Red Sox Hall of Fame: Nomar Garciaparra

Red Sox hall of fame

On Thursday August 14, the Boston Red Sox enshrined a talented group of stars into their hall of fame. Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and longtime radio play-by-play voice Joe Castiglione were inducted into what may be the most talented Red Sox Hall of Fame class ever.

When I first began watching the Sox in 2000, Nomar Garciaparra was instantly my favorite player. As kids growing up, Nomah’s antics and dominant hitting were things we tried to emulate in the backyard. The toe taps, the batting glove adjustments, the jump throws from deep in the hole at shortstop. Nomar was a fan favorite during his time in Boston despite the way his career with the Sox ended.

In a time when the home run was dominating the game, Nomar was perhaps the best hitter for average. A .372 average in 2000 was the best in the American League since George Brett’s .390 average in 1980. Nomar was flirting with .400 until mid-August of that year when his average dipped at the end of the season. His .323 career average with the Red Sox is the 4th best in club history behind three hall of famers—Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Tris Speaker.

Nomar had a different approach though. A free swinging, first pitch hitter, Nomar was able to translate an aggressive plate approach into success, which has been seldom done. His .365 career average on first pitches proved that a hitter doesn’t need to take a traditional approach to be one of the best.

After winning the Rookie of the Year unanimously in 1997, Nomar hit 35 home runs and drove in 122 runs to finish second in the MVP voting in 1998. His batting titles in 1999 and 2000 further solidified him as one of the game’s elite hitters. It is a shame that Nomar was sent out of town in 2004, but he was evidently unhappy in Boston at that point and the Red Sox ended up being able to win without him.

Did Nomar do steroids? It’s very possible in this writer’s opinion. The Sports Illustrated cover of him looking jacked doesn’t help his case looking back on the matter. His series of muscle related injuries doesn’t help either, but essentially everyone playing at that time can be looked at and argued over whether they took steroids or not.

The fact of the matter is that Nomar helped turn the Red Sox from a mediocre team in the mid-90’s into the powerhouse team they became in the 2000’s. Like Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and others, Nomar’s departure from Boston wasn’t pretty, but his years in town helped shape the Red Sox culture of this generation.

Timeline of the Red Sox Roster Explosion

red sox

Just a few weeks ago, A.J. Pierzynski was behind the plate and a familiar cast of pitchers were taking the hill. Now, there is a whole new group going forward and Red Sox fans may not know exactly what to think. Let’s take a close look at just how everything unfolded and the recent changes to the Red Sox roster.

July 9th- A.J. Pierzynski designated for assignment

Pierzynski was always known for being disliked around the MLB and apparently the same feelings were felt in the Red Sox clubhouse. Christian Vazquez was brought up to take his place.

July 10th- July 21st- The Sox win 9 of 10 games

Once Pierzynski was released, the Sox went into the All-Star break with a bang and came out in the same fashion. The team that was starting to get counted out by some fans had turned things around. Some even thought that they could pull off some heroics and make another playoff run.

July 24th- Jon Lester contract talks halted

With everything hush-hush between Lester and the front office, Larry Lucchino confirmed that contract talks would be put aside until after the season. Meanwhile, the Red Sox lose their final three games to the Blue Jays and essentially nullify their hopes of a playoff hunt.

July 25th- Jon Lester makes final start with the Sox

Lester took the hill against David Price, one of the Sox newest foes, in a game that could have had some bad blood boil over. However, Price didn’t end up hitting Big Papi and Lester ended up going 6 innings allowing 2 runs on a Desmond Jennings home run. He struck out seven in what ended up being a no decision in a 6-4 Rays win.

July 26th- Jake Peavy traded to the Giants

Saturday morning, the Red Sox made their first trade by sending Jake Peavy to the Giants for pitching prospects Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar. Peavy was having a mediocre season with the Red Sox and it was time that some of the younger pitchers got an extended tryout in the rotation.

July 26th- Mike Carp requests a trade

Mike Carp, a valuable and productive bench player last season, really never got it going in 2014. Zero home runs, injuries, and sub par defense doesn’t earn you playing time. Carp clearly didn’t appreciate that fact though and you can’t blame a guy who wants to get off the bench of a last place team.

July 27th- Felix Doubront “wouldn’t mind a trade”

One day after Carp voices his displeasure, Doubront did the same. After pitching his way out of the rotation and finding himself with the mop-up job, Doubront let everyone know that he is a starter. The next day, Doubront came into the game trailing 5-0 and really gave the Sox fans a big middle finger. Two thirds of an inning, six runs, six hits, two walks. Thanks for your time Felix.

July 27th- Lester for Kemp?

Gordon Edes reported on Sunday afternoon that one possible trade for Lester could involve Matt Kemp as the centerpiece. The Dodgers love to wheel and deal, as we all know quite well, but is the oft-injured Kemp and his huge contract what the Sox need going forward?

July 28th- Lester and Lackey rumors intensify

Reporter Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Sox were being “hit hard on both Lester and Lackey from most contenders”. Lackey’s name had not been heard that much, but it was becoming more and more clear what the Red Sox were up to. Rosenthal later tweeted that the Sox were indeed open to trading both pitchers.

July 29th- Lester scratched from Wednesday’s start

After the Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays Tuesday night, the Red Sox announced that Lester would not be making his scheduled start on Wednesday. This basically proved that the rumors were true and that the Sox were shopping their ace. Any team looking for Lester would want him to start shortly after he joined the team, so one more start for the Red Sox would mean one less for his new team.

July 30th-Noon- Lackey to be dealt

Once again, Ken Rosenthal reported that there is a “very good chance” Lackey would be traded as well. Just a few hours later, it was reported that Lackey actually asked the front office to be traded. Carp and Doubront I can understand, but say it ain’t so John!

July 30th- 2 PM- Lester to the Orioles?

Word on the Twittersphere was that the Red Sox were close to dealing Lester within the division to Baltimore. That would certainly have been a tough pill to swallow for Sox fans!

July 30th- 3 PM- Doubront dealt to the Cubs

Theo Epstein got an old friend back from the Red Sox in Felix Doubront for a player to be named later. If we end up getting anything out of this deal, I’ll be surprised, but at this point it’s a win either way.

July 30th- 5 PM- Lackey scratched from Friday’s start

Just like Lester was scratched from his start, it was announced Lackey would be scratched from his scheduled start against the Yankees on Friday. Anthony Ranaudo will now make his MLB debut against our old buddy Chris Capuano.

July 31st- 9:45 AM- Lester traded to A’s

To many fans dismay, Jon Lester was officially traded to the Athletics along with fan favorite Jonny Gomes in exchange for the Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes is signed through next season, but is not eligible for a qualifying offer. It would make sense that the Sox would try and lock him up long term if they don’t want to include him in a separate deal.

July 31st- 12:45 PM- Lackey traded to Cardinals

The second big trade of the day came just before 1 PM, as the Sox parted ways with John Lackey. In return, veteran outfielder Allen Craig and 26-year-old right handed starter Joe Kelly were sent to the Sox. Could more plans be in the future considering the abundance of outfielders?

July 31st- 3 PM- Andrew Miller to the O’s

It was being reported that the Red Sox were very close to trading the lefty to Detroit, but once that fell apart, another suitor needed to be found. In return for Miller, who is having a career year, the Orioles sent back left handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, the number 3 prospect in their system.

July 31st- 3:45- Stephen Drew to the Yankees?!

Some were saying the Sox were done after they parted ways with Miller. No sir! Stephen Drew’s second stint with the Red Sox lasted just over two months before he was traded to the Yankees. That’s right, the Yankees did us a favor! They even threw in Kelly Johnson. I’m not sure if there’s a spot for him on the team, but this should mean Xander Bogaerts will be returning to shortstop.

Talk about a fire sale. A total makeover. The 2014 trade deadline has been the craziest one in the history of the Red Sox and that is no small feat. In just the past decade, the Sox have traded away Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, two of the biggest faces of the team.

All in all, I am quite pleased with the returns the Red Sox received. It is hard to see Lester go, but with what had transpired, it became clear the Red Sox were not willing to pay him. I hope they prove me wrong and somehow bring him back in the off-season, but if he does well in Oakland, his asking price will go even higher. The offense increased dramatically and we have a chance to see some of the team’s pitching prospects. Expect a free agent signing or two in the offseason to bolster the rotation though.

Twitter has been full of “Clay Buchholz is going to be our ace next year?!?!” The Sox aren’t stupid. They know that they need proven pitchers if they are going to contend and I fully anticipate a solid rotation next year.

As for now, it should be interesting to see how the roster unfolds. There’s too many outfielders right now to make everyone happy, so what will happen with that situation? We may not be on our way to the World Series, but I am pretty excited looking at the last two months of the season.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Relief Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

In the Red Sox first half, the bullpen has been pretty good despite a few pitchers who can’t seem to get it together. There were a few new faces added this offseason in Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop, and the since-released Chris Capuano to go along with the core group from last year. Overall, the bullpen ERA sits at 3.10 which is good for tenth in the MLB and fifth in the AL.

Koji Uehara caught everyone by surprise last year with his lights-out second half of the year and playoffs, and he hasn’t been too far off this year. Although he has had a couple of blown saves, and has let up some late home runs in tie ballgames, he has kept his ERA to 1.65 before the break. The only AL closer who can top that is Toronto’s Casey Janssen who entered the break with a 1.23. There’s a small chance Koji could be dealt, but let’s hope the best closer in the AL sticks with the Red Sox.

Junichi Tazawa has been in the Sox bullpen for three years now and has been a reliable setup man in the past. With a 2.61 ERA and low WHIP to go along, Tazawa has fulfilled his expectations again this season. It was unsure what role he would have in the bullpen when Mujica was signed, but Tazawa has showed that his experience in the AL is an important factor.

Craig Breslow was coming off a career year and solid postseason, but is currently posting his worst year in a decade in the big leagues. The 33-year-old has a solid career ERA of 2.99, but that includes this season’s 5.18 he has posted in 34 games before the break. Breslow needs to get it together if he wants to continue to see time out of the bullpen.

With Breslow stumbling, Andrew Miller has done great in his lefty specialist role out of the pen. Although he had a stretch in May in which he lost four of six appearances, he has only allowed two runs in 16 outings since June. His 2.23 ERA at the break puts him only behind Uehara in the Sox bullpen and his 14.45 K/9 is by far the best on the team.

Burke Badenhop has been shaky as of late, but has been a solid option for John Farrell out of the bullpen all year. Allowing runs in three out of his last four outings before the break, his ERA has gone up from 1.62 to 2.93. He has only allowed one home run on the year though, which only he and Miller have done. Badenhop’s reliability has made him probably the best off season signing by the Red Sox.

Edward Mujica lost his job as closer for the Cardinals in the second half of last season and it has been all downhill since then. His two year contract already looks like a mistake and he is just another example of a NL pitcher who can’t handle the AL. In his first three years in the majors in Cleveland, he had a 6.04 ERA in 70 innings. In his five years in the NL, he had a 3.31 ERA. Now he’s back up to a 5.45 ERA in Boston. Is it a coincidence? Possibly, but I hope we don’t have to deal with this for another year and a half.

Chris Capuano was yet another lifetime national leaguer and he just couldn’t cut it for the Sox. He was never really that great in the NL to start with, but the signing was an odd choice to begin with. Capuano actually started out great, not allowing a run in 14.1 innings in April. However, 16 earned runs in 17.1 innings in May and June led to him being released. He hasn’t been picked up by another team to this point.

Koji Uehara- Grade: A-

Junichi Tazawa- Grade: B+

Craig Breslow- Grade: F

Andrew Miller- Grade: A-

Burke Badenhop- Grade: B

Edward Mujica- Grade: F

Chris Capuano- Grade: F 
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Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Starting Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

The Red Sox first half has come and gone and seven pitchers have gotten starts so far. Jon Lester is proving that he is an ace and deserves ace money, while some of the other veterans have been shaky.

Lester is coming off a terrific postseason and could be headed for free agency next year, putting the Red Sox in a tough place. Some think the Sox won’t pay him and should trade him to a contender. The Red Sox have been on a run recently though and Lester is a big part of it. Coming into the year, his best season was probably 2010, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Going into the break this year, he’s 9-7 with a 2.65 ERA. While he probably won’t get a high win total, that’s not on him because he has been pitching great with only a few rough starts. Lester ranks in the top ten in virtually every category in the AL and has without a doubt been the team’s ace this year.

John Lackey is having a similar year to 2013, but has been shaky as of late. Following his nine inning scoreless outing against the Twins, Lackey’s ERA has gone up from 2.96 to 3.79 in four starts, despite getting the win in two of them. Lackey has only had an ERA below 3.5 twice in his career and was close to a third time last season when he finished at 3.52. So while it would have been nice if he continued to pitch sub-3.00, it is hard to expect a pitcher to have a career year at age 35.

Clay Buchholz could have really done anything this season and it wouldn’t be too surprising, but his first half was almost shockingly bad. Since returning from the DL, he has been much better, but he still has the tendency to leave some pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in home runs. He finished the first half with a bang, shutting out the Astros while striking out 12. His ERA has gone down from 7.02 (yikes) to 5.42 since coming back from the DL four starts ago, but that should continue to go down if he continues to have the stuff he did against the Astros. Physically, he looks fine, so this may be a mental battle from now on for Buchholz.

Jake Peavy has been mediocre at best and may be at the end of his run in Boston. With trade rumors swirling around the former Cy Young winner, he may be gone by the deadline. With a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, he doesn’t seem to be fooling batters very often. The Sox have lost nine of the last ten games he’s started and with a few youngsters ready to get a chance, it just doesn’t make sense to keep Peavy around.

Felix Doubront began the year in the rotation, but worked his way out of it with poor pitching and injuries. In ten starts, he posted a 5.19 ERA and had trouble with accuracy. He has only came out of the bullpen three times since his last start on June 20th, so it is unclear what the team wants to do with him moving forward.

Brandon Workman has seen eight starts and has had varying results. In his last three starts, he’s allowed five home runs and has seen his ERA go from 2.88 to 4.13. He still has been able to maintain a low WHIP of 1.18, so if he is able to cut down on the long ball, his ERA should lower quite a bit. If Peavy is dealt, Workman is sure to see some more starts in the second half.

Rubby De La Rosa has pitched very well so far and has had a couple of lights-out starts. With a WHIP hovering around 1.00 and a sub-3.00 ERA, De La Rosa is finally showing why he was such a big factor in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in 2012. He has still made some mistakes here and there, but should be able to stay in the rotation unless he works his way out of it.

Jon Lester- Grade: A

John Lackey- Grade: B-

Clay Buchholz- Grade: F

Jake Peavy- Grade: D

Felix Doubront- Grade: F

Brandon Workman- Grade: C

Rubby De La Rosa- Grade: A

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Designated Hitter

Red Sox First Half

There have only been a few spots in the Red Sox first half lineup that have been held down by one player and one of those has been David Ortiz’s spot as the designated hitter. Ortiz’s contract talks became headlines during spring training and he was granted his wish with a contract extension in the days leading up to the season opener.

Ortiz has had some big hits to keep the Red Sox record somewhat afloat, but his average is lower than he would like; 20 home runs and 64 RBI’s at the break are great numbers for anyone, including Ortiz. If his average was closer to .300, that production would be even greater. Luckily for the Sox, Big Papi has stayed healthy because if his power was gone from the middle of the order, there would be nobody to replace him. His 20 home runs are twice as many as Mike Napoli’s ten before the break, on a team where power has been hard to find. In games when Ortiz has homered, the Red Sox are 14-3 and that’s no coincidence. Ortiz has continued to come through in the clutch as he has throughout his career. Papi must keep up his production because as of late, the hitters in front of him have been getting on base more than they were at the beginning of the year. While he hasn’t been the same hitter as he was last year, he continues to be one of the best power hitters in the game.

David Ortiz- Grade: B

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Outfield

Red Sox First Half

Boy, oh boy, was the outfield a mess in the Red Sox first half! With the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason, Jackie Bradley Jr. was expected to be the everyday center fielder, and the signing of Grady Sizemore would create some competition. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Carp would all see some time in left and Shane Victorino would return to his spot in right. What the Red Sox didn’t know was that their outfield would be one of the worst offensive trios in team history.

Jackie Bradley Jr. knew he had some big shoes to fill after Ellsbury’s departure, and maybe they were a little too big for Bradley to handle. His defense has been spectacular and could potentially garner him some attention for the gold glove award, but his bat has hurt the club. In recent weeks, he has changed his stance and taken a new approach at the plate, resulting in a .375 average in the month of July. However, his .208 average prior to that would have probably sent him down to the minors if he wasn’t so good in the field. Will he ever be a .300 hitter? It’s possible, but I don’t plan on seeing it anytime soon. If he could hit around a .300 clip for the rest of the year though, that would make a lot of people forget his rough first half.

Daniel Nava was getting some All-Star votes last season, and this year he was taking bus rides in Pawtucket. Less than a month into the season, Nava’s .149 average, about half of his .303 average from last year, had him sent down for a one month stint. Since returning, he has done quite well. In the month of June he hit .313 and so far in July, he’s hit .373. It would be nice if he could find some pop (only eight extra base hits all year) and start driving in runners (10 RBI’s), but that is bound to happen if he continues to hit.

Shane Victorino was banged up last year, but was able to play through most of it and be a very important part of the team. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field this year though, adding to the outfield madness. His durability needs to be questioned, because a hamstring injury shouldn’t shelf a guy for so long, but perhaps making his way back to the club slowly will give him the best chance of staying healthy. When he has played, he hasn’t been that great either. Just a .627 OPS in the 21 games played so far is well below his .802 total last year. The Sox will need him hitting well when he returns because all this team needs right now is another strong defensive player who can’t hit.

Jonny Gomes has essentially been the same player that he was a year ago. He became a fan favorite last year with his clutch hits and playoff antics, but he may not be around much longer. With Victorino coming back soon, there isn’t much need for a player like Gomes and the Kansas City Royals have expressed interest in acquiring him. I wouldn’t like seeing him go, but in a business like baseball, a .234 hitting outfielder is very expendable.

Grady Sizemore was given a shot when Ben Cherington decided to make one of the most unexpected signings of the offseason. The oft-injured Sizemore had been out of the game for two years, so you couldn’t really expect much from him. I expected his downfall to come from injuries, but it turns out he just didn’t have the skills he had seven years ago. Shocking, right? The Phillies recently picked him up and have given him yet another chance to get back into the game, so I hope he is able to keep his job there.

Brock Holt has obviously been great wherever John Farrell sticks him, and recently that has been in the outfield. Mostly playing in right, Holt has been able to hit the lights out while still playing decent defense. Considering he had never played an inning of professional baseball in the outfield, Holt has really passed every test he’s been given with flying colors. It should be interesting to see where he plays once Victorino returns, but I am sure Farrell will find a spot somewhere.

Jackie Bradley Jr- Grade: C

Daniel Nava- Grade: C-

Shane Victorino- Grade: D-

Jonny Gomes- Grade: C-

Grady Sizemore- Grade: F

Brock Holt- Grade: A