Monthly Archives: April 2009

Game Day Connections with the New York Yankees

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Today, Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester take the mound for their teams, each labeled as the future of their pitching staffs. Over the years, both of these teams have had many highly touted prospects succeed like Joba and Lester. There are also just as many players who never quite made that leap successfully. One of the more recent prospects spent some time with both organizations.

Michael “Prime Time” Coleman hit the big leagues in 1997 after putting together a solid performance at the AA and AAA minor league levels for the Boston Red Sox. He struggled in his brief stint with the big league club, and only played in 2 games with the Red Sox after the ’97 season. Following the 2000 season, Coleman was shipped off to Cincinnati for Chris Stynes, who filled in as a role-player for the 2001 Red Sox.

Just before the 2001 season began, Coleman was sent with Drew Henson to the New York Yankees for Wily Mo Pena in a swap of sputtering prospects. For Henson, it was the second tour with the Yankees in less than a year. In a roundabout way, this trade enabled the Red Sox to later on acquire Chris Carter from the Washington Nationals after acquiring Pena from the Reds for Bronson Arroyo. If Coleman and Hansen had never been traded, it is unlikely the Red Sox would have been able to pull off acquiring any prospects from the Yankees. The last trade between the Red Sox and Yankees involved Mike Stanley and a prospect from the Yankees system who was traded less than six months later in a deal with the Montreal Expos that landed the Red Sox their future ace, Pedro Martinez.

Coleman’s cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2001 was moderately better than his stint with the Red Sox, but he wasn’t able to stay at the major league level. After 2001, Coleman returned to the Red Sox system, but would never make the big league club again. He bounced around with a few more organizations including a second stint with the Yankees but hasn’t played in any MLB minor league system since becoming a free agent after the 2006 season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

As two of the best their systems square off, the hope is the Red Sox can dominate the Yankees best a little more and keep the streak alive!

Preview of Upcoming Red Sox/Yankees Series

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Tomorrow the Red Sox and Yankees will begin the first chapter of the 2009 season; it will be the 2033rd game played between these two franchises. Well, this number includes the years the Red Sox played as the Boston Americans and the years the Yankees played as the New York Highlanders and before that briefly as the Baltimore Orioles.

Thanks to the great website of baseball-reference.com, it’s possible to explore this long rivarly and make frivilous discoveries. In a rivalry that is now 108 years old, the Yankees lead in the all-time head-to-head record versus the Red Sox with 1108 wins to 924 losses. Even with the changing of the dynamic to the rivalry since the end of an 86 year World Series drought in 2004, the Red Sox haven’t won the overall regular season head-to-head series verus the Yankees since that 2004 season.

Even though the teams have played each other over two thousand times, it wasn’t until the 2005 season that the Red Sox scored seventeen runs versus the Yankees in a single game. Then, they did it again less than three months later! Seventeen seems like a high total, but the Yankees once scored twenty four runs in a single game versus the Red Sox in 1923. They scored nineteen runs in a game versus the Red Sox as recently as last September, and infamously in the 19-8 shellacking of the Red Sox in game three of the 2004 ALCS.

Even with the new unbalanced schedule which has these teams playing each other eighteen times a year, you have to go back to the 50’s to find the longest win streak of twelve straight by the Yankees over the Red Sox. You have to go back to 1912 to find the Red Sox longest streak, when they won seventeen straight over the Yankees. An interesting note, during the beginning of the rivalry the Red Sox and Yankees routinely faced each other over twenty times a year!

To kick off the 2009 series between the Red Sox and Yankees, both teams will have their young stud pitchers squaring off. Joba Chamberlain hasn’t lost a game versus the Red Sox, going 2-0 in six games with an ERA at 3.12. Joba faces off against the Cancer Beating, World Series Clinching, No Hitter Throwing future Ace of the Red Sox, Jon Lester. Lester has never earned a loss versus the Yankees, sporting a 2-0 record in four games with a 3.42 ERA. The hope is Lester continues his masterful ways, and the guess is we’ll see a fantastic matchup between two rising stars.

In the second game, 2008 workhorse A.J. Burnett faces Red Sox Ace Josh Beckett. Beckett’s career numbers versus the Yankees are not especially great, but his 2003 World Series dominance over the Yankees and his 3-1 record versus the Yankees in 2008 are reason enough to think he may have an edge over Burnett. That being said, A.J. Burnett has never been stuck with a loss versus the Red Sox, and has kept an career ERA versus Boston under 3.00. A battle between two dominant starters will be great baseball to wrap up April.

On Sunday, veteran Andy Pettitte faces fill-in starter Justin Masterson. Andy Pettitte has always been a dominating force, and Sunday probably won’t be any different. Justin Masterson is a rising star who is flying a little below the radar due to the hype of Clay Buchholz and the great start of a career by Jon Lester. It seems Sunday’s matchup will be the tough one to determine who has the edge.

We’ll see great baseball, and my prediction here is that the Red Sox will take two of three to wrap up the homestand.

Game Day Connections with the Baltimore Orioles

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

There comes a point in the career of many ballplayers when their skills begin to diminish, and whatever team they’ve spent a considerable amount of time with decides to cut the cord. The likes of Pat Rapp, John Halama, and Midre Cummings are a few examples of players who started elsewhere, or spent a fair amount of time with one organization before beginning a odyssey through different uniforms to stay employed. For these guys and others, that long windy road took them through Boston and Baltimore. Occasionally though, a new opportunity presents itself where the player revitalizes their career with a change ofscenery. Kevin Millar is one of those players.

Kevin Millar was coming off a decent year with the Florida Marlins when they made a move to trade him to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League. In order for the trade to go through, Millar had to pass through the MLB waiver wire. The Red Sox, looking to shore up the first base position after a sub-par 2002 season with Tony Clark, put in a waiver claim that set in motion a chain of events that ultimately put Millar in a Red Sox uniform for the 2003 season.

Millar’s versatility at first base and in the outfield, along with the pop in his bat, enabled him to win the starting job at first base. Millar and David Ortiz, another castoff from his original team, helped change the dynamic of an alleged cursed ballclub and led the charge towards history. It’s not necessary to recap what every Red Sox fan knows already, but Millar had a big role in the first World Series championship in 86 years for the local nine. Without his walk in the ninth inning of game four of the 2004 ALCS , Dave Roberts maybe doesn’t get a chance to steal second base and give Bill Mueller the opportunity to tie it up with a single up the middle. It wasn’t the only shining moment in Millar’s Red Sox career, but it was the brightest.

Millar’s 2005 season was less than stellar by comparison, and the Red Sox opted to not keep him around for another season. Millar found a new home with the Baltimore Orioles, and he rebounded with his power numbers. Despite the return of the home run stroke, Millar’s numbers continued to decline in his three seasons with the Orioles. He also brought his ‘Cowboy Up’ image to Baltimore, when he decided it was a good idea to bring back to life the folksy ‘Oriole Way’ rally song. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Millar’s best days were in fact behind him, and he had begun the life of the traveling veteran.

While it’s doubtful that Millar will recapture the glory of his Red Sox years, he has shown already in the early goings of the 2009 season that he still has some baseball left in his bat. In his fourth game for the Blue Jays, Millar cranked a grand slam off R.A. Dickey of the Minnesota Twins. It was his first homer with the Blue Jays, and the third AL East team he has hit a home run with. With the home run, he joined an exclusive club of players who have hit at least one home run with the Orioles, Red Sox and Blue Jays. The only other member of this club is the great Juan Beniquez , a serviceable traveling veteran in his own right who had eight different stops over a seventeen year career. As the Red Sox take on a Baltimore Orioles team that has a few traveling veterans on its roster, it seems appropriate to celebrate the one that benefited the Red Sox the most!

Game Day Connections with the Baltimore Orioles

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Today the Red Sox return home after a rough trip out west to face the Baltimore Orioles, a familiar foe that may serve as a reminder that these 2009 Red Sox are much better than they showed in the past week. The O’s and Sox have been going in different directions in the standings for years, but there was a point in time when both of their successful runs involved the same player.

Mike Boddicker was a 20 game winner with the Baltimore Orioles and helped their push towards a World Series victory over the Phillies in 1983. When the Red Sox traded Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling for Boddicker at the trade deadline in 1988, it was thought that Boddicker was a missing piece the Red Sox needed for the stretch run. The switch from a team headed towards a 100 loss season rejuvenated the veteran righty, as his ERA dropped more than a full run as he rolled with the Sox. He managed to shut down his former team and had his first shutout in over a year during the stretch run.

Boddicker helped get the Red Sox to the playoffs in 1988, and was handed a 3 run lead before he threw a pitch in his game three start in the ALCS versus Bob Welch and the Athletics. Unfortunately he didn’t duplicate his heroics from the 1983 postseason. By the end of the third inning both Welch and Boddicker were headed for the showers, Boddicker was responsible for six runs to Welch’s five. The Oakland bullpen held on to win game three 10-6, and the Sox were swept in four straight games by the team that went on to lose to the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Though history shows the Boddicker for Anderson/Schilling trade wasn’t the best in the long run, it’s hard to argue the Red Sox would have made their successful playoff runs in 1988 and 1990. Boddicker won 32 games during his 2 full seasons in Boston, and was the solid number two pitcher behind Roger Clemens. During 1990, the Red Sox went 9-3 in Boddicker starts from August on, none more important than the final game of the season. Needing a victory to get into the postseason, Mike Boddicker threw seven innings of one run ball, and Jeff Reardon came on to wrapped things up in the eighth. He closed things out with a tightrope ninth inning. After two quick outs, Reardon allowed a single to Sammy Sosa and plunked Scott Fletcher, at which point the White Sox put pinch runner Rodney McCray to give them two speedsters in a 3-1 ballgame. In what is recognized as one of the great catches in Sox history, Tom Brunansky made a diving catch in deep right field of a hit off the bat of Ozzie Guillen to end the game and send the Sox to the playoffs.

The 1990 season was Boddicker’s final in Boston, as he became a free agent and signed a three year deal with the Kansas City Royals. Boddicker did not duplicate his dominance with the Royals, and was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers at the start of the 1993 season. Like his previous teams, Boddicker found himself in a land of mediocrity after years of playing among the best. As the Red Sox take on the Orioles, the hope is the Red Sox have put a stop to the slide that threatened to put them in the same land of mediocrity the O’s have been living in for the last several years.

Red Sox connections with Nick Adenhart

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

As the Adenhart family and the Anaheim Angels deal with the sudden loss of a man at the beginning of a life most kids only dream about, it seems appropriate to recap the good things. Nick Adenhart had never played for the Boston Red Sox, and never pitched against the Red Sox in a major league game. However, despite these facts, Adenhart should be remembered for his brief yet successful career that had Red Sox connections.

During his professional career, Adenhart at one point or another shared roster spots with former Red Sox Lou Merloni, Bartolo Colon, and Darren Oliver. It’s difficult to determine if Merloni or Colon played in a game with Adenhart, but it is known that Darren Oliver pitched in Adenhart’s first two major league games when Adenhart came up for a cup of coffee in May of 2008.

Nick Adenhart’s first major league appearance came in a start against former Red Sox draft pick Justin Duchscherer now pitching for the Oakland Athletics. Duchscherer would last a bit longer than Adenhart in his first game, but gave up more runs than Adenhart. As a Red Sox factual aside, Duchscherer was the player sent to the Texas Rangers in 2001 when the Red Sox acquired Doug Mirabelli the first time.

In Adenhart’s second major league appearance, he pitched a bit better and combined with a relief corp that included Darren Oliver for a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Also appearing that game was Tony Pena, son of former the Red Sox catcher with the shared name. Pitching in relief for the Royals was Ron Mahay, the former Red Sox who made the successful leap to the majors with the change to the pitcher’s mound in the minor league system.

Adenhart’s final start of the 2008 season came against the Chicago White Sox, where he pitched well enough to earn his first major league victory in five and a third innings. Adenhart faced 2004 Red Sox World Champion Orlando Cabrera, and “OCab” grounded out twice against the Angels’ young righty. Possible future hall of famer Jim Thome could not bring his usual thunderstick against Adenhart either, flying out and grounding out against the rookie. Adenhart did not appear in another game during 2008, but his growing dominance showed just a brief snapshot of his potential.

2 nights ago, Nick Adenhart took the mound for the last time and faced a revamped 2009 Oakland Athletics team that included 2004 World Series Champ Orlando Cabrera, former Red Sox franchise player Nomar Garciaparra, former Rockie slugger Matt Holliday, and past and present Oakland slugger Jason Giambi, among others. Proving himself to be a rising star, Adenhart kept the Athletics off the board for 6 solid innings, putting in his finest outing as a major league baseball player.

Game Day Connections with the Tampa Bay Rays

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

In the final installment of the Ghosts of Tampa Bay Rays Pitching Past, we call upon the Ghost of the Wade Boggs Knuckler to wrap up the opening series of the 2009 season.

Wade Boggs had a great career with the Red Sox, Yankees, and even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during his final two seasons. He was busy manning the third base bag during his Tampa Bay tenure due to the number of subpar pitchers that were trotted out to the mound on a daily basis. One of these pitchers spectacularly imploded when throwing for Tampa Bay. The unforgettable Dave Eiland was displaying his usual array of suck on August 10, 1999 versus the Baltimore Orioles when a light bulb must have gone off in Wade Boggs’s noggin. Boggs watched as Eiland’s replacements unraveled, as well as the supporting defensive cast behind him. When Mickey Calloway came in, the Orioles tacked on a few runs before breaking the game wide open in the 6th with the help of sloppy Devil Rays fielding. It appeared the worse was over when Mike Duvall came in to close out the sixth and settled down the O’s in the seventh inning. Unfortunately, after an error in the eighth Duvall quickly unraveled with a wild pitch and issued a couple of walks. A single, another error and a hits batsman would lead to the return of the Wade Boggs Knuckler to the pitching mound.

Before Duvall, Boggs likely had seen enough anyway. He probably told the skipper about his one inning pitching stint for the Yankees a few years earlier. He must have mentioned that he had even struck out Todd Greene! He obviously had a point, if this conversation actually took place. How much worse could a future hall of fame third baseman be than what had already been on the rubber that day? Devil Rays skipper Larry Rothschild probably conceded that there wasn’t much worse that could happen that day, considering his team was twenty-two and a half games out of first place.

Boggs ended up with the best pitching line that day. Boggs came into the 7th inning with the bases loaded and closed out the inning without letting any more runs in. He made quick work of the first 2 hitters in the 8th before a double and a pair of singles game Boggs a crooked ERA for the day. With his final out, he retired Albert Belle on a fly ball. I think it’s a safe bet that nobody expected to say that Wade Boggs was easily the best pitcher for the Devil Rays on August 10th, 1999.

Here’s to hoping that by the 8th inning of today’s game, the Rays pitching coach is looking at third baseman Evan Longoria to rise to the occasion to stop the brutality being put forth by the Red Sox offense.

Game Day Connections with the Tampa Bay Rays

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

In the second of three profiles that cover some of the Ghosts of Rays Pitching Past, I draw your attention to an old friend..

Casey Fossum was a reliable pitcher who was relatively low on the depth chart for the Red Sox during his stint from 2001-2003. He was a decent option out of the bullpen and the occasional start. He peaked in 2002, where he held his own against the AL East opponents and in particular the New York Yankees. In a starting role and relief role, he was able to shut down the Yankees more often than not. Unfortunately for Fossum, it appeared opponents had figured him out and following the 2003 season was packaged with several other players in the trade that would effectively help change the course of Red Sox history. I’m talking about the November 2003 trade that brought Curt Schilling to Boston.

Fossum struggled as he recovered from shoulder surgery in 2004, alternating terrific starts with equally horrific displays of pitching. As luck would have it, the Diamondbacks faced the AL East during the 2004 season. Fossum pitched brilliantly against the Orioles, and was smacked around by the Yankees in his next turn. Before the beginning of the 2005 season, he was shipped off to Tampa Bay for Jose Cruz Jr. In his return to the American League, Fossum proved himself early and earned the chance to be a good back-of-the-rotation-option for the Rays by mid-May. At the same time, Hideo Nomo was sliding out of Major League view.

Fossum began his own slide in 2006, as he struggled to have steady success that would keep a hold on his spot in the rotation. Other than a brief trip to the Disabled list, Fossum started the entire season until a shoulder injury sidelined him at the end of August. The apex of his decline came in 2007 when he lost his spot in the rotation by the end of May. He lost his spot on the roster by mid-August, when he couldn’t put together more than a few appearances in a row without imploding in some way. He caught on with San Diego’s triple A club, but was pounded in 2 starts to the tune of 12 runs on 26 hits and 7 walks in less than 13 innings.

The Detroit Tigers took a flyer on Fossum in 2008, and after great success at the triple A level brought him up to the big club. As the Tigers slid further away from postseason hopes, Fossum saw more action. Like his time in Tampa Bay, he had trouble with consistency. His longest stretch of scoreless appearances was 5 games in July of that year.

He’s starting the 2009 season in the Mets minor league system, as his spring training numbers of 8 runs on 16 hits in just 11 innings left a lot to be desired by a club starving for quality pitching.

As the Sox face perennial Red Sox Killer Scott Kazmir, they may need the Ghost of A Not-So-Good Left Handed Pitcher to help them extend the hopes of a 162-0 season.