Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox’

End of a Decade

December 31, 2009

Today marks the end of the decade whose first three numbers are 200. A lot of people are doing their all-decade this and that. Who am I to go against the tide? So here’s my choice for baseball’s all-decade whatever.

Story of the decade: Has to be the steroid issue. It has tainted the statistics, the record book, awards, and the Hall of Fame voting. Frankly I don’t trust much of anything that happened in the first few years of the decade.

Franchise of the decade: I was tempted to go with the Yankees, who won 2 World Series’ and lost another, but finally decided to go with the Red Sox. They won 2 World Series’, completed an improbable comeback in 2004, and in general took a franchise that hadn’t won in 80 years and picked up multiple rings.

Player of the decade: Albert Pujols easy. No steroid taint (at least not yet, PLEASE GOD), great numbers, a ring, and one of the greatest home runs I ever saw (sorry, Brad Lidge). An honorable mention here to Joe Mauer who may end up the greatest hitting catcher ever. We’ll have to watch that closely.

Pitcher of the decade: Mariano Rivera. What he did in the late 90’s he’s continued to do for this decade. His team didn’t win as often, but as a rule that wasn’t his fault. An honorable mention here also is in order. This time to Curt Schilling. Better pitchers in the decade, but his influence on the winning Red Sox should be noted (and he had a heck of a 2001 World Series).

World Series of the decade: Speaking of the 2001 World Series, it gets my vote as the best of the decade. Several great games including the three in New York and a memorable game 7. One of the few times Rivera failed.

Playoff series of the decade: 2004 American League championship. Down 3 games to none, the Red Sox roar back to win the series 4 games to three. That had never happened before. What a great series and what a great showcase for David Ortiz.

Cinderella of the decade: 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Came out of absolutely no where to get to the World Series. Would have been a better story if they’d won, but still a nice tale for the grandchildren years from now.

Bonehead of the decade: The tied All Star game. YUCK!!! Then they compound it by making an exhibition game determine home field for the World Series. Incredible.

Footnote player of the decade: Wasn’t sure what to call this, but it’s basically a hymn to those players you love to watch, but know aren’t really going to be anything but a footnote in baseball history. For me it’s David Eckstein. Love the guy’s intensity, his grit, his resolve. His winning the MVP for the 2006 World Series was an all-decade highlight for me.

Hall of Fame vote of the decade: Putting in a whole boatload of Negro League players at once. Great of baseball to finally recognize the depth of quality play in the Negro Leagues beyond just the most famous names and to finally recognize the executives that made the Negro Leagues work. It also gave the Hall of Fame its first female member in Effa Manley.

Manager of the decade: Terry Francona who wins 2 World Series’.


The First BoSox Dynasty (Finis: 1918)

November 24, 2009

It was a heck of a year, 1918. The War to End All Wars finally ended. The greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was finally over. Communism solidified itself in Russia. The Red Sox won the World Series, something that wouldn’t happen again for over 80 years.

Much of the 1916 team was gone. Ed Barrow, who would later get to the Hall of Fame as architect of the Yankees dynasty, was manager, Former A’s player Stuffy McInnis was at first base, both Larry Gardner and Duffy Lewis were gone. But the big change was that Barrow had figured out what to do with Babe Ruth. Now Ruth split time between the outfield and the mound playing 59 games in the field and 20 on the hill. He went 13-7, getting a decision in every game he pitched, and led the league in home runs and slugging percentage, the first Red Sox to lead the AL in the latter category.

The Sox beat Cleveland and Tris Speaker by 2.5 games and went into the World Series against Chicago as a favorite. They won in 6 games although being outhit by the Cubs .210 to .186. There were no home runs and a Cub win in game 6 by a 3-0 score was the closest there was to a blowout. Ruth and Carl Mays both won 2 games, including a 1-0 game one matchup between Ruth and Hippo Vaughn. The Cubs finally brought Ruth’s consecutive scoreless inning streak to a close in the 8th inning of game 4, but lost 3-2.  In one of those quirks that makes baseball so intereesting, in 6 games no player managed to have more than 2 RBIs, with 5 players doing so).

The Sox fell to 5th the next year and began to dismantle the team. By 1922 almost all the dynasty players were gone to places like New York (Ruth, Mays, Bush, Sam Jones and Scott), Chicago ( Hooper), Cleveland (McInnis). The next time the Red Sox would win a pennant, Ted Williams would be in Left Field.

The First BoSox Dynasty (Apex: 1915-16)

November 23, 2009

With the collapse of the Philadelphia dynasty after 1914, the Red Sox assumed the mantle as the American League’s premiere team. It was a position they would hold through 1918. In that period they would play in and win 3 World Series. The first 2 were in 1915 and 1916.

There were some significant differences in the 1915-16 Red Sox and the team that won in 1912. Catcher Bill Carrigan was now the manager, Everett Scott had moved to shortstop and the pitching staff had a major overhaul. Joe Wood was still around, but Rube Foster (no, not THAT Rube Foster) and Ernie Shore were now the aces. Babe Ruth (yes, THAT Babe Ruth) was now the lefty. Interestingly enough, the Sox appear to have experimented at least a little with a closer. Carl Mays pitched 36 games, but started only 6 and led the league with 6 saves (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet). They faced Philadelphia in the 1915 World Series and won it in 5 games losing only game 1 to Grover Cleveland Alexander (who, frankly didn’t look much like Ronald Reagan). Most of the games were close, only game one being decided by more than one run, but the Sox outhit the Phillies .264 to .162 and hit 3 of the four home runs (Harry Hooper led with 2).

The 1916 team was substantially the same team except that they had traded center fielder Tris Speaker to Cleveland (where he would win the 1920 World Series as the player-manager). The only other major change saw former A’s shortstop Jack Barry installed as the new second baseman. By 1916 Mays was  a starter and Ruth was the team ace with 23 wins and 170 strikeouts. He was 3rd in wins and 2nd in strikeouts, losing to Walter Johnson in both cases.

They again took the Series in 5 games, Brooklyn winning only game 3. The first 3 games were close, but Boston began to pull away in the last two games. Ruth began his record setting run of consecutive scoreless innings pitched in this Series, winning 2 games. As an aside, Brooklyn wore what has to be the ugliest uniforms in Major League history. Maybe we all owe the Sox a vote of thanks. If Brooklyn had won, we might have been stuck with those ugly uniforms for years.

The Sox fell back in 1917, finishing 2nd by nine games. The dynasty wasn’t over quite yet. A couple of quick fixes and the stage was set for 1918.


The First BoSox Dynasty (Interlude: 1912)

November 22, 2009

The first major American League dynasty was the 1910-14 Philadelphia A’s. In the period they made 4 World Series’, winning 3. The one they missed was 1912.

The Red Sox won the AL pennant by 14 games and went into the World Series against the New York Giants. By now most of these guys are obscure, so let’s take a moment and list them. The infield: Jake Stahl (who also managed), Steve Yerkes, Heinie Wagner, and Larry Gardner. The outfield was Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper. Bill Carrigan caught, Clyde Engle, Hick Cady, and Hugh Bradley were the only bench players who appeared in 40 or more games. The staff as Joe Wood, Hugh Bedient, Buck O’Brien, Charley Hall, and the only lefty was Ray Collins. No one else pitched 20 games.

It was a good series, famous for a tie, for Josh Devore’s great catch, and good pitching, but game 7 became an all-time classic. It wasn’t the first game 7, there had been one in 1909 (and in 1903 there had been a game 7, but it was a best of nine series that went 8), but it became of of the most famous of all Series games.

The score was 1-1 at the end of nine and the Giants put across a run in the 10th. The bottom of the 10th contained 2 of the most famous plays in dead ball history. Giant outfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball (the “Snodgrass Muff”), and a foul pop dropped between catcher Chief Meyers and first baseman Fred Merkle (of 1908 fame). The “Muff” put a runner on, the foul gave Speaker another chance at the plate and he singled home the tying run. Two batters later Gardner’s sac fly ended the Series.

Boston couldn’t stop the A’s either of the next 2 seasons, although the other Boston team (the Braves) did win in 1914, but this series set the stage for the great run of 1915-18 that brought the Sox 3 World Series wins.


The First BoSox Dynasty (Fall and Rise)

November 21, 2009

In 1903 the Red Sox won the first Word Series. Although there was no Series in 1904, they finished first in the American League again Then in 1905 the wheels came off. In the next three years they finished 4th, last, and 7th (next-to-last). What happened?

To start with the pitching didn’t pan out. In 1904 five men (count ’em, 5) pitched every inning of every game. Of those five, only Cy Young, the oldest of  the crew at 37, continued on to a solid career. Bill Dinneen, the hero of ’03, went 11-14 in 1905, 8-19 in ’06, and was traded in 1907. Only Tannehill had another 20 win season for the Sox (1905 with 22 wins).

The hitting hadn’t been that great anyway, and continued to deteriorate. Take a look at the catcher. In 1904 Lou Criger, intrepid backstop, hit .211. It was downhill from there. He hit .198 in 1905. How to solve the problem? Bring in Charlie Armbruster, who managed to hit a whopping buck forty-four. So back to Criger who hit .181 and .190 over the next two seasons. This is the worst example of what happened, but the hitting problems were pretty much team-wide.

It began to change in 1909. The Sox picked up Bill Carrigan to catch (he could at least hit .200), Tris Speaker became a regular. The next season Harry Hooper and Larry Gardner became regulars, and in 1910 Duffy Lewis joined the outfield. That set the stage for 1912.