Tag Archives: fred lynn

Did You Know? – The Red Sox and Total Bases

Total bases (TB) refers to the number of bases a player has gained with hits and is a very easy statistic to calculate; it follows a simple formula: 1B + 2*2B + 3*3B + 4*HR.

Following Will Middlebrooks‘ offensive barrage in today’s 13-0 win over the Blue Jays, in which the young Red Sox third baseman hit three home runs and a double, there are now six players in Boston team history since 1916 with at least 14 TB in one game.

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Nomar Garciaparra to Retire as Red Sox Player Today

Is Nomar Garciaparra retiring?  Say it isn’t so.  At age 36, with several surgeries having limited his playing time in recent years, the last rock at the shortstop position in Boston is hanging up his uniform for good – maybe, maybe not – with a press conference this morning in Fort Myers.

The legendary Ted Williams touted “NO-mah” as the game’s next great player and he seemed destined for a Hall of Fame career.  First, he easily won Rookie of the Year honors in 1997, then followed that with a second-place finish in the MVP ballot in 1998 and two batting titles in two years (1999 and 2000).  Five times, he was named to the All-Star while with Boston, and he was often compared to other great shortstops of his time, including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Tejada.

When Garciaparra returned as an Oakland Athletic last July to Fenway Park for the first time since being traded away in 2004, he received a lengthy standing ovation from an appreciative crowd, to which he tipped his cap and graciously clapped along with them.  It reminded us of the moment following a series-ending loss to Cleveland in the 1998 American League Division Series; as the Indians celebrated on the field by the visitor’s dugout, Garciaparra stepped back out from the Boston dugout, turned to the stands, and began clapping in genuine appreciation of the Red Sox fans that had followed the team all season and every season before then.

Boston is still searching for the answer at short while fans search for answers on why such a promising career ended too soon; some might say that Garciaparra is to this generation what Fred Lynn was to the last one and Tony Conigliaro was to the one before then.  Red Sox fans will always have a place in its collective heart reserved for Garciaparra, who gave all he had with the club for eight seasons, but we will always wonder what might have been for him.

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Book Review – Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends

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.

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Did You Know? – Red Sox MVP Honorees

The 2009 season begins with second baseman Dustin Pedroia set to defend his title as American League Most Valuable Player, the first since former first baseman Mo Vaughn began the 1996 season in the same position. In team history, only ten Boston players have received the AL MVP award. The first was outfielder Tris Speaker, who received the Chalmers Award in 1912, created as a promotional gimmick by an automobile company owner, Hugh Chalmers, in recognition of a player from each league who proved himself as “…the most important and useful player to his club and to the league at large in point of deportment and value of services rendered.”[1] Speaker was one of only eight players recognized over a four-year span in which the honor was made, which included the awarding of a Chalmers Model 30 automobile for that player’s efforts. (The award was discontinued after the 1914 season due to diminished interest.)

Efforts by the Baseball Writers Association of America eventually led to the creation of the MVP award as it is recognized today, decided by 28 seasoned sportswriters using a positional voting system where each voter ranks his or her top ten players. Jimmie Foxx was the first Boston player recognized by the baseball writers who gave him the honor in 1938, though for him it was his third award after having been recognized twice before with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932 and 1933. Ted Williams remains the only Red Sox player to have been named twice (1946 and 1949). Other winners have included Jackie Jensen (1958), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Fred Lynn (1975), Jim Rice (1978), and Roger Clemens (1986). Clemens remains the only Boston pitcher to earn the distinction, though since 1967 only seven pitchers have been so honored.

Of course, due to the subjective native of the MVP vote, Red Sox players have found themselves the focus of controversial outcomes, more often as the odd man out. Though Williams was honored twice in his illustrious career, there were also four instances in which he finished second in the voting where he might have been considered the more deserving candidate. In 1941, he batted .406, the last player to hit .400 or better in the regular season, but lost to New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, who has amassed a 56-game hit streak that same year. The next year, he finished second again, this time to Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon, despite having won the batting Triple Crown with more hits in fewer at-bats, twice the number of home runs, and an OPS almost 250 point higher. In 1947, Williams again won the batting Triple Crown, the only player other than Roger Hornsby to win that recognition twice, yet he again lost to DiMaggio by a single point in the vote, again with far better numbers across the board. Finally, in 1957, he won the batting title with an impressive .388 average and hit 38 home runs while setting a modern-day record of reaching base in 16 consecutive at-bats, all at the age of 39, yet finished second once more to another legendary Yankees outfielder, Mickey Mantle.

Other Boston players who fell just shy in the voting include Pedro Martinez, who had one of the best seasons ever by a pitcher in modern baseball history and won the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young award. Yet, despite having more first-place votes, he lost to catcher Ivan Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers by a narrow 13-point margin in the vote. It was later discovered that two sportswriters, which included George King from the New York Post, had omitted Martinez from their ballots with the argument that the contributions made by pitchers were not significant enough to earn MVP consideration, though King had included two pitchers on his ballot the previous season. David Ortiz also fell just short of the honor in 2005 as he finished behind Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the vote. Though both players finished the season with impressive numbers, the argument was made that Ortiz, as a designated hitter, did not contribute as much to his team’s success as Rodriguez, so much that two sportswriters left Ortiz off their ballots.

On the flipside, Vaughn finished a mere eight points ahead of Cleveland slugger Albert Belle in the 1995 vote, despite Belle having far more impressive numbers on offense, including a higher number of home runs, runs scored, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases; he had also become the first player in major league history to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season that same year. Vaughn, however, had a far better relationship with fans and the media, whereas Belle routinely refused to grant interviews to reporters and had engaged in several controversial incidents with fans both at and away from the park. Ted Williams was also well-known for his sour relationship with the media, whom he mockingly referred to as the “kinights of the keyboard,” and, like Belle, may have been the reason in part for losing several close MVP ballots.

[1] Deane, Bill, Thron, John, and Palmer, Pete. Total Baseball. HarpersCollins Publishers, New York, 1993.

Jim Rice Finally Gets Call from Hall of Fame

Years of waiting finally paid off for former Red Sox left fielder Jim Rice; on Monday, in his 15th and final year of eligibility, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with 76.4 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rice, a 16-year veteran who retired after the 1989 season, follows in the footsteps of two other Hall of Fame outfielders who spent their entire careers in Boston: Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. Rice fell 16 votes shy of election in 2008 but earned seven more than the minimum this year and will join first-ballot inductee Rickey Henderson and Veterans Committee inductee Joe Gordon this summer for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Had he failed again to reach the minimum 75 percent for eligibility, his only chance for induction after this would have been through the Veterans Committee, which has proven to be a challenge for other former players not elected by the writers to find themselves added to the Hall.

Proponents had lobbied for Rice based on the fact that, between 1975 and 1986, Rice was one of the most feared hitters in the American League as he averaged .304 with 29 home runs and 106 RBI each season. He also finished in the top five of the MVP vote six times during that stretch, winning his only award in 1978 when he stroked 46 home runs, led the league with 139 RBI, and batted .315, just twenty points behind league-leader Rod Carew. He also collected an amazing 406 total bases that season, the first to have 400 or more total bases in a single season since Hank Aaron in 1959 and a feat that’s been matched since only six times.

Drafted and signed by Boston in 1971, he earned Triple Crown, Rookie of the Year, and MVP honors as a member of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in 1974. The following season, Rice broke into the majors and, along with fellow rookie sensation and “Gold Dust Twin” Fred Lynn, helped Boston return the World Series for the first time in eight years (unfortunately, a wrist injury due to an errant pitch in September forced Rice to miss the remainder of the season as well as the 1975 Fall Classic between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds). Eleven years later, appearing for the only time in the playoffs, Rice hit a 3-run home run in the seventh game of the ALCS to help Boston win the AL pennant, then batted .333 and scored the lone run in a 1-0 Game 1 victory for Boston against New York in the World Series. He was also an eight-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger award winner in 1983 and 1984.