Tagged: Derek Jeter

Nomar: the Hall of Fame career that wasn’t

From: The Boston Globe

Pedro HOF PresserThe drumbeat of Pedro Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy resounded with the same air of anticipation and inevitability that accompanied a two-strike count when he occupied his stage at Fenway Park. The opportunity to reflect on his career is as much visceral and emotional as it is statistical; to remember Martinez on the mound is to recall a spectacle rarely matched, the unusual experience in which all parties – fans, hitters, the pitcher himself – knew that greatness and artistry were transpiring.

Yet for a time, as brilliant as Martinez was, he did not stand alone inRed Sox Spring Training Boston atop a baseball Olympus. For a time, Martinez enjoyed a peer whose performances nearly matched the pitcher for brilliance. Yet the fact that Nomar Garciaparra once occupied the same rarefied air as Martinez is now a largely forgotten footnote to a pre-championship era in Red Sox history.

Indeed, on a day when Martinez garnered more than 91 percent of votes from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for a landslide first-ballot election, Garciaparra just barely gleaned the 5 percent of votes needed to stay on the ballot beyond his first year of eligibility. In the late-1990s, the idea that Garciaparra wouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame seemed unfathomable.

He was as iconic a presence in many ways as Martinez, the stands at Fenway Park blanketed in equal measure by fans wearing No. 5 and 45, a shared tribute to the pitcher with boundless self-confidence based on an unmatched pitch mix and the shortstop with a million superstitions and quirks, who winged the ball across the diamond with a signature cross-body, sidearm delivery and who displayed a preternatural ability to hit the snot out of the ball.

Number 5

Garciaparra was a force like few others in the game’s history. Between 1997 and 2003 – when he amassed a Rookie of the Year trophy, finished in the top five in AL MVP voting five times (topping out at second in 1998), made five All-Star teams, won consecutive batting titles with marks of .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 (becoming the first righthanded hitter to win back-to-back batting titles since Joe DiMaggio) – he donned the mantle of greatness.

“From 1997 to 2003, Nomar offensively, in the batter’s box, was just a different animal than most. It screamed Hall of Famer,” said Garciaparra’s former teammate and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni. “In 2000, I’ve never seen anyone barrel up balls on the consistent basis he did that year. That was the most legit .372 I’ve ever seen in my life.

Nomar on SI

“He would go 2-for-5 with two lineouts. It was ridiculous. As far as the barrel-up rate, it was probably more like 75 percent of the balls he hit were on the barrel. It was just preposterous what he did that year. Everybody watching him would say the same exact thing: ‘I’ve never seen a guy barrel up the ball more than him.’

“I’ve seen his bats. He’s very superstitious, but I’d see him go for a year with two or three bats. You’d pick one of them up, his gamer. The ball mark – he used brown maple – the ball mark, there wasn’t anything on the label and there wasn’t anything on the end of the bat. Everything was within probably three inches of the barrel, every single mark that the ball made on contact. You could tell he used it for about two months. … It was unbelievable.”

It was the sort of skill set that permitted Garciaparra to commune with baseball legends. Ted Williams was mesmerized by the shortstop, believing that he possessed the skills to become his successor as a .400 hitter, a player who hit for average, displayed 30-homer power and a skilled baserunner who often delivered double-digit stolen base totals.

Nomar Turn Back the Clock“Nomar was a uniquely gifted player, a six-time All-Star and two-time batting champ. He followed another great righthanded hitter, Joe DiMaggio. That’s an extreme, unique combination, plus he played a skill position at shortstop,” recalled Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who occupied the same role with the Red Sox for most of Garciaparra’s big league tenure in Boston. “He had all the skills [to be a Hall of Famer]. He got to the big leagues quickly, won the Rookie of the Year, won a couple of batting titles early in his career. It was just a matter of whether he could stand the test of time.”

He couldn’t, of course. Though Garciaparra came back in startling fashion from a 2001 season lost largely to wrist surgery with a pair of All-Star campaigns in 2002 and 2003, he suffered an Achilles injury during spring training in 2004 that set in motion both the end of his Red Sox career and represented the starting point of a late-career crumble.

Still, on a day that could have marked a formal closing of Cooperstown’s doors to him, it’s worth remembering a time when it seemed like Garciaparra was going to knock on the Hall’s gates, to remember a Hall of Fame-caliber peak that lacked the requisite longevity for enshrinement.

Garciaparra had an .882 career OPS, the best of all-time by a shortstop who spent at least half his career at the game’s most demanding position with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. How good is an .882 OPS for a shortstop? It’s better than Hall of Fame shortstops Arky Vaughan (.859), Honus Wagner (.858), Joe Cronin (.857), Barry Larkin (.815), Hughie Jennings (.797), Lou Boudreau (.795),Cal Ripken (.788) and Robin Yount (.772). Derek Jeter achieved an .882 OPS in just three of his 20 seasons.

Top shortstop career OPS
Based on minimum 5,000 plate appearances and more than 50% games played at shortstop.
Nomar Garciaparra                                                   0.882
Hanley Ramirez                                                         0.873
Arky Vaughan                                                             0.859
Joe Cronin                                                                   0.857
Honus Wagner                                                            0.853
Derek Jeter                                                                  0.817
Barry Larkin                                                                0.815
Vern Stephens                                                             0.815
Joe Sewell                                                                    0.804
Carlos Guillen                                                              0.798
DATA: baseball-reference.com

Of course, league context is important, since Garciaparra thrived during the Nintendo Numbers era. But even relative to his league, he stood out from most of the Hall of Fame pack as measured by OPS+ (OPS relative to the league average, adjusted for parks, in which a 100 OPS+ is average). Among Hall of Fame shortstops, Garciaparra ranks only behind Wagner (151 OPS+) and Vaughan (136 OPS+), well ahead of Larkin (116), Jeter (115), Yount (115), Ripken (112) and Alan Trammell (110).

Nomar The Cub

The crux of Garciaparra’s irrelevance in the Hall of Fame conversation is the brevity of his stardom. He was a singular force from 1997 to 2003, but while he remained a passably productive hitter after that peak, posting a .291/.343/.446 line with a roughly league-average OPS+ of 102, he averaged just 84 games over the last six years of his career from 2004-09.

Nomar the Dodger

He fell off a cliff rather than enjoying a gradual decline, and ended his career with just 6,116 plate appearances. There are position players in the Hall of Fame with fewer plate appearances, but none who played after 1957 (the last season of three-time MVP Roy Campanella’s career). His 44.2 career WAR (as tabulated by Baseball-Reference.com) wouldn’t be the lowest ever by a position player with a plaque in Cooperstown, but no position player who has played since Bill Mazeroski (retired in 1972 with 36.2 WAR) has been enshrined.

Nomar the Athletic at Fenway

Still, the cavalier dismissal of his Hall of Fame case (particularly in light of the 10-vote limit at a time when a PED-era traffic jam has created an electoral mess) belies the time when Garciaparra clearly represented one of the game’s greats, when he and Pedro represented the same sort of first-name luminaries in Boston and the game.

Nomar Garciaparra“I knew when I was playing against a Hall of Famer or playing with one. It was just a step above. And there’s no question that he was that,” said Merloni. “If he had two more Nomar-type years and maybe a couple more after [2003], or three more years, I don’t think there’s a question that he’s a Hall of Fame-type of talent. There’s no question that he was a Hall of Famer in his heyday. He just wasn’t there long enough.”

The fact that his career won’t conclude in the Hall does not diminish the idea that Garciaparra enjoyed a historic start to his career. And at a time when Martinez rightly will take his bows, it’s worth remembering the teammate whose career once merited an almost-equal measure of awe, and whose not-quite-Hall-worthy career now stands as a monument to the great separator of durability and longevity.

Alex Rodriguez: What If..?

In Comic Books they are known as ‘What If?’ (Marvel) issues or ‘Elseworld’ (DC) tales, taking the established character out of their established norm and seeing what would have or could have happened if….

What If 31

A decade later, we revisit called-off engagement between Rodriguez and Boston

From: Gordon Edes

They rank among the great what-might-have-been stories in Red Sox history.

What if an organization with a history of racial intolerance had given more than a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson or listened to the urgings of a scout named George Digby to sign a young outfielder named Willie Mays?

Jackie Robinson Red Sox

What if Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had, in the cold light of morning, decided to follow through on the trade arranged over drinks the night before with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, one in which the Sox would have swapped Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? (Note: This deal also was scuttled due to the Yankees reluctance to include a young catching prospect named Yogi Berra.)

Teddy and Joe D

And what if the Red Sox had succeeded in their audacious effort 10 years ago to acquire Alex Rodriguez, generally acknowledged as the best player in the game at the time, from the Texas Rangers?

Ten years ago Monday, Rangers owner Tom Hicks declared that effort “totally, totally dead.” He would soon send a letter to Rangers season-ticket holders pledging that Rodriguez would be the team’s shortstop on Opening Day 2004. Then, on Valentine’s Day, he traded him to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees.

A-Rod dissapointment

With A-Rod now shamed and a shell of his former self, a player who went from being championed by the game’s ruling class to pariah, it is easy to regard Boston’s failed courtship as a blessing, a disaster averted.

But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Sox — and A-Rod — were bitterly disappointed that it did not come to pass, this deal first proposed by Hicks to the Red Sox within days of their crushing Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.

A-Rod Texas presserHicks was looking to get out from under the game’s biggest contract, a $250 million, 10-year deal that in its first three years had not lifted the Rangers out of mediocrity. He asked for Nomar Garciaparra in return. The Sox countered by offering Manny Ramirez, whom they had placed on irrevocable waivers only weeks before without any takers.

With that deal in play, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made another at the winter meetings, arranging to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. That second trade was contingent on the A-Rod deal being approved, but when Epstein entered the hotel room of his new manager, Terry Francona, and rattled off a prospective lineup that included Johnny Damon, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Ordonez, on knees made unsteady by multiple surgeries, Francona climbed onto his bed and did an impromptu dance.

That same night, Epstein slipped out of the meetings in New Orleans and flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez and his then-wife, Cynthia. Owner John W. Henry had already met with the couple in Miami, granted extraordinary permission to do so by commissioner Bud Selig, who had run into Rodriguez at Sammy Sosa’s party in the Dominican Republic and listened to A-Rod earnestly express his desire to play for the Sox.

I was working for the Boston Globe at the time, and I, too, went to Miami to meet with Rodriguez. I liked him. He was smart, engaging and gracious. I believe he really wanted to play for the Sox. I had seen him when he’d made his major-league debut at Fenway as an 18-year-old from Miami, and I was impressed with his appreciation of Boston and what it would mean to his legacy if he would be the one who led the Sox to a World Series title after 86 years without one.

The deal was complicated and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. The Red Sox, for luxury tax reasons, wanted to reduce the value of Rodriguez’s contract by $4 million a year, a total of $28 million over the remaining seven years of his deal. That was a nonstarter for the union. Any reduction, the union lawyers said, would require “added benefits” from the Red Sox — like the Mets gave Mo Vaughn when they added two more teams to the no-trade provisions in his contract in exchange for a $500,000 reduction. The Sox tried to sell the union on an “added benefit” of allowing A-Rod the chance to opt out of his contract after two years and become a free agent, a proposal ridiculed by the union, which argued that A-Rod, because his contract was so much more than anyone else’s, probably would have been looking at a pay cut. They made a counteroffer the Sox deemed unacceptable.

Hicks, meanwhile, was seeking some immediate financial help and not only wanted the Sox to assume A-Rod’s contract, but pay a portion of Ramirez’s deal so that he could pursue some pitching in free agency. That was not going to happen. But on his own, A-Rod contacted Hicks and offered to pay, out of his own pocket, the $15 million Hicks wanted from the Sox. That’s how badly he wanted to come to Boston.

By the end of talks, there were bruised feelings on all sides. Henry was upset that Nomar comes HomeHicks had made little effort to keep negotiations quiet. Hicks was furious with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, to the point that Tom Werner became the Sox point man with the Texas owner. Lucchino and union lawyer Gene Orza took whacks at each other. Garciaparra never recovered from the shock of learning that the Sox had sought A-Rod, even as Henry later explained he initially thought that they could have co-existed. And A-Rod resigned himself to remaining with the Rangers.

The upshot, of course, is that the Sox won two World Series in the next four seasons without A-Rod, and won their third in the 10 seasons in which Rodriguez has been a Yankee. And A-Rod alienated his longtime friend Derek Jeter, the first of many soap operas that would mark his time in New York. And then came the PED revelations.

Ortiz A-RodThat part of the story, sadly, would have been no different had he played for the Red Sox instead of the Yankees. But the rest of it? Ten years later, I still believe it could have gone a different way for A-Rod in Boston. Instead of a wary Jeter, he would have been embraced by David Ortiz, who remains one of his good friends in the game. He also was very close with Ordonez, who would have combined with A-Rod to more than compensate for the loss of right-handed power Ramirez represented.

He would have remained at short, where his value to the club would have been greater than it was to the Yankees at third.

In his first five seasons with the Yankees, through the 2008 season, Rodriguez hit 208 home runs. No one in baseball hit more. And Fenway is much kinder to right-handed hitters than Yankee Stadium. He was one of 10 players who had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in that time. He averaged 6.8 in WAR in that time.

Call me naïve, but I think Boston would have brought out the best in him, and he would have been loved for it.

A-Rod befuddledWe’ll never know, of course. And in this town, I am well aware, that’s hardly a popular thought. But there’s a part of me that has never forgotten the shining promise of that 18-year-old and laments that it has ended the way it has.

 _____

On a personal note: I was at that same game, just a few rows up and sitting between home and the visitors dugout (best seats I ever scored) for that Fenway game where an 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez debuted for Seattle.  I sat close enough to see all the awe and wonder on the face of a kid who was walking out into a Cathedral to take his first big league swings.  My how times changed as he was on his way to Texas!

Before the PED’s, before the even more inflated ego and sense of entitlement, I was not a fan of the proposed trade.  I was a Nomar guy.  I didn’t dislike A-Rod at that point, I just disliked the perceived greed and the monster contract and the handcuffs that came with it.  How could you as a team hit the free agent market for pitching and additions under those circumstances?  Yeesh!  Sure the Yankees did it and eventually put a World Series ring on A-Rod’s finger, but we won two in the same amount of time and of course just added the third.

A-Rod TekWould or could any of that have happened if we found A-Rod under the tree for Christmas of 2003?  Maybe a ring… two at an outside chance?  Luckily, this is one of those Scarlett Hose / Bronx Bombers hypotheticals we don’t have to put too much emphasis on… after all, we came out for the better.

‘Tis The Season…Tick.. Tock..Tick..Tock

Let the clock-watching, the countdown or however you want to refer to it begin!

October is closing in fast, and that means the 2nd Season.

MLB team roster

Red Sox record: 87-58

Games left: 17

Lead in AL East: 7½ games over Tampa Bay (78-64)

Magic number to win division: 12

What does magic number mean? If Tampa Bay wins all 20 of its remaining games, Boston would have to win 12 to win the division.

How to calculate magic number: You calculate your magic number by looking at the number of games remaining in the season and assuming that your nearest competitor will win all of their remaining games. Then you see how many games you still need to win to ensure the division title even with your nearest competitor winning all of their remaining games.

Overall ranking in league (important for determining home field in playoffs): First, 3 games ahead of Oakland, 4 games ahead of Detroit

If season ended today, teams in playoffs: Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Rangers, Rays.

What about the Yankees? Salvaged the final game of a four-game series against the Red Sox with a 4-3 win. They remain 2½ games behind the Rays for final wild-card spot.

Who’s hot?: Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks has five straight multi-hit games, the first time in his career he’s done that. He’s batting .500 (11 for 22) in that stretch, with 4 home runs, 8 runs, and 7 RBIs.

Who’s not?: The Indians fell two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race when they were beaten, 2-1, by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was agonizing for Terry Francona to watch in his last years in Boston and really tormented him Sunday.  Matsuzaka, who had begun the season with the Indians, had lost  his first three starts for the Mets, posting a 10.95 ERA. Against the Indians, he allowed one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three on 103 pitches.

Red Sox latest outcome: Lost to the Yankees, 4-3, on Sunday.

Rays latest outcome: Beat the Mariners, 4-1, on Sunday.

Notable: The Yankees, who don’t expect to have shortstop Derek Jeter for at least a couple of days as his bad ankle flared up again, begin a four-game series Monday night with the Orioles, who are two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race. CC Sabathia faces Chris Tillman in the series opener Monday night. The Yanks then come to Boston on Friday, so this week will be critical to their fading wild-card chances.

Playoff format: AL wild-card play-in game on Wednesday, Oct. 2. AL best-of-five division series begins Friday, Oct. 4.

Time marches on…

Sure it’s been a while.  And yes, a lot has changed.

So why not pick now, after the Sox have transitioned and MLB faces a major shift in it’s very culture, to peek my head out.  And I guess all Thanks to Ryan Dempster.

Ryan Dempster

Not too much to touch upon with this one.  Everyone, including Brian O’Nora and Joe Girardi, know the message being sent.  Players, unlike the thousands of fans in attendance daily, don’t get to ‘boo’ or ‘hiss’ or hold an ‘A-Roid’ sign so the message needs to be clear, concise and delivered.  Mission accomplished.

Do I have a problem with it?  No.  This is baseball and they have used their own language, a mix of morse-code and braille, for over a century now.

Was there a need for it?  I’ll say yes.  I do agree that Rodriguez should be a non-factor, sitting (as character more famous than I once said) on a beach, earning 20% as his suspension plays out.  However, A-Rod is such a self-important media whore that all of this will be dragging out until he decides to move on… which will probably be never.

Was it the right time?  Sure.  National Media market of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, ‘The Nation’ versus ‘The Empire’ and still fresh in everyone’s mind (of course it can’t get stale if it never goes away)… yes it was the perfect stage with a very good messenger in Dempster.  It was simply delivered all wrong.

Now, I am far from Nostradamus and lack the ability to see the future and my time-travelling DeLorean is in the shop, so we’ll just pretend for a moment to use common sense.  Here is how I would have scripted it… A-Rod comes to the plate, stands in but I make him wait.  Let him step out, then back to his stance.  *Zip* A fastball by his head (not at his head,but up and behind him).  The crowd woos (after they stop chanting “You’re no Jeter”), he gives a glare and it’s done.  Back to work.Steroid free HR

We all know the sequence of pitches.  We all know the outcome.  We all know it was lost in translation.  Oh well.

Did it ‘wake the sleeping giant’?  I won’t go that far.  I can’t believe there are presently enough members of the Yankees collective organization never mind bench that would defend Rodriguez at this point (Girardi’s post game presser was so stale and predictable I actually felt bad for him), but it did give the ‘team’ a collective rallying point and that combined with another ‘so-so’ Dempster performance just played out the way it did.

Now, by no means am I done with the A-Rod subject.  This man has single-handedly changed the landscape, the culture and worse, the perception of Major League Baseball.  Of course, he didn’t do it all by himself but he has done far more than enough.  There will a blog for his sorry a$$ at a later date.  ‘Nuff said.

Dodgers secondary logoThe Sox will begin a rare National League West Coast swing tonight and I’m very happy to say I’ll be in LA-LA Land Friday to catch the opener of the Dodger series.  Reports and more steady blogging will most likely follow.

That’s A Good Question….

With the Pinstripe Captain reaching his 3000th hit in such ‘Grand’ fashion (as any New York scripted Yankee milestone would be), there has been a lot of talk, blogging and general conversing on where he ranks all-time for the game’s most historic team.

This tidbit is lifted from www.thepostgame.com :

Where Does Derek Jeter Rank On The List of Greatest Yankees Ever?

Written by: Steve Henson

Now there are six.

The greatest New York Yankees have long been counted on one hand. Babe Ruth is the unquestioned No. 1, after which the order is debatable but not the names: alphabetically, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle.

Add Derek Jeter to the mix.

Jeter became the first Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits in pinstripes when he hit a solo home run off Tampa Bay lefty David Price in the third inning Saturday in the Bronx. Jeter, who just returned after spending three weeks on the disabled list with a calf injury, singled in the first inning for No. 2,999. In his next at-bat, Jeter ripped a full-count slider from Price into the leftfield seats.  And despite the recent cyber-trend to disparage Jeter’s game and accomplishments, he deserves mention alongside the best to play for baseball’s most storied franchise.

Precisely where does he rank? From a poetic standpoint, No. 2 would be the perfect perch. Cue a tape of Bob Sheppard to make the announcement:

“The shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2.”

But that’s a difficult case to make. To eclipse every Yankee except Ruth, Jeter would need to bounce back offensively through 2013. He’d need to change positions so his deficient range at shortstop recedes into memory. And the Yankees would need to win two more World Series with Jeter a driving force through those postseasons.

Today, though, Jeter has gained entry into the land of the elite. A Fab Five is now a Sparkling Six.

Here’s our list, in reverse order. Class, grace and a certain “Yankee-ness” count. So do stats. Only accomplishments with the Yankees are considered.

It all adds up to “greatness,” an admittedly imprecise blend of hard numbers and subjective notions.

6. Yogi Berra

Berra was part of a major league record 10 World Series champion teams, was named American League Most Valuable Player three times and played the most demanding position on the field. He also developed an iconic oracle-like persona with his fractured speech and hilarious yet astute observations. And at 86, he’s not only the lone living member of the Sparkling Six besides Jeter, he still wears pinstripes. Berra anchored the team during its late-1940s and 1950s heyday, succeeding Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey at catcher and playing alongside DiMaggio and Mantle. He has the fourth-highest Wins Above Replacement of any catcher in history.

5. Derek Jeter

Jeter’s stature and leadership are unsurpassed. His production in the media hellfire of the Bronx has been phenomenally consistent. His five World Series titles and overall postseason excellence set him apart from other active players. In 2001, his flip of a relay throw to home plate and his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the World Series are among the most memorable moments in Yankees history. Of course he’s slipping at 37: Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig were retired at that age. Yes, he’s made more outs and hit into more double plays than any other Yankee and he’ll probably pass Mantle for most strikeouts. One milestone begets others for the player with the most plate appearances, official at-bats, hits and stolen bases. Each category speaks to longevity, durability, toughness and resilience.

4. Mickey Mantle

Like DiMaggio, Mantle retired at age 36. Like Jeter, his defensive skills eroded with age and — in Mantle’s case — injury. But like Berra, Mantle played 18 Yankee seasons because he broke in at age 19. He and Willie Mays vied for the title of best player on the planet through the 1950s and much of the ’60s. The switch-hitting Mantle was AL MVP three times and he led the Yankees to 12 World Series, winning seven titles. He might have had more natural ability than any player ever, but he frittered away some of his talent partying. Who knows the numbers he could have amassed had he not been such a carouser? That question need never be asked of Jeter, who by remaining productive for two more seasons could swap places with Mantle.

3. Joe DiMaggio

The Yankee Clipper was the team’s most majestic player, and only Gehrig and Jeter approach his stateliness. DiMaggio’s greatest accomplishment is his record 56-game hitting streak. A close second is his nine World Series titles, behind only Berra in Yankee history. DiMaggio’s offensive numbers across the board are exceptional per season, but his career totals are lacking because he retired after 13 seasons, at least four fewer than the others on the list, primarily because he missed three years serving in World War II. At age 35 in 1950 DiMaggio had a stellar season that mirrored his career numbers. A year later his performance declined because of nagging injuries and he hung ’em up after helping the Yankees to one more World Series championship.

2. Lou Gehrig

As he was in the Yankees lineup from 1925 to 1934, Gehrig is immediately behind Ruth on the list of Yankee Greats. When the measure is a blend of batting statistics, World Series titles, impact on baseball, impact on New York, larger-than-life persona and unforgettable nickname, The Iron Horse noses out the rest of the pack. Gehrig’s greatness was perhaps best displayed after Ruth left the Yankees. Gehrig led the team to three more World Series titles for a total of six, and he batted .361 with a staggering 1.208 OPS in the postseason. His career was tragically cut short at 36 after 17 seasons because of the rare disease that bears his name.

1. Babe Ruth

Besides singlehandedly introducing home run power as the game’s most lethal weapon and gate attraction, Ruth also made the Yankees the greatest team in baseball. Before his arrival in New York in 1920, the franchise had a losing record. In Ruth’s 15 seasons with the Yankees, and for the next 30 years beyond his departure, they had only one losing season. His career offensive Wins Above Replacement of 143 is easily the franchise best and he holds the trifecta of highest batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.690). Ruth won fewer World Series titles with the Yankees (four) than any of the others on this list. But he delivered, hitting 15 homers in 117 at-bats. .


 With all of these talks of greatness and stats to prove it.. it begins the question (again) of who may qualify for top five or six for the greatest Red Sox of all time.  Obviously, the list is started with the unquestionable Number One in Ted Williams (not bias just fact), but who falls in after that?  Yaz makes the list somewhere in the 2 to 3 range, maybe even a Jim Ed or Dewey… names like Fred Lynn or Jimmy Foxx may spring to mind, members of Million Dollar Outfield maybe?  Carlton Fisk would seem to be a thought, and even though many will list him as the greatest Sox catcher just ahead of ‘Tek, the fact remains, he spent more years of his career in Bleached Hose than Scarlett.  Of course, talk then drifts towards Cy Young, Roger Clemens (who judging by his weight and much of the court documents was clean while in a Boston uniform), Bill Lee, maybe even Tim Wakefield..?
This will require much more investigative effort.
Moving on to other thoughts….
It’s the All-Star Break and the Sox have taken over first place in the American League East.  Sure, it isn’t a commanding lead, but hell we’re leading the ‘Bombers and even a half game up is still up, so a whole game is all the better.  The Sox have a very good number of worthy players attending the Midsummer Classic either through voting, manager’s decision or replacement.  However it happens, congrats to them!
1B Adrian Gonzalez:  In his first year with the Boston Americans, A-Gon has made an easy case in his first half season to make the list of top five or six Red Sox of all time.  Though many said he started the season a bit cold and required a month or so to adjust to Fenway’s dimensions (he, Ortiz and Lowry the only ones hitting in the first month or so…), he easily established himself as the anchor of the team having a profound effect on not only the line-up but his teammates, Big Papi inparticular.  His standing as top-vote getter at first, beating out the likes of uber popular Pinstripe Mark Teixeira and Miguel Cabrera was indeed worthy.
DH David Ortiz: The last few seasons had not seen the kindest starts for Big Papi, however this year proved much different.  Either through improved conditioning, different mental approach or as he has said, a bit of both combined with the surprising mentoring from A-Gon, Ortiz has reinvented himself as the premier DH in the League and once again one of the most feared clutch hitters, far different than the questionable talk from BoSox management to end last season.  With this youthful resurgance, Papi & A-Gon could become a more historically feared tandem than Papi & Manny, giving the Sox yet another power driven throwback to Mantle & Maris.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury:  His name being such a well known one in The Nation, it’s often hard to remember just how long he’s been in the big leagues.  Having led the CF voting for a majority of the time, his loss to a returning Josh Hamilton (of the disabled list Hamiltons) was a bit sour, however his being pencilled in as a postion reserve is just as good. This marks Ellsbury first trip to the Midsummer Classic and is well deserved especially when looking at the injury plagued career setback known as the 2010 season.
3B Kevin Youkillis: Now, obviously Youk is not having his best year… he’s been taking a beating physically at the plate (foul balls, HBP, twisted ankles) and making an honest attempt to re-adjust to 3B while hbbling on and off the field… but he’s been doing it quietly and with his normal intense passion.  Often overlooked by the majority of the League, having been surrounded by names such as Ramirez, Bay, Ortiz, Lowell, Pedroia, Lester, Beckett and Papelbon, he’s made top five in MVP voting a few times but is annually deserving of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.
RHP Josh Beckett:  A few seasons ago, there was question if the Sox should even resign him, nevermind to the contract he actually got.  Last season brought even more of the same.  If he wasn’t fighting a plague of nagging injuries it was almost as if he was fighting himself… a bit of that comfortability that plagued The Rocket in his final few years in Fenway.  But Beckett, like Ortiz, has re-lit the fire and showed up to camp a few years younger and as a re-invented player.  Despite the flu and a few passed starts due to various ailments, he’s shown himself once again as an elite pitcher and an anchor in the (when healthy) Trifecta of Boston’s starting rotation.
Honorable mention should of course go out to Jon Papelbon.  Even though the ‘Tower of Terror” has hit a pothole or two along the way, he is enjoying a resurgence as a premier closer once more, putting the bumps and dropping velocity of the past few seasons behind him.

Trouble for the Highlanders?

I was watching the Pinstripes play the 1961 Halo’s last night (love those Angel’s throwback jerseys, even if the number font was stolen from the ‘Sox) and noticed something interesting.  The ‘Bombers were down, but obviously hangin’ in, the bench was lively, except for one part way down on the end.  Two guys were sitting there, separate, talking to no one and each looking like they were on an island of their own.  The Captain ‘Mister Yankee’ and Diva Posada.  Two members of the Core, two pieces of the Dynasty.. each looking off into the void of what could be described as the end?

Now, having watched this team for years.. they beat us, we beat them and the War continues… the Fox love-fests.. ahem, broadcasts where Tim McCarver reminds us how totally and incredibly friggin’ awesome the Yankees are.. the smiling faces and camaraderie…. seem gone in some way.  Like the soul of the team is gone.  Well, maybe not gone, but older and very unhappy.

Jeter, being the only respectable member of the ‘Bombers… after being called out and publicly questioned for his age, his ability and worst of all loyalty… just looks sad. 

Maybe he’d have been happier in different colors.