The Idleness of Clemens’ Number 21

As I cover college baseball games this weekend in Waco, Texas, my attention is drawn Roger Clemensaway from the 10 players on the field. The Texas Longhorns are in town, which means, for the only time all season, I am more focused on the parents section. I’m looking for a certain number 21.

Penciled in the Longhorn lineup at both DH and First Base is a familiar name: Clemens. With the potential to meet their dad, Roger, this weekend, it got me thinking about one of the most tumultuous careers in baseball history. Roger Clemens will always go down as a Red Sox legend, but would you guess that his number is retired?

No, you wouldn’t. Nestled on the facade in Fenway Park’s right field lies 10 retired numbers, but not number 21. What you might not know, however, is that 30 Red Sox wore that number before the Rocket, but none since. Are the Red Sox hiding behind their own tradition?

For over a decade, Clemens was revered in Boston. From 1984-1996, the Rocket racked up 192 wins, tying him for the franchise record. Whom is he tied with? A guy by the name of Cy Young—you may have heard of him. Clemens knows him well, winning the Cy Young award three times in Boston as well as an American League MVP award in 1986. He was the unequivocal ace who led the Red Sox to the World Series that year as well. Before he came to Boston, no one had struck out 20 batters in a game. By the time he left, he had done it twice. It wasn’t Clemens’ time in Boston that made him a villain, it was his time away.

After Dan Duquette’s prognostication of his demise, Clemens went to division rival Toronto. It was his time north of the border where things became fishy. After injuries wore down his final few sub-par years in Boston, Clemens began to defy logic. Even as he aged, he was recovering even faster from these injuries and was pitching as well as ever. In two seasons with Toronto, he won the Cy Young Award both years and earned the elusive pitching Triple Crown each season.

To further push the buttons of Red Sox fans, Clemens traded in his Jays uniform for pinstripes. As a Yankee, he won four AL Pennants, two World Series titles, and the Cy Young yet again in 2001. After a combined record of 27-18 in his first two seasons in New York, he went 20-3 in 2001. Coincidentally enough, it was revealed his trainer Brian McNamee was injecting him with anabolic steroids at the time. Now, it’s no wonder Clemens was always butt hurt.

Why The Fans Don’t Want To See The Number 21

The final middle finger to Red Sox Nation came in the winter of 2005. Upon Curt Schilling’s endorsement, the Red Sox were in the sweepstakes to sign Clemens as a free agent. In a little-known attempt to bring him back, a third grade class in Rockland, MA, made a video for the Clemens family. In it, the kids begged him to “come home, Roger”, apparently bringing his wife to tears. At the end of the video, a number 21 was glowing on that right field facade, if the Rocket were to re-enter Boston’s atmosphere. Instead, Clemens re-signed with Houston and in 2007, ended his career with a return to New York.

Once revered in Boston, Clemens is now reviled. His number 21 is retired only at Disch-Faulk Field at the University of Texas. While there, Clemens was the ace for their 1983 National Championship team. No, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time till we see Clemens’ number up there with Williams and Yastrzemski. It won’t take touchdown to bring us round again to find he most certainly is the man he is at home. Sir Elton John will not be doing any serenading over the Fenway speakers any time soon. For all the things Clemens has done to Boston fans on and off the field has certainly made the Rocket public enemy number 21.

 

Is David Price Paying Off for the Red Sox?

David Price’s 7-year $217 million contract thrilled Red Sox Nation. After all, five All-Star appearances and the 2012 Cy Young Award is more than enough to prove one’s worth. Not to mention John Farrell can depend on him to have 200+ strikeouts a season. But people in Boston are all asking the same question: Is David Price paying off for Boston?

Price had a strong debut year with the Red Sox. He led the American LeagueDavid Price paying off in game starts, innings pitched, and batters faced. These numbers are a testament to his longevity and ability to go deep. His 17 wins didn’t hurt either. But there were a few games where Price’s performance made some question his abilities. There was the May 7th game against the Yankees where Price gave up six earned runs in 4.2 innings that ended in an 8-2 loss for Boston. Then there was the June 29th game against the Rays where Price gave up four earned runs in six innings. Losing those games to teams at the bottom of the standings was more than disconcerting.

Then there’s the issue with his injury. Best case scenario, Price will be ready to pitch by May. Worse case scenario though is he’ll need Tommy John surgery, which will put him out of action for a year. In that case, we might see him come back in mid-2018. When you’re injured it’s important not to come back too soon. Eduardo Rodriguez is a perfect example. Then again, Rodriguez isn’t getting the money Price is. After Pablo Sandova’s dismal 2016 season, another player Boston paid big bucks for, the front office is likely more than worried about David Price paying off their investment in him.

Don’t Write Off Price Just Yet

Every pitcher has a bad day and Price certainly has had his fair share. A few of his losses in 2016 ended in one-run defeats. One in particular ended with a 3-2 loss to Baltimore, in which Price struck out eleven in 8.1 innings. So it’s clear that when Price is effective when he’s healthy, except for the occasional bad game. But given the growing concern with his injury it’s understandable why the front office might have its own concerns.

Time will tell.

The Obstruction of Potential: The Play That Derailed Two Careers

Even with unrivaled success this millennia, Boston fans do not often forget those times that did not go right for them. They never forget that which went horribly wrong, even if it was corrected in the end.

The 2013 World Series championship was unforgettable for Boston and the city’s baseballObstruction fans. When seemingly everything went right for the Red Sox that year, there was a moment in that World Series where it looked like it would all fall apart. There was one moment where Red Sox nation felt like Raiders fans after the Tuck Rule in 2001. That one moment did not necessarily damn the series, but it could have damned two once-promising MLB careers.

Late in Game Three, St. Louis’s Allen Craig came around third after an overthrow. After tripping over third baseman Will Middlebrooks, he came around to score the winning run via an obstruction call. If not for the call, Craig would have been out by five feet, but alas the Cardinals suddenly had a 2-1 series lead.  While the call had Bostonians up in arms, the Red Sox won the next three games to claim their eighth world championship. The obstruction could be seen; the downward spiral of the two players’ careers could not.

Allen Craig’s Downfall

At the 2014 trade deadline, these two teams were heading in opposite directions. With St. Louis making a playoff push, they traded Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey. Craig was under team control for three and a half more years with a club option for 2018. He was definitely one of the hardest hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only thing Craig hit in Boston (and Pawtucket) was a wall.

In 29 games with Boston in 2014, he hit a brutal .128 with a whopping two RBI, enough to send the biggest optimists into a fit of pure rage. 2015 was not much better. He hit .152 in 36 games, but surpassed his RBI total of 2014, churning out three. Since then, he’s gotten to know Pawtucket better than their own mayor. This past season, he appeared in 22 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, raking to the tune of a .173 average and slugging .250 along with his one homer and six RBI.

In 2013, Craig had 97 RBI for the Cardinals. In the two and a half seasons since that he’s been with the Red Sox, he has 41 split between his time in Boston and Pawtucket. The Red Sox will undoubtedly not pick up his option after this year and will owe him 13 million dollars in 2018. To call Craig a disappointment would be an insult to all the disappointments who never got a hug from their dad. Craig was a catastrophic failure.

The Drop-Off of Will Middlebrooks

The road for Will Middlebrooks since earning a ring has not been much friendlier. He broke out in 2012 where he hit 15 homers in his first big league season. His average subsequently dipped from .288 to .227 in 2013. Middlebrooks made it through the 2014 season with Boston, hitting .191 with two homers in 63 games. In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego for Ryan Hanigan. As bad as Hanigan was the past two seasons, it is really tough to decipher who won that deal.

In 2015, Middlebrooks appeared in 83 games for the Padres when he hit .212 with a .224 OBP. That production on a last place team earned him a trip to Milwaukee in free agency. On a Brewers team that went 73-89, Middlebrooks only earned 27 at-bats in 10 games, hitting .111. This offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, making him a member of four different organizations in the four years since the 2013 World Series title.

Postlude

As bad as those two guys have been since then, there are still people involved in this infamous play who have been nearly as disappointing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who threw the ball away to allow Craig to score, has been with three teams since then. His highest batting average since has been .225. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, is most famous for that and blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. He retired unceremoniously this offseason.

Times like these remind us there is nothing promised in this game. Craig was the x-factor of the 2013 World Series and now he’s struggling for playing time in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks was a budding slugger who has been in and out of the minors. While the obstruction call ended up not having a huge impact on the series, it drastically altered not just a runner’s path to home plate, but also two once-promising MLB careers.

Is Pablo Sandoval Ready to Start Over?

Seemingly every time I unlock my iPhone, I see Pablo Sandoval. I’m not sure if that excites me, or merely worries me.

It’s all over social media. I’ll simply be scrolling through my Snapchat feed  when a story will popPablo Sandoval up and he will be working out with Miguel Cabrera. The next time I check my phone, Sandoval is live streaming his batting-practice on Instagram. There is reason to be enthusiastic, but I’m not sold yet.

Sandoval has hit a mere .242 in the American league thus far, and his on-base-percentage is under .300. He has not been spectacular defensively either, with 16 errors made in the field in just 129 games. The Red Sox should not be having issues at third-base, and Sandoval has under produced. He has been a disappointment so far, especially for a player who is still guaranteed some $40 million dollars.

Travis Shaw had potential in Boston. In his first full season in the big leagues, he showed promise in his somewhat limited role in Boston’s rotation of infielders. He hit 16 homers, 34 doubles and drove in 43 runs. Shaw only hit .242 last year, but what he did show was the capability to improve a clean swing that can drive balls to the pull side and gaps. Also, his ripe age of 26 made him even more appealing to me, personally.

Pablo Sandoval’s Role Moving Forward

Trading for Tyler Thornburg makes sense. We picked up a guy who has established himself as a dominant reliever in baseball for a player who may or may not have fit our system. Travis Shaw will now have a chance to flourish in Milwaukee, while Thornburg sets up Kimbrel in our bullpen. The Red Sox will now be forced to go ‘all-in’ on Pablo Sandoval because Shaw and Moncada are gone.

The numbers have not lied about Pablo Sandoval yet, as analysts have not projected him to be heavily productive at third base for this roster. Who knows what could happen? This is a guy who carried San Francisco on his back to a World Series title back in 2012. Watching him crush home-runs out of AT&T Park and seeing the pandamonium (yes, I went there) take place was an unbelievable experience for me, as a young baseball fan. Pablo Sandoval was the driving force of a World-Series-winning team just five years ago. It doesn’t sound like a risk at all when you put it that way, right?

Bagwell for Andersen: The Worst Trade in Red Sox History

In 2005, Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s graduating class that you can not connect the dots of your life as they are happening. Upon Jeff Bagwell’s induction into the Hall of Fame last month, Red Sox fans find themselves doing the same dot-connecting. In the dog days of the 1990 season, the Red Sox gambled and lost out on a future Hall of Famer. But why would they do such a thing?

The Red Sox were neck and neck with Toronto for the AL East race in 1990 before they Bagwelldiscovered a problem in the bullpen. Like the 2016 team, Boston needed a reliable, late-inning reliever. Even with Jeff Reardon closing out games, they were struggling with getting him to save situations. Since Lee Smith was traded that May, the Sox needed to look to the trading block to wipe their face for the mess they made. When Lou Gorman flooded the phone lines, the Houston Astros picked up. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Astros agreed to send their 37-year old journeyman reliever, Larry Andersen, to Boston. Andersen had plenty of experience closing out games, so it seemed like a perfect fit for the Red Sox. Since they only had to give up a prospect, it seemed a match made in heaven. Andersen was a quirky, quizzical Bill Lee/Bill Walton wannabe. He brought his philosophical crises to every plane, locker room, or field he had ever been to. Even a positive man like him could have seen the signs that Boston was not the place for him.

Upon landing at Logan Airport for the first time, Andersen’s luggage was lost. On TV, the great Peter Gammons was seemingly the only one ripping the Red Sox for trading away such a bright prospect. Andersen came in and appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox with just one save. Even with those numbers, the Red Sox clinched the division, but were swept out of the playoffs. That off-season, fans could have seen the trade purely as a success. This, however, was the Red Sox, so the optimism didn’t last long.

Bagwell’s Storied Career

In August 1990, Jeff Bagwell was just a third baseman in Double-A, log-jammed behind Tim Naehring and a guy named Wade Boggs. The 22-year old Bagwell, a Connecticut native, was a ways away from playing for his childhood team. Gorman agreed to send Bagwell to Houston without a second thought. Bagwell’s manager, Butch Hobson, was the only one in the organization publicly against the trade. Houston already had Ken Caminiti at third, so they moved Bagwell across the diamond to first base.

In 1991, Bagwell took the league by storm, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, he won league MVP. Over the course of his career, Bagwell left his Boston doubters gasping for air. He retired in 2006 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, and his own plaque in Cooperstown come July. The Astros, in return, were one of the league’s best teams in the 90’s, while the Sox struggled to find their footing after the trade.

How Did the Bagwell Trade Hurt the Red Sox?

Larry Andersen was a Padre in 1991, and only had 15 more career saves in just two more seasons in the big leagues. Hobson, Bagwell’s minor league manager, was hired to manage the big club in 1992. He was right about Bagwell, but not much else. In three years as manager, Hobson’s Red Sox won just 207 games. The mediocrity earned them the nickname “The Sons of Butches.” 1992 was also Boggs’ last season in Boston. Had the trade never happened, Red Sox fans of the late 90’s could have seen Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn all patrolling the same infield. If Bagwell had not been traded, however, the Red Sox may have never had use for the duties of one David Ortiz.

Over a quarter-century later, it is no argument as to whose franchise has seen more success since then. The Red Sox have won three titles while the Astros still search for their first. What is indisputable, though, is that the trade for Larry Andersen wrecked the Red Sox for the next several years. On the flip side, it propelled the Astros to four division titles in five seasons from 1997-2001. In 2005, Bagwell even led the Astros to the World Series. If we look purely at the players in the transaction, there is no doubt: Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell is the worst trade the Red Sox ever made.

John Farrell’s Next Move

Bill Belichick is the greatest professional football coach of all time. Hands down. There isn’t much of a debate anymore since the man has won five Super Bowls. He has created a dynasty that not many organizations will be able to top. Meanwhile, the Bruins relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties on the day of the Patriots’ championship parade. They have actually played quite well since the move, winning four straight games. Brad Stevens is paving a path for a young Celtics team towards a top seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time; Stevens coached the East in the NBA All-Star Game. With John FarrellSpring Training officially underway, Boston sports fans look toward John Farrell and wonder what his impact will be this year on the Red Sox.

The Red Sox exercised John Farrell’s 2017 option following their first round defeat to the Cleveland Indians. Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, told the media he is not sure of a 2018 extension yet. Dombrowski said he would have to sit down with the front-office if there were a long-term decision to be made.

John Farrell’s Resume

John Farrell can get the job done—that has already been proven. The man has two World Series rings with Boston, (one as a head coach in 2013 and one as a pitching coach in 2007) and Boston sports fans know better than anyone else that rings talk. 

On the other hand, the Red Sox finished 25 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in 2014, and 15 games out in 2015 behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Just this past year, the Red Sox won the AL East, but were swept out of the first round. A lot can come from analyzing Farrell’s first four seasons as our head coach. 2013 was a magical year for the organization, and it was one of redemption for the city of Boston. Is the manager capable of getting his team back to the promised land?

Farrell has the talent on his roster to do it. The addition of Chris Sale gives the Red Sox one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball. Trading for Tyler Thornburg will give Craig Kimbrel a consistent set-up man to work behind. Since the Sox sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee, Mitch Moreland has the opportunity to play first-base. This leaves Hanley Ramirez the DH job he has been waiting for. Red Sox fans have plenty to be excited about, and John Farrell also has plenty to look forward to. 

Personally, I think John Farrell is a legit manager in this league. He fits in nicely in Boston, given his experience. Don’t forget though, a disappointing finish could mean the end of the road for any manager in the MLB. This is especially possible in the City of Champions.