Well, New Year’s usually signals a few things in the baseball universe. The Hot Stove Season is reaching its stretch run. The thought of Spring Trading begins to warm the soul. And perhaps more controversially, The Hall of Fame announcement is upon us.
Every year, we look to the BBWAA to give us a reason to cheer, p!ss and moan or just grit our teeth and throw up our hands with the whole damn process. After all, the guys you love don’t get their recognition, the guys you hate seem to ‘slide’ in and guys you just couldn’t care about grab some spotlight. But we’re used to it.
However, in the last few years, the landscape has changed. The Steroid Era has shed a new light upon players who for lack of ‘super’ stardom, media attention and just plain ‘average’ consistency were overlooked, passed-up or underappreciated for their efforts. Players such as Ron Santo (finally, but posthumously) have received their Veterans Committee due, while players like Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines have been on the outside looking in. With PED playboys like Big Mac, Sammy Sosa, Palmero and Jeff Bagwell (rightly or not, the shadow covers him) taking up space on the ballot, it let’s periphery guys like Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Lee Smith and Jack Morris get a little more time in the thought process over all. Unfortunately, Donnie Baseball and Murphy were superstars who produced consistently but for a shorter span of time (unfortunately, the beloved Luis Tiant may fall into this category) . Smith was a journeyman who, though possessing all the qualities of a big, menacing closer, seems to have been hurt by his many stops around the league and having no definitive ‘superstar moment’. Jack Morris… well, he’s a borderline a Hall of Famer. Yes, he won 20 plus games three times and played on World Series winning teams, catching media spotlight fire with the ’91 Twins & ’92 Jays for example, but he wasn’t the cog that ran the gears.
Then there’s Edgar Martinez. Easily one of the better hitters of his era (amidst the Steroid Era) who may have more than one glaring mark against him. First, he played in Seattle (yes, so did Griffey Jr., A-Rod and Randy Johnson… but they left), not a media market or a perennial contender. Second, and most importantly, he played the majority of his career as a Designated Hitter. Oh, my error, the Designated Hitter. A standard set so high, the annual award for best DH in the AL is the Edgar Martinez Award. But, DH doesn’t count, it’s an imaginary position created by the Wizard of Oz (you know, a designated spot in the batting order to allow aging, over-the-hill superstars who couldn’t field a position some twilight time to earn a paycheck and pad the HOF stats) and doesn’t deserve consideration. They’re part timers. A pinch-hitter who gets off the bench four or five times a day. Who cares if he produces HOF numbers, right?
So, let’s take a look at one of the most under-appreciated members of the Boston Red Sox: Dwight Evans. (keep in mind these are his totals during his 19 year tenure with the Scarlett Hose. Dewey finished his career with a one year stint in Baltimore.)
- Games played: 2505 Rank: 2nd (1st: Yaz / 3rd Ted)
- Hits: 2373 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th Boggs)
- Average: .272 Rank: Outside top 10 ( Yaz .285 / Doerr .288)
- RBI: 1346 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Doerr)
- HR: 379 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Ortiz*)
- Runs: 1435 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Ted / 5th: Rice)
- Base on Balls: 1337 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Yaz / 4th: Boggs)
- OPS: .842 Rank: Outside top 10 (Yaz has an .841 / Rice .854)
So, looking at the numbers, we see obvious questions and answers to the argument. He is, for the most part, sandwiched between teammates who are enshrined in Cooperstown (Captain Carl, Jim Ed., Boggs) and legendary HOF’ers like Ted and Bobby Doerr. The second half of his career was statistically more productive than the first and was consistently so until his retirement. During years when players begin winding down, Dewey was in cruise control and producing at a steady clip.
Was he overshadowed? An integral member of the 1975 team, he was a lesser star than Yaz, Tiant, Pudge, Lee and The Goldust Twins. After Lynn and Fisk went West, Tiant let go, Yaz retired and guys like Eck and Lansford come and gone, it was Dewey who came into his own offensively while continuing his defensive excellence. Again, superstars surrounded him. Rice, Hurst, Boggs Buckner and Clemens. Evans simply continued to perform.
During the 1980′s (the latter half of his MLB career which officially began in 1972) in his playing age years of 28 (1980) through age year 37 (1989):
- 3 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Hits.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Doubles.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in RBI.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in HR, leading the league in 1981.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in OPS% , leading the league twice.
- 6 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Runs scored, leading the league in 1984.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Bases on Balls, leading the league three times.
Evans appeared on the AL MVP ballot 5 times (all in the 1980’s) with 4 times placing in the top 10. Finished 3rd over-all in 1981 behind winner Rollie Fingers and Ricky Henderson.
8 Gold Gloves. 3 All-Star Games. 2 Silver Sluggers.
His lifetime WAR (wins above replacement) is 61.8 (Mind you, this currently ranks 141st ALL TIME in MLB)
Looking at his basic stats or his Sabermetric stats place him in an above average category. Dwight was included on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 1997 (5.9%), 1998 (10.4%) and 1999 (3.6%) before dropping off due to insufficient support under the official rules of balloting (under 5% in a given year or reaching 15th year on ballot). His election, like that of Ron Santos’, would be a Veterans committee pick. Currently a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Dwight’s number 24 (originally 40 as a rookie) is still in circulation.
To borrow a phrase from a slightly popular local music group…. It is indeed the same old song and dance, just different dance partners. Or to put in easier terms, “Same sh!t, different day”.
Anyone who is a ‘real‘ fan of the Red Stockings, meaning a member of the Nation since the dark days long before 2004, already know what all of this is. Red Sox ownership in their version of Spin Control. Sure, their Doctors of Spin are the equivalent of a mentally defective monkey humping a baseball but they apparently get the job done.
Regimes change, the excuses stay the same.
Has there been a need for this nuclear warfare in the aftermath of ‘The Collapse’? Of course not. Francona fell on the sword, took the blame and left town. Ah, but he do it in the way he was told to? Apparently not. Tito alluded to the problems which arose in the clubhouse (which the owners also alluded to) and the fact he was tuned out… but then dropped that little ticking time bomb of “I wasn’t sure the owners had my back…” And the Mass Destruction of Terry Francona had begun. Sinfully Disgraceful may be the only way to put it. Unnamed sources, personal matters… all disgusting. Of course they’re unnamed sources, they’re rats running about the sinking ship on fire trying to burn whatever they can for their masters in hopes of keeping their job once the flames are put out and the ship is righted. And the press? Using this fairly unconfirmed personal information about Tito’s mental health, medication and then his unfortunately distressed marriage? Well, the Boston press has been heavy-handed and taking liberties ever since Paul Revere proclaimed that little warning about the oncoming British. Especially the Boston Sports Press, which is a blessing and a curse as they are the best at what they do from both sides of the spectrum. And whose to say that even if the Sox hadn’t collapsed, if they made a decent run or perhaps won it all that Theo wasn’t leaving? The Cubs think he’s a hot commodity following the epic September fail? Imagine what hot sh!t Theo would have been if they’d won? This has been coming (remember the off-season back in the ’05-’06 days when he quit the job, took a vacation and then came back? It was because he was tired of having his toes stepped on…), it just didn’t have to end like this.
Or if history has shown us, maybe it did.
Let’s look at Boston’s divorce history (Bill Buckner, Manny and Grady Little aside). Pedro and Derek Lowe and even Johnny Damon pale in comparison to that nutty, paranoid Nomar. Then there’s Mo Vaughn and his drunken, truck flippin’ hung-over stripper lovin’ self. Wade Boggs defection to the Bronx Zoo was fairly quiet compared to The Rocket who was a drunk, fat bastard in the twilight of his career (remind you, he hadn’t hit the juice yet… and is still a bastard) or even the ousting of Joe Morgan. Dewey had a fairly amicable split for an in-house legend, unlike Jim Rice or Yaz. The 1970’s and early ’80’s was basically a huge divorce gone bad… Bill Lee, George Scott, Fergie Jenkins, Louis Tiant, Eck and let’s not forget Pudge Fisk. Of course the Patron Saint of the Red Sox, Johnny Pesky, could tell you how complimentary everyone was when Teddy Ballgame left town. Not cause he was here but because he was Ted’s friend and had a front row seat. (I’ll omit Babe Ruth because most of his behavior was, in fact, dead on juvenile delinquent true.)
Notice a lot of these names… they’re part of the lore. All easily recognized by one name. Ted. Fisk. Yaz. Rice. Rocket. Nomar. Pedro. Theo. Tito. The Red Sox are the embodiment of that old adage, “You build your heroes up just to tear them down.” But they’re hardly alone.
So, to David Ortiz (yeah, I’ll say it) and all you bandwagon Yankees fans (because the actual fans already know how it works) who want to remind us of the class and swagger a dynasty carries… f*@% you. Stop trying to take the ‘high road’ by ignoring the Steinbrenner Era or the legacy the Sons of Steinbrenner have already forged. Ask Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Joe Torre or most recently Mo Rivera or ‘Mister Yankee’ himself Derek Jeter. Yeah, the ‘Bombers have never had drama or been a soap opera… jacka$$.
Are the Sox still an elite team? Yes. Do they still have the talent to contend? Yes. Do they still have an ownership group committed to winning? No wins, no money.. so Yes. Is it time to change the ‘make-up’ of the team. Yes. But these are matters, some of them possibly drastic, best saved for the GM and field Manager… oh, wait.
I think at the end of the day, all the real fan can do is wish Theo all the best in Chicago (we’ll see you next season at Wrigley) and thank both he and Tito for everything they did to bring two WS titles home. Same to a number of faces from the wonderful October of 2004 which may be joining them… Papi, Wake and Tek.
Same Old Song and Dance.
With all this talk of Retired numbers, Honored numbers and such… how about a brief lesson on the history of baseball’s uniforms with a thanks to Wikipedia.
A baseball uniform is a type of uniform worn by baseball players, and by some non-playing personnel, such as field managers and coaches. It is worn to indicate the person’s role in the game and — through the use of logos, colors, and numbers — to identify the teams and their players, managers, and coaches.
The New York Knickerbockers were the first baseball team to use uniforms, taking the field on April 4, 1849, in pants made of blue wool, white flannel shirts (jerseys) and straw hats. The practice of wearing a uniform soon spread, and by 1900, all major league teams had adopted them. By 1882, most uniforms included stockings, which covered the leg from foot to knee, and had different colors that reflected the different baseball positions. In the late 1880s, the Detroit Wolverines and Washington Nationals of the National League and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association were the first to wear striped uniforms.
Caps, or other types of headgear with eyeshades, have been a part of baseball uniforms from the beginning. Baseball teams often wore full-brimmed straw hats or no cap at all since there was no official rule regarding headgear. Completing the baseball uniform are cleats and stockings, both of which have also been around for a long time.
By the end of the 19th century, teams began the practice of having two different uniforms, one for when they played at home in their own baseball stadium and a different one for when they played away (on the road) at the other team’s ballpark. It became common to wear white pants with a white color vest at home and gray pants with a gray or solid color vest when away. Most modern teams also have one or more alternate uniforms, usually consisting of the primary or secondary team color on the vest instead of the usual white or gray. Teams on occasion will also wear throwback uniforms.
Traditionally home uniforms have displayed the team name on the front, while away uniforms have displayed the name of the city (or state) that the team is from. There are many exceptions to that rule, however.
The earliest photographic evidence of the use of uniform numbers comes from a 1909 Chicago Daily News picture of pitching great José Mendez. In the photograph, Mendez is seen in his Cuban Stars uniform with a number “12” on his left sleeve. Inspired by hockey’s and football’s use of uniform numbers, the Cleveland Indians became the first big league club to experiment with numbered uniforms when they took the field at League Park in Cleveland, on June 26, 1916, donning large numerals on their left sleeves. The experiment lasted just a few weeks that season and, after a brief trial the following year, was abandoned altogether.
The first MLB game to have both teams wear numbers on their jerseys was Indians vs Yankees May 13, 1929.
While some players will wear several numbers throughout their careers as they move from team to team, others have become so attached to a specific number for some reason (including superstition), that try to acquire it as they join a new club.
In some cases, the number is available on a player’s new club. Other times, the number will already be in use by another member of that team (or sometimes retired). When this occurs, the player will occasionally ask the other player to change numbers, in order to surrender that number to the newcomer. Some players holding a number in such a case will voluntarily make such a change, while others may need to be “bribed” in order to do so. For example, when Rickey Henderson was traded to the Blue Jays in 1993, he paid new teammate Turner Ward $25,000 for the #24 that Henderson had worn throughout much of his career, and that Ward had been wearing at the time. In contrast, when Mitch Williams joined the Phillies in 1991, he acquired his old #28 from John Kruk in exchange for $10 and two cases of beer.
Some players, who are unable to get the number they had on their previous team, will obtain a number close in succession. For example, Roger Clemens wore #21 during the first 15 years of his career with the Red Sox and Blue Jays, and during his college days at Texas. Upon Clemens’ arrival in New York, he reportedly asked long-time Yankee outfielder Paul O’Neill to surrender his #21, but O’Neill refused. Though he would eventually opt for #22, Clemens initially reversed his beloved #21, and wore #12. Clemens continued to wear #22 upon signing with his hometown Houston Astros in 2004 and, upon resigning with the Yankees, Robinson Canó, owner of #22 at the beginning of the 2007 season, moved to #24 in anticipation of the Yankees possibly re-signing Clemens, leaving #22 available for Clemens.
In their first career games, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis and White Sox pitcher Joe Horlen did not have jersey numbers.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Gabe Kapler also played a game with a blank jersey, though it that case the Tigers were playing the final game at Tiger Stadium and the players were honoring the famous Tigers in each position. In Kapler’s case he was honoring Ty Cobb, whose career pre-dated uniform numbers.
A team will sometimes retire a uniform number so that future players and coaches cannot wear those numbers with that team. Only the player with the retired number can wear that number if he returns to that team as a player or coach. The first Major League Baseball player to have his number retired was Lou Gehrig (#4). #4 and #5 have each been retired by 8 teams, more than any other number. The Yankees have retired a total of 16 numbers, more than any other team. The highest player uniform number to be retired was Carlton Fisk’s #72, but the Cardinals retired #85 in honor of their one-time owner August Busch, Jr.. Though he never wore a uniform, that is how old he was at the time of the honor. The Cleveland Indians retired the #455 in 2001 in honor of “the fans”, to commemorate the then-longest home sellout streak ever (although MLB does not allow any team to issue three-digit uniform numbers).
Eight players and one manager, Casey Stengel, have had their numbers retired with more than one team. Nolan Ryan had two different numbers (#30 and #34) retired between three different teams. Fisk’s #27 from the Red Sox and #72 from the White Sox are both retired, as are Reggie Jackson’s #9 and #44, respectively by the A’s and Yankees.
The Toronto Blue Jays do not retire numbers, but rather have an alternative method of honoring their players called the ‘Level of Excellence’.
In 1997, Major League Baseball, for the first time ever, made a Major League-wide retirement of a number, when #42 could not be issued to any new players, having been retired in honor of Jackie Robinson, although all players who currently wore the number upon the mass retirement of #42, such as Mo Vaughn and Butch Huskey of the Red Sox and Mets, were allowed to keep it under a grandfather clause if they were wearing the number in honor of Jackie Robinson. The only player who still wears #42 is Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Robinson played (as a Brooklyn Dodger), had already retired the number in 1972 after Robinson’s death.
However, the #42 would be worn by a number of players other than Rivera in 2007, which marked the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s first appearance in Major League Baseball (the event that broke the sport’s 20th-century color line). Before the season, then-Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. asked Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig for permission to wear #42 on April 15, the anniversary date of Robinson’s historic game. Both gave their approval, and Selig later ruled that any player who wished to wear #42 on that date could do so.