter but a very good fielder.    

It took him a little while to get going, but Petrocelli became a great hitter for a shortstop.  He always had power and he was a gifted defensive player, but it was a while before his hitting truly came around.  Petrocelli had a massive season in 1969 though.  That season he hit 40 home runs which was an American League record for a shortstop for decades.  It was a big year for him all around as he hit .297/.403/.589, all career highs, while driving in 97 runs and scoring 92.  It was one of the best offensive seasons any Red Sox player had during the decade.  Petrocelli was an All Star in both 1967 and 1969.  He beat out the steady and dependable Eddie Bressoud who was also an All Star in 1964 and had a 20 homer season in 1963.  

For the second decade in a row, Frank Malzone is the third-baseman.  He was no longer winning Gold Gloves, due to the presence of Brooks Robinson in Baltimore, but Malzone was still a very good defensive third-baseman and he could definitely still hit.  He made the All Star team three times during the decade and had his best season from a power standpoint in 1962 when he hit 21 home runs.  For the 1960's, Malzone hit .271/.314/.392 with 80 home runs and 422 RBIs.  He finally started slowing down in 1965, which was his last season with the Red Sox.  Malzone beat out Joe Foy who had three decent seasons at the end of the 1960's.

Tony C. was one of the brightest young stars in the game during the mid 1960's.  Unfortunately, he has gone down as one of the most tragic stories in MLB history.  Conigliaro was just 19 years old when he made it to the Majors and he homered in his first at-bat in Fenway Park.  He hit 24 home runs in his rookie season.  The next year, at the age of 20, Conigliaro became the youngest player to win a home run crown in the AL.  In 1967, he became the second-youngest player to reach 100 home runs in his career.  The sky was the limit.  Unfortunately, he was beaned in the cheekbone by a pitch later in the 1967 season that caused him to miss the rest of the season and the entire 1968 season.  He returned impressively in 1969 and hit 20 home runs.  He had his best season in 1970, but his eye problems persisted and his career was cut short.  Lou Clinton is the runner-up.

One of the most underrated players in history, Smith is another player who broke out in the Impossible Dream season of 1967.  Smith was a rookie and finished second in the AL ROY vote as he hit .246/.315/.389 with 15 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases.  He was one of the most dynamic players on the team during the decade as he could do everything on the field.  He hit home runs, stole bases, and played terrific defense.  Smith won a Gold Glove in 1968 and led the league in doubles.  He had a great season in 1969 hitting .309/.368/.527 with 25 home runs and 93 RBIs and making the All Star team for the first of seven times in his career.  Smith would continue to play well for Boston through the 1973 season.  Gary Geiger is the runner-up.

By far the easiest selection of the team.  Ted Williams passed the baton to Yaz in 1961 and Yaz was definitely a worthy successor.  In just his third season in 1963, Yaz led the league in average, hits, and doubles.  He also won his first Gold Glove, an area in which he surpassed his predecessor.  Yaz had one of the greatest seasons in history in 1967 when he won the Triple Crown by leading the league in average (.326), RBIs (121), and tied for the lead in home runs (44).  He won the MVP and a Gold Glove and went on to have a terrific showing in the World Series loss to the Cardinals by hitting .400 with three home runs.  Yaz won his third batting title in 1968.  During the decade, Yaz won five Gold Gloves and went to six All Star games.  Though Yaz spent one full season in center field, he was far and away the best left fielder for the Red Sox in the 1960's.  Only Williams's final season came even close.  

I had to get this one in there somehow.  I considered putting Mantilla down as the second-baseman, but his best season in 1964 had him playing 45 games at second, 35 in left, and then several games at a number of other positions.  Mantilla was not a good defensive player, which is the primary reason for his bouncing around.  Prior to coming to Boston, Mantilla was not considered much with the bat either.  His first year in Boston though, he hit .315/.384/.461 with six home runs.  The next year he exploded, hitting .289/.357/.553 with 30 home runs and 64 RBIs.  He was an All Star in 1965 when he hit .275/.374/.416 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs.  He was primarily a second-baseman in 1965, but he still spent a lot of time at other positions.  

"Monbo" emerged as the Red Sox ace in 1960 and was the best pitcher on the team for a few seasons thereafter.  He was a four-time All Star and a 20 game winner for a team that was generally mediocre.  He had his first All Star season in 1960 as he went 14-11 with a 3.64 ERA and 134 strikeouts.  He had his best season in 1963 when he was 20-10 with a 3.81 ERA and 174 strikeouts.  Monbouquette threw a no-hitter in 1962 when he was 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA and 153 strikeouts.  He led the league in losses (18) in 1965, but had a decent 3.70 ERA.  After that season though, he began to decline and bounced around several teams.

Lonborg was the first Red Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.  Of course that happened in 1967 as he was yet another young star to break out that season.  He originally came up in 1965, but the team was bad and he lost 17 games in his rookie season.  He had a 4.47 ERA, so it was not just the bad team.  It was not until he was taught how to pitch inside prior to the 1967 season that he broke out, and he did in a big way.  He led the league in wins (22) and strikeouts (246) while finishing with a 3.16 ERA.  He was an All Star for the only time in his career.  He won two games in the World Series, but lost the last game.  Unfortunately injuries stalled his career for several seasons afterwards.

Wilson was the second black player to play for the Red Sox and the first pitcher.  He was also the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter, which he did in 1962.  Wilson always had electric stuff, but he had some trouble harnessing it and he walked too many batters for a few years.  Wilson broke out in 1962 when he was 12-8 with a 3.90 ERA and 137 strikeouts.  He had mostly mediocre records for his entire time with the Red Sox, but that was more due to pitching for bad teams.  Wilson was a terrific athlete and  had some impressive power as a hitter.  He hit 17 home runs for the Red Sox.  Wilson was 56-58 with a 4.10 ERA and 714 strikeouts with the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, he was traded away in a controversial move right before having the best season of his career. 

Culp only pitched two seasons for the Red Sox in the 1960's, but they were very impressive.  He was acquired in a trade from the Cubs to help shore up the pitching staff, which was largely viewed as the biggest culprit in losing the 1967 World Series.  But with Lonborg down with an injury, Culp became the de facto ace of the staff in 1968 by going 16-6 with a 2.91 ERA and 190 strikeouts.  He continued his impressive pitching in 1969 when he was an All Star for the only time in his career, going 17-8 with a 3.81 ERA and 172 strikeouts.  He was 71-58 with a 3.50 ERA and 794 strikeouts in his career for the Red Sox.  Other starters considered were Gene Conley, Gary Bell, and Dick Ellsworth.

Like Mantilla, I had to try to fit Jose Santiago in.  He was such a huge part of the 1967 season, even though he was primarily a relief pitcher that season.  In other seasons he was mostly a starting pitcher though.  After a few seasons of mediocre work with the Kansas City A's, Boston purchased Santiago and he made an impact.  He had a decent season in 1966, going 12-13 with a 3.66 ERA.  He was very impressive in the Impossible Dream season when he was 12-4 with a 3.59 ERA and 109 strikeouts, while also saving five games.  He was an All Star in 1968 when he was 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA.  Santiago had a big moment in the World Series when he homered in his first at-bat.

I feel comfortable in saying that Radatz would have been one of my favorite players had I been alive in the 1960's.  Nicknamed "The Monster" due to his imposing size (6'6" 230), Radatz had one of the most dominating peaks of any relief pitcher ever.  He exploded onto the scene in 1962 and was 9-6 with a 2.24 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 124.2 innings.  He saved 24 games.  The next season he was even better, going 15-6 with a 1.97 ERA, 23 saves, and 162 strikeouts in 132.1 innings.  In 1964 he set a record with 181 strikeouts as a reliever in just 157 innings.  He was 16-9 with a 2.29 ERA and a league-leading 29 saves.  Unfortunately he started declining from there.  With Boston he was 49-34 with a 2.65 ERA, 102 saves, and 627 strikeouts in 557.1 innings, all as a reliever.

One of the worst trades the Red Sox ever made was sending southpaw reliever Lyle to the Yankees for Mario Guerrero and Danny Cater.  Lyle had been a fairly impressive reliever already with the Red Sox, which is often forgotten.  He was a big part of the bullpen in the Impossible Dream season when he was 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA and struck out 42 in 43.1 innings.  He picked up five saves.  The next season he was 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 11 saves, followed by a great 1969 season when he was 8-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 17 saves.  For his Red Sox career, Sparky was 22-17 with a 2.85 ERA.  He struck out 275 and notched 69 saves.  John Wyatt was also considered as a reliever.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

1991-2016 All-Underrated Team: Center Field

I have been watching baseball for 26 years now. In that time, I have been obsessed with under-the-radar players. These are my picks for an All-Underrated Team. I have picked one player for each position and their best season.
This was easily the toughest position to decide on for me.  I could have gone in a number of directions to find someone, but none of the choices were very inspiring.  The biggest problem with this position is that there is a lot of middling choices who were decent at one category, but not much else.  Otis Nixon stole a ton of bases but had non-existent power.  Billy Hatcher was decent hitter, but did not excel on defense.  Lee Tinsley was pretty decent overall.  Ultimately, I went with Darren Bragg in 1997.
I should explain.  Bragg had the highest WAR score of any of the players that I was considering.  He did not have a terribly impressive year at the plate, but it was not much worse from an OPS+ perspective than the other players considered.  Most of them were below average hitters.  What made Bragg special though was that he was an elite defender.  Bragg was a 3.5 WAR player, and he was a 2.2 dWAR player.  He was third in the league in that category.  That is very impressive.  
Among his other defensive numbers, Bragg was second in Total Zone Runs (20), first in assists as a centerfielder (9), fourth in putouts as an outfielder (365), third in range factor, and first in fielding percentage (.994).  Unfortunately, he played the same position as Jim Edmonds, Bernie Williams, and Ken Griffey Jr., all of whom also won the Gold Glove Award.  He did not have the history of the other players and at the time, Gold Glove Awards were all about reputation.  Bragg also spent a significant amount of time playing right field, due to the early experiment with Shane Mack.
Bragg was okay as a hitter.  His line was .257/.337/.386.  He homered nine times and drove in 57 runs.  He did hit 35 doubles, which was a decent number.  He also stole 10 bases.  All told, Bragg was not much of a hitter, but his superior defense made him the choice for the position.  Unfortunately, his light hitting made mostly expendable.  He spent a few seasons with the Red Sox, but 1997 was the only year he was a full-time player.  

Billy Hatcher - 1993 (.287/.336/.400, 9 home runs, 57 RBIs, 14 stolen bases)
Otis Nixon - 1994 (.274/.360/.317, 0 home runs, 25 RBIs, 42 stolen bases)
Lee Tinsley - 1995 (.284/.359/.402, 7 home runs, 41 RBIs, 18 stolen bases)
Darren Lewis - 1998 (.268/.352/.362, 8 home runs, 63 RBIs, 29 stolen bases)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Loyalty and Longevity Pt. 8: Bob Montgomery

In this series, I look at players who played their entire Major League career with the Red Sox, as long as said Major League career lasted at least ten years.
Bob Montgomery is easily the most obscure player that will be covered in this series.  Montgomery was a backup catcher for his entire career, never appearing in even 90 games with the Red Sox.  He did spent his entire ten-year career with the Red Sox though, so he just barely qualifies for this list.  But he still qualifies, so that is all that matters.
The Red Sox signed Montgomery as an amateur free agent in 1962.  It took him several years before he finally made it to the Major Leagues.  He was 26 when he made his Major League debut in 1970.  He played in 22 games for the Red Sox behind Jerry Moses and Tom Satriano.  He did not hit much, with just a .179/.244/.244 line and one home run and four RBIs, but he was pretty impressive defensively catching 47% of attempted base stealers.  In 1971, he became the primary backup catcher to Duane Josephson and hit .239/.300/.341 with two home runs and 24 RBIs.  He was not as impressive defensively though.
Still a backup in 1972, Montgomery now took a backseat to Rookie of the Year Carlton Fisk.  He played in just 24 games, but his line was a more impressive .286/.309/.377 with two home runs and seven RBIs.  He had the best season of his career in 1973 when he hit .320/.353/.563 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.  The Red Sox had the best catching tandem in the league in 1973.  He was reasonably impressive behind the plate as well, catching 38% of attempted base stealers.  Due to injuries to Fisk in 1974, Montgomery was the primary catcher for the year, appearing in 88 games, the most of his career.  He hit just .252/.287/.339 with four home runs and a career high 38 RBIs.
The Red Sox made it to the World Series in 1975 despite injuries limiting Fisk to 79 games.  Montgomery played in 62 games, but his numbers declined to .226/.241/.318 with two home runs and 26 RBIs.  Boston also used Tim Blackwell quite a bit as the backup to Montgomery while Fisk was out.  Montgomery only made one plate appearance in the postseason and did not register a hit.  
Fisk became something of an Iron Man for a few years after 1975, limiting Montgomery's playing time.  He would play in just 31 games in 1976 hitting .247/.283/.398 with three home runs and 13 RBIs.  He was down to 17 games in 1977, but he hit .300/.370/.500 with two home runs and seven RBIs, and then further dropped to just ten games in 1978 with a .241/.290/.345 line with no home runs and five RBIs.  Montgomery's last season in 1979 saw him appear in 32 games with an impressive .349/.374/.419 line with seven RBIs.  He retired after the season.
For his ten year career, Montgomery hit .258/.296/.372 with 23 home runs and 156 RBIs.  He had a .983 career fielding percentage and caught 33% of attempted base stealers for his career.  Decent numbers, particularly for a backup catcher.  Boston has had a number of decent backup catchers over their history, and Montgomery was certainly among them.  For a few years, he formed a terrific catching tandem with Carlton Fisk.  Montgomery's lasting legacy though is that he was the last Major Leaguer to bat without a helmet.  MLB required batting helmets for players in 1971 but allowed currently active players to continue without them.  Montgomery held out for the rest of his career.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Red Sox With No Cards: 2010

Upper Deck lost their MLB license in 2010.  That did not stop them from releasing one series of cards, but the loss would be felt with a lot of players not getting cards starting in 2010.  That left just Topps making baseball cards.  

How did this happen?  Atchison pitched for the Red Sox for three straight years, appearing in more than 40 games twice.  Yet somehow, he never got a card with the Red Sox.  Atchison originally came up with the Mariners in 2004 and moved up and down between AAA and the Majors through 2007.  He signed a free agent contract with the Red Sox originally in December 2007, but was released and went to pitch for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan for a couple of seasons.  He returned to the Red Sox for the 2010 season.  He was decent, if not overly impressive, going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 60 innings over 43 games.  He struck out 41 and walked 19.  He actually started a game against the Phillies in June, throwing three innings in the only game he ever started as a Major Leaguer.  You can expect to see Atchison in the next two posts to find out where he went from 2010.

One of the best names in baseball in recent years, Bonser was a prospect for the Giants who was involved in the A.J. Pierzynski trade that brought Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan to the Twins.  Bonser was given multiple chances with the Twins but never managed to develop into the starting pitcher he was projected to be after a fairly impressive rookie season.  Bonser was traded to the Red Sox in December 2009 as part of a minor deal.  He spent only a short amount of time in the Red Sox organization.  He pitched in nine games with the Pawtucket Red Sox and two games in Boston.  In those two games, he pitched two innings with an 18.00 ERA, giving up six hits and two walks with no strikeouts.  He was released by the Red Sox in June and ended up with the Oakland A's, for whom he appeared in 13 games with a 5.09 ERA.  That was his last stint in the Majors.   

Cabrera was in his second season with the Red Sox organization in 2010.  The big righty spent almost the entire season with Pawtucket as their closer.  For the second straight season he saved 22 games for the PawSox, but he had a 4.30 ERA.  Cabrera appeared in just one Major League game with the Red Sox and pitched an inning and a third, giving up three earned runs on two hits and two walks with no strikeouts.  That was his final appearance in the Major Leagues, though he did pitch in a couple of other organizations.  Cabrera does have minor league cards with the Red Sox.  

Though he was already with his third Major League organization, Coello made his ML debut with the Red Sox in 2010.  He had actually been signed by the Red Sox for the 2009 season, but he spent the entire season in the minors.  He spent most of the 2010 season in the minors too, but was impressive enough to receive a late-season call-up.  He pitched in six games for the Red Sox with a 4.76 ERA over 5.2 innings.  He walked five and struck out five.  Coello was traded to the Cubs in a minor deal for Tony Thomas in Spring Training of 2011.  He has bounced around ever since, making brief appearances for the Blue Jays and Angels.  Coello has never appeared on a Major League card, but he does have some minor league cards with the Red Sox organization.

Fox was originally a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2004, the 35th overall pick.  He had a long and winding road to the Majors, finally making it to the Twins for just one game in 2010.  He was placed on waivers in September and the Red Sox took a flyer.  He pitched in three more games for the Red Sox, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings over three games.  He walked one and did not strike out anyone.  He spent the entire 2011 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox and had a decent season and was named to the All Star Game.  He bounced around after that, but he never appeared in the Majors again.  He hung it up after the 2013 season.  Fox does appear in Pawtucket sets.  

Like Atchison, this one is really annoying.  Boston native Hill spent parts of four seasons with the Red Sox.  It is a little more understanding in 2010 though.  Hill had been a promising southpaw for the Cubs for several years, but could never really be consistent enough to be a full-time starter.  He spent the 2009 season in Baltimore before coming to the Red Sox in 2010.  Hill was signed by the Red Sox in June of 2010 and was a lefty out of the bullpen for six games for the Red Sox, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  He struck out three, walked one, and gave up five hits.  Hill will be in several of these posts, because despite pitching in 44 games for the Red Sox over four seasons, he never had a Boston Red Sox card, though he does have one minor league card with the Red Sox.

The acquisition of Felipe Lopez was an ill-fated attempt at adding a cheap draft pick from the 2011 draft.  Lopez was going to be a Type B free agent after the season, meaning that the team that signed him as a free agent had to give up a second round draft pick.  Lopez was a slick-fielding shortstop for a number of teams and had some decent decent seasons with the stick as well, including a .291/352/.486 line in 2005 with 23 home runs.  He spent most of the 2010 season with the Cardinals, but struggled at the plate and was released in late September for bizarre reasons.  Boston scooped him up to try to take advantage of the free agency compensation.  He appeared in four games with the Red Sox and hit .267/.313/.467 with a home run and an RBI.  He appeared at second, third, and short in his brief time with Boston.  Unfortunately, the free agency thing did not work out as Lopez signed a minor league deal with the Rays in February 2011.  The fact that it was a minor league deal meant that Boston did not get the compensation.  

Yet another pitcher that the Red Sox tried out in 2010, Manuel was originally an undrafted free agent with the Mets.  He bounced around several organizations before making his Major League debut in 2009 with the Reds, appearing in three games.  Later that year he was traded to the Mariners, then placed on waivers before being selected by the Red Sox in November.  He spent most of the 2010 season in Pawtucket and was very impressive, going 8-2 with a 1.68 ERA and 13 saves.  He spent a couple of short stints with the Red Sox, going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 12.2 innings over ten games.  He struck out five and walked seven.  He played for an Independent League team in 2011 before quitting baseball.  Manuel does have a minor league card with the Red Sox organization.

After appearing in eight games for the Royals in 2006 at the age of 22, it took Sanchez a few years to make it back to the Majors.  Sanchez was signed as a minor league free agent by the Red Sox in November of 2009 and played in just one Major League game with the Red Sox in 2010.  He was hitless in three at-bats while playing shortstop.  He hit .274 in 62 games with Pawtucket.  In July, he was traded to the Astros for catcher Kevin Cash, who was coming to Boston for the second time.  Sanchez spent the rest of the season in Houston and actually hit pretty well with a .280/.316/.348 slash line.  He also spent the entire 2011 season as a utility man for the Astros.  It was his only full season in the Majors.  He last appeared in 2013 with the White Sox.  

Shealy was a top prospect with the Rockies, showing some big-time power in the minor leagues, including seasons in which he hit 29 home runs in AA and 26 in AAA.  Unfortunately he played first base, a position occupied by franchise legend Todd Helton.  After a couple of unimpressive stints with Colorado, he was traded to the Royals for Jeremy Affeldt.  Over the course of three seasons with the Royals, Shealy played in 123 games and hit 17 home runs.  He was very impressive in 2008, hitting seven home runs with a .301 average in 20 games.  Shealy signed with the Rays as a free agent in December 2009 and played in the minors until the Red Sox signed him in June.  He played in five games with the Red Sox, but was hitless in seven at-bats.  He was released by the Red Sox and never appeared in the Majors again.  

Only Scott Atchison appeared in more than ten games for the Red Sox, so he is the player I am going with for the player I am most disappointed that he did not receive a card.  There were a couple of legitimate Major Leaguers that played for Boston in 2010 that did not get cards, such as Felipe Lopez and Rich Hill, but Lopez only appeared in four games at the very end of the season and Hill pitched in six games.  Still, if Quilvio Veras received a card in 2001 when he never played for Boston, Lopez and Hill could have.  Still, Atchison is my pick for 2010.