Friday, December 31, 2021

Insert Lot

I am going to throw some posts together this weekend that will be posted over the next few days, then I will be taking some time off because I have a couple jury trials to do.  So this weekend will be pretty active for getting posts done.

Up first is this insert and parallel lot:

The first card I want to draw attention to is the David Ortiz card.  Topps, in their infinite wisdom, decided to do cards that are pictures of a really high-end autographed card.  These cards are not autographed.  Just pictures of autographs.  I cannot imagine the disappointment some people felt seeing those if they did not already know about it.

Jeisson Rosario was acquired last year in the Mitch Moreland trade with the Padres.  Rosario was the player I was most excited about.  Unfortunately, he did not have a very good year in 2021.  It's possible that is due to the fact that there was no minor league season in 2020 so he was rusty.  Hopefully he will rebound next season.

Jonathan Papelbon is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year.  I will cover that more in depth soon.

And we have some more.  Michael Chavis was traded away to Pittsburgh last trading deadline for lefty reliever Austin Davis.  Chavis was never able to recapture the form he showed after he was called up in 2019.  I liked him, but the strikeouts could be aggravating.  Maybe he will have better luck with the Pirates. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Updated All Time One-Year Wonder: Right Field

This is not the first time I have done an update to my All Time One-Year Wonder lists.  I did a post covering Ian Kinsler's brief 2018 stint with the Red Sox, which resulted in a Gold Glove Award.  But Kinsler did not replace my pick as the All Time One-Year Wonder Second-Baseman Luis Alicea.  But I do have a new pick for right field.

My original post can be found here.  Cody Ross was my pick, and it was a pretty easy one.  Ross was great in 2012, hitting .267/.326/.481 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs.  He also accumulated 34 doubles, 127 hits and 70 runs scored.  He looked like an easy decision for years to come.  But then, shockingly, Boston traded Hunter Renfroe after one season in right field.

Renfroe was non-tendered by the Rays after a rough 2020 season in which he hit .156/.252/.393 with eight home runs in the shortened season.  Boston picked him up and inserted him into right field and he had a great season.  He started off slow, but eventually came around to become one of the major offensive forces in the lineup.  Renfroe hit .259/.315/.501/.816.  Where he really shined was in his power numbers.  Renfroe notched 33 doubles and 31 home runs while driving in 96 runs.  He was second on the team in home runs and third in RBIs.  He picked up 135 hits and 89 runs scored.   On top of everything, he led the league in assists from the outfield with 16, as well as double plays.

In spite of the season he produced, Renfroe was traded just prior to the lockout.  He was sent to Milwaukee for the return of Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects.  The trade appears to be more about the prospects.  Thus, Renfroe was eligible for the All Time One-Year Wonder and his power numbers in conjunction with his defense was enough to dethrone Cody Ross.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: #969 (Plus Mo Vaughn)

Yes, I am still working on this.  I have sort of abandoned my Tzu-Wei Lin collection, though I am obviously keeping the cards.  Lin played in just one game in 2021 with the Twins and looks to be on the move again.  So, the Jason Varitek collection is the only player collection within my Red Sox collection that is still active.  He appeared quite a bit this year.  Here is the first one:

Topps created a set that was curated in partnership with Derek Jeter.  Jeter hand-picked the players that would appear in the set.  Shockingly, there were quite a few Red Sox cards (hilariously Alex Rodriguez does not appear in the set).  Here are just two of them: Jason Varitek and Mo Vaughn.  I had to grab them both because they have each been my favorite player at one point in time.  Vaughn took over as my favorite player some time around 1994 and was my guy until Nomar Garciaparra burst upon the scene.  Varitek became my favorite player some time around 2003 and remains my favorite player of all time.  So I definitely had to grab these two.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A Bunch of World Champions

Since cards have been hard to come by in stores and I have been too busy to work on trading, I have occasionally purchased lots of cards on Ebay.  One recent such lot had a decidedly 2018 feel to it.  In that all of the players were with the team that terrific season.

Here we have cards of Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.  Benintendi, the left-fielder, hit .290/.366/.465 with 18 home runs, 87 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.  Unfortunately, it was his last good season in Boston.  He was traded to Kansas City prior to the 2021 season.  Bogaerts hit .288/.360/.522 with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs.  He is still on the team, at least for now.  Hopefully Boston keeps him around.  Betts was the A.L. MVP, winning the batting title and hitting .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.  Martinez managed to win two Silver Slugger Awards in the same season and hit .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs and 130 RBIs.

And in this scan, we have cards of Martinez, Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Betts.  Devers was in his rookie season in 2018, but he looks like he will be Boston's biggest star since Betts.  Devers hit .240/.298/.433 with 21 home runs and 66 RBIs.  

That team was incredible.  It is easily the best Red Sox team I have ever seen.  There may never be another Red Sox team like that.  The offense was a big part of that and that is showcased with this package.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Project 70: Carlton Fisk

My second Project 70 card is this Carlton Fisk card by artist JK5.  JK5 uses various elements from the city of Boston and regarding the Red Sox and incorporated it into the design of the card.  There is a lot going on here.  JK5 also did a Carl Yastrzemski card, but I never got around to picking that one up.

I picked up the Fisk because I have mentioned previously that I am a huge Fisk fan.  I was not too interested in picking up just any Red Sox card.  It had to be a decent design and/or a player I particularly wanted.  Fisk is definitely a player I pick up whenever I have an opportunity.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Most Magnificent Mustache

If there was a Hall of Fame for mustaches in Major League Baseball, Luis Tiant would be a first ballot inductee.  As it is, let's do a quick comparison of players:

Player A: 283-237 record, .544 winning percentage, 3.45 ERA, 2,461 strikeouts, 1.259 WHIP, 50.5 WAR
Player B: 229-172 record, .601 winning percentage, 3.30 ERA, 2,416 strikeouts, 1.199 WHIP, 66.1 WAR 

Player A was just inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Eras Committee.  That player is Jim Kaat.  Player B, as one could probably guess, is Luis Tiant.  How in the HELL is Tiant not a Hall of Famer yet?  After Kaat, it is even more obvious.  Tiant has Kaat beat in most categories.  Kaat has more strikeouts and more wins, but also pitched six more seasons.  Kaat was an ultimate compiler.  Tiant was simply better.  He needs to be inducted next time around.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

2021 Panini Diamond Kings Box Break

I can't remember how many boxes this break consisted of, but it was another multi-box break from Ebay.  Diamond Kings is usually one of my favorite sets of the year, but it is starting to feel very much the same each year.  I am pretty sure it even uses the same player selection each season for Boston with regards to the retired players.  There were a few current players this year, but mostly short-printed.

Here is the break:

1.  Bobby Dalbec.  This is a Debut Diamond King insert.  I have discussed Dalbec quite a bit lately, primarily because he has shown up in a lot of sets.  That will likely continue next year since he did hit 25 home runs as a rookie.

2.  Ted Williams.  Obligatory Splendid Splinter appearance.  Pretty much the same pic all the time.

3.  Jimmie Foxx.  This is another picture that is overused.  Foxx is known primarily for his time with the Philadelphia Athletics, but his plaque in the Hall of Fame features a Red Sox cap.  Foxx had a huge 1938 season in which he was named the league MVP after leading the league in average (.349), OBP (.462), slugging percentage (.704) and RBIs (175).  He also hit 50 home runs, second to Hank Greenberg.  Foxx was an All Star six times with the Red Sox, every year from 1936-1941.

4.  Joe Cronin.  Yet another overused photo.  Cronin seems to appear in this set every year.  Cronin, like Foxx, was a Yawkey acquisition who had been a big star prior to coming to Boston.  

5.  Tris Speaker.  This is an Aficionado insert.  Speaker is another player that appears in this set every year.  Speaker is a player who made his name with Boston, but has another team's cap, in this case Cleveland.  Speaker did have some big years with the Indians, so it seems warranted, but for some reason most of his recent cards feature him with Boston.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Turn Back the Clock: May 6, 1915

Babe Ruth hit the first of 714 career home runs on May 6, 1915.  It was the second season of his career, and his first full one.  Ruth pitched and hit ninth in the lineup that day.  He pitched a complete game, in this case 12.1 innings, scattering ten hits and giving up four runs (two earned).  He walked three and struck out three.  He eventually lost the game, but he was impressive both on the mound and at the plate.  He had three hits, including the home run.   

Friday, December 17, 2021

Topps Now: April 14, 2021

On April 14, Boston played a double header against the Twins in Minnesota.  They won both games by scores of 3-2 and 7-1.  Alex Verdugo was the star of the day, picking up two hits in the opener and then three in the second game.  He drove in three runs, including the go-ahead runs in the second game.  One of his hits was a solo home run.  He also made a game-winning, diving catch in the first game.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Topps Now: April 19, 2021

April 19 was Patriots Day this year.  As such, Boston played a very early game, which started shortly after the completion of the Boston Marathon.  That is a team tradition.  

On this date, Enrique Hernandez had the first of many season highlights by blasting a home run to kick off the game.  It was just his third home run of the season and made him the second player in franchise history to lead off the Patriots Day game with a home run.  Ellis Burks in 1988 was the other one.  This card shows him riding in the laundry cart, a team celebration used throughout the last two seasons after a player hits a home run.   

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Two-Card Package

Well this is certainly a random package of players.  I am not sure why I bought these two cards in particular, but I guess I will not argue.

1.  Carlton Fisk.  This card comes from the Topps X Super 70's set.  This is kind of a boring shot of Fisk, but as I have said previously, I tend to pick up lots of Fisk cards.  

2.  Joe Lahoud.  This was a fairly cheap vintage card I needed.  I think I was originally under the impression it was short-printed, which is not the case.  Lahoud spent four years with the Red Sox as a fourth outfielder.  His best season was in 1971 when he hit 14 home runs with a line of .215/.330/.438.  Lahoud was part of a large package of players sent to the Brewers in a big trade.  Boston sent Lahoud, Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, George Scott and Jim Lonborg to Milwaukee for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin, Lew Krausse and Pat Skrable.  Definitely a franchise-altering trade for both teams.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

2021 Topps Now Road to Opening Day

I briefly mentioned a few days ago that I picked up the Topps Now Road to Opening Day set, like I usually do.  This year there was no autographed version of the Red Sox set, which was annoying.  Topps in general seemed to have decided the Red Sox were not very popular this year.  It seemed like most of the sets had fewer Red Sox cards than usual.

I did get the low-numbered parallel which was a freebie in the set:


This is the red parallel of Alex Verdugo, numbered to just 10.  It was hoped that Verdugo would blossom into a star this season.  That did not really happen.  He is certainly a solid player, but he may never be a star.  Verdugo hit .289/.351/.426 with 13 home runs, 32 doubles and 63 RBIs.  He is more of a line-drive hitter than a power hitter, so I do not expect him to hit more than 25 home runs in the future, but a higher batting average would be helpful.

Here is the set:

1.  Alex Verdugo.

2.  Hunter Renfroe.  Renfroe turned in a great season for a guy that was non-tendered coming into the year.  I am going to have to consider him for the All Time One-Year Right Fielder based on his season.  He led the league in outfield assists and hit .259/.315/.501 with 31 home runs and 96 RBIs.  Only his error total and disappointing postseason kept this from being an even better season.  Renfroe was traded recently to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects.

3.  J.D. Martinez.  Martinez made a big comeback from his disappointing 2020 season and hit .286/.349/.518 with 28 home runs, 99 RBIs and led the Majors with 42 doubles.  Martinez decided not to opt out of the final year of his contract, so barring a trade he should be back.  He was an All Star this season.

4.  Marwin Gonzalez.  Gonzalez was a massive disappointment in Boston and was released early in the summer.  I always wished Boston had not traded him to Houston after selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft back in 2011.  He hit .202/.281/.285.  He did provide defensive versatility, but that was about it.  He was picked up by the Astros and had a couple big moments in the postseason.

5.  Xander Bogaerts.  Boston has a big decision to make with Bogaerts after the season.  Bogaerts has an opt-out in his contract.  It may be time to lock him up long term.  He hit .295/.370/.493 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs.  His season was a little slowed late due to COVID and his defense is sketchy, but there are not many shortstops that hit like him.  He won the Silver Slugger and was an All Star this season.

6.  Michael Chavis.  Chavis took another step backward in 2021.  He has not been able to match the potential he showed when he was first called up in 2019.  As a result, he was traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline for lefty reliever Austin Davis.  He hit just .190/.207/.342.  He hit just two home runs and struck out 32 times in 82 plate appearances.  He was very good with the Pirates, so we will see if he can be a productive Major Leaguer or not.

7.  Rafael Devers.  What is there to say about Devers?  He is the best hitter on the team, hitting .279/.352/.538 and leading the team with 38 home runs, 113 RBIs, 101 runs scored and 165 hits.  He is rough defensively and may need to switch positions.  He is starting to put together some impressive postseason statistics.  He has eight home runs in postseason play and is hitting .303/.382/.573.  Devers won the Silver Slugger and was an All Star this season.  Boston needs to extend him.

8.  Enrique Hernandez.  Hernandez was signed primarily to play second base and fill in in the outfield.  He ended up being one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.  He was also the team's primary leadoff hitter.  Hernandez hit .250/.337/.449 with 35 doubles, 20 home runs and 60 RBIs.  He ignited in the postseason, hitting .408 with five home runs and nine RBIs.

9.  Christian Vazquez.  Vazquez was disappointing after two straight impressive seasons at the plate.  He had some big moments though, particularly walking off Game Three of the ALDS against the Rays.  Vazquez hit .258/.308/.352 with six home runs and 49 RBIs.  He led the team with eight stolen bases, which says more about the team speed than Vazquez.

10.  Darwinzon Hernandez.  When healthy, Hernandez can be a lights-out reliever.  He is a tad too wild to really make a name for himself though.  Hernandez walked 31 batters in 40 innings pitched, but he also struck out 54.  On the season, he was 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA.  

11.  Chris Sale.  Sale came back from Tommy John surgery late in the season.  He was decent enough, but he still has a way to go before he resembles the great pitcher he was prior to 2019.  Sale pitched in nine games in 2021, going 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched.  He struck out 52 batters while walking 12.  

12.  Eduardo Rodriguez.  E-Rod managed to pitch the entire season after missing all of last season with complications from COVID.  He was a much better pitcher than his traditional pitching stats showed.  Rodriguez went 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA (3.32 FIP though) in 157.2 innings pitched.  He struck out 185 batters while walking 47.  Unfortunately, he left after the season to join the Tigers as a free agent.  I have always liked E-Rod and will miss him on this staff.

13.  Bobby Dalbec.  Dalbec started off slow but really picked things up down the stretch.  It remains to be seen what kind of player he will be, and Boston might not be too patient waiting for him to blossom if he continues to struggle.  They do have a first-baseman waiting in the wings in Triston Casas.  Dalbec hit .240/.298/.494 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs.  The power is real, but he struck out 156 times versus 28 walks in 453 plate appearances.

14.  Garrett Richards.  Richards had his moments, but he also had significant struggles.  He ended up filling a variety of roles throughout the season.  He made 22 starts in 40 games and also finished four games.  Richards had a record of 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA in 136.2 innings pitched.  He struck out 115 batters and walked 60.  He notched three saves.

15.  Tanner Houck.  Houck bounced between Worcester and Boston throughout the season but was generally impressive.  His record was 1-5, but he had a 3.52 ERA in 69 innings pitched.  He struck out 87 batters while walking 21.  Houck pitched in 18 games, starting 13 and finishing two.  He notched the first save of his Major League career.  

So that's the set.  In general, I was happy with this player selection.  Most of these players were big parts of the team going into the season.  I did note that Marwin Gonzalez was not initially in the set.  Topps was going to include Franchy Cordero instead.  Gonzalez ended up playing better than Cordero, which is REALLY saying something about how bad Cordero was in 2021.  Really the only noteworthy missing player here is Matt Barnes, who started the season as the closer and was an All Star.  Maybe he should have replaced Darwinzon Hernandez.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Project 70

I never got around to buying any of the Project 2020 cards from last year, even though Ted Williams was one of the subjects of the set.  I was not sure I would be buying any of the Project 70 cards either.  Prices were kind of high.  I also was not exactly blown away by the cards for quite awhile.  The first Red Sox card was #20, but the next one did not come until #148.  The set seemed very focused on Yankees, Dodgers and a couple of big-name stars.  There have to date, been only 24 Red Sox cards as compared to the over 150 Yankees cards.  That's just ridiculous.  

I decided I was going to look for lesser-known Red Sox stars players and interesting designs if I was going to get any.  And thus, the first card I got was #148: Bill Buckner

This card was designed by Ron English.  English had a couple of unfortunate designs early on with his Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra cards.  Buckner was his third and is actually a good-looking card.  I like the kind of water-color design here.  Plus, Buckner is a more inspired choice for a subject.  This is the only Buckner card in the entire set.  I always liked Buckner personally, but I was not watching baseball in 1986.  English was one of the artists who actually did a few Red Sox cards.  He also did cards of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and even Mookie Betts.  He also apparently really liked the 1970 Topps design.  All of his cards used that template.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Living Set and Turn Back the Clock

Unfortunately, with cards being hard to find on shelves in stores, the online sets are the best source of cards these days.  The problem with them is the price.  Cards are cheaper on Ebay, but still probably more expensive than they should be.  Nevertheless, I pick them up when the mood grabs me.

As the team's highest profile rookie, it is not surprising to see Bobby Dalbec all over the place, including in Living Set.  I still do not know how players are selected for this.  Seemingly at random, though there have been a few occasions this year where a Red Sox player got a card that felt inevitable.  This was one of those.  Dalbec made his Major League debut in 2020, playing in 23 games and hitting .263/.359/.600 with eight home runs.  He struggled early in 2021, but eventually came around to hit .240/.298/.494 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs.  Unfortunately, strikeouts are a big part of his game.  He fanned 156 times in 453 plate appearances and walked just 28 times.  If he is going to be successful in the Majors he either needs to increase his walk rate, decrease his strikeouts, or both.  Otherwise, he is basically another version of Will Middlebrooks.  Prodigious power, but unable to stick around because he just does not hit enough.  And he does not have much time either, Olympian Triston Casas is waiting in the wings.  I said some time ago that I thought Dalbec's most likely future is with another team.  I still believe that.  It would be great to be wrong.  We will see.

This is the enduring image I have of David Ortiz.  His speech in the game after the Boston Marathon bombing still gives me chills.  I am not even a Bostonian.  Ortiz meant so much to this team for so long.  It is hard to believe it has been five years since he last wore a Red Sox uniform.  Ortiz absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Perez Day Again


Yes, I kind of went through a period where I was snatching up a bunch of Martin Perez cards.  That is how much I liked him in 2020.  I am not going to talk too much in depth about him again.  I bought a lot of three parallels from 2021 Donruss, a set filled to the brim with various parallels.  These are the purple, orange and blue holo parallels.  I bought the Press Proof from a few days ago at around the same time as these.  

Friday, December 10, 2021

Topps Now Bonus: April 11, 2021

Yes, I bought the Road to Opening Day team set again this year.  There were a lot of new players on the team and the Topps Now team set featured a lot of them.  I will get to that set soon.

One of the benefits of buying that set are the bonus options.  I won't get into all of them, but when certain individual and team milestones are met, Topps churns out a bonus card that is automatically sent to people who bought the set.   

On April 11, J.D. Martinez blasted three home runs against Baltimore.  Martinez had a down season in 2020, so it was heartening to see him hitting so early in the season.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

2021 Topps Heritage Box Break

I cannot remember how many boxes this break was, but it was not enough to get much more than the base team set.

Here is the base set.  I usually look forward to Heritage due to the player selection.  Most of the really good players are short-printed and that is certainly the case here.  No Xander Bogaerts and no Rafael Devers here.

There are the requisite rookie cards here of Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck, as well as solid regulars like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Nathan Eovaldi.  Matt Barnes, Michael Chavis and Martin Perez are not completely outside-the-box yet are welcome additions.

But then, we have a few odd choices.  This is the only Red Sox card of Zack Godley, who pitched in just eight games for the Red Sox and went 0-4 with an unsightly 8.16 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28.2 innings pitched.  Godley was not picked up until July and left as a free agent after the season.  I am pretty surprised by his inclusion in this set.  He has never been a big name.  Chris Mazza or Nick Pivetta might have been better inclusions, but I am glad to add a card of Godley.  The other big surprise is Jose Peraza who was originally acquired to shore up second base.  Peraza was a big disappointment and eventually lost his job toward the end of the season.  He played in 34 games, hitting .225/.275/.342.  Peraza also left as a free agent after the season.  The player I most wanted to see in this set was Phillips Valdez.  He still has yet to appear in a set since joining the Red Sox.

And here is the only non-base card I received:

I have no idea why Colten Brewer, of all people, was short-printed.  Brewer was acquired by Boston to be a big part of the bullpen in 2019.  He was okay that season, but he had a rough season in 2020.  He pitched in eleven games, four as an opener as the Red Sox tried to patch together a rotation.  He had a 5.61 ERA and a record of 0-3.  He struck out 25 and walked 14 in 25.2 innings.  He pitched in just one game in 2021 and was cut loose after the season.   

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Time to Write About Martin Perez

Since I am showing off this card:

This is the Gold Press Proof numbered to five.  I really liked Perez in 2020, and he had some decent moments in 2021, but was on the mound during the disaster late in Game 4 of the ALCS.  Perez is a free agent and I think it is very unlikely that he will be back in Boston next season.  During his Red Sox tenure, Perez was 10-13 with a 4.65 ERA.  He struck out 143 and walked 64 in 176 innings pitched.

What I liked about Perez was how much he seemed to enjoy pitching in Boston.  He was active on social media and seemed to delight in interacting with fans.  He really seemed to like being in Boston.  And while he was pitching reasonably well, Boston fans loved him back.  But, sometime during 2021, that changed.  He was moved to the bullpen and had some decent moments there, but even that success was fleeting.     

Perez was one of my favorite pickups during the 2020 season, but it is likely time to move on.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 40: Bucky Harris

Years in Boston: 1934 (76-76)
Best Year in Boston: 1934 (76-76)
Bucky Harris was a manager for 29 years, compiling a lifetime record of 2,158-2,219.  Despite the bad record, he is in the Hall of Fame because of his managerial career.  Part of the reason for the bad record is the fact that he was the manager for the Washington Senators for 18 of those years over three separate stints.  He was the manager for them in 1924 when they won the World Series and 1925 when they lost the World Series.  He also managed the Yankees to a World Championship in 1947.  He also served stints with the Tigers and Phillies.

Harris played twelve seasons in the Majors, primarily with the Senators, for whom he was the player-manager.  His best season was in 1920 when he hit .300/.377/.381 with one home run and 68 RBIs.  His playing career was over before he made it to Boston in 1934.

The 1934 Red Sox were a team in transition.  Tom Yawkey was starting to populate the team with good players for the first time in several years.  Most notably 1934 was the year Lefty Grove was acquired by the Red Sox, joining Rick Ferrell from the season before.  The Red Sox finished 76-76 and ended up in fourth place.  It was the team's highest finish in years.  But the next season, Yawkey opened his pocketbook to bring in Joe Cronin, a player-manager and Harris was out.  Harris switched places with Cronin, managing the Senators again.

It is safe to say Harris is not in the Hall of Fame due to his term managing the Red Sox.  His plaque bears a Senators cap.

Throwback Thursday Tanner

Topps did Throwback Thursday a little differently this year, focusing on building sets over the course of a few weeks instead of one different set each week.  For my first pickup of the year, I grabbed this:

Tanner Houck was Boston's first round draft pick in 2017 and made his Major League debut in 2020.  He made the most of his brief call-up, going 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA, 21 strikeouts and nine walks in 17 innings pitched.  Naturally, this grabbed the attention of Topps and Houck appears in a lot of sets this year.

2021 saw Houck spend a significant amount of time in the minors.  He appeared in 18 games with Boston though, going 1-5 with a 3.52 ERA, striking out 87 and walking 21 in 69 innings.  He notched his first Major League save.  Houck is expected to be a big part of the pitching staff in 2022, whether that is in the rotation or bullpen remains to be seen. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

All Time One-Year Wonder: Closers

I am finally finishing this series.  I posted my team on Twitter recently, to some decent response.  Some arguments were made with a few of the selections, most notably around second base.  I will eventually do an update for some players from the last couple of years, including most likely a new right-fielder.

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.


After playing the 1951 season in the minors, Benton returned to the Majors for one last season with the Red Sox.  Benton had been a longtime star with the Detroit Tigers.  He was an All Star twice, in 1941 and 1942, and received MVP votes in 1941 and 1945.  He had his best seasons when he was primarily a starting pitcher, but he was used as a relief ace frequently as well.  The save was not an official statistic during his career, but he was credited with 17 to lead the Majors in 1940.  Benton also pitched for the Athletics and Indians prior to joining Boston.  The Red Sox picked him up from a minor league team in late June to provide some security in the bullpen.  Benton was used exclusively out of the bullpen by Boston, appearing in 24 games, finishing 17 of them, with no starts.  He had a record of 4-3 with a sparkling 2.39 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched.  He struck out 20 and walked 17 while notching six more saves.  He was fourth in the league in saves.  The right-hander finished his career with 66 saves.

Farr got a late start to his career but eventually found a home as a reliever for the Kansas City Royals.  After being supplanted as the closer by Jeff Montgomery he had his best season as a setup man, going 13-7 with a 1.98 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 127 innings.  He was signed by the Yankees after the season to replace the departed Dave Righetti as closer.  Farr was the Yankees' closer for three years, his best season coming in 1992 when he had 30 saves and a 1.56 ERA.  Farr started the 1994 season with Cleveland, but he struggled.  The Indians were a contending team in the strike-shortened season and needed a reliable closer.  The Red Sox, out of contention, sent similarly struggling Jeff Russell for Farr and Chris Nabholz.  Farr pitched in eleven games for the Red Sox, finishing four of them.  He had a record of 1-0, but a 6.23 ERA.  He pitched 13 innings, striking out eight batters with three walks.  It was Farr's last season in the Majors.

Aguilera put together a lengthy and successful career primarily as the closer for the Minnesota Twins.  He came up with the Mets and spent a few years there having some success as a starter before being traded to the Twins at the trading deadline in 1989 for Frank Viola.  He became the team's closer the next season.  He was an All Star for the first time and received MVP votes in the Twins' World Championship season in 1991.  He had a 2.35 ERA and 42 saves.  He was an All Star each of the next two seasons as well, saving 41 and then 34 games.  Aguilera was having another good season in 1995 for a Twins' team that was not going anywhere.  The Red Sox were in first place but had issues at closer with the largely unproven Ken Ryan.  Aguilera was the top reliever on the market and the Red Sox sent top prospect Frankie Rodriguez as well as J.J. Johnson to Minnesota to get the deal done.  Aguilera continued to be successful and solidified the bullpen, saving 20 games with a 2-2 record and a 2.67 ERA.  He struck out 23 and walked seven in 30.1 innings pitched.  Unfortunately, his final appearance with the Red Sox came in Game 1 of the ALDS when he allowed a game-tying home run to Albert Belle.  He returned to Minnesota the next season where the Twins made the bad decision to try to make him a starter again.  He returned to the bullpen the next season and spent a few more seasons as the closer for the Twins and Cubs.  Aguilera retired with 318 career saves.

In 2003 the Red Sox made the much-maligned and rather unsuccessful decision to go with a bullpen by committee instead of a set closer.  They acquired a number of live arms to try to pull this off, including Chad Fox.  Fox had never been a closer before but had a terrific season for the Brewers in 2001.  That season he appeared in 65 games with a record of 5-2 and a 1.89 ERA.  He struck out 80 batters, walking 36 in 66.2 innings and notched two saves.  Unfortunately, injuries cost him much of the 2002 season and he pitched in just three games.  He was signed as a low-cost, high-reward option in the bullpen by the Red Sox and was one of the leading choices for save situations.  It did not really work out.  Fox pitched in 17 games, finishing ten, with a 4.50 ERA and a record of 1-2.  He did notch three saves, a career high.  He struck out 19 batters but walked 17.  Fox was released in July and found his way to the Marlins where he was terrific.  He had a 2.13 ERA and had a role in the World Championship team's bullpen.  Fox pitched a few more years with the Marlins and Cubs but was not as successful.  

Another option the Red Sox had as an occasional closer in 2003 was more a little more successful.  Lyon had been picked up on waivers from the Blue Jays where he was used primarily as a starter.  Lyon pitched the entire 2003 season out of the bullpen.  Lyon became the primary option as the closer when the team abandoned the closer-by-committee, at least for a little while.  He saved nine games before Boston acquired Byung-Hyun Kim.  Lyon was traded to the Pirates shortly before the trading deadline in a deal for lefty reliever Scott Sauerbeck.  But the Pirates discovered he had an injury, and he was traded back to Boston along with starter Jeff Suppan for Freddy Sanchez.  Lyon never pitched a game for the Pirates organization.  He spent some time on the disabled list before coming back in September, but he had lost his set role.  For the season, Lyon pitched in 49 games, finishing 31.  He had a record of 4-6 with a 4.12 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 19 walks in 59 innings.  He ended up with just the nine saves.  After the season, Lyon was packaged along with Casey Fossum and a couple of minor leaguers to Arizona in the Curt Schilling deal.  Lyon pitched several more seasons and had years where he saved 20 or more games for the Diamondbacks and Astros.  He saved 79 games in his career.  

Once one of the best relievers in the game and the holder of the record of consecutive saves (84), Gagne was nearing the end of his career when he was acquired by the Red Sox.  The Canadian right-hander came up with the Dodgers and took over the closer role in 2002.  That season marked the beginning of three years of dominance in which he was an All Star three times and won the 2003 N.L. Cy Young Award.  That season he was 2-3 with a 1.20 ERA, 55 saves, 137 strikeouts and 20 walks in 82.1 innings pitched.  Unfortunately, his career was derailed by injuries in 2005 and he was let go prior to 2007.  The Rangers signed him, and he started to resurrect his career, saving 16 games with a 2.16 ERA prior to being traded to the Red Sox at the trading deadline.  Boston sent David Murphy and a couple prospects to Texas with the idea that Gagne would provide some backup to young closer Jonathan Papelbon down the stretch.  Unfortunately, Gagne was a disaster in Boston.  He blew three saves and did not actually notch a single save for the Red Sox.  He was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA, struck out 22 while walking nine in 18.2 innings, and he finished eleven of 20 games.  He was mostly relegated to mop-up duty the rest of the season and post-season.  After the season, he signed with the Brewers and accumulated ten more saves, but with a 5.44 ERA to wrap up his career.  He notched 187 saves in his career. 

The Red Sox had something of a rough pattern trading for closers for awhile.  Gagne cost them David Murphy.  Andrew Bailey cost them Josh Reddick.  Mark Melancon cost them Jed Lowrie.  Tyler Thornburg cost them Travis Shaw.  Carson Smith cost them Wade Miley.  The Craig Kimbrel deal finally snapped that string.  Joel Hanrahan was coming off of two consecutive All Star seasons with the Pirates, saving 76 games with a 2.24 ERA over the two years, when the Red Sox traded for him.  To get him, they gave up Melancon, who would go on to be a four-time All Star and is still playing, and a few prospects.  Hanrahan started the season off okay, but then got rocked in a couple of games, then went on the shelf with an injury that he would never make it back from.  His Red Sox record was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA, four saves and two blown saves.  He struck out five batters and walked six in 7.1 innings over nine games.  The trade was not a total loss since Brock Holt also came over in the deal, and luckily Boston signed Koji Uehara prior to the season to take over as closer.  Hanrahan never pitched in the Majors again.

After reading about these choices, was there ever any doubt?  Al Benton had a nice season, but the closer role was still largely undefined at his time.  The save was not even an official statistic yet.  It is sort of odd that not one of these guys lasted an entire season as the closer, though that is not really Rick Aguilera's fault as he was not even acquired until the trading deadline.  He made the most of his time there though, easily turning in a terrific season and helping the Red Sox to the A.L. East title.  I doubt they could have done it without him providing a weapon at the end of the game.  So yes, Aguilera is the best one-year closer in Red Sox history.   

2021 Donruss Case Break

My second case break of the year was 2021 Donruss.  

This first scan features most of the base cards.  The 1987 design was somewhat changed for one subset of this year's set.  Primarily retired players appeared with that design.  Both Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens appeared in the 1987 set as well.  There is a variation on the Clemens card.

Rafael Devers is the 2021 Donruss Diamond King for the Red Sox.  I was slightly surprised by this as Devers finished 12th on the team in WAR.  He hit .263/.310/.483 and led the team in home runs (11, tied with Xander Bogaerts), RBIs (43) and doubles (16, tied with Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez).  Verdugo was the WAR leader, hitting .308/.367/.478.  Bogaerts was probably the team's best player as he hit. 300/.364/.502 with 11 home runs, 28 RBIs and a team-leading eight stolen bases.

The big surprise in the base set is Martin Perez.  Perez was one of the more consistent starting pitchers for the team in 2020.  He still was not great though, with a record of 3-5 and a 4.50 ERA.  I guess Donruss wanted to include a pitcher, but Nathan Eovaldi was better, and he does not appear.

Finishing up the base set are 1987 subset cards of David Ortiz and a random appearance by Jonathan Papelbon, and the Rated Rookie card of Bobby Dalbec.  Nice to see Papelbon get some appearances.  Finishing off the break are some parallels of various cards.  I am pretty happy to add Perez and Verdugo parallels.

And wrapping things up: more parallels.  Clemens definitely took the lead in this break.  He also has the best card of the break, this parallel numbered to just 75 at the end there.  All in all, not a bad break.  No inserts, autos or relics, but lots of parallels.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

2021 Topps Heritage Blaster

This year's Heritage saw the brand re-use the 1972 Topps design.  That's not the best design out there, but interesting enough.  I managed to find a blaster at one point early on.  Here's the Red Sox:

1.  Alex Verdugo.  Verdugo had a decent season this last year, but has some room to grow as a player before he reaches his full potential.  Barring a shocking trade, it appears he will be given that opportunity in 2022.  

2.  Jackie Bradley Jr.  One of the best features of the 1972 set was the In Action subset, which was resurrected here.  I am happy to see JBJ back with Boston, having just been acquired in a deal with the Brewers a few days ago.  Given his offensive struggles, there is no guarantee he will be a starter, but his defense will always make him an intriguing option.  He was one of my favorite players, and I am glad he's back, even though he cost Hunter Renfroe.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Rule 5 Draft Success

We were supposed to have the Rule 5 Draft on December 9, but due to the lockout, that will not happen.  Boston had left a couple of decent prospects exposed and I was a little concerned Gilberto Jimenez or Thad Ward would be taken, but that will not happen now.  2021 saw the emergence of easily the best Rule 5 pick Boston had ever selected in Garrett Whitlock, but 2020 saw a decent player as well:

Jonathan Arauz was originally signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent.  A few years later, he was included with Ken Giles in a deal to the Astros.  The Red Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2019 and he managed to spend the entire season on the roster.  Arauz played in 25 games, primarily playing second base, but also appearing at shortstop and third.  He hit .250/.325/.319 with a homer, two doubles and nine RBIs.  He started 2021 in the minors.  The season was not nearly as impressive though.  Arauz remains in the Red Sox system, primarily as organizational depth for now.  The possibility exists that he could be the primary utility man in 2021, depending on how Boston deals with Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo.

Friday, December 3, 2021

2021 Topps Series 1 Case Break

I mentioned previously that due to the inability to find cards in stores in my area, that I have been buying case breaks of the Red Sox.  This was the first one of 2021, Topps Series 1.


Here in the first scan, we have the base team set and an insert of hopeful 2022 HOFer David Ortiz.  It is kind of a small team set this year.  We have the oligatory hot rookie card of Bobby Dalbec, who was all over the place in sets this year, and a few stars and regular players.  The big surprise here is the inclusion of Ryan Brasier.  Middle relievers do not get a lot of cards typically and Brasier went into this season without a clear role and injured.  Andrew Benintendi was traded just prior to Spring Training, so it is not too odd that he is pictured with Boston.

This scan shows off a bunch of other inserts and parallels.  Those Stars in Service cards are kind of strange.  Is Pedro playing volleyball?  The big card of the break is the autograph card of Rule 5 draftee Jonathan Arauz.  I was kind of surprised at his inclusion in sets.  Boston plucked him from the Astros and kept him around all season.  His defensive versatility gave him enough value to stick around all year and stay in the system.  He even made it back to the Majors for a little bit this season.  I am not sure if he will ever be a regular Major Leaguer, but he had some moments.