Game 10 vs. Baltimore Orioles: Dwight Evans

Have you ever seen photos of Dwight Evans in a Baltimore Orioles jersey? Were you one of the lucky kids in 1991 to pull a Dewey card featuring the Orioles uni? It is jarring. unsettling, and completely unnatural. 

After 19 seasons as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Dwight Evans logged 329 at bats with the Baltimore Orioles. There were 7 games where Dewey played at Fenway as a member of the Orioles. A Google Image search doesn't show any images of Evans in Fenway wearing an Orioles uniform, but the image in my mind is appalling. We can chalk the events of 1991 to bad management decisions. 

Speaking of management decisions, the Orioles entered the 2015 season as a team that has reached the postseason in 2 of the last 3 years. A lot of this has been attributed to Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. Duquette, another member of the Sox/Orioles alumni group, has also been linked with moving on to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The hope tonight is the Orioles will fall a bit short, like their recent playoff hopes, and the Red Sox will reign victorious!

 

 

Game 9 vs. Washington Nationals: Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson never played for the Red Sox, though on April 16, 1945 the team held tryouts at Fenway Park for Jackie Robinson and other black players. The tryouts were not legitimate, and serve a stark reminder that the Boston Red Sox weren't at the forefront of the integration of black players. Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August of 1945, and he debuted on April 15, 1947. The Red Sox would not add a black player to their roster until July, 1959.

The Washington Nationals/Zombie Expos didn't exist until 1969, but the franchise has historically been well represented by diversity, including drafting Andre Dawson, one of the best Montreal Expos of all time and a Hall of Famer. Dawson played two seasons for the Red Sox as well, but he was pretty much washed up by then. 

In 1997, MLB retired Jackie Robinson's #42, and beginning in 2009 all major league players and coaches began wearing #42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Two years before then Ken Griffey Jr. asked Rachel Robinson permission to wear #42, and it quickly spread. So while Jackie Robinson played only for the Brooklyn Dodgers, all of Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson on April 15.

The 2015 Red Sox season, though young, has so far been a break out for Mookie Betts. Named Markus Lynn Betts by his parents partly because he would share the initials with MLB, Betts has given hope to major league baseball's issue of not having African Americans represented more fully at the major league level. The hope here is he'll hit a few bombs, steal a few bases, and rob someone else of a home run in the finale versus the Nationals!

Game 8 vs Washington Nationals: Matt Stairs

Of the players that have worn the uniform of both the Red Sox and Nationals franchises, Matt Stairs represents a connection between the Red Sox, Nationals, and Expos. The Professional Hitter also wore the uniform of 10 other teams!

The barrel chested definition of a slugger had 265 homers over the course of his 19 year career. Amazingly, Stairs only once spent more than 3 seasons with any club, when he spent 5 with the Oakland Athletics. Matt Stairs's greatest moment came during Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, when he cranked a pinch hit 2 run home run that put the Phillies on top for good. 

The 2015 Nationals, like the 2008 Phillies, had a lot of pre-season hype touting their rotation and the overall chances that they will reach the 2015 World Series. What nobody is saying, and probably should be, is that Matt Stairs isn't walking through that door. Matt Stairs, the MLB all time leader in pinch hit home runs, is not walking through that door to save the day when the Red Sox press their collective foot against the throat of the Nationals Hopes and Dreams tonight. 

That's because Matt Stairs retired years ago, and is now the head coach of a high school hockey team. The Nats have Bryce Harper and all the rest, but they don't have Matt Stairs. They don't have the beer league-style ballplayer who struck fear into many pitchers he faced. They'll probably lose tonight simply because they don't have that kind of talent sitting on the bench, waiting to save the day. Matt Stairs, a super hero with a bat, instead of a cape.

Game 7 vs. Washington Nationals: Bill Lee

If you visit Baseball-Reference.com and look at a list of players who have played for both the Red Sox and Washington Nationals, Bill Lee is listed despite never donning a Nationals uniform. The reason for this, of course, is due to the fact that the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington D.C. after the 2004 season.

So, technically, Bill Lee is one of just six players to play only for both the Red Sox and Expos/Nats.  Bill "Spaceman" Lee is, to the best of my knowledge, the only recipient of continued support via graffiti on the wall of the Green Monster.

When Bill Lee was traded to the Montreal Expos for a proverbial bag of balls named Stan Papi, someone responded by spray painting "Who The Hell Is Stan Papi?" on the back of the Green Monster. The Fenway grounds crew cleaned up the graffiti, but the sentence reappeared often during Bill Lee's career until he retired. 

Despite technically playing for only the Red Sox and Expos, Bill Lee has pitched for more than a half dozen semi-pro and celebrity teams since his retirement. In 2010, Lee pitched for the Brockton Rox and picked up the win at the age of 63.

There is no player on the Red Sox or Nationals today that comes close to being the character that is Bill "Spaceman" Lee, but perhaps one of the Red Sox relief pitchers will mix things up and bust out an Eephus pitch! 

Game 6 vs. New York Yankees: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller's career as a New York Yankee is exactly 2 games long, and he's already notched a save against his former club. Miller joins a long list of players to don the uniform from both sides of the rivalry. From Babe Ruth to Johnny Damon to Andrew Miller. I don't think that's necessarily an appropriate sentence to write, but any time you can say Babe Ruth and Andrew Miller in the same breath, you take that opportunity and run with it.

Andrew Miller went from an unmitigated disaster with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins before turning it around in his second season with the Red Sox. Miller, like Babe Ruth and Johnny Damon, joined the Yankees after securing a World Series title with Boston. Miller didn't pitch in the 2013 postseason, but he contributed along the way during the regular season.

So, why Andrew Miller as today's player profile? Miller is signed with the Yankees through 2018, and there's a good chance that he will become the official closer for the Bronx Bombers before long. There will no doubt be highs and lows, and hopefully more lows for Mr. Andrew Miller whenever he faces the team he left behind. 

Game 5 vs. New York Yankees: Elston Howard

Last night's Red Sox - Yankees game was the longest between the two teams since August 29, 1967, when that game went a mere 6 hours 9 minutes. Elston Howard, the first black player for the Yankees, the 1963 AL MVP, and perennial World Series contender, had 5 plate appearances for the Boston Red Sox in that game. He was also a key member of that 1967 Red Sox World Series team. 

The Yankees walked away with a win in 1967, but fortunately for the Red Sox history did not repeat itself last night. 

Today's player is really short, but honestly, there were 11 hours between last night's game and today's game!

Game 4 vs. New York Yankees: Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew represents quite a bit. Between his lackluster postseason performance in 2013(until that beautiful home run during Game 6 of the World Series), to his equally lackluster 2014, and the subsequent deadline trade to the New York Yankees where he continued his lackluster 2014 campaign... he has come to epitomize the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees as it stands today.

Tonight's game will be the 2,119th regular season matchup between the two storied franchises. However, it is a few years removed from the regular excitement that existed for much of the Joe Torre years as Yankee manager and into the first few years of Joe Girardi's tenure. The rivalry exists today, but until there's a hard fought battle on the field, it's almost as if it's dormant. The closest comparison might be during the 1980's when neither team won a championship. That isn't completely correct, though, as the impact of the 2004 World Series title and subsequent 2007 and 2013 titles has leveled the bragging rights playing field.

Stephen Drew illustrates this dormancy pretty well. On July 31, 2014, the Red Sox traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees for cash and a bag of balls(Kelly Johnson). It was the first trade between the clubs since 1997, when the Red Sox shipped veteran Mike Stanley to the Yankees during a rebuilding season. One of the prospects the Yankees sent back was part a trade just a few months later that brought Pedro Martinez to Boston from the Montreal Expos. And the rest is history.

Gone from the last height of the rivalry are Pedro Martinez, Derek Jeter, and the theatrics of Don Zimmer being tossed to the ground. The Yankees are not poised for greatness this year, and lots of baseball pundits have written off the Red Sox as well. 2014 represented the first season that neither the Red Sox or Yankees reached the playoffs for the first since since the first Wild Card was introduced. On paper it looks like it could be 2 straight seasons without either team in the postseason. However, from this biased viewpoint, that is highly unlikely.

Wade Miley will take his first step into the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry tonight, thought this will be his second career start against New York. Let's hope Miley wakes up the ghosts of rivalry past and blows away the Yankees to kick off the season's first rivalry series!

 

Game 3 vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon

Last night Jonathan Papelbon earned his 107th save as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He is now five saves from tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record of 112 saves. Once he reaches that milestone, he'll be the all time franchise saves leader for both the Red Sox and Phillies.

Of course, Paps went on the record yesterday to say he doesn't feel like a Phillie. You can't blame Papelbon, considering he spent his first seven years with the Red Sox, racking up 219 saves to go along with his 2007 World Series ring. 

It's interesting to note Papelbon's comments, especially when compared to Hanley Ramirez's comments upon re-signing with the Red Sox after a 10 year hiatus. Ramirez said then that he was happy to go back where he belonged. The obvious difference here is the Red Sox had a mutual desire to join forces with Ramirez. The same may be said with Papelbon. Paps will undoubtedly face trade questions all summer long.

Last night Hanley Ramirez almost had a second consecutive game with a grand slam, but the dreary conditions in Philadelphia and a wind blowing in prevented that. 

Here's hoping Ramirez and the Sox have better luck tonight, perhaps even besting their franchise leader in saves!

Game 2 vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon logged 10 years in the big leagues before he had a breakout season in 1998 as the stopper for the Boston Red Sox.  Like many members of that team, Gordon caught lightning in a bottle. That isn't to say Tom Gordon wasn't a serviceable major league pitcher, but 1998 was a career year for him. Second baseman Mike Benjamin also had a career year. Along with a peak season for Darren Bragg, Darren Lewis, and Scott Hatteberg to go along with strong seasons from Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn, the 1998 Boston Red Sox were truly lightning in a bottle. 

Unfortunately for that team, they ran into the steamrolling 1998 Cleveland Indians and were defeated in the ALDS 3 games to 1.

Tom Gordon's career had a few bright spots, and after missing all of the 2000 season he reemerged as a solid late inning stopper and occasional fill-in closer. By 2006 he found himself on the Philadelphia Phillies, logging 34 saves. He lost his job as closer but remained a key member of the bullpen. He earned a World Series ring with the 2008 Phillies, though spent the rest of the year on the disabled list after landing on it in July. 

The Red Sox face off versus the Phillies tonight in Game 2 of the 2015 season. Here's hoping the Red Sox harness some of the career year energy from the ghost of Tom "Flash" Gordon's Red Sox past!

 

Happy Birthday, March 9!

March 9 is a great day for Major League Baseball, when you consider the players that were born on this day!

MLB Hall of Famer Billy Southworth was born on March 9, 1893. He was the first person in MLB history to win a World Series as a player and later as a manager. As manager, his .642 winning percentage remains 2nd most in St. Louis Cardinals franchise history. There is a great documentary that covers his life, and SABR offers a thorough profile

Fellow MLB Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan was also born on March 9, almost twenty years later. Vaughan is considered one of the greatest shortstops, and SABR once again comes through with an excellent biography article about the often forgotten star of his era. 

Benito Santiago, born on March 9, 1965, logged 20 seasons in MLB, a large chunk of which was with the San Diego Padres, where he started his career. The five time All-Star was also the 1987 NL Rookie of The Year. He had a resurgence in the early 2000s, and was the NLCS MVP in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants. 

Rounding out the March 9 birthdays is Aaron Boone, perhaps best known for his soul crushing home run to end Game 7 and the 2003 ALCS, defeating the Boston Red Sox and sending the New York Yankees to the World Series. The eventually lost to the Florida Marlins and would not win another World Series Championship until 2009. As for Aaron Boone, he missed all of 2004 to injury, which prompted the Yankees to acquire Alex Rodriguez. Boone went on to play a few more seasons before retiring and joining ESPN as a commentator. 


Atlanta Braves, with a NO HITTER!

It's only spring training, and it took 9 pitchers over 10 innings to accomplish it, but the Atlanta Braves held the Houston Astros hitless in their 6th spring training game of the year. What makes this even more amazing, is that the game ended in a 2-2 tie. 

The Atlanta Braves haven't had a regular season no-hitter since 1994, and they've only had 3 no hitters since they moved to Atlanta! Phil Niekro threw the first no hitter for the Atlanta Braves.