With the trade of Jon Lester to Oakland this past week, so departs one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in Red Sox team history, with 110 wins, a no-hitter, and two World Series championships to his credit. Among southpaws in team history, his 110 wins is second-most behind the legendary Mel Parnell and his 1386 strikeouts leads all others.
There is no question from anyone who has watched him over his eight-plus seasons with Boston that he has been an invaluable contributor to its recent success and there’s a possibility that we have not seen him pitch for the last time in a Red Sox uniform. So how does he compare to others greats who have pitched for this franchise?
Former Boston Red Sox infielder Johnny Pesky, who was a loyal part of the Boston organization for more than 60 seasons, passed away today at the age of 92. Pesky played eight seasons between 1942 and 1951, missing time between 1943 and 1945 serving in World War II, and also managed the club twice, first for two years between 1963 and 1964, and then briefly at the end of the 1980 season.
So, what in fact happened one October afternoon in 1932 as the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees battled for the World Series title? Did the larger-than-life Babe Ruth really call his shot as legend has laid claim? That is just one story explored by baseball author and ESPN writer Rob Neyer in his latest book, Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, The Lies, and Everything Else.
One year ago, he was American League Rookie of the Year; Tuesday, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was named the AL Most Valuable Player as the club was well-represented in the 2008 Major League Baseball award season. Pedroia walked away with three major awards while first baseman Kevin Youkilis earned recognition as one of the top offensive performers.
Pedroia earned 16 first-place votes out of the 28 ballots cast by baseball writers, beating Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, by 60 points, 317 to 257. He also became the first AL second baseman since Nellie Fox in 1959 to win the award and the ninth player in team history to take home the league’s top honor. the first since Mo Vaughn in 1995. Pedroia also took home Gold Glove honors at his position as well as the Silver Slugger award as the best offensive player at his position.
Meanwhile, Youkilis, who last year took home a Gold Glove for playing error-free defense at first base, was honored as the Hank Aaron award winner based on ballots cast by broadcasters, analysts, and fans. First awarded in 1999 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Aaron’s accomplishment of surpassing Babe Ruth’s career home run mark, Youkilis is the third Red Sox player to earn the honor in the ten years of the award’s existence, the first since designated hitter David Ortiz in 2005. Youkilis also earned consideration for MVP honors, receiving two first-place votes and finishing third in balloting.
With a no-hitter thrown in May and last Thursday night’s win over New York at Yankee Stadium, starting Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester has pitched two shutouts in 2008, the first Boston pitcher to toss more than one in a season since Hideo Nomo threw two in 2001. He is also the first Red Sox southpaw to toss multiple shutouts in one season since Bruce Hurst threw three in 1987. As pitch counts have limited the opportunities for starting pitchers to throw a complete game, let alone toss a shutout, these feats have become more and more the rarity in today’s ball game. Over the past 25 seasons going back to 1984, only 12 pitchers have multiple shutouts to their credit as a Boston starter; of those pitchers, only seven have at least three and only two, Roger Clemens (38) and Hurst (11), have a double-digit total. Former ace Pedro Martinez is third in that span with eight, throwing four in 2000; fourth is Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who tossed six over the 1984 and 1985 seasons and fifth is another former Red Sox lefty, Bob Ojeda, who recorded his five career shutouts with Boston in 1984.
In team history, Clemens is tied with another former Boston great, Cy Young, for the most shutouts in team history, although Young did that over eight seasons while Clemens accomplished his total over 13 seasons with the club. Standing alone in third place in Smoky Joe Wood with 28 over eight years with the club, while Luis Tiant is fourth with 26 over eight seasons and Dutch Leonard is fifth with 25 over six seasons. The single season record for the franchise is 10, accomplish by Young in 1904 and Wood in 1912; Babe Ruth is third with nine in 1916, and Clemens (1988) and Carl Mays (1918) are tied for fourth with eight.