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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.

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Pedroia, Youkilis Highlight MLB Awards Season for Red Sox

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.

A Grand Scheme – Lowell and Drew Clear The Bases with Slams

Besides winning the final game of a home series against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park this afternoon, 11-8, to complete a four-game sweep, the game also featured grand slams from Boston Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew and third baseman Mike Lowell in the second and sixth innings, respectively. Drew’s home run came after Manny Ramirez, Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis hit consecutive singles off starter Brian Bannister, his third career grand slam. Lowell’s base-clearing blast came with two outs after the Royals intentionally walked a struggling Ramirez, who remains stuck on 498 career home runs; it was Lowell’s sixth career slam and his third since joining Boston.

It marked the first time since 2003 that the Red Sox hit two grand slams in a single game when Bill Mueller hit grand slams from both sides of the plate on 29 July, the first player in major league history to accomplish the feat. The last time two separate Boston players hit grand slams in the same game was in 1995 when former infielder John Valentin and first baseman Mo Vaughn did it on the road at Yankee Stadium on 02 May, accounting for the only runs in an 8-0 shutout of New York. The last time it happened at Fenway was nearly 24 years ago when Bill Buckner and Tony Armas each hit one off Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris in the first and second inning, respectively, of a 12-7 win.

Vaughn, Greenwell Headline 2008 Red Sox Hall of Fame Class

Monday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox announced that eight people, including Mo Vaughn and Mike Greenwell, were elected to the club’s Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2008. Joining Vaughn and Greenwell will be former pitchers Wes Ferrell, Bill Lee, and Frank Sullivan, shortstop Everett Scott, scout George Digby, and former player development executive Ed Kenney, Sr.. Ferrell joins his brother and former Sox catcher Rick, who was automatically granted induction based on his previous election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 by the Veteran’s Committee. The committee also selected the home run hit by Ted Williams in his final Major League at-bat as its Most Memorable Moment for Hall of Fame recognition. The induction dinner is scheduled for Friday, 7 November 2008, at the Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston.[1]

This is the seventh class to be honored since the Hall opened in 1995 and elections have been held every two years since 2000. Selections are made by a committee consisting of Red Sox executives and broadcasters, media members and representatives of the New England Sports Museum and BoSox club. To be eligible, a player must have played a minimum of three years with the club and been officially retired from baseball for at least three years, while non-uniformed honorees, like former inducees Curt Gowdy (broadcaster) and Dick O’Connell (general manager), are added only by a unanimous vote of the selection committee.

Did You Know? – Don Baylor

By the early 1980s, former outfielder Don Balyor had been regulated to the designated hitter’s role by the California Angels and remained in that role for three seasons with the New York Yankees between 1983 and 1985. Less than two weeks before the start of the 1986 season, Baylor was traded straight up for Boston Red Sox designated hitter Mike Easler. In the end, Baylor batted just .238 in 160 games played, but he also led the club in home runs with 31, drove home 94 runs, and provided some veteran leadership in the clubhouse as the Red Sox ran away with the American League East division title. The next season, he cracked another 16 home runs and drove in 57 more runs before being traded away to Minnesota in late August.

He also set a record that possibly very few Red Sox batters aspire to hold: given that he loved to lean out over the plate, daring opposing pitchers to throw inside to him, he was hit by 35 pitches over the course of the 1986 regular season, an American League record. Only one other player since 1900 has been hit by more pitches in a single season and, until 2005, he owned the career mark for a major league player, having been plunked 267 times over 19 big-league seasons. To put in perspective another way, Baylor ranks number one and number two in Red Sox franchise history for the single-season record, having been hit another 24 times in 1987. He is also third all-time, tied with Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, for the most times hit by a pitch in a Boston uniform and sits only twelve behind the Red Sox career leader, Mo Vaughn. Perhaps even more interesting is that he reached his personal mark in only 1,096 plate appearances for Boston, less than a quarter of the number that both Fisk and Vaughn had with the Red Sox. Ouch!