Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Top 100 Red Sox: 66-70

So it doesn't get too overwhelming, we're going to start by just recapping the last 10 on the list:

80. Boo Ferriss, P
79. Mike Andrews, 2B
78. Troy O'Leary, OF
77. Ray Collins, P
76. Mike Boddicker, P
75. Sad Sam Jones, P
74. Ernie Shore, P
73. Jimmy Piersall, OF
72. Dennis Eckersley, P
71. Ray Culp, P

You know the drill by now.

70. Tom Brewer
Here's another obscure pitcher for you -- but a pitcher who won double-digit games for seven straight years with some fairly mediocre Red Sox teams. Brewer's best season came in 1956, when he went 19-9 with a 3.50 ERA; he earned his only career All-Star nod that season and pitched two innings in a 7-3 defeat for the American League.

It's funny to look back on that game's box score: Only three pitchers appeared in the game for the National League even though seven were on the roster. Among those left in the bullpen were Robin Roberts, a future Hall of Famer, and Clem Labine, who had pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to a World Series title the year before. Johnny Antonelli, who would win 20 games for the New York Giants that season, pitched the final four innings of the game.

The American League, meanwhile, threw six pitchers into the game, including Whitey Ford, Herb Score and Early Wynn. Only Brewer and starting pitcher Billy Pierce went more than one inning. And you wonder who was playing to win the game?

Tangent aside: Brewer finished his career with 91 wins in a Red Sox uniform, good for 14th on the franchise's all-time list. His 1,509 1/3 innings pitched are good for 11th, just behind Lefty Grove; his 733 strikeouts are good for 15th, again just behind Grove.

The 1956 season was Brewer's best, but a rapidly aging Red Sox team finished in fourth place for the fourth straight season. A year later, Brewer won 16 games with a 3.85 ERA as the Red Sox -- behind a .388 batting average from a 38-year-old Ted Williams -- finished in third place. The righthander won at least 10 games in each of the next three season and had a sub-4.00 ERA in each of those seasons, though the Red Sox continued to founder in mediocrity. By 1961, the rookie year of Carl Yastrzemski, Brewer was all done.

69. Tony Armas
Playing in center field between Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, from 1983-86, Armas averaged a home run every 18 at-bats over his Red Sox career. In 1984, his best season, he hit 36 of his league-leading 43 home runs out of the cleanup spot in the order, anchoring a lineup that scored more runs than any team but the eventual World Series champion Detroit Tigers. (Armas' 123 RBI also led the league -- as did his 156 strikeouts.)

Two years later, though, the injuries that had plagued him earlier in his career began to resurface. He missed three weeks in July and frequently had to be lifted for a defensive replacement even when he did play. His unreliability, in fact, prompted the Red Sox in August to trade for a fairly nondescript center fielder from Seattle by the name of Dave Henderson.

The then-33-year-old Armas scuffled down the stretch, hitting .197 with no home runs in the Red Sox's final 21 games. Things didn't really turn around in the postseason, either; he had just two hits in the American League Championship Series against the Angels. And in Game 5, he had to leave the game in the fifth inning with a sprained ankle. Henderson, of course, came on as a defensive replacement -- and it was Henderson who hit the game-winning home run in the top of the ninth inning, a home run that eventually propelled the Red Sox to the World Series.

Armas' contributions to the Red Sox continued even after he departed via free agency. His son, born in 1978, turned out to be one of the players who would be traded for Pedro Martinez.

68. Dustin Pedroia
The Red Sox second baseman was sitting at the end of the dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Tex., at the end of September last year. He was the only player in the dugout at that point; with half an hour to go before the game and the heat and humidity typically oppressive, the rest of the team was back in the clubhouse. The public-address announcer was just starting the monologue every public-address announcer at every ballpark delivers: "Welcome to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of your Texas Rangers..."

"Pedroia is just sitting there at the end of the bench just yelling to nobody in particular," Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod told Joe Haggerty for this spring's Red Sox Annual. "He's yelling, 'Yeah, home of the Texas Rangers -- the team that's going to get their (butts) whipped tonight.' And he meant it. ... There's absolutely nobody else there. He's not doing it for show or trying to impress anybody. That's just Dustin."

In that series, for what it's worth, Pedroia went 2-for-11 with three walks. Don't expect that to have shut him up, though. Nothing has yet -- and nothing will even if, for whatever reason, he doesn't keep producing the way he has through two seasons with the Red Sox.

The 5-foot-whatever-you-want hit .317 (and OBP'ed .380) for the Red Sox in 2007, winning the Rookie of the Year award in the process. He then hit .283 and OBP'ed .348 in the playoffs; he came within a triple of hitting for the cycle in Game 7 of the ALCS against Cleveland and then hit a tone-setting home run to lead off Game 1 of the World Series against Colorado.

A year ago, Pedroia hit .326, OBP'ed .376 and slugged .493 -- enough to win him American League MVP honors. On top of that, he rated a plus-15 in the Fielding Bible's plus-minus system and won his first career Gold Glove.

Oh, and he's still not yet 26 years old. Predictions can be dangerous, but it's not hard to imagine him cracking the top 20 or 25 on this list by the time he's done.

67. Jeff Reardon
Calvin Schiraldi should have been the Red Sox closer for a decade; at age 24, he had a 1.41 ERA in 25 regular-season appearances and then a 1.29 ERA in his first five postseason appearances. The disaster in Game 6, though, ruined a promising career and sent the Red Sox on the hunt for a shut-down reliever who would never cause that type of heartbreak. Schiraldi first was dealt to Chicago for Lee Smith; Smith, in turn, was swapped to St. Louis to open a spot for Reardon.

The Red Sox signed Reardon, who had saved at least 30 games in five straight seasons to that point, as a free agent in the fall of 1989. Reardon appeared in 47 games that season, accumulating a 3.16 ERA; he didn't allow a single earned run until an ugly blown save in mid-May against Kansas City. After that, though, he settled right back down -- his ERA after May 19 as 3.03, and he finished the season with 21 saves.

He made just one appearance in the American League Championship Series against Oakland; he allowed two ninth-inning runs in a loss in Game 2. Other than that, though, the Red Sox never had need for a closer; not once did they hold a lead beyond the seventh inning. (Given the way bullpen use has evolved, one has to wonder if Reardon could have been of some use in the eighth inning of Game 1 with the scored tied; the A's scored a run in that inning and left the bases loaded before scoring seven runs in the ninth.)

A year later, Reardon had a 3.03 ERA and 40 saves -- at that point, a franchise record -- to earn his fourth career trip to the All-Star Game. The Red Sox, however, couldn't get any reliable starting pitching beyond Roger Clemens and finished seven games behind the first-place Blue Jays. A year later, Reardon was traded to Atlanta for the forgettable Nate Minchey. His 88 career saves with the Red Sox ranks him fifth all-time in that category.

66. Chick Stahl
At one point, Stahl ranked third in Red Sox history in runs scored, fifth in hits, fourth in doubles, first in triples and fourth in home runs.

Of course, that point was at the end of the 1901 season, the first season in franchise history. After that, Stahl started to drop in the record books a little bit -- but not all that much, and not until well after his death.

But the fact remains that Stahl was one of the first stars of Boston's American League franchise; with Jimmy Collins, Buck Freeman and Bill Dinneen, he jumped from the Beaneaters of the National League to play for Charles Somers' upstart team across town. He already had a reputation as a terrific hitter -- he'd hit at least .350 in 1897 and 1899 -- and would do the same for his new team. In 1901, he hit .303 with 16 triples and six home runs; his 42 extra-base hits ranked him 10th in the American League. He even saved an umpire from a mob after one August game, holding back several angry fans until a teammate could escort the umpire from the field.

The 1903 season saw the outfielder miss time with injury -- he played in a career-low 77 games that season -- but return in full force for the first World Series. He had a hit in seven of the eight games, including triples in Games 5, 6 and 7 as the Red Sox rallied from an early deficit to win four straight games and the first World Series championship. In total, Stahl went 10-for-33 (.303) with three triples and six runs scored in eight games.

Stahl hit .290 with 19 triples in 1904, and he hit .286 with four home runs in 1906. He was nearing the end of his career, but he still was one of the best players in the American League.

Before the 1907 season, though, he committed suicide in a hotel room in Indiana while the Red Sox were barnstorming northward toward Boston. The consensus among researchers is that Stahl was being blackmailed by a woman who had given birth to his child out of wedlock. Whatever the reason, it was a tragedy that rocked the fledgling baseball world.

Coming up: The most underrated home run in Red Sox history.

1 comment:

dbhammel said...

OH OH let me guess! Trot's game winner in '02 against the A's in the alds? No, he cant be this high. I cant remember in '04 other than ortiz, and obviously he wouldnt be underrated. Maybe Damon grand salami?