Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “Kevin Millar”

Where Are They Now?

Photo courtesy of bostondirtdogs.com

This is a blog that is driven by the present, the here and now. We look at what the Red Sox are doing off of the field and try to project how it will translate on the field. When the games begin, it’s all about wins and losses, what the Sox need to do or could have done to get a check in the win column. But baseball is a game that constantly reminds us it’s perfectly fine to temporarily abandon the present and turn our attention to the past. I mean, who doesn’t like to reminisce on the fall of 2004? If someone wants to chat about Pedro Martinez‘ performance in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS, sign me up. I’m in.

The point? Looking back is fun. So let’s take a peak in the past at some former Red Sox players and see what they’re doing now.

Bill Mueller is a professional scout within the Dodgers organization. Before that, he was a special assistant to the GM. Mueller will never have a place in Cooperstown, but he will always be a hero in households around New England. Fans tend to remember Kevin Millar‘s walk and Dave Roberts critical stolen base during the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. But it was Mueller’s sharp RBI single up the middle off of closer Mariano Rivera that tied the game and gave David Oritz the opportunity to do what David Ortiz does. Just one year before his ALCS heroics, Mueller led the American League in hitting, took home the Silver Slugger Award for his position, and finished 12th in MVP voting.

Dante Bichette was named the Rockies’ hitting coach this past November. Bichette will always be best known for his seven years in Colorado where he served as of one the Senior Circuit’s most feared sluggers. But on August 31, 2000, he was traded from the Reds to the Red Sox. In 137 games, between ’00 and ’01, with the Red Sox, Bichette would hit 19 home runs and get on-base at a .331 clip. He would spend the final year of his 14-year career with the Red Sox in 2001.

Mo Vaughn, once a force in the batter’s box, has evolved into a force in the real estate market. Vaughn is the co-founder of Omni New York LLC, a company that focuses on “bringing revitalization and development to various neighborhoods in New York and other states.” Given the amount of charity work Vaughn participated in during his time in Boston, it only makes sense that he would focus his business ventures on areas of the community that are in need of affordable housing.

In the interest of transparency, Mo was my first ever favorite player. If you’re a sports fan, you can probably point to the player you first fell head over heels for as a kid. The Hit Dog was my first. In 1995, I was seven. Vaughn won the MVP while posting a .300/.388/.575 line. He slugged 39 home runs and went on to have an even better season in 1996. It was around that time that my parents came home with a present for me. It was a plaque with a Topps baseball card of Mo in the middle of one of his signature swings. It is still hanging above my bed in my parents’ house. I’ll always remember that hunched over stance from the left side. Vaughn was big papi before Big Papi.

 Aaron Sele is a special assistant within the Dodgers organization. Sele is a former first round pick by the Red Sox–23rd overall–in 1991. He spent five years with the Red Sox. In 1993, Sele finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He went on to have a 15-year career in the bigs, but his most notable achievement may have been his beautiful breaking ball. Cause, damn. That was nice.

Manny Ramirez is in talks to play for the Taiwanese professional league. If you don’t believe me, here it is. Failed drug tests aside, Ramirez is probably the best hitter I’ve ever seen in play in a Red Sox uniform. Everyone loved the towering home runs to left field that cleared that big green wall, but looking back, I am most impressed by Ramirez’ ability to attack the entire field, to the spray the ball with ease to right center gap. There is a small fraternity of Red Sox players, past and present, who are part of the “first name club.” Think about it. We refer to Pedro Martinez as “Pedro” — not “Martinez.” Nomar Garciaparra is “Nomar” and Ted Williams is “Ted.” Manny, for better or worse, will always be Manny.

Time to Let Go

Moving on is tough. Change is difficult. The past can often seem better than the present. For the Boston Red Sox and its fans, this couldn’t be more true when it comes to their ball club. Nevertheless, it is time to look forward.

It is about 2013, not 2004.

Terry Francona is not walking through that door.

Francona will always be beloved in these parts. He brought Red Sox fans salvation in 2004 and again three years later. Tito is arguably the greatest manager in Sox history. And that’s part of the problem–he is history. He’s not the manager in Boston any longer. In fact, he’s now the enemy (a relatively benign enemy in the form of the Cleveland Indians, but an enemy nonetheless). On April 16 — when the Indians visit Fenway — Francona will officially begin attempting to beat his old club.

The Tito Love Fest needs to end. It went on all of last year, mostly due to circumstances that surrounded the Red Sox and their former manager. Francona was dismissed at the end of the 2011 season in a manner that most people who follow the team would describe as unfair. Despite the allegations concerning Tito’s prescription drug abuse, he walked away from the rubble that befell Yawkey Way pretty clean. He went on to hook up with ESPN in an innocuous gig on Sunday Night Baseball.  Bobby Valentine, who is the black to Francona’s white when it comes to managerial style, never really got settled in Boston–much to his own device. It was easy to long for the way things were under Francona when Valentine was busy looking like a total idiot.

Tito quickly became the figurehead for anti-Establishment. Cheering the old manager meant opposing John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and to a lesser extent, Valentine. It was a theme that permeated throughout the season — Francona received the biggest ovation during the 100-year celebration of Fenway Park on April 20. In July, the ESPN analyst held court with a small group of Red Sox players in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. Despite the denials from both sides, it must have been incredibly awkward for Valentine.

Franonca, however, is no longer serving in a role that has no real bearing on the welfare of the Red Sox. He is actively competing against them. Valentine has been disposed as manager, and the Sox have a new man at the helm in John Farrell who possesses many of the same coveted managerial skills as Francona but has a starkly different style. It is no longer about Francona. It’s about Farrell, and his team’s performance this summer.

Stop selling the past. Make a case for the future.

Let’s first deal with the facts. Last season was the 100-year anniversary of Fenway Park, and that is important. The aforementioned celebration this past April was necessary and well-done. The All-Fenway Team was acknowledged before the final home game of the season in September, and that too was appropriate given the circumstances surrounding the park’s birthday in 2012.

But recognizing the eight-year anniversary of the 2004 championship team? Please stop.

It’s time for ownership to stop leaning so heavily on the equity of good will that they have built up since purchasing the team. Instead, they must reinvest themselves in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Red Sox. In turn, fans will reinvest accordingly.

Get excited about Will Middlebrooks, not Kevin Millar.

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None of this is easy. Francona was a superb manager during his tenure in Boston. Farrell owns a sub .500 record since taking over his first managerial gig in Toronto. Middlebrooks is heading into his sophomore season as a pro, and in the grand scheme of things, hasn’t done much of anything yet. Conversely, a player like MIllar helped deliver a World Series trophy to this city. It’s understandable why fans and even members of ownership gravitate towards these guys. They’re fun, likable winners.

And it’s perfectly fine to give Francona a nice ovation when he visits Fenway in an Indians uniform. Let him tip his cap and acknowledge the fans. He deserves that.

But after that, let go.

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