Tagged: Jim Rice

David Price and the best uniform numbers ever

From ESPN Boston: David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer

David Price was officially introduced as a member of the Boston Red Sox on Friday. Price has worn No. 14 throughout his career — with Tampa Bay, with Detroit and with Toronto — but that number is retired in Boston in honor of Hall of Famer so Jim Rice so he chose No. 24.

 

That’s a pretty storied number in Red Sox history. Dwight Evans — a better player than Rice but not in the Hall of Fame — wore it from 1973 to 1990 and he’s one of the most popular players in Red Sox history. But the Red Sox only retire the numbers of Hall of Famers, so five players have worn it since Evans. One of those was Manny Ramirez, who wore it from 2001 to 2008.

That got me to thinking: What’s the greatest jersey number for one team? By that, I mean worn by more than one great player. Here are some nominees:

  • Boston Red Sox No. 24: Dwight Evans, Manny Ramirez, David Price. Total WAR: 99.4 and counting. (That WAR is only for the players listed and only while with the Red Sox; many others have worn the number, but I’m looking at major stars only. Good luck if you want to invest the time for all players.)
  • New York Yankees No. 8: Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. Two Hall of Fame catchers, the number is now retired. Total WAR: 112.3.
  • New York Yankees No. 9: Roger Maris, Graig Nettles, Hank Bauer, Charlie Keller and Joe DiMaggio. The number is retired in Maris’ honor, although Nettles, Keller and Bauer each accumulated more WAR while with the Yankees. DiMaggio wore No. 9 as a rookie before shifting to No. 5. Total WAR: 145.6 (using just the one season for DiMaggio). Might be hard to beat that total.
  • Chicago Cubs No. 31: Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Two Hall of Fame right-handers, the number is now retired in honor of both. Total WAR: 87.1.
  • Seattle Mariners No. 51: Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. Who gets ultimate retirement honors? I’m guessing the Mariners will retire it in honor of both once Ichiro makes the Hall of Fame. Total WAR: 96.1.
  • Detroit Tigers No. 3: Alan Trammell, Dick McAuliffe, Ian Kinsler, Mickey Cochrane (1934-1937), Charlie Gehringer (1931). This is interesting since two Hall of Famers wore it for a short period plus Trammell, who should be in the Hall of Fame, and McAuliffe, a three-time All-Star. Total WAR: 132.8.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates No. 21: Arky Vaughan and Roberto Clemente. Total WAR: 147.8. Vaughan is a Hall of Famer, one of the most underrated players of the 1930s. He wore No. 21 with the Pirates from 1932-1939 and then changed to No. 3 and then No. 5 for some reason. I included only his 1932-1939 WAR but that was enough to push this duo above the Yankees’ No. 9 guys.
  • San Francisco Giants No. 25: Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds. Total WAR: 150.3. Barry accounts for 112.3 of that. Not included: Dan Gladden. But if you throw in 19.3 WAR from Whitey Lockman you’re up to 169.6.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers No. 6: Carl Furillo, Ron Fairly and Steve Garvey. No Hall of Famers, but three good players. Garvey’s number is retired, oddly enough, by the Padres but not the Dodgers. Total WAR: 84.5.
  • New York Yankees No. 15: Red Ruffing, Tommy Henrich (1946-1950), Tom Tresh, Thurman Munson. The number is retired for Munson, although Ruffing is in the Hall of Fame. Total WAR: 125.5.
  • Los Angeles Angels No. 27: Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Trout. Vlad played with the Angels for only six seasons, but he did win an MVP award wearing No. 27. Hmm, how many teams have had two different players win an MVP award wearing the same number? Total WAR: 60.7 and counting.

By this measure, Bonds and Bonds is enough to make the Giants’ No. 25 the best number ever. Did I miss any other candidates? You can go to Baseball-Reference.com to check out the number history for each franchise.

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Okay, I’ll buy some of this, makes for great social media-war type stuff, but I think under these conditions, it’s just too simple and doesn’t really get into the actual subject matter of “Best Number”.  Sure, it’s about the number and not the actual players who wore them outside of their WAR, I can see that, but being a bit more traditionalist… eh. How much of the actual Barry Bonds numbers can you, PED use aside, factor into the #25
argument?  As the Riddler once said, “Too many questions…”

24 is actually one of my fave Red Sox numbers, mainly for Dewey and
having grown up watching him until his final year in Baltimore (yes, Dwight Evans played a year for the Orioles).  I was heartbroken when Manny wore it, simply because it was Dewey’s and it should have been Dewey’s… ’nuff said.  Yes other players had worn it between them and since, but again, I don’t really look at Kevin Mitchell’s short stint patrolling the famous Fenway RF in #24 as anything dramatic, nor anyone else’s stints.

But added up WAR aside… how do you get past 9?  Sure that’s based on the player who wore it but still… Teddy Ballgame as a singular baseball individual, never mind war hero (as well as WAR hero in stats terms) and American Icon (yes, he was a foul-mouthed bastard but his legacy goes well beyond that, Thank You) who still overshadows the combined three individuals mentioned in the above article.  And yes, Dwight Evans is HOF worthy, just was never the ‘Superstar’ of the team as he played with Yaz, Fisk, Rice, Boggs (all HOF) and the likes of Roger Clemens, Fred Lynn, Tony Pena and other lightning rods for the press.  He never had a long collection of league-leading years but trended upwards during the latter half of that career.  That however, is an argument that has been made and shall be made again…

Oh, NOTE: Yes, the Red Sox have made it policy that retired numbers are an honor for players who played 10 years in the uniform, retired with the team and made the HOF… except Johnny Pesky, whose 4.2 billion years of service to the organization merited his #6 be retired.

I’ve made a case for the Red Sox to implement an ‘Honored’ number selection, where specific player’s numbers are posted with their names in road jersey style upon the center field interior of the bleachers wall, keeping that number in uniform rotation but still paying homage to the player.  Example: 21 Clemens in Navy Blue numbers/letters (or Red depending on the away jersey style you prefer… I liked the original non-name roadies and the 2009 to 2013 version), 26 Boggs or 24 Evans, etc.,  This keeps the number in rotation (though 21 may never be worn either way… as it should be, all the PED rhetoric aside, Rocket’s Sox years were his prime HOF years) but still gives the deserved recognition to those who wore it before.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have had such a system in place for years.

Just my humble opinion.

p.s. If the continuing embargo versus career DH’s in the HOF, where will this leave Big Papi in the retired number conversation??

 

Swing and a Myth…

Finding the Real Ted Williams

The Kid in color

By: Scott Conroy

For a sports-obsessed kid like myself, growing up in what is arguably the nation’s most sports-obsessed city, Ted Williams’ very name conjured a mythic quality.

In the pantheon of historical significance, he placed somewhere between Joan of Arc and George Washington — and was just as unknowable.

I never saw more than a few seconds of archived footage of the legendary Red Sox left fielder in action, but I knew a few facts about the man, which were as ingrained in my mind as my own date of birth.

Williams was the last player to achieve a .400 batting average, which he pulled off during the 1941 season — a singular accomplishment in a sport that venerates individual statistics.

He hit a home run in the last at-bat of his 19-year career, every inning of which he played in a Red Sox uniform.

And, most importantly, Ted Williams was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

The Kid and The Babe

This laudatory and unnuanced appraisal was regarded — in my world, at least — as a matter of undisputed fact. Any peer who might have argued otherwise during an elementary school recess or a backyard Whiffle ball game would face ridicule as biting as if he had claimed that 1 + 1 = 3.

The Kid is the culmination of a decade-long effort by longtime Boston Globe reporter and editor Ben Bradlee Jr. to provide a comprehensive look at the man whose posters adorned his bedroom walls as a Boston-area child in the 1950s.

The result, an engrossing and exhaustively researched biography, applies plenty of ink across its nearly 800 pages in documenting Williams’ Hall of Fame playing career — the facts of which back up most of the legends about him.

While Bradlee eagerly touts Williams’ peerless attributes as the player who could hit for both power and average better than anyone in baseball history, he also engages in some welcomed myth-busting.

The Kid eyes itAmong the Ted Williams “facts” that youth baseball coaches like to trumpet in batting cages up and down New England: his vision was so phenomenal that he could actually see the seams of the ball as it hurtled toward him at upwards of 95 miles per hour.

As it turns out, Naval doctors determined that Williams’ vision was 20/15 — an excellent mark that put him in the top 95 percent of young men his age, though not quite in the realm of superhero acuity.

Though Bradlee’s recounting of Williams’ career is candy for any baseball fan, The Kid shines brightest in detailing the paradoxical character, cinematic life and sad circumstances surrounding the death of the Splendid Splinter.

That Williams spent much of his life either hiding or downplaying his half-Mexican heritage is perhaps unsurprising given the biases that permeated his southern California upbringing and the segregated sport in which he became a star.

But the extent to which his ethnic background has remained obscured is striking. If one were to gather a roomful of passionate baseball fans today, I’d confidently wager that more than half would have no idea that Teddy Ballgame was among the first great Hispanic ballplayers in the big leagues.

Bradlee is at his most compelling when detailing the circumstances surrounding Ted InductedWilliams being drafted into the Navy in World War II, just months after his .406 season — and a time when he was entering what should have been the prime years of his career.

After originally being granted a Class 3-A deferment, on account of being the sole economic provider to his mother, Williams quietly asked his attorney to challenge the U.S. government’s decision to change his draft status to Class 1-A (available for unrestricted military service) — an appeal that the Selective Service rejected.

Williams’ initial attempts to avoid leaving the batter’s box for the cockpit were catnip for Boston’s aggressive newspaper reporters in the post-Pearl Harbor patriotic melee.  In the months before he reported for duty, he received a bevy of letters in support of him and more than a few that questioned his courage.

One unidentified heckler mailed the All-Star left fielder two sheets of blank yellow paper — a message intended to remind Williams of the color of cowardice.

“I’ve noticed that the mud-slingers border on the illiterate side,” the famously prickly Williams, who often viewed himself as a victim of  overly aggressive media, said at the time. “The encouraging letters come from well-bred persons.”

Once he reported for duty, Williams took the hard road — becoming a commissioned second lieutenant in the Marines Corps. He did not see combat over the Pacific — a disappointment for a man who, once he was on active duty, envisioned “downing a Zero” (a Japanese fighter plane) as something of an all-time life achievement.

Instead, Williams spent the last months of the war as the U.S. military’s most famous flight instructor in Pensacola, Fla., where he was somewhat of a ringer while playing for the base’s recreational baseball team.

After returning to baseball and eventually entering the latter stage of his playing career, he did not mask his fury over what he considered unfair treatment: He was recalled to fly combat missions over North Korea in 1952.

Ted in Korea

During his very first engagement of the Korean War, Williams’ fighter jet was hit by small arms fire. He considered ejecting, but fearing that a crippling injury would make his return to the diamond impossible, he made a daring emergency landing.

In all, Williams lost five of his prime playing years to military service — a fact that makes his final stat sheet all the more remarkable and that has long been a centerpiece in any discussion of his greatness.

After all, who could imagine a pro athlete in the modern era giving up all of the money and privileges of sports fame to serve his country?

Well, Pat Tillman may not have been a star approaching Williams’ caliber when he left the NFL to join the Army Rangers after the 9/11 attacks, but the $3.6 million contract the Arizona Cardinal safety turned down in favor of fighting in Afghanistan, where he gave his life, dwarfed Williams’ 1941 salary of $30,000.

That’s not to say that Williams’ wartime service was any less honorable, but Bradlee details the extent to which it was initially reluctant.

A hallmark of Williams’ post-playing career was his generous charity work on behalf of the Jimmy Fund, Boston’s leading foundation for cancer research support — time and money  that he insisted not be accompanied by media attention.

Bradlee’s painstaking efforts to recount the macabre details of the family struggle that led to Williams’ body being cryonically preserved after his death in 2002 are difficult to digest but nonetheless serve as an essential postscript to this “immortal life.”

Bill Weld and Ted open the tunnelIn 1993, Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld was tasked with naming the long-awaited tunnel that would connect South Boston to Logan Airport — a major component of the epically over-budget Big Dig project that would finally modernize The Hub’s traffic-plagued highway system.

After determining that there were already enough public infrastructure projects named after politicians, Weld decided to honor one of Boston’s sports heroes.

There were several more-decorated local candidates from which to choose.  No athlete in the history of sports, after all, is more synonymous with the words “winner” and “dynasty” than Bill Russell, who led the Celtics to an astounding 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. And three-time consecutive NHL MVP Bobby Orr revolutionized the defenseman position during his 10 seasons with the Bruins and  scored one of the most memorable goals in hockey history in clinching the 1970 Stanley Cup.

Ted Williams, on the other hand, slumped his way through his Red Sox’s only World Series appearance, in 1946, and never won the fall classic.

But then again, neither did Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, or any of the other Red SoxTed and Yaz greats who graced Fenway Park during the team’s infamous 86-year World Series draught.

Despite never having brought home the big one, no sports hero’s legend shines brighter in Beantown than the man who liked to be called The Kid. And so the cane-wielding 77-year-old was granted the honor of opening The Ted Williams Tunnel in 1995.

Even if that landmark must one day share valuable downtown real estate with Larry Bird Drive, The David Ortiz Parkway, or Tom Brady Bridge, Ted Williams’ mystique will remain unparalleled in Boston lore — and The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams is now the definitive biography.

The Kid book cover

Boston native Scott Conroy is the national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. Follow on Twitter @RealClearScott.

Let’s Revisit: #24, RF, Dwight ‘Dewey’ Evans (Re-Post from 1/5/12)

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.

Fact or Fiction… ?

Well, Congrats to Barry Larkin, the singular inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2012.

Now comes the hard part.  The 2013 Ballot will be flooded in worthy, clouded and questionable candidates. Of the first year candidates hitting the ballot for 2012, only Bernie Williams, @ 9.6%, earned enough votes (above 5%) to remain on the ballot for next year.  Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell made fairly significant increases in their percentage numbers, however a few of those numbers will look to drop as ‘hold-overs’ tend to dip when big name newbies hit the ballot.  Those names will include;

  •    Barry Bonds: OF Pittsburgh, San Fransisco
  •    Roger Clemens: RHSP Boston (A), Toronto, New York (A), Houston
  •    Mike Piazza: C/DH Los Angeles (N), Florida, New York (N), San Diego, Oakland
  •    Curt Schilling: RHSP Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia (N), Arizona, Boston (A)
  •    Kenny Lofton: CF/OF Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago (A), San Fransisco, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh,  New York (A), Philadelphia (N), Los Angeles (N), Texas
  •     David Wells: LHSP Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York (A), Chicago (A), San Diego,  Boston (A), Los Angeles (N)
  •     Sammy Sosa: OF/DH Texas, Chicago (A), Chicago (N), Baltimore
  •     Craig Biggio: C/2B/OF Houston

Now, looking at the list, one doesn’t see a first ballot inductee (as opposed to the 2013 ballot and Greg Maddux’ 1st year of eligibility).  Both Bonds and Clemens carry the statistics of greatness but are deeply embroiled in the PED issue due to various and on-going reasons.  Piazza, arguably one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game, played in the Steroid Era and, like Bagwell, will have to endure.  Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton were big-name stars but are on the bubble at best.  Sammy Sosa, like McGwire and Palmeiro, will probably earn enough votes to stay on the ballot as voters continue to judge the Steroid Era for its’ fact and fiction.  David Wells, well who knows.  He’ll probably survive to the next ballot but with Schilling taking some votes away and Jack Morris still on it, who can say for sure?

So let’s take a look at what appears to be the next great debate;  Curt Schilling versus Jack Morris.

Some say that Curt cannot get into the Hall if Jack Morris is excluded and vice-versa.  Others believe that a few of their average to just above average regular seasons give way to their post-season efforts, while experts contend that the HOF isn’t based wholly on post-season theatrics.  As Brian Kenney of Clubhouse Confidential put it, “Many people mistake Jack Morris for being the post-season pitcher Curt Schilling actually was.”  So, let’s see where this takes us.

  •                                  Luis Tiant (19)         Jack Morris (18)         Curt Schilling (20)         David Wells (21)
  • Wins/Losses(%):  229/172 (.571)            254/186 (.577)              216/146 (.597)              239/157 (.604)
  • ERA:                                3.30                               3.90                                 3.46                                4.13
  • ERA+:                              115                                 105                                   128                                 108
  • Strikeouts:                     2416                               2478                                3116                               2201
  • K/BB:                              2.19                                1.78                                 4.38                                 3.06
  • WAR:                               60.1                               39.3                                 69.7                                 50.7

Well, those are the basics.  Wells is eliminated on ERA alone.  At 3.90, Morris has the highest ERA of any legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and if elected, would have the highest ERA for a starter.  Wells played for some great teams and Championship teams to accumulate that winning percentage, including some great personal accolades and 3 All-Star appearances, but he’s out.

Now let’s take a look at the post-season stats in the three-horse race.

  •                                     Luis Tiant (3 Series)         Jack Morris (7 Series)         Curt Schilling (12 Series)
  • Wins/Losses (%):            3/0 (1.000)                             7/4 (.636)                                 11/2 (.846)
  • ERA:                                        2.86                                          3.80                                            2.23
  • Innings Pitched                     34.2                                           92.1                                            133.1
  • Strikeouts:                                20                                              64                                              120
  • K/BB:                                       1.82                                           2.00                                           4.80

Tiant broke through in 1968, after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw. In that season, he led the league in ERA (1.60), shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score’s 5.85 in 1956 and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in 1972), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22, more than a batter an inning), while finishing with a 21–9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in 1919, and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.

Known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15–6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7–1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6–0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs.  Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.

In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229–172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others.  He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.

  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, leading the league twice.
  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league 3 times.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.

3 All-Star Games.  4 time 20 game winner.  3 times appearing on the American League Cy Young balloting, twice finishing in the top five.  4 times appearing on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top ten.

Jack Morris played in 18 big league seasons between 1977 and 1994, mainly for the Detroit Tigers, and won 254 games throughout his career.  Armed with a fastball, slider, devastating splitter and a fierce competitive spirit, Morris played on three World Championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays). While he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs of any pitcher in the 1980s, he also started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher of the decade.  On April 7, 1984 Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.  In 1986, Morris racked up 21 wins, but was overshadowed by eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.  Despite a sub par season in 1989 when he won only 6 games, he still finished as the winningest major league pitcher of the 1980s, with 162 wins during the decade.

In 1991, Morris signed a one-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed another great season, posting 18 wins as Minnesota faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Morris started for the Twins three times, with his final outing being Game 7. In a postseason performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler, known throughout his career as a clutch “big game” pitcher, lived up to his billing by throwing 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden.  Morris was named the World Series MVP for his fantastic performance.  Following the 1991 season, Morris spurned the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He earned 21 wins for the second time in his career (and the first ever 20-win season for a Blue Jays pitcher), though he rode the wave of superior run support from his offense, given his 4.04 ERA that year. The Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series against the Braves and despite a sub par World Series performance, he won a third championship ring as Toronto beat Atlanta in six games. He won a fourth in 1993, as the Blue Jays repeated as World Champions with a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Morris did not pitch in the postseason, however.

  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league in 1986.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Complete Games, leading the league in 1990.
  •      12 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league twice.

5 All Star Games.  3 Time 20 game winner.  Appearing on the AL Cy Young ballot 7 times, 5 time finishing in the top five.  Morris appeared 5 times on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top 15.  4 Time World Series Champion including the 1991 World Series MVP award.

During the Phillies’ pennant run in 1993, Schilling went 16–7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts.  Schilling led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Although he received no decisions during his two appearances in the six-game series, Schilling’s 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts (including the first 5 Braves hitters of Game 1, an NLCS record) were enough to earn him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.  After losing Game 1 of the WS to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitched brilliantly in his next start. With the Phillies facing elimination the day after losing a bizarre 15–14 contest at home in Veterans Stadium, Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that the Phillies won, 2–0.  Schilling was named to the NL All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and started the 1999 game.

With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award.  In 2002, he went 23–7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259.1 innings. On April 7, 2002, Schilling threw a one-hit shutout striking out 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.

On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record.  On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.  Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS.  These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”.  Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana.  Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice.  For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy.  He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA.  On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.  On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit.  He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation.

Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.

  •      1 time finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league in 2004.
  •      2 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Wins, leading the league in 2001.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Strikeouts, leading the league twice.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (1 time in the American League).
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Complete Games, leading the league 4 times.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Shutouts (1 time in the American League).

6 All Star Games.  2 time 20 game winner.  Schilling appeared on a total of 4 Cy Young Award Ballots (3 National/ 1 American) finishing second 3 times.  He appeared on the Most Valuable Player ballot 4 times (3 National / 1 American) finishing in the top 10 twice.  3 time World Series Champion including a 1993 NLCS MVP award and 2001 World Series MVP award.  A Roberto Clemente Award/Branch Rickey Award/Babe Ruth Award winner in 2001.

At the end of the day, it becomes a two-horse race, my sentimental favorite Mr. Tiant dropping off.  But as we have seen, there are questions, answers and some of the numbers are deceiving.  Yes, Morris has some great numbers but has negatives to go along with them.  For all the experts who tout Jack’s big game post-season prowess, Curt buries him.  Sure, Morris has four WS titles, but pitched below average in one and didn’t even pitch in another.  The big 1991 performance against the Braves?  The Bloody Sock game in 2004.  Looking past Morris’  wins and the fact he has more losses, Schilling sports a higher win percentage.  Who played for more perennial contenders?  Who played for better run producers?  And on and on…..

The questions will wage on, but the timetable is fairly limited, adding more fuel to the fire.  This year marked Morris’ 13th on the ballot, leaving two more attempts.  In two years, this could be a battle for the ‘Golden Age’ Committee or Veterans committee or whatever the guys who keep deserving but still breathing players out of the hall, therefore keeping their divided annual shares in tact, call themselves.

#24, RF, Dwight ‘Dewey’ Evans

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.

“Two Captains, One Destiny”

That was the tagline from Star Trek: Generations.  One of the lesser Trek films but definitely the one which brought most Trekkies war of words in the Kirk versus Picard battle to a zenith.

Hypothetically, till we hear otherwise, Jason Varitek is gone.

And hell, since were getting more questions than answers… let’s rock…  I’m Bobby V., my first year at the helm, I’m psyched, nervous and in need of a team captain.  Do I leave it to the veterans to guide the team?  Do I not appoint, anoint or christen a new captain and just seize the role of Supreme Leader? Should I go with the highest paid perennial all-star and MVP candidate who works with a proven yet quiet determination?  Do I look to the two-time World Series Champion, the most clutch Designated Hitter in the history of the team (who made a d!ck of himself during ‘the fallout’)?  How do I not give a serious look at the stalwart, rugged and unwavering 3B who always seems to be somewhere on the MVP ballot?  Or I do take the risk of getting a no holds barred tell it like it is in your face pint-sized MVP who is the first to arrive, the last to leave and has been consistently reminded he’s just too damn small to be in the major leagues.  In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh Hell Yeah!”.  Dustin Pedroia.  Pedey may in fact be the baseball equivalent of SCSA, or for a modern-day wrestler, C.M. Punk.  Both are guys who let their personal lives, struggles and feelings permeate their ‘characters’ and both are the wrestling equivalent of Kevin Millar.  I’ll go to war with either ‘One-Five’ any day of the week and a doubleheader on Sundays.  Pedey was the loudest voice following the destruction of Tito Francona and the first we heard from following the confirmation of Bobby V’s hiring.  Like Varitek, he’s a proven warhorse on the field and his voice and opinion obviously counts for something off it.   For as much as Valentine is going to take the ‘pressure’ off the boys and make it an atmosphere where they can play… let’s remember that he’s there because the last manager made it too comfortable.  If we’re supposed to believe the reputation, Bobby is a diva… and should have a captain who can balance that image with one of his own.

Let’s look at the history of a few Boston Captains… Ted Williams was the best hitter of his and arguably any generation while also being a loud, foul-mouthed know it all with an ego the size of his home state and a hatred for the ‘Knights of the Keyboard’ to match.  Captain Carl was a lifelong Red Sox who carried the respect of the ‘The Nation’ and quietly took the teams he was given on his Hall of Fame shoulders for a good deal of his twenty plus year career bridging the gap between Ted and Jim Ed.  But, let’s look at a few other Bostonians to wear the ‘C’.  Eddie Shore refused an anesthetic while a doctor sewed his ear back on.  Bobby Orr, only the greatest hockey player to wear skates (sorry Wayne Gretzky lovers, but Wayne only played forward… Bobby played defense and dominated the all-around game) and he shared his captaincy with Bucyk and Espo for the most part.  Ray Bourque was known simply as ‘The Captain’, a quiet yet powerful presence who led by example and had no problem putting himself before the team (except when he requested a trade due to his age and knowing the B’s weren’t going anywhere) nor did his alternate captain and Hall of Fame partner Cam Neely, a player of equal quiet ferocity who as president of the Bruins changed the landscape of the entire franchise and helped deliver the Stanley Cup.  Big Z is in the same mold, with no fear of physically defending his teammates on the ice and setting the example in the locker room.  Bill Russell, Hondo, Bird and Garnett… nuff’ said.

Sure, Varitek will in no way be an easy act to follow, but nor should he be.  A team is a changing dynamic and requires someone who can change with it.  That, if anything, would be the undertone of this off-season.  Change and adaptation.  Bobby Valentine is that change while Dustin Pedroia is the adaptation.

“Same Old Song and Dance…”

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.