Monthly Archives: February 2010

Teammates Through History: Michael Bowden to Ted Williams

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The amazing website Baseball-Reference celebrates its 10 year anniversary in April, and I personally can credit that website with wasting an incredible amount of time due to the expansive catalog they have of every major league team in history. Over the years they’ve added new and exciting features to give baseball fans everywhere new excuses to lose hours searching through statistics.

One of my favorite pastimes is connecting players through the history of the game. To celebrate the birthday of Baseball-Reference, I’m going to share one of these winding roads through baseball history. This may turn into a series, but it’s important to know that every road through history can take a different path. The path I chose here is just one of thousands that you can use to reach the same final player.

To start off the Trail To Teddy Ballgame, we begin with the youngest member on the 2009 Boston Red Sox.

Michael Bowden is a 22 year old right handed pitcher who has dominated the minor leagues in his brief professional career. In 5 seasons, he has an 3.15 ERA with a WHIP of 1.156. In his major league debut on August 30th 2008, Bowden held the Chicago White Sox to 2 runs over 5 innings. Aside from two dreadful games against the Yankees and Blue Jays in 2009, Bowden had a relatively successful late summer appearance with the club.

Michael Bowden played with Tim Wakefield

Bowden’s 5th career appearance came in relief during a game that was started by veteran Tim Wakefield. It also turned out to be Wakefield’s 387th start for the Red Sox, a category that he leads the franchise in with 388. You may or may not know that Tim Wakefield enters the 2010 season needing only 18 victories to become the franchise leader in wins. Though never the ace of the pitching staff, Wakefield has been a solid contributor for much of his 15 year tenure in Boston.

Tim Wakefield played with Mike Greenwell

Tim Wakefield’s first start with the Boston Red Sox was the beginning of a single season stretch of dominance that he hasn’t duplicated in any season since, except perhaps during the first half of the 2009 season. In his first 17 starts as a Red Sox, the team won 15 games and 10 straight. Wakefield threw 6 complete games, including a 10 inning 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners and a shutout of Minnesota Twins. In the first start of Wakefield’s Red Sox career, the lineup included veteran outfielder Mike Greenwell. Though they played together for just two seasons, Mike Greenwell rounded out his decade with the same team at the end of the 1996 season, and retired soon after signing a deal to play in Japan for the 1997 season.

Greenwell’s first major league hit was a home run that came in a 13 inning walk-off blast that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was just his 7th at bat, and earned him just his second start ever the following day. In his third at bat of the day, Greenwell cranked his second career hit over the wall, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in an eventual 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays. It’s possible Red Sox skipper John McNamara was trying to catch lightning in a bottle for the third time when Greenwell started the first game of a series against the Detroit Tigers. Alas, Greenwell went 0 for 3 and started just 3 games the rest of the way. However, it’s worth mentioning that his career finished with a high note similar to the way it began. On September 2nd, 1996 Greenwell scored all of Boston’s runs in a 9-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners. He had 2 home runs, but came a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

Mike Greenwell played with Dwight Evans

The day Greenwell launched his first career home run would not have been possible had long time right fielder Dwight Evans not hit his 262nd career home run in the 8th inning to tie up the score. Greenwell’s emergence on the scene in 1985 did not pose a threat to Evans, and at the time probably not even then-right fielder Jim Rice. However, within 3 seasons, Greenwell was the everyday left fielder. Within four seasons, Jim Rice was out of baseball. An amazing aspect of the Greenwell-Rice transition is Dwight Evans. Arguably one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Evans was the everyday right fielder before, during, and after Jim Rice’s tenure as the everyday left fielder for the Sox. It wasn’t until the 1990 season that Dewey saw most of his playing time as the designated hitter. His Hall of Fame status is likely a discussion for another day!

Dwight Evans played with Carl Yastrzemski

Dewey’s long career started in 1972 with a late September callup. Over the next decade playing together, Dwight Evans and Carl Yastrzemski combined to slug almost 400 home runs. The first time the two players homered in the same game came on April 14th, 1974 against the Detroit Tigers. Juan Marichal, in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, started for Boston and struggled through 3.1 innings of work. Luckily for the Red Sox, the Tigers’ starter also faltered. Evans’ home run in the first and Yaz’s homer in the 3rd proved to be the difference in an eventual 7-5 Red Sox win.

Yastrzemski spent his entire 23 year career with the Red Sox, and faced immense pressure even in his rookie season. It’s easy to understand why, as the future Hall of Famer was replacing the legendary Ted Williams in left field. There was another player who faced pressure and played alongside both Yaz and Teddy Ballgame. Of course, the pressure on this player was of a different, culturally important variety.

Carl Yastrzemski played with Pumpsie Green

Pumpsie Green’s best season in his brief 5 year career was during Yaz’s rookie season, when he hit .260 with 6 home runs. Though they never homered in the same game, Green and Yaz combined to be an offensive force several times throughout the 1961 season.

Pumpsie Green played with Ted Williams

Pumpsie Green’s major league debut on July 21st, 1959 marked an end to Boston’s title as the lone team that had yet to integrate their roster, an incredible 12 seasons after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. While Green played primarily in a backup role, one of his 12 career home runs as a member of the Red Sox was in a game against the New York Yankees that Ted Williams also homered. Green’s 1st inning homer on September 6th, 1960 and Ted Williams 2 run bomb in the 5th accounted for three runs in an eventual 7-1 victory over the Yanks.

It’s fitting that Pumpsie Green connects the current Red Sox to the greatest hitter is Red Sox history, because Williams famously called for recognition of Negro League players during his Hall of Fame induction speech. His support for players such a Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson played a major role in the eventual induction of these players and more in the ensuing years.

Bonus, Michael Bowden to the 1927 New York Yankees: Ted Williams played with Cedric Durst

The Red Sox signed Ted Williams in 1936 and sent him to play for the Double-A affiliate San Diego Padres. Williams played alongside many future MLB players including Vince DiMaggio and longtime friend Bobby Doerr. By 1936, Cedric Durst was 6 years removed from his most reason season at the MLB level. He helped Ted Williams at the Padres to their 1937 Pacific League Championship. At the Major League level, Durst was a member of the ‘Murderer’s Row’ New York Yankees championship team of 1927.

Bonus Bonus, Michael Bowden to the 1918 Boston Red Sox: Cedric Durst played with Jack Stansbury

In 1921, Cedric Durst hit .274 as an outfielder with the unaffiliated Beaumont Exporters. The Exporters had several future and past MLB players, including Jack Stansbury. Stansbury was 3 years removed from his last MLB at bat when he played with the Exporters. The interesting point here is that Jack Stansbury’s only major league time took place while with the 1918 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Between June and the end of July, Stansbury hit .128 over 20 games with the team that would not make another World Series appearance until Ted Williams’ 7th season at the major league level.

Truck Day Is Here!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Baseball fans do not need a groundhog to tell them when spring is near. All they need to see is a really big truck outside of their favorite team’s ballpark, loading up with team equipment.

For Red Sox fans, obsessing about the upcoming season starts with the departure of the equipment truck. The Boston Globe has their first article online this morning at Boston.com covering the 2010 Truck Day. Within that article, you can see the first photos of the truck being loaded with the team equipment, and photos from Truck Days over the past several years.

In addition to team equipment, the truck transports other important items as well. In the past, General Manager Theo Epstein’s guitar and a visiting clubhouse attendant’s motorcycle were among the items to be shipped down to Florida.

Though it is a tradition first celebrated by the Boston Red Sox, Truck Day is slowly becoming a trend across Major League Baseball. MLB.com has an article that recaps all team Truck Days.

The New York Mets Truck Day arrived early this year with the impending snowstorm that blanketed the region with up to 18 inches of snow. Mr. Met helped the equipment team load up for spring training.

The Cincinnati Reds Truck Day was a week earlier than Red Sox Truck Day, with a departure last Friday to their new spring training home in Arizona.

The Texas Rangers Truck Day was also a week earlier than Red Sox Truck Day, but their truck was only traveling for two days. They started unpacking the truck on Super Bowl Sunday!

The blogs are also busy with updates about the Red Sox Truck Day. Here are just a few posting about the greatest day since the end of the baseball season:

The Boston Examiner is excited about Truck Day and argues no truck day could possibly measure up to Red Sox Truck Day.

Boston Dirt Dogs posted a photo featuring the equipment truck during “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”.

Fenway West wishes everybody a Happy Truck Day.

SB Nation notes that other teams are celebrating Truck Day, but suggests Wally The Green Monster’s t-shirt toss is a difference maker.

Steve Weissman of Cape Cod Today uses Truck Day as a time to start musing about 2010 team predictions.

To assist with getting excited about the upcoming baseball season, here are the important spring training dates to remember:

Thursday, Feb. 18 — Reporting day for Red Sox pitchers and catchers; MLB voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players
Saturday, Feb. 20 — First workout for Red Sox pitchers and catchers
Monday, Feb. 22 — Reporting day for Red Sox positional players
Tuesday, Feb. 23 — MLB voluntary reporting date for other players
Wednesday, Feb. 24 — First Red Sox full-squad workout

The Future of The Closer

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

In Boston, everybody looks forward to Truck Day. It’s the unofficial start of spring, because it means baseball is coming. This year, Truck Day is on Friday, and it’s not a stretch to say it’s considered a minor holiday in Boston.

Pitchers and catchers report a week after the truck leaves Boston, so we are just 9 days away from the first peak at the 2010 squad. It’s hard to believe ballplayers will be working out in Florida at a time when Fenway Park looks more like an outdoor ice rink than a ballpark.

While snow continues to bury New England and much of the east coast, now seems as good a time as any to consider one of the stories that might arise during the 2010 season and beyond. As spring training nears, I hope to touch upon a few of the stories that might take center stage in 2010. The first story may not be the biggest, but when it comes to Jonathan Papelbon, you never can tell.

Jonathan Papelbon has always been a vocal member of the Red Sox, and last summer proved no different when he made it known that he would consider an offer from the New York Yankees if he became a free agent when he is eligible following the 2011 season. Discussing his contract did not effect Papelbon’s ability to throw up some quality numbers in 2009. Despite saving 38 games with a sub 2.00 ERA, there are other numbers that raise eyebrows for Jonathan Papelbon’s long-term effectiveness. In particular, Papelbon’s WHIP(Walk and Hits per Innings Pitched) has increased in each of the last two season. In simpler terms, Papelbon allowed almost twice as many hits in 2008 and 2009 as he did in 2006-2007 and allowed 3 times as many walks in 2009 compared to 2008. On top of that, Papelbon’s strikeout totals have leveled off since his breakout season in 2007.

With Papelbon and the Red Sox agreeing to a contract before heading to arbitration, the closer will be paid over $9 Million for 2010. With the emergence of Daniel Bard last season, the Red Sox may be in the position to move on from Jonathan Papelbon following the 2011 season. Though Bard’s 2009 season was pedestrian compared to Papelbon, his ability to strike out major league hitters is impossible to ignore. During the 2009 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Bard struck out 29 in 16 innings and then struck out 63 in 49 innings with the big league club. He certainly has the velocity to take over as the closer. The 24 year old can hit 100 MPH on the radar gun, earning the nickname of Daniel “Hard” from some teammates.

How Daniel Bard performs this coming season will greatly impact which direction the Red Sox go in. If Bard’s sophomore season is an improvement on his rookie year and he shows he can regularly dominate MLB hitters, we will probably begin hearing more discussions about whether or not the Red Sox should consider working Papelbon into a trade to improve the team in other areas. The guess here is, if Bard proves to be the real deal, the Red Sox will let the franchise leader in saves depart in exchange for the draft picks they will receive when he signs elsewhere.

The Red Sox have taken this course several times in the past. For example, the Red Sox received 5 draft picks in 2005 as compensation when free agents Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrera signed elsewhere. The players drafted with those picks were Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Michael Bowden.

Any way you slice it, the decision to let fan favorites walk proved to be a wise decision that played a role in a second world championship title within three years of the first in 86 years. Though Papelbon plays up an aloof attitude towards the media, there is no doubt he is probably aware the Red Sox front office has options when it comes to paying a high price for a commodity or going with a younger untested talent. Especially if it means there is a chance to obtain a draft pick that turns into the next Jacoby Ellsbury or Clay Buchholz.

Thanks to K.P. for the use of the photo from Fenway Park during the NHL Winter Classic

Victoria Aces Win Their 17th Claxton Shield Championship

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The 2009-2010 Claxton Shield tournament came to a close on Saturday, and there was nary a mention by any of the major sports news outlets in the United States. Though Major League Baseball is partnered with the Australian Baseball League, the MLB Network is broadcasting the entire Caribbean Series which features several current MLB players, prospects and even a few retired ballplayers while ignoring the baseball league of Australia.

As mentioned previously on BaseballDigest.com, there are many players within the Claxton Shield that currently play within MLB organizations, or have spent some of their professional careers in the US with minor league teams or in the independent leagues. As the 2009-2010 Claxton Shield was the inaugural season of the revitalized Australian Baseball League, the guess here is there might be more mainstream coverage in the future. The 2010-2011 Claxton Shield will include a 6th team and more likely resemble the Australian Baseball League that disbanded following the 1999 season.

You can read full recaps of the series on the Victoria Aces website, as well as the South Australian team website. Despite a valiant effort on the part of the South Australian baseball club, the Victoria Aces emerged victorious in Claxton Shield Grand Finals on Sunday night. The Aces defeated the South Australians in two straight games in a best of three series to secure their 17th championship title, and their first since 2007. The South Australians attempted to secure their first title in three decades, but could not contain the offensive juggernaut of the Aces, which lost just seven games during the tournament.

The semi-finals and grand finals of the tournament drew crowds of over a thousand per game, and featured great mid-inning entertainment such as the ‘Keg Toss’, where the winner received a free large pizza. The single camera live feeds provided a view of the college ballpark with small bleacher areas and fans sitting in folding chairs behind home plate, while the talent on the field arguably rivaled that of any Triple A team of Minor League Baseball.

It’s unclear whether the future of the Australian Baseball League will include future MLB talent as the previous incarnation did. The previous incarnation featured MLB players such as former Phillie Kevin Jordan(ABL batting champ and MVP in ’93), former Yankee Homer Bush(ABL MVP in ’94) in addition to one of the most famous Australian players to play in MLB, former Brewer Dave Nilsson. If the talent of the inaugural season of the revitalized league is any indication, the future of baseball down under has great potential to showcase rising stars in a country where baseball continues to seed its roots within the culture and may some day rival off-season leagues around the world.

Ryan Murphy Drives South Australia Past New South Wales

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The South Australian baseball club has a chance to win the coveted Claxton Shield Championship for the first time in thirty years after defeating the New South Wales Patriots 1-0 in game 3 of the semi-finals on Sunday evening.

The player of the game was unquestionably Ryan Murphy for South Australia. Making his first start of the season, Murphy dominated the NSW lineup to the tune of a complete game shutout, only allowing one runner to advance to second base. In addition to outstanding pitching, Murphy provided his own offensive support by cranking the only home run in the semi-finals to give his team a 1-0 lead in the second inning. For a full recap of all the games, photos, and video of an outstanding catch by Dan Wilson that robbed NSW’s second baseman of a home run, click here for South Australia’s website.

In order to win the Claxton Championship, the South Australians will have to go through the best team in the league. A quick look at the batting and pitching league leaders for the season shows the Victoria Aces have their fair share of players representing the best of the league. It also comes as no surprise that the Aces lost just 7 games during the tournament.

The South Australian’s have the best offensive player of the year in their lineup with Michael Collins, but the Victoria Aces’ own Matthew Lawman is capable of changing any game with a single at bat. Josh Davies and Scott Wearne provide Lawman with lineup protection, and 4 of the top 5 ERA league leaders belong to the Victoria Aces.

It appears on paper that the South Australian’s have an uphill battle when they face the Aces on February 5th for game 1 of the grand finals. However, as the semi-finals showed, it takes a single player to change the course of the game. It is uncertain whether the South Australian baseball club will provide live coverage of the series, but if it is carried you will find it at their website.(click here for the link to the live feed)

Game 1 between South Australia and the Victoria Aces will take place at 7:05PM on Friday, February 5th in Melbourne, Australia, which is 3:05AM in Eastern Standard Time.