Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Panini Chronicles Blaster Break

I was at Walmart recently looking through their card aisle and was disappointed they had neither Topps Series 2 nor Big League.  So, I ended up with a blaster of Panini Chronicles from last year.  With just 20 cards in a box, it was not a great shot to get a Red Sox card, but I pulled three out of the last blaster I bought.  So I took a shot:
So I pulled a Mookie Betts card.  That is not terribly shocking given how many cards he has in the set.  Not bad for a 20-card box.  Not as good as the last one, but pulling any Red Sox is good enough in this kind of a box.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Topps Now Future Award Winners

Last year, Topps Now had some online-only award winner predictor cards, which if the player won, would entitle the card holders to a special 10-card set of the player depicted.  Unfortunately, no Red Sox won awards, so none of these cards paid off, and that is not terribly shocking given who these players are:
1.  Darwinzon Hernandez.  He never came close to the Rookie of the Year Award, despite having some decent numbers.  I am not arguing that he should have received consideration, but he had a decent year.  He did not receive a single vote.

2.  Nathan Eovaldi.  Eovaldi was probably the furthest from winning the award he was predicted.  Injuries greatly impacted his season, keeping him out of the rotation and limiting his effectiveness.  Eovaldi did not receive a vote.

3.  David Price.  Price at least was not an out-of-left field choice, although he has not been as good in his time in Boston.  Price did win the Cy Young Award in 2012 and came in second in 2015.  He had good seasons in 2016 and 2018 for Boston, but 2019 was derailed by injuries.  He did notch good strikeout totals, but in only 107.1 innings.

There are several more cards out there that I still need to track down.  None of the Red Sox players won the award, but it might be worth seeing if this is something Topps does each season from now on.  I like the idea.

More Topps Total and Tzu-Wei Lin Card #113

Topps Total continues to have the best player selection among the sets each year, but I still hate the online-only format.  Topps, let's get these sets out in stores.

Here are my latest pickups, spurred primarily by the first one:
Yes, we finally have a new Tzu-Wei Lin card.  Lin had an impressive Spring with Boston before getting hurt.  Now that we know there will be baseball this season, it will be interesting to see whether he will be able to have an opportunity this year as a utility player.  Matt Barnes is going to be a free agent after the season and could be in for a big payday with his high strikeout numbers.  He has been a closer-in-waiting for some time but has not been able to take that next step.  Some team might be willing to take that gamble.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Red Sox with No Cards: 2018

I miss the days when companies released commemorative sets for the World Series-winning teams.  I have a number of cards of players that only appeared in commemorative sets like Ricky Gutierrez, Curtis Leskanic, Bobby Kielty and Royce Clayton.  We did not get a commemorative set in 2013 and we did not get one in 2018.  There are not many players missing from the 2018 World Champions though.  And none of them appeared in more than a few games.

This is probably the biggest surprise here.  Not because he was a major member of the team, but he was a fairly highly-rated prospect with some good numbers in the minors.  So why did Bowman never include him in a set before he was traded away?  That is kind of odd.  Beeks was drafted in the 12th round of the 2014 draft by the Red Sox and impressed at each level.  Beeks made his Major League debut in 2018 and pitched in just two games with the Red Sox, starting one.  He threw 6.1 innings with five strikeouts and four walks, but had a 12.79 ERA.  Nonetheless, he was pretty good in the minors.  He was traded to the Rays at the trading deadline for Nathan Eovaldi, which worked out pretty well for Boston due to Eovaldi's postseason performance.  Beeks has been a solid, if unspectacular, reliever in Tampa Bay since the trade, going 11-3 with a 4.36 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 148.2 innings.  Beeks does have minor league cards from his time in the Red Sox organization.  

Haley moved around a lot in the time leading up to the 2018 season.  Originally drafted by the Red Sox in sixth round of the 2012 draft, Haley had an inconsistent minor league career in the Red Sox organization.  He was selected by the Angels in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, then immediately sold to the Padres, then immediately traded to the Twins.  The Twins kept him for a little while, long enough for him to make his Major League debut in 2017 and play in ten games with a 6.00 ERA, striking out 14 and walking six in 18 innings.  Minnesota returned him to Boston in July.  Haley spent most of the 2018 season in the minor leagues with Boston again, but made it into four games as a reliever, striking out none and walking three in 7.2 innings.  He had a 4.70 ERA.  After the season, he was granted free agency and eventually signed with the Giants, but has not appeared in the Majors since.  Haley also appears in minor league sets from his time in the Red Sox organization.

Renda did not play much with the Red Sox, but he had a very important moment in 2018.  Renda bounced around quite a bit, starting out with the Nationals before being traded to the Yankees.  He was then part of the return package the Yankees sent to the Reds in return for Aroldis Chapman the first time.  He made his Major League debut in 2016 with the Reds, playing in 32 games as a utility player, hitting .183/.246/.217 with three RBIs.  He then played in the Diamondbacks organization before being acquired by Boston.  Renda spent most of the season in the minors, appearing in just one game in Boston as a pinch runner for Sandy Leon in extra innings against the Yankees.  He scored the winning run in one of the team's biggest wins of the season when the team came back from being down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth.  He has not appeared in the Majors since.  Renda also appears in minor league sets with the Red Sox organization.

None of these guys played much for Boston.  Haley appeared in the most games, and he only made it into four.  Renda had the biggest moment, and it would have been cool to see a card of his headfirst slide into home.  Nonetheless, I think Beeks is probably the most important player, a pitcher who had been a legitimate prospect, yet somehow never appeared in a Bowman set.  I am still not sure how that happened.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Diamond Kings Hobby Box Break

I will admit that had I seen the checklist before I pre-ordered a hobby box of Diamond Kings, I may not have done so.  The Red Sox selection was fairly limited.  All of the cards in the base set are retired players, who I definitely enjoy, but there were only a few inserts of current players.  Now, I like the retired players available, but it appears that all pictures are from previous sets, and in fact all of these players appeared in previous sets.  Let's see someone outside the box like Duffy Lewis, Stuffy McInnis, Wally Schang, Wes Ferrell, or Mel Parnell.

Anyway, here are the Red Sox:
I pulled most of the base cards (missing Jimmie Foxx and Tris Speaker) and a parallel of Dom DiMaggio.  It is sort of strange how Panini selects their players, since Johnny Pesky, DiMaggio and Joe Wood are all non-Hall of Famers.  They certainly had great careers and possibly could have been Hall of Famers had their careers lasted longer.  Given that the box only included 72 cards, I think I did okay. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Random Jim Rice Mailday

I was browsing Ebay recently for random stuff and came across a Jim Rice lot, that included a relic card.  The relic was the key.  I was surprised that there were a couple of the other cards that I still needed.  
The first two cards are a couple of oddballs that I did not have.  The first card is a Kmart boxed set card celebrating MVP award winners.  Rice, of course, won the 1978 MVP when he hit .315/.370/.600 with 46 home runs and 139 RBIs.  He led the league in home runs, RBIs, slugging, OPS (.970), total bases (406), hits (213), and triples (15).  It was a remarkable offensive season for the slugger.  The second card shows Rice after retirement, though he certainly still looked like he could play. 

Finally, the focus of the buy was the Panini Leather & Lumber Flashing the Leather card which features a game-used piece of glove by Jim Rice.  I do not have a lot of glove relic cards, in fact I have this one and a Manny Ramirez dual relic card.  So this is kind of an interesting addition to the collection.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Questionable All Stars Pt. 7: Mitch Moreland

The Red Sox in 2018 were an absolute juggernaut.  Winning an outstanding 108 regular season games, and eventually the World Series, requires impressive performances from a number of players on the roster.  It is no surprise then that the team boasted five All Stars.  Included among them were perennial selections Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and then J.D. Martinez, who was having an outstanding season at the plate.  The team could have even had Xander Bogaerts.  And then there was Mitch Moreland.

First base was not a terribly deep position in 2018, which paved the way for Moreland to be selected as a reserve.  Now, Moreland is a decent hitter, with some power, but at his best, he is hardly a star player.  Moreland was having a decent first half, but was hitting .278/.353/.500 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.  But again, those are not exceptional numbers.  His final season line was even less impressive: .245/.325/.433 with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs.  Obviously most of his production came in the first half. 

Moreland has been with the Red Sox for the past three years and will be with the team again this year.  Generally he has produced numbers in line with his final 2018 numbers.  That is a decent player, but is it really an All Star?  Probably not.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

My First Real Goudey

The Goudey sets from the mid 1930's have always been one of the more attractive vintage sets.  I have been on a bit of a vintage kick lately.  And when I say that, I mean pre-WWII sets.  I have been trying to grab a few for my Red Sox collection.  And so I decided I would grab one of these Goudey cards.  And here it is:
Julius Solters, who went by the nickname "Moose", made his Major League debut with the Red Sox as a 28-year-old rookie in 1934.  That would be his only full season with the Red Sox and he hit .299/.333/.447 with seven home runs and 58 RBIs while appearing in 101 games, mostly as a center fielder.  The next season, he started out slowly and was eventually sent to the St. Louis Browns in a deal for Oscar "Ski" Melillo.  Solters would go on a tear the rest of the season, which was the first of three straight seasons in which he would hit nearly 20 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs.  His career went downhill from there.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Couple Kimbrels

Recently I was browsing Ebay for nothing in particular and came across a lot of two Craig Kimbrel cards and I realized I did not have much beyond base cards and the occasional parallel of the three-time All Star former closer.  So I snagged it.
So, a couple of things here.  The first card is a regular relic from 2018 Topps.  The second card is one of those manufactured relics, and is a really damn heavy card.  That relic is made of some sort of metal apparently.  As I have mentioned previously, I do not really go nuts over relics these days, but I generally like to have at least one of each player and Kimbrel was missing.  That has been rectified.

Kimbrel was highly successful in Boston, though his first season was somewhat disappointing and his postseason in his last season was definitely off, so it feels like he was not that good.  But man, that 2017 season was truly something.  That year he won the Reliever of the Year Award when he saved 35 games with a 1.43 ERA, a 5-0 record and in 69 innings, he struck out an utterly insane 126 batters, versus just 14 walks.  Holy crap that was a good year.  I choose to remember that Kimbrel.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Left-Handed Relievers

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.

Coumbe made his Major League debut as a 24-year-old member of the Red Sox in 1914 and performed out of the bullpen for the most part.  He appeared in 17 games, making just five starts, but was very impressive when he was on the mound.  He pitched 62.1 innings, striking out 17 and walking 16, but he had a solid 1.44 ERA and picked up a save, though it was not an official star until much later.  Boston had an absolutely stacked, if very young, pitching rotation, with Dutch Leonard, Ernie Shore, Rube Foster and Smoky Joe Wood, as well as a young Babe Ruth.  Coumbe was used as a trade piece to acquire veteran Vean Gregg from the Indians.  Coumbe went on to pitch several seasons in Cleveland, splitting time between starting and relieving and having his best season when he was 13-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 1918.  During his eight-year career, Coumbe was 38-38 with a 2.80 ERA and 13 retroactive saves.

Thormahlen had been a decent starting pitcher for the Yankees for a few years, particularly effective in 1918 and 1919.  In 1918, he was 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 112.2 innings.  He was even better in 1919 when he went 12-8 with a 2.62 ERA in 188.2 innings over 30 games (25 starts).  However, he stumbled a bit in 1920 and was sent to the Red Sox in one of those money-centered deals the Red Sox were constantly making with New York.  This one though was a little better for Boston as they received Del Pratt and Muddy Ruel, two still-useful pieces, though they did give up future Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt and Wally Schang.  Thormahlen though was not a particularly effective piece, pitching in 23 games (nine starts) and throwing 96.1 innings.  He was 1-7 with a 4.48 ERA, striking out 17 and walking 34.  He was later sold to Brooklyn, though his career was basically over.

Bear with me on this one.  O'Doul is a pretty well-known player, but he really is not known for his pitching ability as will be clear.  His claim to fame came much later.  O'Doul came to his name as most players nicknamed "Lefty" do, by being a southpaw pitcher.  After a few starts and stops with the Yankees, never appearing in more than six games, he got his first extended action with the Red Sox in 1923 after being the extra piece in a deal that sent Joe Dugan and Elmer Smith to the Yankees for Chick Fewster, Elmer Miller and Johnny Mitchell.  O'Doul appeared in 23 games, making just one start, and throwing 53 innings.  He was not really great, striking out ten, versus 31 walks and an ugly 5.43 ERA.  His hitting stats were not much to write home about either, but that was where his future was.  He did appear in one game in right field for the Red Sox.  O'Doul re-emerged in the National League a few seasons later, bouncing around from team to team.  He shocked the world when he hit .398/.465/.622 with 254 hits in 1929 with the Phillies.  For his career, he hit .349/.413/.532, but only really had six seasons as a regular player.  

Littlefield held on in the Major Leagues for nine years, despite limited success.  During those nine years, he pitched for nine different Major League teams.  That is sort of impressive.  Obviously he did not spend much time with any of those teams.  The Red Sox were his first team, as a 24-year-old rookie in 1950.  He appeared in 15 games (two starts), going 2-2 with an unsightly 9.26 ERA.  He struck out 13 and walked 24 in 23.1 innings, though he did have a save.  He was traded to the White Sox along with Joe Dobson for Bill Wight and Ray Scarborough.  He would have his best season in 1954 when he was 10-11 with a 3.86 ERA for the Orioles and Pirates.  For his career, Littlefield was 33-54 with a 4.71 ERA and nine saves.

Kennedy bounced around several teams, typically as a reliever.  He was actually in the Red Sox system during the 1947 season before he was drafted by the Indians.  This was the year before he made the Majors.  He had a very good year in 1952 with the White Sox when he led the league in appearances (47), throwing 70.2 innings with a 2-2 record and a 2.80 ERA and five saves.  The next season he was traded to the Red Sox along with Hal Brown and Marv Grissom for the aging Vern Stephens.  Kennedy appeared in 16 games, all in relief, notching two saves while throwing 24.1 innings with 14 strikeouts, 17 walks and a 3.70 ERA.  He was sent to the minors after the season and did not re-emerge in the Majors until 1956.  By then, he was mostly done.

Stigman was an All Star in his rookie season with the Indians, despite going 5-11 with a 4.51 ERA.  He struck out 104 while walking 87 in 133.2 innings while saving nine games.  In 1962, he led the league in winning percentage after going 12-5 with a 3.66 ERA while with the Twins.  The next season, as a starting pitcher he turned in a 15-15 season with a 3.25 ERA.  The Red Sox picked him up in a trade with the Twins for Russ Nixon and Chuck Schilling.  Stigman pitched in 34 games, starting ten, and threw 81 innings, striking out 65 and walking 46 with a 2-1 record and a 5.44 ERA.  After the season he was traded to the Reds for Hank Fischer, but Stigman did not appear again in the Major Leagues.

Hernandez had been a reliable reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1970's.  He had his best season in 1972 when he was 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 70 innings over 53 games.  He notched 14 saves while striking out 47 versus 22 walks.  He continued to serve an important role in the Pirates bullpen until he was traded to the Cubs in 1976.  He started the 1977 season with the Cubs, but after six games and an 8.22 ERA, he was traded to the Red Sox for Bobby Darwin.  His fortunes did not improve much as he appeared in just 12 games, throwing 12.2 innings, striking out eight and walking seven with a 0-1 record and a 5.68 ERA.  He picked up the last save of his career though.  It was Hernandez's last appearance in the Majors.  

JOE PRICE - 1989
Price pitched out of the bullpen primarily during his first several seasons after coming up with the Reds in 1980.  He was particularly impressive in 1981 and 1982, before the Reds began experimenting with him in the starting rotation.  The first season was impressive as he was 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA.  He struggled afterwards and was eventually converted back into a reliever.  He started the 1989 season with the Giants, but struggled and was released in early May.  Boston picked him up and he pitched in 31 games, starting five and finishing ten.  He threw 70.1 innings with a 4.35 ERA, striking out 52 and walking 30.  After the season he signed with the Orioles as a free agent for his final season.  

Although he only pitched parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues, and only pitched in more than four games in just one of the seasons, Howard was one of the rare, truly impressive players from this post.  He ended up supplanting Tony Fossas as the primary southpaw in the Red Sox bullpen in 1994, making it into 37 games, with 39.2 innings.  He had a 1-0 record with a 3.63 ERA and picked up the only save of his career.  He struck out 22 and walked 12.  Despite the decent season, he started the 1995 season in the minors and did not make it back until after being traded to the Rangers for Jack Voigt.  1995 was his last season in the Majors.  He spent most of his career in the minors except that one decent season in 1994 when the Lynn, MA native pitched for his hometown team.

Lilliquist arrived in the Majors with the Braves in 1989 as a starting pitcher.  After he struggled in the early part of 1990, he was traded to the Padres for Mark Grant and was turned into a reliever.  He started to excel in the role while with the Indians in 1992 when he was 5-3 with a 1.75 ERA and six saves.  He continued in that role until struggling in 1994.  The Red Sox signed him as a free agent before the 1995 season began.  He was used often in the early part of the season, but struggled greatly in 28 games, throwing 23 innings.  He had a 2-1 record with a 6.26 ERA.  Boston released him in July.  He signed with the Dodgers, but did not make it back to the Majors until the next season with the Reds, his last season.

Hammond had a lengthy career in the Majors, primarily as a left-handed setup man.  He made his Major League debut in 1990 with the Reds he started him in the rotation.  After a couple of seasons with Cincinnati, he was on the inaugural Marlins team as a starter.  It was in 1996 that he started appearing more often in the bullpen.  Boston signed him as a free agent and, though he started eight games, he appeared primarily in the bullpen.  Hammond was 3-4 with a 5.92 ERA in 29 games (eight starts), throwing 65.1 innings, striking out 48 and walking 27.  He picked up the first save of his career.  After the season, he signed with the Royals as a free agent.  He was injured for awhile, then came back to the Majors with an incredible season in 2002 with the Braves when he appeared in 63 games and had a 0.95 ERA.  He jumped from team to team, continuing to have some success until retiring in 2006.

Swindell also had a lengthy Major League career, making it to the Majors in 1986.  He spent the first several seasons with the Indians and was one of the team's most reliable starting pitchers.  He was an 18-game winner in 1988 and an All Star in 1989 when he was 13-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 129 strikeouts.  Swindell was turned into a reliever in 1997 with the Twins.  He started the 1998 season with the Twins and pitched in 52 games before they sent him to the Red Sox along with Orlando Merced for Matt Kinney and a couple other minor leaguers.  Swindell appeared in 29 games for the Red Sox, throwing 24 innings, notching 18 strikeouts and 13 walks.  He had a 2-3 record with a 3.38 ERA.  He appeared in the postseason for the first time throwing 1.1 innings without giving up a run.  After the season he signed a free agent contract with the Diamondbacks, where he spent the last four seasons of his career as a setup man.

Guthrie was a long-time member of the Minnesota Twins and was a valuable member of the pitching staff for the 1991 World Champs.  He was primarily a starter early in his career but found his niche as a lefty reliever.  After a few seasons with the Dodgers, he signed a free agent contract with the Red Sox to take over for Swindell as the team's lefty reliever.  Guthrie made it into 43 games with a 1-1 record and a 5.63 ERA and two saves.  He was traded to the Cubs at the August trading deadline in the deal for Rod Beck.  Guthrie bounced around for several seasons afterwards and achieved some success late in his career with the Mets and Cubs.

Once one of the hottest pitching prospects in the game, Pulsipher was part of a trio of brilliant prospects with the Mets along with Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson.  Of the three, only Isringhausen came close to reaching his potential when he was turned into a closer.  Pulsipher had a decent rookie season with the Mets.  After a few seasons of struggling though, he re-emerged with the Red Sox who tried him out in the bullpen.  He threw 22 innings over 23 games with a 5.32 ERA, striking out 16 and walking 14.  The Red Sox waived him in August and he finished the season with the White Sox.  He disappeared from the Majors for a few years before coming back with the Cardinals in 2005, but that was pretty much it for him.

Haney was another failed starter who Boston attempted to convert into a reliever.  Haney spent a few seasons as a mid-rotation starter with some bad Royals teams, with his best year coming in 1996 when he was 10-14 in 228 innings with a 4.70 ERA.  After a lost season in 2001, Haney came to Boston and made it into 30 innings over 24 games, with a 4.20 ERA, striking out 15 and walking ten.  He finished eleven games and notched the only save of his career.  He was released in August and hung it up.

Sauerbeck was a highly-coveted arm at the trading deadline in 2003 when he was with the Pirates.  Sauerbeck made an impression right away upon making the Majors when he had a 2.00 ERA in 65 games in 1999.  He was somewhat inconsistent over the years, but was decent enough that the Pirates had a lot of suitors before trading him to the Red Sox a week before the trading deadline along with Mike Gonzalez for Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez.  The trade had to be re-worked as Lyon had an injury, so all the pieces except Sauerbeck were returned and the Red Sox sent Freddy Sanchez to Pittsburgh for Jeff Suppan.  Sauerbeck struggled greatly in Boston, making it into 26 games, but just 16.2 innings with an unsightly 6.48 ERA, striking out 18 while walking 18 and having a 0-1 record.  He was injured the entire 2004 season, then struggled for the next few seasons before retiring.

Halama was part of the package the Astros sent to the Mariners in exchange for Randy Johnson in 1998, along with Carlos Guillen and Freddy Garcia.  He turned in three double-digit win seasons with the Mariners and was a part of the rotation in 2001 when the team turned in its best season ever.  After that season, he began seeing more and more time in the bullpen and was almost exclusively a reliever by the time the Red Sox signed him as a free agent before the 2005 season.  He appeared in 30 games for the Red Sox, including one start, and threw 43.2 innings, but had a poor 6.18 ERA.  He struck out 26 and walked just nine though.  Halama was released late in July and scooped up by the Nationals with whom he finished the season.  2006 with the Orioles was his last Major League appearance.

One of the very rare middle relievers to actually appear in an All Star game, Remlinger had a lengthy Major League career.  He bounced around for several seasons before he finally achieved some success as a member of the Braves' bullpen in 1999 when he was 10-1 with a 2.37 ERA.  He appeared in the All Star Game in 2002 while still with Atlanta when he was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 68 innings.  He then signed with the Cubs where he spent a few successful seasons.  The Red Sox acquired him in a deal with the Cubs late in the 2005 season, but, like Halama, he struggled.  Remlinger appeared in just eight games with the Red Sox, throwing 6.2 innings, but had an awful 14.85 ERA.  He struck out five and walked five.  After the season, he returned to Atlanta for one last season where he bounced back, at least somewhat.

J.C. ROMERO - 2007
Romero was a very useful lefty arm out of the bullpen for the Twins for the first several years of his career.  He was a bright spot in 2002 when he appeared in 81 games and had a 9-2 record and a 1.89 ERA while striking out 76 in 81 innings.  After a few more decent seasons, he struggled in his only year with the Angels before the Red Sox signed him to be a lefty specialist in 2007.  Romero was reasonably impressive, appearing in 23 games with a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings, but he walked more batters than he struck out (15 to 11) and the team had two better lefties in the bullpen in Hideki Okajima and Javier Lopez and really did not need three southpaws.  He was released in June and caught on with the Phillies for whom he finished the season.  He stayed with Philadelphia for a couple more seasons and then moved around a bit before retiring after the 2012 season.  

Of all the players on this list, Wagner is the only one who has a chance at making the Hall of Fame some day.  The seven-time All Star's career compares favorably to recent Cooperstown inductee Trevor Hoffman.  Wagner was typically a closer during his career, most notably with the Astros, though he spent time with the Phillies, Mets and Braves as well.  He saved 422 games during his career, though none for the Red Sox.  He was close to the end of his career when the Red Sox acquired him just before the August trading deadline in a deal with the Mets for Chris Carter (not the one who would later lead the NL in home runs) and a minor leaguer.  He was acquired to be the setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon and only accepted the deal to pitch in the postseason.  Wagner only appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox, but he was electric, striking out 22 and walking seven and pitching to a 1-1 record and a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings.  He appeared in one game in the postseason, giving up two runs and striking out two in one inning in a game against the Angels in the ALCS.  After the season, Wagner wanted to go back to closing, so he signed a deal with the Braves as the Red Sox would not guarantee him the role.  He had one more great season then retired on his own terms.  Wagner struck out an eye-opening 1,196 batters in just 903 innings in his career.  Gaudy numbers.

Schoeneweis was a well-regarded prospect when he came up with the Angels in the late 1990's.  He spent the first several years of his career as a starter but never really got much going.  He spent the 2004 season between the Angels and White Sox as a reliever, then given one last shot as a starter the following season.  Afterwards he converted to the bullpen for the remainder of his career.  He had a few decent seasons, but was more or less just a complementary piece.  He arrived in Boston just before the 2010 season began and appeared in 15 games, throwing 13.2 innings.  He was less than impressive, striking out 13, but walking ten and giving up 12 runs for a 7.90 ERA.  It was Schoeneweis's last season in the Majors.

Reyes pitched for eleven teams during his Major League career, originally coming up through the Dodgers system before having some sustained success with the Reds for a couple of years when he was part of the deal that sent Paul Konerko to the Reds for Jeff Shaw.  Later on he had three very good seasons in the Twins bullpen, highlighted by a 2006 season when he was 5-0 with a 0.89 ERA in 50.2 innings.  He was signed by the Red Sox just prior to Spring Training in 2011 and started the season in the Red Sox bullpen.  He made it into just four games (1.2 innings), but had an ugly 16.20 ERA and walked two while striking out one.  He was injured soon afterwards and did not appear again in the Majors.

Thornton was a highly-coveted arm available at the 2013 trading deadline when he was acquired by the Red Sox for a minor leaguer.  He had been a highly productive left-hander in the White Sox bullpen since 2006 and even made the 2010 All Star team when he had a 2.67 ERA and 81 strikeouts over 60.2 innings, with eight saves.  He did not appear often while with the Red Sox, making it into 20 games down the stretch and throwing 15.1 innings, but he was reasonably impressive, striking out nine and walking five with a 3.52 ERA with a 0-1 record.  Thornton was left off of the postseason roster in favor of Craig Breslow.  After the season he signed with the Yankees and was eventually waived despite pitching well.  He pitched for the Nationals and Padres before his career ended in 2016.

After being one of the primary pieces headed from the Diamondbacks in the Richie Sexson deal, Capuano was an effective starter for the Brewers for a few seasons.  He was an All Star in 2006 when he was 11-12 with a 4.03 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 221.1 innings, though he was better the previous season when he was an 18 game winner.  He had a few more decent seasons as a mid-rotation starter with the Mets and Dodgers.  The Red Sox signed him as a free agent before the 2014 season with the eye toward turning him into a reliever.  He pitched 31.2 innings over 28 games as a lefty reliever with a 1-1 record and a 4.55 ERA, striking out 29 and walking 15.  He was released in July and eventually was reverted to a starter with the Yankees.  He pitched a couple more seasons with the Yankees and Brewers before retiring.

I probably stretched things quite a bit with this post.  Given the nature of the role of the left-handed reliever, a lot of these guys do not really qualify as stars, and a lot of them were not even deemed worthy of getting cards made in these days of smaller sets (Chris Howard has Red Sox cards in the most sets here).  There were a few former All Stars in this post though and Lefty O'Doul is certainly a fun story.  Most of the seasons here were very underwhelming, with only a couple that could reasonably be considered successful seasons.  Essentially, this came down to Fritz Coumbe, Howard, Greg Swindell, J.C. Romero, Billy Wagner and Matt Thornton.  I eliminated Coumbe because of the uncertainty of his true role.  Howard was the only one who spent the entire season with the team, but he was the least-accomplished of the remaining players.  Swindell, Romero and Thornton were mostly interchangeable, though Swindell had a slight edge in appearances.  Ultimately I chose Wagner for two reasons.  One, he is easily the best player on this post, outside of O'Doul who does not count because his best years were not as a pitcher at all.  Wagner has a real shot at Cooperstown.  Two, despite pitching just a month-plus for Boston, his stuff was absolutely electric and his stats were eye-popping.  Wagner is a much better choice for the purpose of these posts than anyone else here.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Evo Relic

I talked about my general feelings on relics (and I feel the same generally about autographs) a few weeks back.  I generally like to have one from each player available, though it is by no means a requirement.  That brings me to this card:
Nathan Eovaldi was Boston's big acquisition at the trading deadline in 2018, coming over from Tampa Bay in exchange for Jalen Beeks.  He was decent enough in 12 games (11 starts), going 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 48 strikeouts versus just 12 walks in 54 innings. 

It was his performance in the postseason however, that made the deal worthwhile.  Eovaldi appeared in six games, starting one game in the ALDS and ALCS each and then appearing out of the bullpen in the others.  He won Game 3 of the ALDS, which was the big 16-1 blowout over the Yankees, by pitching seven innings and giving up just five hits and a run while notching five strikeouts.  He also won Game 3 of the ALCS against the Astros with a similar pitching line.  He also threw 1.1 innings in Game 5, the clinching game. 

In the World Series, Eovaldi pitched in three games, throwing an inning in Games 1 and 2.  In Game 3, he pitched six innings in extra innings, ultimately taking the loss, but keeping the other relievers available for the upcoming games.  It was a losing, yet heroic effort. 

It was Eovaldi's postseason performance that led to a lucrative free agent contract.  Unfortunately injuries reared their ugly head again and he pitched in just 23 games (12 starts).  He was 2-1 with a 5.99 ERA, striking out 70 and walking 35 in 67.2 innings.

Eovaldi is signed through 2022.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

2020 Bowman Breaks

Things have seemed slow with card releases this year.  I was surprised one day when I was in the local Walmart and finally saw a new release: 2020 Bowman.  There were only two of the four-pack jumbo packs left, looks like it was picked over quickly, so I grabbed them both.  Here are my Red Sox pulls:
1.  Triston Casas.  This is the retail-only camo parallel.  Casas is Boston's top prospect and has some huge power potential.  He was the team's first-round pick in 2018 out of high school and made it to High-A last year after hitting .254/.349/.472 with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs in A-level Greenville.  If he keeps hitting like that, he could be in the Majors in the next couple of years.

2.  Mookie Betts.  Boston has just two cards in the base set, and of course one of them is the now former Red Sox Mookie Betts.  That means we know Alex Verdugo will not be appearing in Bowman yet, nor will the prospects acquired in the deal, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Red Sox Team of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matching the previous decade, the Red Sox won two World Championships in the last decade (2013 and 2018).  In each of those seasons, they won their division.  The decade also featured AL East titles in 2016 and 2017, though they were eliminated in the ALDS in both seasons.  But the Red Sox had last place finishes in 2012, 2014 and 2015.  It was truly feast or famine.

This position came down to Saltalamacchia or Christian Vazquez.  The best individual season belonged to Victor Martinez, who hit .302/.351/.493 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs and was an All Star, the only time in the decade a Red Sox catcher appeared in the All Star Game.  But that was his only season with the team in the decade.  Sandy Leon had a terrific season in 2016, hitting .310/.369/.476, but did not have much power (seven home runs), and did it in only 78 games and was basically a black hole on offense otherwise.  So it came down to Vazquez, who played the most games and was the better defensive catcher, or Saltalamacchia, who was significantly better offensively.  Ultimately, I chose the better offensive catcher, although if Vazquez (.256/.305/.384 for his career) had hit the way he did in 2019 for his career (or even close to it), this would turn out differently.  Saltalamacchia led the team in home runs in 2012 and for his time on the team, hit .243/.307/.455 with 55 home runs and 181 RBIs.  

Most of the first base options have significant issues.  Kevin Youkilis and Hanley Ramirez each had very good seasons at the position, but played only one season there apiece and then played other positions.  This basically comes down to Gonzalez, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland.  Despite an All Star appearance in 2018, Moreland's offense is a significant step down from the other two, and he played a similar number of games to Napoli, so he is out.  Napoli played a lot more than Gonzalez and hit .242/.350/.436 with 53 home runs and 187 RBIs during his time and was a big part of the 2013 World Championship team.  Gonzalez though was an elite offensive player, having one of the better first base seasons in team history in 2011, and following up with a very good season in 2012, before he was traded away.  In far fewer games, he almost eclipsed all of Napoli's numbers, hitting .321/.382/.513 with 42 home runs and 203 RBIs.  It would have been nice to keep him around.  

Moving from one of the most difficult positions to determine to one of the easiest, second base has been handled by Pedroia throughout the decade, except for times when he was injured.  With apologies to his temporary replacements (Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt), no one measured up to Pedroia.  His best season was 2011 when he hit .307/.387/.474 with 21 home runs, 91 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.  He was an All Star in 2013 and won Gold Gloves in 2011, 2013 and 2014.  He twice finished in the top ten in the MVP voting.  For the decade, he hit .296/.363/.432 with 98 home runs, 513 RBIs and 93 stolen bases.  Injuries have mostly decimated what has been a potential Hall of Fame career.  

This was another pretty easy call.  The other players to play full seasons at shortstop in the decade were Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles and Stephen Drew.  Scutaro was a decent, steady player, but the other two do not exactly inspire awe.  Bogaerts was the starting shortstop since late 2014 and was an All Star in 2016 and 2019.  He was a part of two World Championship teams and won Silver Slugger Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2019.  During his career, he has hit .288/.350/.451 with 107 home runs and 503 RBIs.  He has not been the greatest defensive shortstop, but he has been one of the elite offensive shortstops in the game, particularly over the last two seasons.

Were you expecting Pablo Sandoval?  This one really is not as close as I thought it was going to be.  Despite Devers having a phenomenal season in 2019, the only All Star seasons at the position during the decade belonged to Adrian Beltre in 2010 and Kevin Youkilis in 2011.  Beltre owns probably the best individual season in 2010 when he hit .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs and led the league in doubles.  He won the Silver Slugger that season.  But it was his only season in Boston.  Youkilis was good in 2011, but certainly not great.  Will Middlebrooks and Sandoval were of course big disappointments.  That leaves Devers, who had a 2019 comparable to Beltre when he hit .311/.361/.555 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs, also leading the league in doubles.  Only his defense did not measure up.  Devers hit .282/.335/.501 with 63 home runs and 211 RBIs in the decade.

No contest here.  Betts is one of the best players in team history.  It is a shame he likely will not be back with the team.  J.D. Drew, Josh Reddick, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley Jr. are the other players to play regularly in right, but none of them as much as Betts, or as well.  Victorino had a good season in 2013 and won a Gold Glove.  But, to be honest, none of them are close to Betts.  Betts was in the All Star Game four times, and won four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers.  He won the AL MVP in 2018 when he hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.  He led the league in average, slugging, and runs.  He finished runner-up in the MVP race in 2016 when he hit .318/.363/.534 with 31 home runs, 113 RBIs and 26 stolen bases and led the league in total bases.  For the decade, which does include the 2015 season when he was the primary center fielder, Betts hit .301/.374/.519 with 139 home runs, 470 RBIs and 126 stolen bases.  

JBJ has the most games played at center field during the decade, taking over as the primary center fielder in 2016, more than double the number of the runner-up.  Jacoby Ellsbury had the best individual season when he was the runner-up for the MVP in 2011, hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases.  He won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and was an All Star that season.  He was also decent in 2013 when he led the league in stolen bases (52), but that was the only other season he was a regular, due to injuries.  Bradley was an All Star in 2016 when he hit .267/.349/.486 with 26 home runs and 87 RBIs.  Unfortunately, he has not really come close to those numbers since.  For the decade, he hit .236/.317/.409 with 91 home runs, 354 RBIs and 55 stolen bases.  It is his defense though where Bradley excels.  He won a Gold Glove in 2018 and has been one of the elite defensive center fielders throughout his time at the position.

Left field has not been a great position for Boston during the decade.  There have been no All Star appearances or awards.  A number of players have disappointed (Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes), and injuries have caused issues.  The 2013 team featured a platoon in left with Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava.  So Benintendi largely wins this by default.  He was very good in 2017, hitting .271/.352/.424 with 20 home runs, 90 RBIs and 20 stolen bases and finished second in the Rookie of the Year race.  But he has stagnated since the second half of 2018.  For the decade, he hit .277/.354/.442 with 51 home runs, 259 RBIs and 52 stolen bases.  

J.D. Martinez has been terrific, but he has only played two seasons in the decade.  Ortiz played seven of the other eight (Hanley Ramirez played the remaining one).  Martinez had probably the best individual season when he hit .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs and a league-leading 130 RBIs in 2018.  He was an All Star twice and won two Silver Sluggers (in the same season).  But Ortiz was a great hitter throughout the decade.  He was an All Star five times and won four Silver Sluggers.  From 2010 through 2016, he hit .292/.383/.562 with 224 home runs and 700 RBIs.  Ortiz was an absolute monster in the postseason, particularly during the 2013 World Series for which he was named MVP.  As good as Martinez has been, Ortiz has been doing it a lot longer.

How many utility players actually make the All Star team?  I have no idea how to answer that question, but Holt did in 2015.  A number of players had decent seasons at multiple positions, such as Kevin Youkilis (first, third), Daniel Nava (right, left, first) and Hanley Ramirez (first, left, DH), but Holt played every position except catcher and pitcher throughout his career with Boston.  In his All Star season, Holt hit .280/.349/.379.  Holt hit for the cycle twice, including becoming the first player to do so in a postseason game in Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS against the Yankees.  With the Red Sox in the decade, he hit .270/.340/.374 with 23 home runs, 203 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.

Sale was only with the Red Sox for three seasons during the decade, and one of those seasons was less than completely impressive, though he did strike out 218 batters in 147.1 innings, albeit with a 4.40 ERA.  But he makes the team because of how amazing his previous two seasons were.  He finished runner-up in the Cy Young race in 2017 when he was 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, striking out a Major League-leading 308 batters in 214.1 innings.  He was an All Star in both 2017 and 2018.  For the three years, Sale has a 35-23 record, 3.08 ERA and 763 strikeouts in just 519.2 innings.  He may not have been with the team as long as some pitchers who are not on this list, but he has been one of the best pitchers in the game.

Lester was an All Star three times during the decade, in 2010, 2011 and 2014.  He was a consistent and reliable starting pitcher, if not quite the ace of the staff.  He did finish in the top five in the Cy Young vote twice, including 2014 which he finished as a member of the Oakland Athletics.  For the decade, he had a 3.64 ERA, a 68-47 record and 899 strikeouts.  Lester was terrific in the 2013 postseason, winning four games and losing just one and allowing just one run in 15.1 innings in the World Series, while striking out 15.  Boston probably should have held on to him.

Even though his time with the Red Sox has been up and down, it is hard to make this kind of list without including the only pitcher who won the Cy Young Award for the team during the time period.  Porcello has largely been an innings-eater during his time in Boston, but in 2016 he narrowly won the Cy Young Award by going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 223 innings.  For his time in Boston, he was 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA and 852 strikeouts.  He pitched in five full seasons in Boston, mostly in the middle of the rotation. 

Of the starting pitcher candidates for this list , Buccholz had the longest tenure, pitching with the Red Sox through the 2016 season.  He was an All Star twice, in 2010 when he was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, and 2013 when he was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA.  With Boston, he was 69-47 with a 3.78 ERA and 737 strikeouts in 977 innings.  He finished sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2010.  Other pitchers strongly considered for this list were Josh Beckett, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price and John Lackey.  Beckett was an All Star in 2010, but struggled in other seasons.  Price and Lackey had injuries that took out a chunk of time.  Rodriguez looks like a rising star but just had his breakout season in 2019.  

Tazawa was an underrated, yet extremely important member of the team's bullpen in the early half of the decade.  He also impressed during the team's postseason run in 2013, appearing in 13 games with a 1-0 record and a 1.23 ERA.  For the decade, Tazawa pitched in 296 games, throwing 286.2 innings, with a record of 15-17 and a 3.23 ERA.  He struck out 295, walking just 66.  He struggled a bit in his last two seasons, but his previous few were terrific.

Ultimately, I could not include Tazawa without Barnes.  So it came down to including both, or neither.  I wanted to have a setup man in this post, so I chose to include both.  Their numbers are fairly similar, which is why it did not make much sense to have one and not the other.  Barnes has been the primary setup man for the last few seasons, and played a big role on the 2018 champs.  Barnes has pitched in 301 games, with 314.1 innings.  He had a 25-18 record and a 4.07 ERA, but has been improving each season.  He is a high strikeout pitcher, notching 407, with a high of 110 in 2019 in just 64.1 innings.

In one of the most important free agent signings of the decade, the Red Sox signed Uehara to set up newly acquired Joel Hanrahan in the bullpen.  But Uehara quickly became the team's closer, having one of the greatest seasons of all time out of the bullpen, going 4-1 with a 1.09 ERA and 101 strikeouts versus just nine walks in 74.1 innings, saving 21 games.  He was particularly impressive in the postseason, saving seven games en route to the ALCS MVP award.  He had diminishing returns each subsequent season in Boston, but had a 14-13 record, 2.19 ERA, 79 saves and 291 strikeouts versus 37 walks in 226 innings.  He was an All Star in 2014.

If Kimbrel can get his career back on track, he looks like a potential Hall of Famer.  He was acquired in a trade with San Diego prior to the 2016 season, one of the few reliever trades that worked out well for Boston.  He spent just three seasons in Boston, but was an All Star in each one of them and won the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award in 2017.  Kimbrel saved 108 games with the Red Sox with a 2.44 ERA while striking out 305 in 184.1 innings.  His only real black mark was his struggles in the postseason.  Other relievers considered for this post were Brandon Workman, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Kelly, Alfredo Aceves and Craig Breslow.