Saturday, July 29, 2017

Holes Were Filled

I recently worked out a pretty big trade for a bunch of stuff from my wantlist.  There is nothing exceptionally exciting here, but any time I can knock a bunch of stuff off of my wantlist, it is a good thing.

The theme for the post: trades.  A lot of these guys were involved in trades at one end of their tenure with Boston or the other.
1.  Curt Schilling.  Originally drafted by the Red Sox, Schilling was traded to the Orioles along with Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker before he ever pitched a game in 1988.  He returned to Boston late in his career in 2004 in a trade with the Diamondbacks in which Boston sent Casey Fossum, Jorge De La Rosa, Brandon Lyon, and Michael Goss.  The first trade helped both teams, despite the frequent recent media depiction, the second trade was decidedly in Boston's favor.

2.  Manny Ramirez.  A free agent from the Indians when he was acquired by Boston, Manny was sent to the Dodgers in the 2008 season in a three team deal in which the Red Sox received Jason Bay from Pittsburgh and the Pirates received Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen from the Red Sox and Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris from the Dodgers.  The Dodgers did the best with an otherworldly performance from Ramirez down the stretch, Bay played very well for Boston, and none of the Pirates players worked out well for them.

3.  Clay Buchholz.  Buchholz pitched most of his career with the Red Sox before being traded to the Phillies this last offseason for prospect Josh Tobias.  Buchholz struggled through two games with the Phillies before being shut down for the season with an injury.  Tobias is still in Double A.

4.  Clay Buchholz.

5.  Curt Schilling.

6.  Mark Wagner.  Wagner never made it to the Majors and was never involved in a trade.

7.  Stolmy Pimentel.  Pimentel was a prospect in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Pirates along with Ivan DeJesus, Jerry Sands, and Mark Melancon for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt.  Melancon ended up being the best player in the deal.  Hanrahan was a bust for Boston, but Holt has been a decent, versatile player.  Pimentel has been mostly forgettable.

8.  Fred Lynn.  Boston was forced to trade Lynn to the Angels in 1980 along with Steve Renko for Frank Tanana, Joe Rudi, and Jim Dorsey.  Lynn was not quite the player he was with Boston, but did far and away better than anyone Boston received.  Rudi was near the end of his career, Tanana was ineffective in his one season, and Dorsey pitched just four games over two seasons.

9.  Luis Exposito.  Boston lost Exposito on waivers to the Orioles before he had a chance to play a game with Boston, despite the fact that he had been called up to the Majors briefly.
10.  Shannon Wilkerson.  Wilkerson never made it to the Majors, nor was he involved in any trades.

11.  Shannon Wilkerson.

12.  Josh Reddick.  A Red Sox draftee, Reddick was sent to the Oakland A's before the 2012 season along with Raul Alcantara and Miles Head for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney in a trade that did not work out at all for Boston.  Reddick has generally been a pretty good player.  Bailey was hurt often.

13.  Alex Wilson.  Another Red Sox draftee, Wilson was sent along with Gabe Speier and Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello.  Porcello has been up and down, but he did win the Cy Young Award for the Red Sox in 2016.  Cespedes did well in Detroit.

14.  J.D. Drew.  Drew was never involved in any trades involving the Red Sox.

15.  Kyle Weiland.  Weiland and Jed Lowrie were traded to the Astros for Mark Melancon.  That deal worked out considerably better for Houston, but not due to Weiland.

16.  Ryan Lavarnway.  A Red Sox draftee, Lavarnway eventually left as a minor league free agent.

17.  Sean Coyle.  Coyle was selected off waivers from the Red Sox by the Angels.

18.  Blake Swihart.  Swihart is still in the Red Sox system, working his way back from injuries.
19.  Kendrick Perkins.  Perkins was never involved in a trade with Boston.

20.  Dustin Pedroia.  Pedroia is a lifetime Red Sox player.  He will likely spend his entire career in Boston, I hope.

21.  Williams Jerez.  There has been a position change from outfield to pitcher, but Jerez has remained in the Red Sox system throughout his career thus far.

22.  Miles Head.  As mentioned before, Head was involved in the ill-fated Reddick for Bailey trade.

23.  Zach Good.  Good did not make it far in his Red Sox career.  He was released just two years after being drafted.

24.  Brandon Jacobs.  Jacobs was sent to the White Sox for southpaw reliever Matt Thornton during the 2013 season.  Thornton was not great for Boston, but Jacobs did not do much either.

25.  Bryce Brentz.  Brentz is still in the Red Sox system, and has had a couple of stints in Boston.

26.  Joseph Monge.  Monge is still in the Red Sox system.

27.  Jake Cosart.  The younger brother of Jared Cosart is still in the Red Sox system.
28.  Carlos Asuaje.  Asuaje was traded to the Padres with Javier Guerra, Manuel Margot, and Logan Allen for Craig Kimbrel.  Asuaje has played well in the Majors as a utility player.  Kimbrel has excelled with Boston.

29.  Manuel Margot.  Margot has struggled with the Padres since being included along with Asuaje.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: #923

You can not really tell by the scan, but this is the orange refractor from 2008 Bowman Chrome, serial-numbered to 25.  I am not sure why I never seriously pursued getting the Bowman Chrome rainbow from that season.  Maybe I will now.  I already have the Superfractor.  Now with this orange refractor, the only colored refractor I still need is the red, numbered to just five.  It might be hard to find, but it would be worth it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Busts Pt. 22: Pablo Sandoval

Sometimes, offseason acquisitions work out. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they are spectacular failures.
Oh boy.  I have not done one of these posts in a few years.  The last one was Carl Crawford.  Well this one definitely lives up to his dubious legacy.  With his release just a few days ago, it is time to talk about The Panda.

Like Crawford, I was a big fan of Pablo Sandoval prior to his time with the Red Sox and I was thrilled when Boston acquired him.  I even advocated attempting to trade for him earlier in his career.  Despite his size, he was a decent hitter, and a surprisingly good defensive player at one point.  He was also a terrific post-season performer.  Unfortunately, none of that carried over to his time with the Red Sox.  

Sandoval signed a big $90 million contract to play third base with the Red Sox in December 2014 as part of an attempt to add offense to the team.  In what would turn out to be his only full season in Boston, he hit just .245/.292/.366 with ten home runs and 47 RBIs, a marked decline from his numbers in San Francisco, despite now playing in a hitters park for the first time in his career.  His defense was also horrendous, making him pretty much a complete waste.

The next season, he somehow managed to get even heavier.  He ended up losing his starting job at third to upstart rookie Travis Shaw.  The highlight of his season was breaking a belt while swing (and missing) at a pitch.  He played just three games before going down with a season-ending injury, striking out four times in seven plate appearances.  There was some talk that he could be activated for the postseason, but Boston did not make it far enough.  

It was during this injury that some hope began to fester, Sandoval made an appearance with the team and had lost considerable weight.  Sandoval made it to Spring Training camp in great shape and played quite well.  There was finally the possibility that he would start to make his contract worthwhile.  His power stroke returned as he hit a few home runs early on, but when he was not hitting the long ball, he was striking out often and making otherwise weak contact.  Through 32 games, he was hitting .212/.269/.354 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.  But he was getting hurt and playing bad defense. 

Despite Boston getting next to no production out of third base, the Red Sox gave up on Sandoval after he was ready to be activated from the DL.  After two and a half seasons, Sandoval gave the Red Sox 161 games of a .237/.286/.360 line with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs.  That would not have been acceptable for one full season, much less three.  And so, The Panda was a bust.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Boston Globe Oddballs

One of the sets I am most interested in tracking down is the Boston Globe cards from the early 1980's.  Those cards mostly covered the 1950's and 1960's and included most of the players that spent time with the Red Sox and photography from the Boston Globe.  Unfortunately, they can be pretty difficult to find.  Recently, a bunch showed up on Ebay and included a couple that I particularly wanted.
1.  Pumpsie Green.  The first black player in Red Sox history is a player that I like to pick up whenever possible.  Add to that an interesting photo, which is pretty rare, and this is a card that I had to add.

2.  Elston Howard.  Yes, the great Yankees catcher spent the last season-and-a-half of his career with the Red Sox.  This was probably the card I most wanted from this set because of the amazing action shot.  Just an amazing photo.

3.  Dick Schofield.  We go from a terrific action shot to a bizarre profile shot.  "Ducky" Schofield spent two seasons toward the end of his career with Boston, doing his usual super utility work.  He was not much of a hitter, but he was versatile and that kept him employed.

4.  George Scott.  One of my favorite players who I never actually got to see play.  Like Green, I add George Scott cards whenever I possibly can.  I could have done without the splayed legs shot here though.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Topps Hanger Pack

Not much going on here.  I bought one of those $9.99 hanger pack things because I was bored.  A couple of base Red Sox were pulled:
1.  Blake Swihart.  Swihart's career has hit a little bit of a snag.  He struggled defensively last season as a catcher and was sent to the minors for more seasoning.  Then there was the ill-fated left field experiment that resulted in an ankle injury that ended his season.  This year he has not produced offensively in the minors and is now taking reps at third.  I am very disappointed in how things have gone for him.

2.  Andrew Benintendi/Jackie Bradley Jr./Mookie Betts.  This year's team card showcases Boston's highly talented outfield.  This is the Win/Dance/Repeat ritual the players started showcasing last season.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Slightly More Than One-Year Wonder Pt. 3: Ugueth Urbina

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.
He is mostly known for some off-field exploits now (including being convicted of attempted murder), but for a time, Ugueth Urbina was one of the best closers in the game.  Urbina came up with the Montreal Expos in 1996 and was originally a starter, but his fastball and somewhat erratic control made him a better option for the bullpen.  He was converted to a closer in 1997, and stuck.  His strikeout rates soared as his ERA lowered and he racked up the saves.  He was an All Star in 1998 and led the league in saves in 1999.  

By 2001, Urbina was struggling a little bit and the Expos were not going anywhere.  He was deemed expendable, and Boston's closer Derek Lowe was also struggling.  Boston sent Tomo Ohka and a minor leaguer to Montreal to acquire Urbina at the July trading deadline.  Urbina immediately paid dividends even though the team was tanking.  The new closer went 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and an incredible 32 strikeouts versus just three walks in 20 innings.  He picked up nine saves.

Going into the 2002 season, Urbina was in place to be the Red Sox closer.  He ended up having his second All Star season as he saved 40 games.  He was just 1-6, but with a 3.00 ERA and 71 strikeouts versus 20 walks in 60 innings.  Urbina was just the fourth Red Sox closer to save 40 or more games in a season, joining Jeff Reardon, Tom Gordon, and Lowe.  His 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings was a little bit of a decline, but he was effective.

After the season, Boston declined to re-sign him, instead deciding to go with a closer-by-committee, an experiment that failed miserably.  Urbina signed on with the Rangers and was traded to the Marlins later in the season, just in time for their World Series Championship run.  He later played for the Tigers and Phillies, before his career ended due to that pesky attempted murder thing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Worst Red Sox Team of All Time Pt. 7: Pete Donohue

Failure is often even more fascinating than success. I am definitely intrigued by the 1932 Boston Red Sox, the worst Red Sox team of all time. The team finished with a record of 43-111, for a winning percentage of .279 and very little went right.
An amazing 41 players played for the Boston Red Sox in 1932.  Many of those players were obscure, very short-tenured players.  Others were players that were well past their primes.  Very few were actually decent players.  Red Sox ownership had virtually no money to spend on talented players that could help the team win.  So the team took a lot of chances on has-beens and never-weres.  Pete Donohue fits into the former category. 

Donohue was a right-handed pitcher who had a pretty decent career in the 1920's with the Cincinnati Reds.  He won 20 or more games three times, leading the league in wins in 1926 and winning percentage in 1922.  He was a workhorse who led the league in a number of categories like games started, innings pitched (301 in 1925!), and complete games.  With that kind of use, it is not terribly shocking that he started to falter toward the end of the decade.

After his 20 win season in 1926, Donohue declined significantly.  He held on with the Reds for a few more seasons, then played with the Giants and Indians before joining the Red Sox in 1932.  Donohue was just 31 years old, but it was clear his usefulness was gone.  He pitched in just four games with the Red Sox toward the beginning of the season, but he was 0-1 with a 7.82 ERA.  He notched just one strikeout and walked six in 12.2 innings.  That was it for Donohue as a Major League pitcher.  The former star pitcher had nothing left by the time he joined Boston.  That was pretty much par for the course for this era in Red Sox history.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Center Field

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.

Braggo Roth is one hell of a baseball name.  Roth did not have a long career, just eight years, but he played for six different teams and has some success from time to time.  He split the 1915 season between the White Sox and Indians and ended up leading the league in home runs (7).  He had a decent run with the Indians in the late 1910's, hitting .286/.366/408 with Cleveland over parts of four seasons.  He started the 1919 season with the Athletics before being traded to Boston with Red Shannon for Amos Strunk and Jack Barry.  Roth played in 63 games the rest of the season, his only one with Boston, and hit .256/.337/.330 while stealing nine bases.  After the season, he and Shannon were again on the move, this time to Washington, for a package led by Mike Menosky.  Roth had one more decent season with Washington, then played for the Yankees before hanging it up.

There is not much to say about Tom Umphlett really.  He played just three seasons in the Majors, one with Boston and two with Washington.  So, why is he here?  Well, because his one season in Boston saw him finish second in the Rookie of the Year vote, and I have a hard time ignoring that, even for a player who had a very limited career.  Umphlett hit .283/.331/.376 with three home runs and 59 RBIs as the Red Sox center fielder in 1953.  Not great numbers, but for a rookie, they were pretty solid.  Boston then packaged him along with Mickey McDermott to go to Washington in exchange for Jackie Jensen, which was a great deal for Boston.  Umphlett's numbers tanked and he was out of baseball after two dismal season.  Meanwhile, Jensen was a huge star in Boston.  Umphlett does have the distinction of being the all-time Red Sox leader in home runs for a player whose last name starts with "U" though.  So, there is that.

At the very least, Willie Tasby is the answer to an interesting piece of trivia.  He was the first black player the Red Sox acquired in a trade, and the third black player overall to play for the Red Sox.  Tasby came up with the Orioles and was a decent player for a few years, mostly due to his athleticism in center field.  The Red Sox shipped Gene Stephens to the Orioles in June of 1960 to acquire Tasby to shore up their outfield.  He turned in a decent season the rest of the way with the Red Sox, hitting .281/.371/.384 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs.  After the season though, he was selected by the new Washington Senators in the expansion draft in December.  He was decent in 1961, but struggled for a couple of seasons afterwards.  

Thomson is mostly known for the "Shot Heard 'Round the World", the home run he hit off of Ralph Branca to propel the New York Giants to the NL Pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951.  He played for the Giants for several years and had a lot of success, named to three All Star teams and receiving MVP votes in three seasons.  He drove in over 100 runs four times and typically hit 25-30 home runs for the Giants.  He later played a few seasons for the Braves and Cubs.  Thomson was traded to the Red Sox for Al Schroll prior to his final Major League season and played in 40 games, hitting .263/.323/.439 and hit the final five home runs of his career.  He was released by Boston early in July and caught on with the Orioles, for whom he finished his career.  Thomson barely qualifies at center field, he played 13 games in center and 12 in left for Boston.

The Red Sox throughout the years have typically been a team bereft of speed.  That was certainly true throughout the 1980's and 1990's.  For one season, in 1994, the team made a conscious effort to change all of that, bringing in speedster Otis Nixon on a free agent contract from the Braves.  Nixon was just three years removed from a season in which he stole 72 bases and he had not stolen fewer than 35 since 1987.  He was definitely as advertized, stealing 42 bases, and likely would have stolen more had the season not been shortened due to the players' strike.  He could have broken the team record of 54 stolen bases.  Nixon was never much of a hitter and had very little power, relying on his speed to get on base.  He hit .274/.360/.317 with Boston with no home runs, 15 doubles, and one triple.  He drove in 25 and scored 60 runs.  Despite his reasonable success, Nixon was traded to Texas after the season in exchange for Jose Canseco.

The mid 1990's saw the Red Sox experiment with a lot of low-risk acquisitions.  Some worked out, others definitely did not.  Milt Cuyler was one of a number of such players to be brought to the Red Sox for the 1996 season.  Cuyler had once been a bright prospect in the Detroit Tigers system and arrived in the Majors with much fanfare, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1991 when he stole 41 bases.  Unfortunately, he was never again able to replicate that success.  He stayed with Detroit through the 1995 season, then Boston took a flyer on him.  He played in only 50 games with Boston and hit just .200/.299/.300 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, and seven stolen bases.  He was sent back to the minors and did not appear again the Majors until seven games with Texas in 1998.

ALEX COLE - 1996
Another speedster from the early 1990's that had fallen on hard times, Alex Cole finished ninth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1990 when he was with the Indians.  That year, despite playing in just 63 games, Cole stole 40 bases.  He had a pretty good sophomore season, though his stolen base total dropped to 27.  After a rough start to the 1992 season, he was traded to the Pirates in July and also played for the Rockies and Twins, with varying amounts of success, and quite a few stolen bases.  Like Cuyler, Cole signed a low-risk deal with the Red Sox, and like Cuyler, he did not succeed.  Cole played just 24 games for the Red Sox with a line of .222/.296/.319 with five stolen bases.  Cole was just 30, but this was his last appearance in the Majors.

After two seasons in Japan, former Twins outfielder Shane Mack returned to the Major Leagues with the Red Sox on another low-risk signing.  The move was largely praised, and Mack, who once hit 18 home runs on the World Champion Twins, was predicted to have a big season.  He generally played pretty well, but he was not healthy enough and ended up only playing in 60 games for the Red Sox.  He hit an impressive .315/.368/.438 with three home runs and seven doubles in his short, injury-plagued stint with Boston.  He just did not quite work out as hoped, but it was a low risk.  After the season with Boston, Mack spent one more year in the Majors with Oakland and Kansas City.  

Marlon Byrd has played 15 seasons with ten different Major League teams.  He came up with the Phillies and was a highly-touted prospect, finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 2003.  He bounced from team to team, but managed to make an All Star team in 2010 while with the Cubs and had a 20 home run season in 2009 with the Rangers.  In 2012, Boston was having injury issues in the outfield and swung a deal with the Cubs to bring Byrd to Fenway.  Byrd did not really improve the outfield picture.  He played in 34 games with the Red Sox and hit just .270/.286/.320 with just one home run and seven RBIs.  Boston cut ties with him in June and he was suspended for failing a PED test.  He was able to resurrect his career the next season and continued his odyssey through the Major Leagues, until failing another test in 2016.    

It was pretty slim pickings for center field.  Very few of the players here had good years.  And those that did, oftentimes did not play an entire season.  Ultimately, I decided on Nixon on the basis of the 42 stolen bases.  Despite his complete lack of power, he had a decent season with the bat, got on base at a decent clip, and of course, stole a lot of bases.  Only Tom Umphlett really came close, and he was generally better at the plate, but his numbers did not really catch the eye.  So Nixon's extreme speed gets him the nod.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Red Sox Team of the Decade: 1980-1989

During the first half of the 1980's, the Red Sox were fairly boring.  They did not have the dynamic players that other teams did, and were a fairly one-dimensional club.  They had power, but little else.  Most of the team in the early part of the decade, was aging and left over from better years.  Boston did not take full advantage of the new free agency during this time period as ownership was mostly ambivalent toward improving the club.  It was only after the team started developing its own stars that things went the right direction.  Boston went to the World Series in 1986, and the ALCS in 1988. 

Gedman played for Boston every season during the 1980's.  Taking over as the primary starting catcher after Carlton Fisk left for the White Sox after the 1980 season, Gedman was a two-time All Star, though injuries eventually took their toll.  He had a three-year span from 1984 through 1986 when he was one of the best hitting catchers in the game.  Gedman finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1981.  He was a pretty good defensive catcher as well, leading the league in runners caught stealing three years in a row and being in the top five in percentage most seasons he was a starter.  This position was easy, only Fisk had a comparable year to Gedman's best seasons, and he only played one year in Boston that decade.

In what was something of a tough position, Buckner's longevity was enough to outlast the one great year by Nick Esasky.  Buckner played for the Red Sox from 1984 through most of 1987 and was a productive hitter, though his defense left something to be desired.  Buckner came to Boston from the Cubs in 1984 and had back-to-back 100 RBI seasons in 1985 and 1986.  He had his best season in 1985 when he hit .299 with 201 hits, 18 home runs, 110 RBIs, and even stole 18 bases.  Unfortunately, despite his decent run with the Red Sox, he is mostly remembered for his critical error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series which shifted the momentum in the Series.  That is a shame.

Like Gedman, Marty Barrett was an easy choice for his position.  The best individual season for a Red Sox second-baseman was Dave Stapleton's 1980 season, but he played in only 94 games and never had anything close to that season again.  Jerry Remy was decent for a couple of seasons, but not as good as Barrett.  Barrett took over as the starting second-baseman in 1984 and was a solid performer who was a pesky contact hitter, difficult to strike out, and steady on defense.  He led the league in sacrifice hits three years in a row.  Barrett is best known for winning the ALCS MVP in 1986 when he hit .367 with five RBIs.  He had a combined 24 hits in the postseason that season.  Barrett was never a star and definitely did not have much power, but he did the little things that count.

This was one of the more difficult choices in this post.  Boston did not have a lot of production from the shortstop position over the decade, and most of the players did not stick around for very long.  Glenn Hoffman had the longest tenure, but he was not even the starter for all of those seasons, and he definitely was not as good as Jody Reed.  Spike Owen was decent, but not great.  Jackie Gutierrez was terrible and Rick Burleson only played one season.  So Jody Reed gets the nod with his two full seasons.  He started off well, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1988 with a .293/.380/.756 season.  He did not have much power, but was a very good #2 hitter, with a strong ability to get on base and did not strike out much.  He hit 42 doubles in 1989, the first of three straight 40 double seasons. 

One of the easiest choices of this post was third base.  It is hard to top a Hall of Famer.  Only Carney Lansford, who won the batting title in 1981, received any consideration whatsoever.  Boggs was one of, if not the, best hitter of the decade.  His best years occurred exclusively in the 1980's.  He won all five of his batting titles, and had his streak of seven consecutive 200 hit seasons occur entirely within the 1980's.  Boggs was a five-time All Star and won five Silver Slugger Awards.  He was simply an amazing hitter and drew a ton of walks as well.  Boggs became a Hall of Famer based on his amazing run in the 1980's.

Absolutely no contest here.  Dwight Evans spent almost the entire decade in right field.  Evans had been in right field for the Red Sox for several seasons, but was mostly known as a dynamic defensive right-fielder with a terrific arm and some power.  He blossomed into a star in the 1980's, a bit of a late bloomer.  He had a great 1981 season and was third in the MVP race, it was one of four seasons in which he finished in the top ten in the MVP race.  He led the league in OPS twice during the decade and also won five of his eight Gold Glove Awards and both of his Silver Slugger Awards during that decade.  Surprisingly, he was only an All Star twice during the decade.  Evans led the league in home runs during the 1980's.  He was a star, and became a borderline Hall of Famer.    

I was surprised with this decision.  Tony Armas had a terrific season in 1984, as he led the league in home runs (43) and RBIs (123), while winning the Silver Slugger Award.  But Ellis Burks was a far better all-around player, and Armas was mostly one-dimensional.  He exploded onto the scene in his rookie season of 1987 and was a 20/20 player right away.  Burks was the kind of dynamic, all-around talent that Boston had been lacking for several years.  He was a five-tool player and stole more than 20 bases all three years he played for Boston in the 1980's.  Only injuries prevented Burks from realizing his full potential while playing for the Red Sox.  

I strongly considered Mike Greenwell for this position, but it was too hard to ignore the Hall of Famer Rice, even though Greenwell's 1988 season was the best left field season for the Red Sox during the 1980's.  That year, Greenwell finished second in the MVP vote, the highest Rice finished during the 1980's was third in 1986.  Rice was still a devastating power hitter in the early 1980's, but he was not quite at the height of his stardom.  He had one last gasp in 1983 when he led the league in home runs (39) and RBIs (126).  He also continued to hit for a high batting average, hitting .305.  Rice was an All Star in 1980 and 1983 through 1986.  He won the Silver Slugger in 1983 and 1984.  He had his last great season in 1986, hitting .324/.384/.490 with 200 hits, 20 home runs, and 110 RBIs.  Unfortunately, he declined swiftly after 1986.  

Designated hitter was tough.  No one lasted more than a couple of seasons.  There were a few good seasons though, so it was possible to pick a winner.  Carl Yastrzemski was nearing the end of his career and was nowhere near the hitter he once was.  Don Baylor had a very good season in 1986 from a power standpoint, but a low batting average.  Jim Rice became the DH when Mike Greenwell emerged, but he was nowhere near as productive either.  Mike Easler actually had the best season at DH during the 1980's in 1984 when he hit .313/.376/.516 with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs.  It was a terrific season for the left-handed hitter.  He declined significantly in 1985 though, hitting just .262/.325/.412 with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs.  After the season he was shipped to the Yankees for Baylor.

Who else could it be?  Roger Clemens emerged as one of the best pitchers in the game in 1986.  He won the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young Award when he went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA and 238 strikeouts.  He set a new record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game against the Mariners and led the pitching staff on the team's way to the World Series.  He followed that up by winning the Cy Young Award again in 1987 with a 20-9 record, 2.97 ERA, and 256 strikeouts.  Clemens was an All Star twice during the decade in 1986 and 1988, when he struck out 291 batters, a team record that lasted until 1999.  Clemens was easily the best Red Sox pitcher of the decade and would go down as one of the best pitchers of all time.

Somewhat lost in the dominance of The Rocket was the fact that Boston had a very good #2 starter in southpaw Bruce Hurst.  Hurst came up to the Majors in 1980, but took a few seasons to become an established starter.  In 1983 and 1984, he had identical 12-12 records, then went 11-13 in 1985.  But those records were more of a function of a mediocre team, as Hurst had decent numbers otherwise.  He had his first good season in 1986 when he was 13-8 with a 2.99 ERA and 167 strikeouts.  He was dominant in the post-season and would have been the World Series MVP had Boston held on.  He had his only All Star season in 1987 when he was 15-13 with a 4.41 ERA and a career high 190 strikeouts.  His best season in Boston came in his last one when he was 18-6 with a 3.66 ERA.  After the season, he joined San Diego as a free agent.

The owner of one of the best nicknames in baseball history, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd was a pretty good pitcher when he was healthy.  Unfortunately, that was not nearly often enough and eventually led to an early exit from the game.  Boyd came up in 1982 and was in the league to stay by the end of 1983.  He was 15-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 1985 with 154 strikeouts, though he led the league in hits allowed.  He had a very good season in 1986 when he was 16-10 with a 3.78 ERA and 129 strikeouts.  Unfortunately, some off-field incidents prevented him from being even better.  Boyd's career was derailed by blood clots in his shoulder in 1987 and it took several years for him to get back to full strength.  By then, he was pitching for the Expos.

Eckersley was not quite the starting pitcher he was in the late 1970's with the Red Sox, but he still had some decent seasons.  He started the decade off with a 12-14 record and a 4.28 ERA.  After a mediocre 1981 season, Eckersley bounced back in 1982 and was named an All Star for the second time in his career.  He was 13-13 for a bad Red Sox team with a 3.73 ERA and 127 strikeouts.  Eckersley continued his decline for a couple more seasons before being traded to the Cubs for Bill Buckner.  He would later resurrect his career as a closer for the Athletics and the rest was history.  Other starting pitchers considered for this list were Mike Torrez, John Tudor, Bob Ojeda, Al Nipper, and Mike Boddicker.

I just covered Bob Stanley in a post a couple of days ago.  Stanley retired as the then-team record holder in saves and appearances.  He was an All Star in 1983 when he had a terrific season, going 8-10 with a 2.85 ERA and a team record 33 saves, a record which would stand until 1991.  Stanley was a stalwart in the Red Sox bullpen for several more seasons, eventually retiring in 1989 after a couple of down seasons.  His career saves record would stand until Jonathan Papelbon eventually bested it.

Lee Smith was one of the most dominant relief pitchers of all time and retired as the career record holder in saves.  His record would eventually be shattered, which is likely why Smith has not been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Smith came up with the Cubs and was traded to the Red Sox prior to the 1988 season in a bad deal for Chicago.  The Cubs received Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper in the deal.  Smith was 4-5 with a 2.80 ERA and saved 29 games.  He struck out 96 batters in 83.2 innings.  The next season he was 6-1 with 25 saves and a 3.57 ERA.  He again struck out 96 batters, this time in just 70 innings.  Smith started the 1990 season with Boston, but was traded to the Cardinals early in the season.  He would continue to put up big numbers as a closer after the trade.  Mark Clear, Tom Burgmeier, and Dennis Lamp were also considered as relief pitchers.

Friday, July 14, 2017

1991-2016 All-Underrated Team: Designated Hitter

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 sort of a tough call.  Not because there were a lot of other options.  Most designated hitters in Red Sox history were big stars at some point in their careers, so it was tough to be underrated.  No, the reason this was a tough call was because 1996 was clearly Reggie Jefferson's best season, but he played nearly as many games in left field as at designated hitter, and he played some first base as well.  In fact, the only reason Jefferson played DH at all in 1996 was due to an injury to starter Jose Canseco.
Reggie Jefferson was originally drafted by the Reds and bounced from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Seattle in his Major League career before landing with the Red Sox in 1995.  In those seasons prior to joining Boston, he only played in more than 65 games once.  He typically hit for decent batting averages though and Boston took a flyer on him as a free agent in April of 1995.  That season, he was decent in short work.  

1996 saw Jefferson step in at a time when the team needed help and finally succeed, allowing him to keep a Major League job for a few years.  He played in a then-career high 122 games.  He hit a shocking .347/.388/.593 with 19 home runs, 30 doubles, and driving in 74 runs.  His home runs, RBIs, triples, and slash line would all remain career highs.  
Jefferson was part of a platoon at DH for most of 1997, until Mike Stanley was traded to the Yankees.  For a time he was even contending for the batting title.  He continued to be productive for Boston through the 1998 season before declining in 1999.  That was his final season in the Majors.  Jefferson finished his career with a .300/.349/.474 line, an impressive line for a player who never played in an All Star Game.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Loyalty and Longevity Pt. 10: Bob Stanley

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 Stanley is the longest tenured pitcher to have spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox.  The veteran of 13 Major League seasons retired holding team records for appearances and saves, though both team records have since been eclipsed (Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon respectively).  
Stanley was the seventh overall pick in the 1974 Draft and moved fairly quickly through the minors for a high school pitcher.  He was in the Majors by 1977 and not just as a September call-up either.  He appeared in 41 games that season, starting 13.  He had an 8-7 record with a 3.99 ERA.  Stanley quickly became known as a pitcher who could come in and pitch a lot of innings.  In his 41 games in 1977, he pitched 151 innings.
1978 was Stanley's breakout season as he went a remarkable 15-2 with a 2.60 ERA, mostly out of the bullpen (he only started three games).  He picked up ten saves.  He was so good, he finished seventh in the Cy Young vote and even received some down-ballot votes for MVP.  1979 saw him elected to the first of two career All Star games.  He was used as a starter a lot more often, starting 30 of the 40 games he appeared in, and finished with a career-high 16 wins and a 3.99 ERA.  
He was back to being primarily a reliever in 1980 and would be for the next several seasons.  1982 saw him finish seventh in the Cy Young vote again and also receive some MVP votes for his 12-7 record, 3.10 ERA, and 14 saves, all out of the bullpen.  He was named to his second All Star team in 1983 and received some more MVP votes when he set a team record with 33 saves.  He had an 8-10 record with a 2.85 ERA.  He would settle in as the team's primary late-inning weapon for the next few years.  
Stanley started to draw the ire of fans in 1986 with a less than impressive season.  That was compounded when he uncorked a wild pitch and then allowed the dribbler by Mookie Wilson that won Game 6 of the World Series.  Things did not improve when he had his worst season in 1987, going 4-15 with a 5.01 ERA.  He was primarily a starter that season and even started on Opening Day, but took the loss.
He had his last decent season in 1988 then struggled once more in 1989, his final season.  Stanley finished his career with a 115-97 record, team records in games (637) and saves (132).  He was known for his sinking fastball that frustrated hitters and led to a ton of ground balls.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Red Sox in the All Star Game

It is time for the yearly wrap-up of the All Star Game.  I have mentioned multiple times in the past that the All Star Game used to be my favorite event of the baseball season.  This was prior to Boston contending for the postseason year after year.  I used to love everything about the All Star Game.  Any more, I barely watch the game.  I did watch all the way through last night for the first time in the last few years.

Boston had three All Stars and while each player played reasonably well, no one really stood out all that much.

Sale started the game, the first time a pitcher has started consecutive All Star Games with different teams.  He pitched the first two innings and struck out two without allowing a run, but he did give up three hits.

Betts was not elected by the fans, but he started the game anyway in center field as a result of Mike Trout's injury.  Betts batted ninth in the lineup and played the first five innings of the game.  He had two at-bats, but did not collect a hit.  His best play was in the outfield when he caught a long fly ball to deep center and then threw in to second and caught Nolan Arenado who, for reasons unknown, was trying to advance on the play.

Kimbrel got credit for the win by pitching a scoreless inning in the ninth.  He struggled with his command though and walked two batters, but he also struck out two.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Red Sox Awards History: All Star Game MVP

I figured this was appropriate today.  The MVP Award for the All Star Game has been given out since 1962.  Boston Red Sox players have won the award four times.

Yaz typically performed quite well on the national stage.  He had great success in pennant drives, and played extremely well during his two trips to the World Series.  He was also quite good in All Star competition and won the MVP of the 1970 game in Cincinnati.  Yaz was elected to start the game and picked up four hits, including three singles, both of which were records.  The AL lost the game 5-4, but Yaz's record-setting performance was enough to win.

The Rocket was in the middle of his breakout season in 1986, the year he won the Cy Young and the MVP while helping lead the team to the World Series.  The 1986 game was played in Houston and Clemens started the game.  He pitched three innings, without giving up a hit or a walk and struck out two while being credited with the win in the 3-2 game.

The next time a Red Sox pitcher started the game, he also won the MVP award.  Pedro Martinez was in the midst of his absolutely dominant season in which he won the pitcher's Triple Crown.  The 1999 game was played in Boston and Martinez wowed the hometown crowd by blowing away five of the six batters he faced.  The only other hitter he faced walked and was erased on the basepaths by Ivan Rodriguez.  

2008 - J.D. DREW
In what has to qualify as one of the most unexpected awards, J.D. Drew took home the 2008 MVP Award in the new Yankee Stadium.  Drew was only an All Star once in his career, and was a reserve who entered the game in the 6th inning.  Drew tied the game with a two-run home run in the seventh inning.  He also added a single, stolen base, and a walk in the game.