Monthly Archives: December 2009

The SoSH Top 100 Red Sox of All Time

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The Boston Red Sox first took the field as the Boston Americans in 1901, and since then more than 1600 players that have played for the team. Creating a list of just 100 players to represent the team’s best of all time is not an easy task. However, for almost six months between June and December, several hundred Red Sox fans* took part in compiling a comprehensive list that determined the top 100 Red Sox players ever to wear the uniform.

To find the top 100 players of all time, the Sons of Sam Horn online community established a system that first required members to nominate players for each voting period of the top 100. During this nominating period, fans debated and defended the various players put forth during each nominating group. For example, to nominate players for the Top 10 Red Sox of all time, an online thread was open for roughly a week to allow participants to nominate their players for consideration. The 20 players with the most nominations were then listed in an online poll for members to vote on and rank the top 10 players. A week later the poll closed and results were posted. This system was used for each subsequent grouping of 10 spots in the top 100.

Like any great ‘All Time’ lists, the SoSH Top 100 Red Sox of All Time list likely creates more questions than answers, if only because people will undoubtedly question the ranking of some players and the ommissions of others. To start the debate, here are the final results per SoSH polling, of the voting for the top 100 Red Sox of All Time.

1. Ted Williams
2. Pedro Martinez
3. Carl Yastrzemski
4. Cy Young
5. Roger Clemens
6. Manny Ramirez
7. Tris Speaker
8. Wade Boggs
9. Jimmie Foxx
10. Babe Ruth
11. Jim Rice
12. Carlton Fisk
13. Dwight Evans
14. Bobby Doerr
15. David Ortiz
16. Lefty Grove
17. Smokey Joe Wood
18. Nomar Garciaparra
19. Joe Cronin
20. Dom DiMaggio
21. Luis Tiant
22. Mo Vaughn
23. Tim Wakefield
24. Fred Lynn
25. Tony Conigliaro
26. Johnny Pesky
27. Jason Varitek
28. Harry Hooper
29. Curt Schilling
30. Mel Parnell
31. Jimmy Collins
32. Dick Radatz
33. Rico Petrocelli
34. Jonathan Papelbon
35. Mike Greenwell
36. Bob Stanley
37. Bill Lee
38. Vern Stephens
39. Jackie Jensen
40. Dennis Eckersley
41. Derek Lowe
42. Dutch Leonard
43. Reggie Smith
44. Bruce Hurst
45. Pete Runnels
46. Kevin Youkilis
47. Buck Freeman
48. Dustin Pedroia
49. Larry Gardner
50. Ellis Burks
51. Josh Beckett
52. Frank Malzone
53. John Valentin
54. Tex Hughson
55. George Scott
56. Ellis Kinder
57. Duffy Lewis
58. Johnny Damon
59. Billy Goodman
60. Rick Burleson
61. Trot Nixon
62. Jim Lonborg
63. Bill Monbouquette
64. Marty Barrett
65. Jimmy Piersall
66. Mike Timlin
67. Rick Ferrell
68. Carl Mays
69. Joe Dobson
70. Rich Gedman
71. Mike Lowell
72. Bill Mueller
73. Frank Sullivan
74. Troy O’Leary
75. Wes Ferrell
76. Bill Dinneen
77. Chick Stahl
78. Jody Reed
79. Brian Daubach
80. Tom Burgmeier
81. Jon Lester
82. Sparky Lyle
83. JD Drew
84. Bernie Carbo
85. Bill Carrigan
86. Boo Ferriss
87. Mike Andrews
88. Dave Henderson
89. Ernie Shore
90. Everett Scott
91. Keith Foulke
92. Tom Gordon
93. Tommy Harper
94. Lee Smith
95. Butch Hobson
96. Jacoby Ellsbury
97. Bill Campbell
98. Ray Culp
99. Jake Stahl
100. Rich Garces

The list represents not only the best players, but the players who have resonated the most with Red Sox fans throughout history. The top 10, in my view, represents the top 10 players that the average person thinks of when they think of the Boston Red Sox. Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez and Carl Yastrzemski will probably still be on the top 5 list 100 years from now. Their incredible careers and impact on the team ensures that.

To appreciate this list, you need to let go of the idea that a player is snubbed because of their ranking. Were Mike Greenwell and Trot Nixon really better than J.D. Drew? Should all three of them be ranked above Jacoby Ellsbury? It depends who you ask! Mike Greenwell was a steady left fielder and runner up to Jose Canseco for MVP in 1988. Trot Nixon was the original ‘Dirt Dog’ and seemed to turn it up in the postseason and in big regular season moments. J.D. Drew definitely turned it up in the postseason with several key homers. Jacoby Ellsbury played in the 2007 World Series like his hair was on fire, and has established himself as a solid offensive piece of the lineup. What is true is that all of these players have a place on the list of all time Red Sox.

With the Red Sox currently enjoying a Golden Age unlike anything we’ve seen, it’s easy to suggest more of the current era of Red Sox players should be on this list. However, without players like Mike Greenwell, Trot Nixon, Lee Smith, and others like them, their respective Red Sox teams probably struggle a whole lot more. Only time will tell how this list will evolve. 5 years from now, John Lackey will hopefully rank somewhere on this list for his role in winning several championships.

Do you agree with this list? Are there any glaring ommissions that SoSH missed? Would you agree that Rich “El Guapo” Garces is a fantastic choice for #100 on the All Time Red Sox list?

Thanks to SoSH for creating this list and allowing me to share it with Baseball Digest!

*This project was created by members of the Sons of Sam Horn online community made up of a group of Red Sox fans that spend their time analysing every major move, minor move and the moves that haven’t even been made by the Boston Red Sox, but perhaps should be. In addition to the discussions of all things Red Sox and discussions of every New England sports teams, SoSH also holds an annual auction for Curt Schilling’s ‘Curt’s Pitch for ALS’. The 2009 SoSH Auction for Curt’s Pitch for ALS raised nearly $40,000.

Lackey Joins The Red Sox

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The Boston Globe, among other media outlets, are reporting that former Angels ace John Lackey has tentatively agreed to a 5 year deal with the Boston Red Sox worth between $82 – $85 million dollars. The 31 year old free agent is coming off an 11-8 season with an sub 4.00 ERA, and a postseason in which he dominated the Red Sox with seven and a third shutout innings the ALDS. He pitched well enough to win twice against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, but came away with no wins and a loss.

At first glance, this signing looks like an incredible pickup for the Red Sox. In 2009, Lackey pitched well against all of the AL East teams except for the Tampa Bay Rays. In his career, he has pitched well against the AL East and interleague teams. Lackey will join Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka to top off the first four spots in the rotation.

Even Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe cannot ignore this impact signing has in the arms battle with the New York Yankees.

A rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and either Clay Buchholz or Tim Wakefield would be better than what the Yankees have right now in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, TBA, TBA.

While Abraham’s assessment discounts the real possibility that Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes will continue to develope and improve, the reality is the Red Sox rotation is now stacked with pitchers who have shown the ability to succeed for full seasons and continue that success in the postseason.

The biggest concern for John Lackey’s 5 year deal with Boston is probably with his health. Lackey started each of the last two seasons on the disabled list, but avoided the DL once in the rotation. He made 24 starts in 2008 and 27 in 2009.

The question that arises now, with the Mike Lowell to Texas trade potentially hitting a snag due to Lowell’s thumb injury, will Clay Buchholz become expedible in hopes of acquiring a third baseman to fill Lowell’s shoes? How 43 year old Tim Wakefield responds to back surgery could play a role in Buchholz’s future in Boston as well.

After a relatively quiet Winter Meetings for Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox, it seems Christmas has come early for Red Sox fans!

Cameron In, Bay Out

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Just hours after the news the Boston Red Sox signed John Lackey to a 5 year deal, the Boston Globe’s Extra Bases and ESPN.com are reporting that free agent outfielder Mike Cameron has signed a 2 year contract(contingent on passing a physical) worth up to $16 million dollars over the next two seasons.

This signing all but confirms that free agent outfielder Jason Bay will not return to Boston. Peter Abraham summarizes how Terry Francona can use Mike Cameron’s versatility to rest J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury in a recent post on Extra Bases:

… he’s an accomplished enough athlete to play in left, especially at Fenway. His presence gives Terry Francona a lot of flexibility. He can rest Jacoby Ellsbury when needed and use Cameron in center with Jeremy Hermida in left. Or Cameron can play right field when J.D. Drew need time off…

Mike Cameron has played for 6 different clubs during his 15 year career, most recently slugging 24 home runs for 2009 Milwaukee Brewers. He slugged at least 20 homers in each of the last 4 seasons, and had an OPS+ of 111 during 2008 and 2009. FanGraphs ranked Mike Cameron as the best defensive centerfielder in the National League, and third best in all of baseball for the 2009 season.

There is downside to signing Mike Cameron. He will be 37 years old on January 8th, and is on pace to be among the top 5 all time in career strikeouts by the end of this two year deal. At 30 years old, Jason Bay is in the midst of his career peak and Mike Cameron is at the wrong end of his 30s.

This signing may provide some insight into the retooling of the Boston Red Sox. Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein has been quoted time and again, stating that the front office is committed to fielding a team that has the best opportunity to win as many as 95 games every year. By signing Mike Cameron for two years, they are not handcuffed by a 4 or 5 year deal with Jason Bay and will utilize their farm system without holding a player back or having a large long term financial commitment to an aging player. For example, 22 year old outfielder Josh Reddick is considered among the top 5 of the organization’s prospects and could be ready for the big leagues by 2012.

While Mike Cameron may not be an offensive machine that Jason Bay is, his defensive prowess will hopefully make up the difference. If John Lackey’s signing is the big Christmas present for Red Sox fans, Mike Cameron is a decent stocking stuffer!

Happy Birthday, Scott Hatteberg!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The 2010 season will be the first that Jason Varitek finds himself in the backup role since the days of Luis Alicea, John Valentin and Scott Hatteberg. You do not have to go far back in history to find a successful backup, as Doug Mirabelli thrived in that role(and as personal catcher to Tim Wakefield), he was not the first to have success in the limited role. If Jason Varitek needs guidance on how to be a great backup, he may want to call the man that he filled in for occasionally more than a decade ago.

Scott Hatteberg’s first game as a Red Sox came near the end of the 1995 season, in a rare loss by newly acquired knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. It was the first of 73 subsequent batterymate pairings of Hatteberg with Wakefield over the next 7 seasons. It was the same era that saw the changing of the guard, with the departures of longtime team veterans like Mike Greenwell, Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens to the next generation of Red Sox like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek.

Hatteberg was the everyday catcher for the 1997 and 1998 seasons before Jason Varitek took over in 1999. Hatteberg stayed with the Red Sox as the backup for the next two seasons before being pushed back into the starting role in June of 2001 when Varitek busted his elbow sliding for a popup foul. A week after Varitek’s injury, the Red Sox acquired Doug Mirabelli to serve as backup to Hatteberg. Mirabelli flourished in his role, cranking 9 homers in almost a third as many at bats as Hatteberg, who hit 3 homers during the season. Mirabelli’s strong season was one of the only few bright spots during a season that included visits to the disabled list by Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and the firing of manager Jimy Williams en route to an 82-79 season(including a 6-15 September!).

During the 2001 season Hatteberg injured his elbow and was unable to throw, which essentially provided Mirabelli the chance to assume to the backup role for 2002 and beyond. While Hatteberg resurrected his career in Oakland and Cincinnati as a capable first baseman with some pop in his bat, his days as a Red Sox and as a catcher were over following the 2001 season.

As Varitek looks to assume to role that Hatteberg and Mirabelli succeeded in, it makes sense to acknowledge a job well done(albeit years ago) and wish a Happy 40th Birthday to Scott Hatteberg!

Happy Birthday, Dick Newsome!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Dick Newsome’s career was only three seasons long, but the World War II veteran was arguably the best rookie of the 1941 season. The Rookie of the Year Award was still 6 years away from being award to its first recipient, Jackie Robinson, so we’re left to merely speculate who would’ve won the award in 1941.

The only other candidate to consider for the 1941 Rookie of the Year likely would have been Phil Rizzuto, who was wrapping up an incredible debut season where he hit .300 with a slugging percentage of .398 for the eventual World Champion New York Yankees. In the Most Valuable Player voting, Rizzuto ranked 20th while Newsome ranked 10th. Neither player received a 1st place MVP vote, which is not surprising, since 1941 was the season of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak and Ted Williams’ season with a .406 batting average.

Dick Newsome’s career sputtered in 1942 and 1943 before he left to join Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Phil Rizzuto and many other ballplayers fighting in World War II. After he served in the military, Newsome did not return to the big leagues as many ballplayers did. He returned to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina instead. With his baseball career behind him, he worked on his farm, where he died in 1956 in an auto accident.

If Dick Newsome were alive today, he’d be celebrating his 100th birthday, and probably would agree that he was the 1941 Rookie of the Year! Happy Birthday, Dick Newsome!

Happy Birthday, Tully Sparks!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Tully Sparks spent nearly a decade with the Philadelphia Phillies, winning 95 games between 1903 and 1910. However, he took a long and windy road to get there. Prior to 1903, Sparks split 4 seasons between 5 different clubs. At some point in 1902, he signed on with the 3rd place Boston Americans.

Sparks played for the 7th place Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899, and was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 1900 season. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates ended up as a first place team within two seasons. When he returned to the major leagues in 1901, it was with the 8th place Milwaukee Brewers who had just purchased his contract from the Phillies.

The Milwaukee Brewers then moved to St. Louis for the 1902 season and were renamed the Browns. For reasons unknown, Sparks jumped ship and joined the New York Giants for that season. The St. Louis Browns went from 8th place as the Brewers in 1901 to finish 2nd place as the Browns in 1901. By comparison, the New York Giants finished the season with a 48-88 record, good for last place in the standings, 53 games out of first place. In Sparks’ defense, he had already been released in July by the time the Giants finished with a 48-88 record. Despite a 3.76 ERA, Sparks had the worst numbers of any starting pitcher on the team.

Tully Sparks was not unemployed for long as he signed on with the Boston Americans a month later, joining Cy Young, Bill Dineen and George Winter in the Boston rotation. The Americans finished with a respectable 77-60 record.

For reasons unknown(again!), Tully Sparks jumped ship, this time for the basement dwelling Philadelpia Phillies prior to the 1903 season. Perhaps Sparks knew the Americans were going to insert Tom Hughes into the rotation, or perhaps they had to go to Hughes because of Sparks’ departure. Either way, the result may have played a role in the first World Series championship for the Boston Americans. Sparks went on to have a good career with the Phillies, but during his tenure the Phillies were unable to reach the postseason.

Though he died over 70 years ago… Happy 135th Birthday, Tully Sparks!

Baseball Owners Face Revenue Sharing Conundrum

With the Winter Meetings taking place this week, there are probably some off-the-record discussions going on regarding comments made about revenue sharing last week.

Red Sox owner, John Henry, recently emailed the Boston Globe with his comments on revenue sharing in Major League Baseball. Some of his key points:

His plan to overhaul the current system.

“It’s a very simple approach in which payroll tax dollars replace revenue sharing dollars and go directly to the clubs that need revenues in order to meet minimum payrolls that should be imposed on each club receiving revenue. Further, players would have to be protected with a guaranteed minimum percentage of overall revenues. This would be a very simple and effective method in reducing top payrolls and increasing bottom payrolls with no tax on revenues,” Henry wrote.

Later on, he comes out and says the system is flawed.

“Baseball has determined that the best way to deal with the Yankees is to take as much of their revenue as possible. I see that in direct opposition to the ideals this country was built on. Baseball is a business and should be treated as such. Baseball is also a sport that needs competitive balance in order to prosper. Taxing their revenues and other “large markets” in the way it is presently done, is simply confiscation on an order of magnitude never seen in any industry in America,” Henry said.

I think John Henry is correct in his assessment, and his plan might be a reasonable option to consider. As long as the new system changes from it’s current state, which is basically giving from the rich to the poor, it would be an improvement. If you look into teams that have received revenue, that revenue hasn’t been poured back into their team or it has, but with just one big contract along with dozens of small contracts. The small market teams are generating revenue, but not a lot. Why should lower revenue teams receive funding, if it’s not being used to make the team competitive? The entire discussion may begin and end with the reality that you can’t expect to determine what exactly investing consists of, as plenty of teams invest in player development, scouting and other area that cannot be analyzed as easily as payroll numbers.

However, for the sake of argument, how does a team defend their investment plans? The Pittsburgh Pirates president, Frank Coonelly, responded this week to John Henry’s comments about cash-strapped teams by explaining his team’s income scale to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The first figure is operating income, which is simply money in vs. money out. He would not divulge that figure for either year but characterized the 2009 figure as “significantly” lower than $14 million.

Next, any cash paid on debt is subtracted. In the Pirates’ case, the cash paid on debt — roughly $6.5 million each of the past two years — has covered nothing more than interest charges on debt of a little more than $100 million, Coonelly said. The Pirates have made no payments on the debt’s principle the past two years and, in fact, the debt has increased slightly because of those capital investments.

The new Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) executive director, Michael Weiner(replacing Donald Fehr), has already stated that the players would object to any salary floor, as it could be the first step towards a salary cap. With other looming concerns such as extending the Division Series to 7 games while preventing baseball in November, the revenue sharing situation may end up on the backburner for some time.

There has not been a great deal of public response from other owners, but public discussions about this issue are bound to pick up before the current union contract is up in 2011.