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.

Top Prospects Must Stay With Red Sox

As the trade deadline approaches, talks loom about who the Red Sox will let go in exchange for a strong pitcher. The most recent news points to the White Sox scouting players like Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. According to ESPN, the White Sox sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A team on July 28th. Moncada and Benintendi play there now. Personally, I don’t think any pitcher in the MLB is quite worth giving up Moncada or Benintendi, especially Chris Sale. If Boston wants to make it to another World Series, then the Red Sox top prospects must stay in the farm system.

Yoan Moncada has already stolen 43 bases in stints at Single and Double-A this season.Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay He’ll easily be a .300 average hitter in time. He can also hit for power. The fact that he can play infield, and serve as a designed hitter only adds to his value.

Andrew Benintendi is the next Carl Yastrzemski. He’s currently hitting over .300 with twelve triples between stints at Single and Double-A levels. You can attribute his triples to his developing strength and speed. Overall, he’s developing power, speed, and eye coordination, which will be both offensive and defensive assets. These factors signal that he’ll become a Boston superstar.

Let’s not forget about Michael Kopech. The guy is a wizard on the mound. Anyone his age that can throw 105 MPH is definitely worth keeping around. He pitched a immaculate inning a few weeks ago. He’s currently carrying an ERA of 1.35 in 26 innings this season. While that’s not a lot to bank on right now, it’s a VERY promising sign of what’s to come.

Experts like famed sportswriter Peter Gammons claim that all three of these prospects are “untouchable” and can’t be traded. According to ESPN, however, Dave Dombrowski said last week that “teams’ motivations tend to change as the deadline creeps closer.” Let’s hope that Gammons is right on this one.

Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay To Create A New Dynasty

Seeing all three of these prospects on the field in Fenway Park in the near future would be riveting. They’ll be a throwback to the days of Yaz, Boggs, and Clemens. Players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Steven Wright, and Xander Bogaerts will be veterans by then. They can guide Moncada, Benintendi, and Kopech towards a dynasty that Boston hasn’t seen the likes of since the turn of the 20th century when the Red Sox won five World Series between 1903 and 1918. Moncada, Benintendi, Kopech, and other Red Sox top prospects must stay with the team if this dynasty is ever going to come to fruition.

Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn both debuted in 1982, won multiple batting titles, and joined the 3,000 hit club in 1999. They were perennial All-Stars, multi-Gold Glove winners, and first-ballot Hall of Famers. They played 2,440 games in careers that perfectly paralleled each other. But was Boggs better than Gwynn? Boggs Better Than Gwynn?

By looking at the numbers it’s almost impossible to tell. See below:

Boggs 1,513 R 3,010 H 578 2B 118 HR 1,014 RBI .328/.415/.443 (132 wRC+) 1,412 BB 745 K
Gwynn 1,383 R 3,141 H 543 2B 135 HR 1,138 RBI .338/.388/.459 (132 wRC+) 790 BB 434 K

As you can see, it’s a virtual wash. Boggs scored more runs, but Gwynn knocked in more. Boggs stroked a few more doubles, while Gwynn socked a few more homers. Boggs walked twice as often, but also struck out twice as much. Boggs got on base more, but Gwynn had more hits and greater power.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn by advanced metrics? Once again it’s really close:

Boggs: .302 true AVG .381 wOBA 1,750 runs created 479.7 batting runs
Gwynn: .300 true AVG .370 wOBA 1,636 runs created 437.7 batting runs

Boggs comes out on top, barely. His edge in adjusted batting runs is roughly two per season, while his advantage in runs created is about four per year. You’re splitting hairs at that point, albeit in Boggs’s favor.

But then, Boggs spent much of his playing days in hitter’s parks—nobody took greater advantage of Fenway—whereas Gwynn spent his entire career in Qualcomm Stadium—the Petco Park of its time. Accordingly, when you neutralize their numbers, Gwynn’s get better while Boggs’s get worse:

Boggs .321/.407/.435 (.842 OPS) 1,664 runs created
Gwynn .340/.391/.461 (.852 OPS) 1,735 runs created

Now it’s flipped, as it’s Gwynn who holds the slight edge. Had Gwynn played in Fenway, he probably hits .350 for his career. Meanwhile, had Boggs spent his whole career in San Diego, he wouldn’t have come close to batting .328.

Boggs could hit anywhere—he batted .302/.387/.395 on the road—but that would have been a bad season for him. It also pales in comparison to what he did at home (.354/.443/.495). Most hitters benefit from their home parks, but not to the same degree that Boggs did (unless they play in Coors Field).

Gwynn, on the other hand, hit nearly as well on the road as he did at home. His .334/.384/.451 road averages are nearly identical to his .343/.393/.466 home record. Gwynn would have been a .330 hitter no matter which team he played for, but Boggs might have batted closer to .300.

Was Boggs better than Gwynn? After taking their environments into account, it appears Gwynn was the superior batsman.

Red Sox Retire Wade Boggs’ Number

On Thursday, May 26th, the Red Sox retire Wade Boggs’ jersey number 26 during a ceremony at Fenway Park. Boggs played for the Boston Red Sox from 1982 to 1992 before departing for the New York Yankees in 1993. During his time in Boston, Boggs won six Silver Slugger Awards (eight overall), was on seven all-star teams (12 overall). Boggs also played on the 1986 American League championship team that lost the World Series after a devastating error made in Game 6, leading the New York Mets to win Game 7 and the series. As the Red Sox retire Wade Boggs’ number, another legend is honored for his accomplishments.

Some aren’t happy that Boggs’ number is being retired for several reasons. First, BoggsRed Sox Retire Wade Boggs didn’t finish his career in Boston. In order to have your number retired by the Red Sox, you have to meet certain requirements, but in recent years those requirements have been ignored. The requirements include playing ten years for the Red Sox, be a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and retire from baseball as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Several players whose numbers are retired by the Red Sox do not meet those requirements. Pedro Martinez did not play for Boston for ten years, nor did he finish his career in Boston. Carlton Fisk finished his career in Chicago with the White Sox. Johnny Pesky isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If these are rules that former players have to follow, then why are they suddenly being discarded? Perhaps it’s time to discard the rules altogether and examine likely candidates on a case by case basis. That would make it much easier for Dwight Evans‘ number to also be retired.

Others are mad at Boggs because he played for the New York Yankees, our longtime rivals. Honestly, one can’t blame Boggs for leaving. Like any player in his position, Boggs wanted a World Series ring and frankly, the Boston Red Sox weren’t showing a level of skill that was going to get them to a World Series. Not to mention the Red Sox weren’t willing to give Boggs the contract he deserved to resign with the team in 1993. Boggs had many good years left in him, which he proved when he joined the Yankees, but the Red Sox refused to honor that, with Boggs being one of many good players the team has lost in years past. Let’s hope that lesson is something Dave Dombrowski keeps in mind when Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt’s contracts end.

Another legend will join the ranks of Boston greats when the Red Sox retire Wade Boggs’ number on May 26th! The ceremony will start shortly before the 7:05 game against the Colorado Rockies.

Jackie Bradley Jr Finally Found Stride?

Who would have thought that Jackie Bradley Jr. would have a hitting streak over twenty games this season, especially after crafting a mediocre batting average last season? It comes as a pleasant surprise to many to see Bradley Jr. hitting well. Personally, I’m very happy to see Bradley Jr.’s bat on fire, but I can’t help but wonder if his hitting will stay consistent as the season progresses. So has Jackie Bradley Jr finally found stride in his career, or is this another fluke?

Bradley Jr.’s hitting streak has gotten some talking about how far he can stretch it. TwentyBradley Jr Finally Found Stride games is nothing to ignore, but it’s not enough to begin considering him a future Red Sox legend. Let’s look at some numbers to get a better sense of this idea. Joe DiMaggio holds the record for the longest hitting streak with 56 games in 1941, breaking Willie Keeler’s record of 44. Pete Rose tied Keeler in 1978, but since then, few players at all have come even close to shattering DiMaggio’s record, which will probably never be broken. The Red Sox team record wouldn’t be easy to break either. If Bradley Jr. were to hit safely in 27 games, he’d only be tied for seventh with Dom DiMaggio (Joe’s brother), who initially set the record with 34 games in 1949. Bradley Jr. would then have to surpass Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciaparra, and David Ortiz, who’s already stealing all the thunder in his final season in baseball. So is Bradley Jr.’s streak impressive? Yes, but not so much when compared to other Red Sox players.

I’m not trying to undermine the way Bradley Jr. is playing this season. It’s easy to assume that Bradley Jr. finally found stride in a career that’s had its ups and downs. He’s exceeded so many people’s expectations, including mine. So has Bradley Jr finally found stride? Perhaps, but I want to see what he does the rest of the season before I give a hard yes. Let’s make sure this isn’t another fluke where he hits well for a few weeks before dropping off again like he did last year. More importantly, let’s see how Bradley Jr. does before we get too invested in him.

Dwight Evans’ Number Should Be Retired Too

I was happy when the Boston Red Sox announced that they would retire Wade Boggs’ jersey number 26 this year. Boggs played in Boston for ten years but departed in 1993 for the  Yankees in New York before finally being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 with 91.9% of the vote on the first ballot. There’s no question as to whether Dwight EvansBoggs’ number should be retired, but it will only be the ninth number ever retired by the Red Sox (excluding Jackie Robinson’s number 42, whose number was universally retired across Major League Baseball in 1997). When you look at the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have retired twelve numbers, and the New York Yankees have retired eighteen, it makes you wonder if the Red Sox are being too conservative in choosing whose numbers to retire, especially Dwight Evans’ number 24.

The Boston Red Sox have three requirements for a player’s number to be retired: be in the Hall of Fame, have played at least ten years in Boston, and finish their career with the Red Sox (though that rule has been relaxed in recent years). Only five of the current players whose numbers are retired meet these requirements; Johnny Pesky isn’t in the Hall of Fame, while Pedro Martinez didn’t play a full ten years in Boston and, along with Carlton Fisk, finished his career elsewhere. These exceptions should pave the way for Dwight Evans.

Dwight Evans By the Numbers

Let’s take a look at his numbers. While Dwight Evans isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, his numbers reflect a career worthy of induction. He was a three-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner, led the league at least once in on-base percentage, runs, total bases, home runs, and walks. He ranks in the top 50 all time in games played (2,606), home runs (385), and walks (1,391). Evans also hit four home runs on opening days in his career, including one on the very first pitch of the season. What Evans might best be remembered for is the unbelievable catch he made in right field during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Evans robbed the Reds’ Joe Morgan of a possible home run, leading the stunned Cincinnati Reds’ manager Sparky Anderson to say, “It was an outstanding catch. The best catch I’ve ever seen.” Given his offensive numbers, his exceptional defensive skills, and his overall dependability, Evans’ number 24 should be retired alongside Boggs’.

The Red Sox should take a closer look at what numbers they are overlooking for retirement, starting with Dwight Evans. He played his heart out every day he wore a Red Sox uniform and the man deserves no less.