Friday, March 31, 2017

Oh Hey, Some New Cards

I've been in a slump lately.  Work has been incredibly busy and it is sapping my enjoyment of collecting.  I have been avoiding buying and I just can't seem to make much headway in trading.  But I did get this package in, and while there are not a lot of really exciting cards here, just seeing that package in the mail was enough to brighten my day, at least for awhile.
1.  2017 Donruss 1983 Retro Pedro Martinez.  The last couple of years, Donruss's retro set featured some amazing photography.  Unfortunately, what I have seen so far from this year's set is pretty disappointing.  This is a generic action shot for Pedro.

2.  2017 Topps Rediscover Bronze Dennis Boyd.  I like the buybacks, but it seems weird getting buybacks of cards from my own childhood.  That being said, I am still sucking up every Red Sox card and Sandy Alomar Jr. card I can find.

3.  2017 Donruss Xander Bogaerts.  I missed out on Mookie Betts in my fantasy draft, but I made sure to get Xander late in the second round.  We will see if that works out for me.  By the way, Nolan Arenado was my first round pick.

4.  2017 Donruss David Price.  Unfortunately, Price will start the season on the disabled list.  So much for that great three-headed rotation monster.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

1991-2016 All-Underrated Team: Left 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.
We went from a tough call in center field to a much easier one in left field.  Left field has historically been one of the strongest positions for the Red Sox.  With players like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and Manny Ramirez playing the position over the years, it has been rare for a player to fly in under the radar.  Even Mike Greenwell had some terrific seasons in left during his career.  With all those stars, it was easier to find a player who had a good year but was never an All Star, and this one was easy for me.  Troy O'Leary in 1999.
I remember O'Leary's 1999 season very well.  He had been a favorite of mine since he quietly became the team's starting right fielder in 1995, stealing the job from the much more renowned Mark Whiten when he hit .308/.355/.491 with 10 home runs.  His batting average fluctuated over the next few seasons, but his power numbers kept increasing up to the 1999 season.  And that is when he had his best season from a power standpoint.
In 1999, O'Leary was a major offensive force in a lineup that really needed it since the home run leader each of the previous six seasons, Mo Vaughn, defected to the Angels as a free agent prior to the season.  O'Leary ended up leading the team in home runs (28) and came within one RBI of the team lead (103).  It was his career high in home runs and had 20 more RBIs than his second best season.  He also chipped in 36 doubles and scored 84 runs.  O'Leary was not a great defensive player, but he played well enough in left to not hurt the team and he did lead the league in putouts.
But as impressive as his regular season stats were, what really pushes him over the line for this pick was his postseason, in particular his clutch performance in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Indians.  That game featured the two teams at two wins apiece and the Red Sox fell behind after a shaky performance from Bret Saberhagen.  In the top of the third, with Boston behind 5-3, the Indians intentionally walked Garciaparra to load the bases for O'Leary to face Nagy.  O'Leary hit a grand slam to put Boston in the lead 7-5.  The Red Sox brought Pedro Martinez into a tie game, and it stayed tied until the seventh.  The Indians again intentionally walked Garciaparra to put two runners on for Paul Shuey to face O'Leary.  Again, he homered, and this time the Red Sox made it stick.  So that is twice the Indians tried to avoid having Nomar beat them, only for O'Leary to homer both times, driving in seven runs.
O'Leary had been a solid player for a few years, but he became a very good player in 1999 and then had a memorable performance in the postseason.  Unfortunately he would decline significantly and be pushed out after that.

Daniel Nava - 2013 (.303/.385/.445, 12 home runs, 66 RBIs)
Jonny Gomes - 2013 (.247/.344/.426, 13 home runs, 52 RBIs) 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Loyalty and Longevity Pt. 9: Jim Rice

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.
I feel like I just wrote about Jim Rice recently.  It has actually been a little while longer than I thought but I do not have a ton of new information about him in this post.  This post is mostly about the fact that Rice spent his entire playing career with the Red Sox.  He has also done a lot of work with the team in the years since his playing career.
Rice was the 15th overall pick in the 1971 draft.  He was the first true superstar selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the draft, which had only been around since 1965 (though Ken Brett and Billy Conigliaro had their moments).  He skyrocketed through their system and was able to make his Major League debut in the 1974 season.  He did not show a whole lot in his 24 game stint, but did manage to hit his first home run.
The Red Sox in 1975 were a revelation and a big part of their success was their "Gold Dust Twins" in the outfield, the rookie duo of Rice and Fred Lynn.  Lynn was the better all-around player and ended up winning both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP award.  Rice was the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year and third in the MVP vote.  He ended up hitting .309/.350/.491 with 22 home runs and 10 RBIs.  Unfortunately, a broken arm late in the season shelved him for the playoffs.  Boston might have won the World Series if Rice had been healthy.  His numbers declined a bit in 1976, likely due to lingering injury issues.
From 1977 through 1979, Rice was undoubtedly the most dangerous power hitter in the game.  He led the league in home runs (39) and slugging (.593) in 1977 while hitting .320.  In 1978 he won the MVP by leading the league in hits (213), triples (15), home runs (46), RBIs (139), slugging (.600), and total bases (406) while hitting .315 and helped lead Boston to a one-game playoff for the postseason.  He had numbers similar to his 1977 season in 1979.  It was a truly impressive three-year run.
His numbers declined for a few years after that, but he remained a very productive offensive force.  He would still have the occasional terrific season, such as 1983 when he led the league in home runs (39), RBIs (122), and total bases (344).  He was an All Star from 1983 through 1986.  But after his 1986 season, his numbers declined significantly and he retired at the age of just 36 in 1989.  Rice was named Red Sox captain in 1985 until his retirement.
After his playing career ended, Rice remained in Boston, serving a couple of seasons as a hitting coach, and also working as an analyst for the New England Sports Network.  Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.  His number 14 was retired by the Red Sox that same year.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Slow Going on Heritage

I have not gotten very far on Heritage either.  I have been trying to cut back on spending money on cards.  Which means not as many boxes, and far fewer purchases on Ebay.  I did work out a trade which brought me a few Red Sox Heritage commons though:
1.  2017 Topps Heritage Brock Holt.  Holt had a bad year in 2016.  With the emergence of Marco Hernandez last season and this Spring, Holt's job could be in jeopardy.  I really like Holt, and it would be a shame to lose him, but Hernandez looks like a similar player.

2.  2017 Topps Heritage Henry Owens.  Topps is obsessed with Owens.  I have more than 40 cards of him, and I am not even really trying.

3.  2017 Topps Heritage Drew Pomeranz.  He was a little banged up to start the Spring, but Pomeranz is coming around and he should be a back of the rotation starter this season.  Hopefully he pays off, because he cost the Red Sox Anderson Espinoza.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 Topps Trade

I still have a long way to go with 2017 Topps Series 1.  This trade knocks off a bunch of the inserts that were on my wantlist though.
1.  2017 Topps Jackie Robinson Day Mookie Betts.  Betts is one of the brightest young black stars in the game today.  And he is the first superstar black player to be developed by the Red Sox since Mo Vaughn.  I was disappointed that Boston did not get him locked up to a long-term deal this last offseason.  Hopefully they will in the near future.

2.  2017 Topps 1987 Henry Owens.  I am pretty sure the "Future Star" label is misplaced on this card.  Owens struggled greatly last season and was not any better in Spring Training.

3.  2017 Topps Silver Slugger Xander Bogaerts.  One of three Red Sox to win the Silver Slugger Award in 2016, this was the second time for Bogaerts.  He will need to become more consistent if he is going to win any more though.

4.  2017 Topps 5 Tool Andrew Benintendi.  Benintendi is one of the players I am most excited about this season.  He was impressive in short work last year and he comes into the season as the favorite for the Rookie of the Year.

5.  2017 Topps Jackie Robinson Patch David Price.  One of the biggest disappointments of the Spring is Price, who is nursing a sore elbow.  He won't need Tommy John surgery, but he will likely miss the first month of the season.

Friday, March 24, 2017

I'm Back from Vacation

I went to San Antonio for a couple of days and have generally been inactive leading up to it.  Well, getting back, I had a few packages in the mail that I will get to.  They were all trades made before the trip.
1.  2010 Bowman Platinum Green Refractor Jose Iglesias.  I really liked Iglesias.  I was excited about him coming to the Majors and he was fun to watch while in Boston.  He had some speed which he utilized to rack up infield hits.  He never hit the ball terribly hard, but he got on base and he was terrific defensively.  It was disappointing when Boston traded him, but it opened the door for Xander Bogaerts.

2.  2017 Topps Heritage Baseball Flashback Carl Yastrzemski.  This flashback looks back at the 1967 season, which was of course, a huge season for Yaz.  The left-fielder led the Red Sox to the World Series on the strength of his Triple Crown season, yet oddly he was not a unanimous selection for the MVP that season.  Somehow, Cesar Tovar received a first place vote despite hitting .267 with six home runs.

3.  2017 Topps Salute David Ortiz.  This card features Ortiz in a Father's Day special uniform.  On Father's Day in 2016, Ortiz had one hit and one walk in four plate appearances.  The Red Sox beat the Mariners 2-1.

4.  2011 Topps Marquee Blue Kevin Youkilis.  The Topps Marquee set was underrated.  It had some terrific photography, including this awesome shot of Youkilis scoring a run in the 2007 World Series.

5.  2013 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Teddy Stankiewicz.  Stankiewicz was a second round draft pick of the Red Sox in the 2012 draft.  Unfortunately, after an impressive 2014 season, he has struggled his last two seasons.  At this point he is not even among the team's Top 40 prospects.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Red Sox With No Cards: 2011

2011 has to go down as one of the most disappointing seasons for me as a Red Sox fan.  There was so much promise with that team.  And they were leading the division for such a long time, but they utterly collapsed in the final month of the season.  The major reason was a lack of pitching depth and fatigue to the starters they had.  Whatever the reason, they still had a chance going into the final game of the season.  If they won or the Rays lost, they would have been in the postseason and both of those things looked likely heading into the late innings.  But the Red Sox blew their game at the end and the Rays mounted an incredible comeback in theirs and Boston went home.  The year was also the first (and only) year that Topps was alone in producing baseball cards.  Upper Deck was gone.  Nevertheless, most Red Sox players were represented on cardboard at some point.  A lot of the players that appear on this post appeared on past posts, which is doubly irritating.

As seen on the 2010 post, Atchison had a three-year career with the Red Sox and was one of the most reliable members of the bullpen during that time period.  It was a little more excusable for him not to have a card in 2011 as he appeared in just 17 games and 30.1 innings.  He improved his ERA though to 3.26 and struck out 17 versus just six walks.  He spent most of the season in the minors and performed very well.  He had a rough stint in Boston in May and June and was sent to the minors.  He was called back to Boston late in the season and was very good down the stretch.  Atchison will still appear in another future post in this series.

Back for his second stint in Boston, Joey Gathright had not appeared in the Majors at all since he was on the Red Sox postseason roster in 2009.  He was in the Orioles organization to begin the 2011 season and signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in late August.  His role was to be much the same as it was in 2009.  He was going to be a speedster off the bench a la Dave Roberts in 2004.  He appeared in seven games with Boston, but only had one plate appearance, in which he walked.  Most of the rest of the time he was either a defensive replacement or a pinch runner.  Gathright did steal a base, but he was also caught once.  Gathright has not appeared in the Majors since 2011. 

Like Atchison, Rich Hill was in his second straight season with the Red Sox.  His season ended early as a result of injuries.  He appeared in just nine games in May and June.  He pitched just eight innings, all in relief, but did not give up a single run and allowed just three hits.  He walked three but he struck out 12.  Impressive numbers, unfortunately he was not able to stay healthy.  That was fairly normal for Hill's time with the Red Sox and is the major reason he has no cards with Boston.  Hill does have a minor league card with Pawtucket.  Like Atchison again, Hill will appear in future posts in this series.

Once one of the top prospects in the game, Conor Jackson was a former first round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks and three impressive seasons early on in his career.  He was the 19th overall pick by Arizona and had an impressive few seasons from 2006 through 2008.  Unfortunately his career stalled after that.  The Diamondbacks traded him to Oakland in 2010 and he was traded from Oakland to Boston in 2011 for a minor leaguer at the August trading deadline.  Jackson appeared in just 12 games with the Red Sox in September and his hitting struggles continued.  He hit just .158/.227/.316 but he did have a home run and five RBIs.  Jackson appeared at first, third, right field, and left field for Boston.  2011 was Jackson's final appearance in the Major Leagues, though he attempted to catch on with other organizations.  

Part of the trifecta of pitchers who spent multiple seasons with the Red Sox yet have no Major League cards with them, Miller was in his first season with Boston in 2011.  The southpaw was acquired in a trade of young left-handed relievers with the Marlins after the 2010 season.  Boston gave up Dustin Richardson and clearly won this deal.  Miller was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Tigers and was traded to the Marlins in the Miguel Cabrera deal.  He was mostly disappointing in his Major League career to that point, but he was just 26 years old.  Miller was used primarily as a starter for Boston in 2011 and had a mostly inconsistent season.  He pitched in 17 games, starting 12, and was 6-3 with an ugly 5.54 ERA.  He struck out 50 and walked 41 in 65 innings with a rough 1.815 WHIP.  It was not a great season, but Miller would turn things around soon.  Miller will appear in a few more posts in this series.  He does have a minor league card with Pawtucket. 

The award for the shortest stint for players in this post goes to Trever Miller.  Miller, no relation to Andrew Miller, was a veteran lefty relief pitcher who first appeared in the Majors in 1996 with the Tigers.  Miller appeared with the Tigers, Astros, Phillies, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Cardinals, and Blue Jays before coming to Boston in 2011.  He had a few decent seasons throughout his career but never seemed to be able to stay on track for very long.  He started the season with Toronto and was released in late August.  He signed with Boston and appeared in three games.  He pitched two innings without giving up a hit, a run, or a walk.  He struck out one and finished one game.  It was Miller's last appearance in the Majors.  Interestingly, this was Miller's second stint with the Red Sox organization.  He had an ugly 3-11 record with a 5.01 ERA in the minors with Boston in 2001.

The award for the longest tenure prior to coming to the Red Sox goes to Dennys Reyes who was in his 15th season in the Majors in 2011.  Reyes was a portly left-hander who pitched for the Dodgers, Reds, Rockies, Rangers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Royals, Padres, Twins, and Cardinals before joining the Red Sox.  He had been a fairly reliable reliever and was 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA for St. Louis in 2010.  Reyes broke camp with Boston, but struggled in four appearances.  He had a 16.20 ERA in 1.2 innings, striking out one and walking none, but giving up three runs.  He did not have a record.  Reyes was just 34, so he could have moved on, but he never appeared in the Majors after 2011.  

Utility player Drew Sutton was in his third Major League season and his third Major League team in 2011.  He had previously been with the Reds and Indians and signed with Boston prior to the 2011 season.  He spent most of the season in the minor leagues and had a decent .295/.382/.476 line in Pawtucket.  He appeared in 31 games for the Red Sox from May through July and actually had a pretty decent season.  Sutton hit .315/.362/.444 with seven doubles and seven RBIs.  He scored eleven runs.  Sutton appeared in at least one game at every position except pitcher, catcher, right and center field for the Red Sox in 2011.  Sutton played the 2012 season with the Rays and Pirates.  His 2011 season was the best showing in the Majors of his career.  

Being a left-handed pitcher means that you can often continue to find work despite never having an ERA lower than 4.58.  Williams never had a successful season, but he kept getting picked up, pitching for the Mariners, Padres, Rockies, and White Sox before making it to Boston in 2011.  He was able to strike batters out at an impressive rate, but he had control problems and was often hit hard.  Williams appeared in just seven games with the Red Sox in 2011, pitching 8.1 innings with a 6.48 ERA.  He struck out six, but walked five.  Williams did not appear in the Majors again after 2011.  

Dan Wheeler was originally set to appear in this post, but he was saved by having a card in the hard-to-find Japanese Sega Card-Gen set.  I don't have it, but would love to add it.  Despite the presences of Atchison, Hill, and Miller in 2011, three pitchers who were with Boston for multiple years with some impressive numbers, my pick for the player I most want to see on a card for 2011 is Drew Sutton.  Sutton appeared in the most games and had the best numbers of any of the players in this post.  He was actually fairly impressive as a utility player.  Weirdly, Nate Spears received a card despite appearing in just seven hitless games over two seasons, yet players like Sutton (31 games) and Miller (17 games) never appeared.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One-Card Wonder Pt. 41: Nate Spears

I recently read the book about Terry Francona's time managing the Red Sox from 2004 to 2011, written by Francona and Dan Shaughnessy.  One rather minor moment that stuck out to me was when Francona was talking about coming back for the 2012 100th anniversary of Fenway Park after his divorce from the team.  He talked about being moved to tears to see Nate Spears on that team.  Spears had been with the Red Sox organization since 2010 and been up to Spring Training several times, yet could not crack the roster.  He was apparently a favorite of Francona's from Spring Training and Francona was very happy to see him on the team that day.

Spears was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, but he did not make his Major League debut until 2011 with the Red Sox.  He generally played well in the minor leagues, yet he just could not seem to catch a break.  In 2010 he started the season in Double A with the Red Sox organization and hit 20 home runs, earning a call to Triple A and then to the Majors in 2011.  He played in just three games with the Major League team and did not have a hit in four at-bats.  He appeared at second base and left field.

He spent most of the 2012 season in the minors with the Red Sox organization, except for a four game stint that happened to coincide with that anniversary.  He again failed to record a hit, striking out three times in four at-bats.  He played at second base, third base, and left field in the Majors.  Spears never appeared in the Major Leagues again, though he did play in a few other organizations.

Somehow, Spears managed to appear on a 2012 Topps Heritage card, one of the things I love about Heritage.  Interestingly, future Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz is also on this card.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 31: Tom Seaver

Years in Boston: 1986 (5-7, 3.80 ERA, 72 strikeouts, 104.1 innings)
Best Year in Boston: 1986 (5-7, 3.80 ERA, 72 strikeouts, 104.1 innings)
1986 was the final season of Tom Seaver's illustrious career.  "Tom Terrific" was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He was a 12-time All Star, a Rookie of the Year, and a three-time Cy Young Award Winner.  He was also 41 years old and was running out of gas.

Seaver started the 1986 season with the Chicago White Sox, his third team in his career.  He had been with the ChiSox since signing as a free agent prior to the 1984 season.  He was coming off of a season in which he had gone 16-11 with a 3.17 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 238.2 innings.  He had also won the 300th game of his career in 1985.  So he still had something left in the tank coming into the 1986 season, but he had a pretty rough start to the season.

Through 12 starts for the White Sox, Seaver was 2-6 with an uncharacteristically high 4.38 ERA in 72 innings.  He was also walking nearly as many (27) as he was striking out (31).  So it looked like age was finally catching up to him.  Nevertheless, the Boston Red Sox, who were contending for the AL East division title, needed some pitching depth after some off-the-field issues with Oil Can Boyd, and swung a deal with the White Sox to acquire Seaver in exchange for young outfielder Steve Lyons.  Seaver turned his season around and finished strong.

Seaver turned in a fairly decent 16 games for the Red Sox to close out his career.  He had a record of 5-7 with a 3.80 ERA but provided valuable innings and improved his strikeout to walk ratio markedly.  He struck out 72 and walked just 29 in 104.1 innings for the Red Sox.  He had his best game in an August outing against the Tigers when he pitched a complete game five-hitter, giving up just one run while striking out nine and walking only one.

Unfortunately, Seaver was unable to pitch in the postseason as he went down with an injury.  He missed a chance to pitch against the team he is most associated with, the New York Mets, in the World Series.  Seaver attempted a final season in 1987 back with the Mets, but ended up retiring.  Though his time with the Red Sox was brief and did not add much to his final numbers, he was reasonably successful.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Your 1981 Red Sox Pt. 8: Dwight Evans

In this series, I will look at each player who played in 1981, the year I was born. Because, why not?
Dwight Evans is one of the most underrated players of all time.  A large part of this is the fact that he developed into a star much later in his career.  Evans was in his tenth year as a Major Leaguer in 1981.  He always had pop in his bat, and he was always an excellent fielder with a cannon for an arm, and he was also an All Star in 1978, yet he was just now starting to become a true star in 1981.
In 1981, Evans developed into one of the best players in the league.  He was named to his second All Star Game and won his fourth Gold Glove Award.  He also won the Silver Slugger Award, his first, though the award had only been around since the previous season.  He finished third in the AL MVP vote, and for very good reason.  
Evans developed his batting eye and drew 85 walks to lead the Major Leagues, while striking out 85 times.  He was also the league leader in plate appearances (504), OPS (.937), and total bases (215).  He also tied for the AL lead in home runs (22) with Tony Armas, Bobby Grich, and Eddie Murray.  Evans also led the league in WAR (6.2), though that stat would not be developed until much later.  He had a slash line of .296/.415/.522.  His batting average and on-base percentage represented career highs at the time.
This was the beginning of a terrific run of success for Evans.  He would end up being one of the best hitters in the 1980's.  He has a strong Hall of Fame case that is mostly overlooked because of his late career surge and being surrounded by teammates like Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, and Roger Clemens who overshadowed Evans.  Some time soon his case will be re-examined and he may finally gain induction into the Hall of Fame. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 Topps Trade

Here is another trade package.  This one crossed off a bunch of cards I needed from 2017 Topps Series 1, including an insert.
The first card is the Award Winner card of Rick Porcello, the 2016 AL Cy Young Award Winner, the Red Sox first winner of the award since Pedro Martinez in 2000.  Porcello is now one of four Red Sox pitchers to win the award, though Roger Clemens won it three times and Martinez twice.  The other cards are some of the base cards I still needed and leave me with just three more to get.  I love the Betts action shot, Mookie is a terrific defensive player.  I still need the Pomeranz, Pedroia League Leader, and the Moncada.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

One Pack 2017 Heritage Break

I bought a single pack of Heritage today while at the store.  And hey, I managed to pull a Red Sox card:
Nothing exciting.  Just a base card of All Star closer Craig Kimbrel.  I am hoping for a bounceback season from him this year.  He had a few stretches where he was terrible, but his final numbers were decent enough.  Not bad for one pack.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Wantlist Hits

I finally got back into trading recently and managed to work out one that knocked a bunch of stuff off of my wantlist:
Some of the major holes in my collection are star players from small sets.  That is illustrated here.  I would just get tired of adding the same three or four players all the time.  So players like David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Manny Ramirez have a ton of cards on my wantlist.  They would appear in every single set and overshadow other players.
Add Nomar Garciaparra to that list.  Sometimes I would add parallels without adding the base cards, so these three Chrome base cards at the end tended to be missing as well, but I did have multiple different colored refractors of each of them.
Most of these, I have no idea how I missed.  I really like the Clement card.  He started off quite well with the Red Sox before suffering a head injury.  I also really like the Debut cards, always did really.  Kiecker and Naehring each had some impressive moments with the Red Sox over their careers.
And finally, these are mostly inexplicable.  I had no idea I was missing most of these until I set about putting my wantlist together.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Slightly More Than One-Year Wonder Pt. 1: Elston Howard

These players made it longer than one full season, but less than two seasons.  They do not qualify as one-year wonders.  They lasted slightly too long.  But they still spent a brief part of their careers with the Red Sox.
Elston Howard was a longtime Yankees star, so seeing him in a Red Sox uniform must have been quite strange for Yankees fans.  Howard was notable for being the first black player for the Yankees when he made his Major League debut in the 1955 season, four years before the Red Sox finally had their first black player, but eight years after Jackie Robinson.  

Howard was a good player from the start, but he would eventually become a great player.  The catcher was a 12-time All Star over nine consecutive seasons (there were two All Star games played for several years in the late 1950's/early 1960's).  He was the catcher on four World Championship teams and often played well in the postseason.  He had his finest season in 1963 when he won the AL MVP by hitting .287/.342/.528 with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs.  He was also a two-time Gold Glove winner.  

Unfortunately, Howard's numbers declined significantly over the next few seasons.  He played in 66 games with the Yankees in the 1967 season and hit just .196/.247/.271 with three home runs and 17 RBIs before he was traded in a rare deal between the Yankees and Red Sox for Pete Magrini and Ron Klimkowski.  Howard played 42 games with the Red Sox the rest of the Impossible Dream season.

His decline continued over the course of the stretch run and Howard hit just .147/.211/.198 with one home run and eleven RBIs.  He did play well behind the plate though and made several key plays as Boston fought their way to the World Series.  Howard hit .111 in the World Series, but he did have an important RBI in Game 5 against the Cardinals.

1968 was Howard's final season of his career and was his only full season with the Red Sox, though he played in only 71 games.  He was a little better at the plate and hit .241/.317/.335 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.  He was released at the end of the season and retired.  

The nice thing about Howard with the Red Sox is that his only Topps card is a legitimate Red Sox card.  He is clearly wearing a Red Sox uniform unlike other late 1967 acquisitions like Gary Bell and Jerry Adair.  After years with the Yankees, Howard's final Topps card from his playing career shows him with the Red Sox.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: #920

I have three of these now.  I have only one of the Golden Graphs, and it is the regular base card, but I now have two of the Silver Signatures and they are the blue parallel and now the purple parallel.  I like the color quite a bit and it is always fun to add a new autographed card of Jason Varitek to my collection.  80 to go.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Red Sox Awards History: Silver Slugger

In 1980, a new award similar to the Gold Glove was created to award the players who had the best offensive season at each position.  As the Red Sox have traditionally been a strong offensive team, it is not surprising that a number of players have won the award.  In fact, the Red Sox have had a player at each position win the award.  Obviously they have never had a pitcher win it, but every other position is represented.

Armas had his best career season in 1984.  The center fielder led the league in home runs (43), RBIs (123), and total bases (339), all of which were also career highs.  He also led the league in strikeouts (156), but managed a reasonably decent .268/.300/.531 slash line.  Armas was an All Star for the second time in his career and also finished seventh in the MVP vote.  He might have finished higher had the team been a little better.    

JASON BAY - 2009
Replacing Manny Ramirez is a tough thing to do, but Jason Bay did an admirable job.  While he was nowhere near as flashy, he got the job done offensively, having one of the best seasons of his career playing left field for the Red Sox.  Bay did not lead the league in any major category, but he did hit career highs in home runs (36) and RBIs (119), while hitting .267/.384/.537.  He also stole 13 bases.  Bay was an All Star and finished seventh in the MVP vote.

The first Red Sox designated hitter to win the Silver Slugger Award was Baylor in the pennant-winning 1986 season.  Baylor was acquired in a rare swap between the Red Sox and Yankees in which DH Mike Easler was sent to New York.  Baylor led the team in home runs (31) and drove in 94 runs while hitting .238/.344/.439.  He led the league in being hit by pitch an incredible 35 times.  

After some disappointing seasons with the Mariners, third-baseman Beltre signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox to try to increase his value later on.  And he had a terrific season.  He led the league in doubles (49) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (102) and finished fourth in the league with a .321 batting average.  Beltre also hit 28 home runs with an OBP of .365 and a slugging percentage of .553.  He was an All Star and would have gotten some more MVP consideration had Boston been in contention.

After a season in center field, Mookie moved to right field for the 2016 season and established himself as one of the best players in the league.  He started the year as the leadoff hitter, but was such a major part of the offense that he was eventually moved into more of a run-producing spot in the lineup.  Betts hit .318/.363/.534 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs.  He led the league in total bases (359) and hit 42 doubles and stole 26 bases.  Betts was the MVP runner-up in 2016.

XANDER BOGAERTS - 2015, 2016
Part of the new wave of shortstop stars, Bogaerts has now won two Silver Slugger Awards in a row.  His first award was due to him finishing second in the league in batting average.  He did not hit a lot of home runs in his first award-winning season but he hit .320/.355/.421 with seven home runs and 81 RBIs while stealing ten bases.  He also hit 35 doubles.  In 2016, his power increased, but his other numbers declined.  He still ended up with a .294/.356/.446 line with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs.  He also stole 13 bases and had 34 doubles.  

WADE BOGGS - 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991
Third-baseman Boggs won six Silver Slugger Awards with the Red Sox, and added two more with the Yankees.  Boggs was not known for his power, but he had a terrific eye at the plate and won five batting titles.  Four of those seasons saw him win the Silver Slugger Award.  In 1983, Boggs led the league in average (.361) and OBP (.444).  In 1986, he led the league in walks (105), average (.357) and OBP (.453).  He had an unexpected power surge in 1987 when he added a career high 24 home runs and 89 RBIs to his league leads in average (.363), OBP (.461), and OPS (1.049).  He had a huge season in 1988, leading the league in runs (128), doubles (45), walks (125), average (.366), OBP (.476), and OPS (.965).  He failed to lead the league in batting average in 1989, but still led in runs (113), doubles (51), and OBP (.430).  After an off season in 1990, Boggs rebounded in 1991 to hit .332/.421/.460.  

Burks had a breakout season as the Red Sox center-fielder in 1990.  His stolen bases were down, stealing just nine bases while getting caught eleven times, but he had a terrific season otherwise.  Burks hit .296/.349/.486 with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs.  He also scored 89 runs and doubled 33 times.  He was named to the All Star team for the first time.

Another Red Sox center-fielder, Ellsbury was always known for his speed, including stealing a team-record 70 bases in 2009.  But in 2011, Ellsbury became a complete player and a superstar.  He was the Red Sox first ever 30/30 man as he hit 32 home runs and stole 39 bases.  He led the league in total bases (364) and hit .321/.376/.552, all career highs.  He also had 212 hits, 119 runs, 46 doubles, and 105 RBIs, also all career highs.  He was an All Star for the first time in his career and was the runner-up in the MVP vote.

DWIGHT EVANS - 1981, 1987
Evans was one of the best defensive right-fielders in Red Sox history and had his first great offensive season in the strike-shortened 1981 season.  He tied for the league lead in home runs (22), and led the league in walks (85), OPS (.937), and total bases (215), while hitting .296/.415/.522 and driving in 71 runs.  He split the 1987 season between right and first base and had his finest offensive season, leading the league in walks (106), and hitting .305/.417/.569 with career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (123).  

Part of a trio of young shortstops who rose to prominence in the late 1990's, Nomar only won the Silver Slugger in his rookie season.  He was an easy choice for the Rookie of the Year by leading the league in hits (209) and triples (11).  He hit .306/.342/.534 with 30 home runs and 97 RBIs.  He also scored 122 runs, stole 22 bases, and doubled 44 times.  He would be overshadowed over the next few seasons by Alex Rodriguez.

In his first season as the Red Sox first-baseman, Adrian Gonzalez led the league in hits (213), narrowly edging out teammate Ellsbury.  Gonzalez had a career high in each of the slash line categories, hitting .338/.410/.548 and scored a career high 108 runs.  He hit 27 home runs and drove in 117 runs.  Gonzalez finished seventh in the MVP vote.  Unfortunately it was his only full season in Boston.  

Left-fielder Mike Greenwell was a somewhat surprising runner-up in the 1988 AL MVP race.  He was quite a bit behind winner Jose Canseco, but Greenwell had a very good season.  He led the league in intentional walks (18), and the arbitrary stat game-winning RBIs (23), while hitting .325/.416/.531 with 22 home runs and 119 RBIs.  He also had 192 hits, 86 runs, 39 doubles, and stole 16 bases.  He had a terrific eye, walking 87 times while striking out just 38 times. 

Prior to the strike-shortened 1981 season, the Red Sox had a lot of turnover.  One of the new players that paid off immediately was third-baseman Lansford who was acquired in a trade with the Angels.  Lansford won the batting title and hit .336/.389/.439 with four home runs and 52 RBIs.  He also stole 15 bases.  He finished sixth in the MVP vote.

The signing of Mueller prior to the 2003 season flew under the radar at first, but he turned out to be one of the team's best signings.  He did not start out the season as an everyday player but after Shea Hillenbrand was traded, Mueller took off.  He ended up winning the batting title and hit .326/.398/.540 with a career high 171 hits, 45 doubles, 19 home runs, and 85 RBIs.  

DAVID ORTIZ - 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2016
Ortiz has more Silver Slugger Awards than any other designated hitter.  He won all seven awards with the Red Sox.  In 2004, he hit .301/.380/.603 with 41 home runs and 139 RBIs in his major breakthrough season.  He led the league in RBIs (148) in 2005 and hit .300/.397/.604 with 47 home runs.  In 2006 he set a team record in home runs, leading the league with 54.  He also led the league in RBIs (137), walks (119), and total bases (355) while hitting .287/.413/.636.  In 2007 he led the league in walks (111) and OBP (.445), while hitting .332/.445/.621 with 35 home runs and 117 RBIs.  He had a couple of down seasons but came back in 2011 to hit .309/.398/.554 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs.  He hit .309/.395/.564 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs in 2013.  In his last Major League season in 2016, Ortiz led the league in doubles (48), RBIs (127), and slugging (.620).  He hit .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs.  What a way to go out.

The AL MVP in 2008, second-baseman Pedroia was in just his second full Major League season.  He led the league in runs (118), hits (213), and doubles (54).  He finished second in the batting race and hit .326/.376/.493 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs.  He also stole 20 bases and walked almost as much as he struck out.  Pedroia was a rising star in 2008.  His offense would be overshadowed by Robinson Cano afterwards, but for one season he broke through.

MANNY RAMIREZ - 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
For the first six years after Ramirez was signed by the Red Sox, he won the Silver Slugger Award.  All but one of those was as a left-fielder.  He won it as a designated hitter in 2002.  In 2001, he hit .306/.405/.609 with 41 home runs and 125 RBIs.  He led the league in average and OBP in 2002 while hitting .349/.450/.647 with 33 home runs and 107 RBIs.  In 2003, he led the league in OBP and hit .325/.427/.587 with 37 home runs and 104 RBIs.  He led the league in home runs (43), slugging, and OPS (1.009) in 2004 and hit .308/.397/.613 with 130 RBIs.  He hit .292/.388/.594 with 45 home runs and 144 RBIs in 2005.  Finally, in 2006, he led the league in OBP and hit .321/.439/.619 with 35 home runs and 102 RBIs.  He was also an All Star all six seasons.

JIM RICE - 1983, 1984
Jim Rice was in the tail-end of his prime when he won his two Silver Slugger Awards in 1983 and 1984.  The left-fielder led the league in home runs (39), RBIs (126), and total bases (344) in 1983, all for the last time in his career.  He also hit .305/.361/.550 that season.  His numbers declined a bit in 1984, but he still hit .280/.323/.467 with 28 home runs and 122 RBIs.  He was an All Star both seasons.  He would have a couple more good years before declining dramatically.

In a very underrated season, shortstop Valentin led the league in WAR (8.3), while becoming a 20/20 man.  He hit .298/.399/.533 with 27 home runs and 102 RBIs in the strike-shortened season.  He also hit 37 doubles, scored 108 runs, and stole 20 bases.  Valentin walked 81 times compared to 67 strikeouts.  He should have gotten more consideration for the MVP award.

The only Red Sox catcher to win the Silver Slugger to date is Jason Varitek in 2005.  Varitek was at the end of a three-year string of great offensive seasons that season.  It was not his best season, but he hit .281/.366/.489 with 22 home runs and 70 RBIs.  He also contributed 30 doubles and scored 70 runs.  That year also saw him named the starting catcher on the All Star team.  

MO VAUGHN - 1995
Though he likely did not deserve it, Vaughn won the AL MVP in 1995.  He led the league in RBIs (126), though he was tied with Albert Belle.  He was the major offensive force in the divison-winning Red Sox lineup, hitting .300/.388/.575 and hammered 39 home runs.  He scored 98 runs and hit 28 doubles in the strike-shortened season.  He also somehow stole eleven bases.

So here is the breakdown by position:
C: 1 (Varitek)
1B: 2 (Vaughn, Gonzalez)
2B: 1 (Pedroia)
SS: 4 (Valentin, Garciaparra, Bogaerts (2x))
3B: 9 (Lansford, Boggs (6x), Mueller, Beltre)
RF: 3 (Evans (2x), Betts)
CF: 3 (Armas, Burks, Ellsbury)
LF: 9 (Rice (2x), Greenwell, Ramirez (5x), Bay)
DH: 9 (Baylor, Ramirez, Ortiz (7x))