Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the tag “Ted Williams”

Where Are They Now?

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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.

Just Say No

You sure? Do you really want this?

Because I don’t. And when the pen is about to meet paper — when ink makes things irreversible — you’re not going want Josh Hamilton on the Red Sox. If you have the money to purchase a new, reliable vehicle with all of the bells and whistles, what’s the point of going out and buying a fancy used car? Sure, she’s good to look at, parked in the driveway — but once you put her on the road, she breaks down. Hamilton — simply put — is a poor investment.

But man, he is fun to watch.

Hamilton gave me goosebumps in 2008 when he slugged 28 majestic long balls in the first round of the Home Run Derby at Old Yankee Stadium. I’ve see him do his work in person. And I’m pretty sure the ball he hit at Fenway this past April jusssssst landed. He is great.

I really mean that. The man has that Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax sort of greatness about him. It’s appointment viewing. It’s Pedro Martinez every fifth day. Your bathroom breaks revolve around when guys like Hamilton are due to hit. And yet, there is something about him that brings him closer to us as fans that most professional athletes do not have.

Hamilton is critically flawed. He is an addict. He has battled both drugs and alcohol. He’s open about it. The big left handed hitter looks like an NFL tight end. He is 6’4″ and weighs the best part of 250 pounds. Hamilton is larger than life.

But he is uniquely human.

Can you relate to Derek Jeter? I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what it’s like to win multiple World Series titles. I have no clue what it’s like to date stars like Mariah Carey or Minka Kelly. I wish I had an idea of what it is like to have a well-deserved squeaky-clean image.

But I don’t. And neither does Hamilton. I’m willing to bet you don’t either.

It’s not to say that guys like Jeter don’t have their issues–they do, trust me. They’re human too. But with Hamilton, it’s different. It just is. And that’s what makes him so incredibly likable. We root for him because we see ourselves in him. Sure, it may not be drugs or alcohol — but it’s something. Maybe it’s cigarettes or junk food. Maybe it’s gambling. I don’t know. But it’s something. We’re not all a gang of Jeter’s.

At the same time, Hamilton is best observed from afar, admired from a distance. He will be 32-years old in May. If his agent has any intelligence whatsoever, he will demand a five-year pact, at least. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Security is vital for this man, for what he has been through, for what is likely to come.

Over the course of the next five seasons, on average, I want Hamilton to play 150 games, slug 35 home runs, get on-base at a .375 clip, drive in 120 runs, play stellar defense, but most of all, stay clean.

But I don’t trust him to do that. And the last thing the Red Sox need is an expensive, difficult to maintain vehicle with high mileage. No matter how pretty it looks.

David Ortiz Inks Two-Year Deal

On Friday, the Red Sox and David Ortiz agreed to a two-year deal worth $26MM. He’ll have the opportunity to make an additional $4MM in incentives. Here is my abbreviated breakdown of the multi-year pact.

The Good: Ortiz can still flat-out hit. The two-time World Series champion is back to getting on-base at a tremendous pace. He is back to taking the ball to the opposite field with authority. In 2012, the native of the Dominican Republic posted an impressive .318/.415/.611 line. He blasted 23 home runs for good measure. And it was all done in 90 games.

The Bad: Ortiz played in 90 games last season. He injured his right Achilles’ tendon while rounding the bases on what would be a home run off the bat of former Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez. He is going to be 37 years old in 13 days, and ideally, the Red Sox would’ve continued to go year-to-year with Ortiz. It would have ensured that the slugger remained motivated, while limiting risk for the team.

The Emotional: Big Papi is the face of the Red Sox. He is a legend in these parts and will be in the same conversation with Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, and Tom Brady when it comes to the Mount Rushmore of Boston sports. He should never not be a Red Sox.

The Takeaway: Would Oritz have gotten a multi-year deal worth the same amount of dollars on the open market? Probably not. Nevertheless, it is a fair deal based on the financial situation of the Red Sox. They can afford to overspend a bit for shorter term deals. The team possesses financial flexibility in the here and now, and it is important to preserve that for the foreseeable future. From a personnel standpoint, the free agent class simply does not offer what a healthy Ortiz can bring to the table–a unique blend of average and power. The Red Sox could have played hardball with Ortiz and his agent, but if a reasonable deal, like this one, could be reached, what is the point? Finally, GM Ben Cherington is in a much better position this offseason than last. John Farrell is the manager, and Ortiz is signed and presumably happy. Both of those problems were far from being solved one year ago.

Remembering Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky passed away on Monday. He was a husband, a father, and a friend to more than just a small handful of people. He served his country admirably in the Navy during World War II. He was fiercely loyal to the people and the organizations in his life that he cared about. His smile was simple, genuine, and timeless.

And so was my Great Uncle Frank’s. All of it. Everything. It’s almost like he and Mr. Pesky had to have been brothers.

I lost my Uncle Frank in the spring of 2011. He was 90-years old. No, Uncle Frank didn’t play baseball at its highest level. He was not a career .300 hitter, and his number is not retired, never to be worn by another member of the Red Sox again. One of his closest friends was not the immortal Ted Williams. And no, my Uncle Frank’s name will not forever be associated with one of baseball’s greatest franchises.

Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky did have a lot in common, however. They were each married to their respective wives for more than 60-years. Both men were proud fathers. When their country called, my Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky answered. They each served multiple years during World War II–both were Navy men. Both individuals lived long, rich lives into their 90’s. Most importantly, spending time with my Uncle Frank, just having a conversation with him, made you feel enriched, a better person because of it. And after all of the stories that I have heard about Mr. Pesky, it is clear that he had the same effect on the individuals in his presence.

I don’t have any personal Johnny Pesky stories to re-tell. You won’t find a ball in my collection that has been signed by Old Number 6. I have only seen him from my seats in the bleachers on Opening Day or through my television at home. But really, that’s all I needed. You could see the reaction from people when Mr. Pesky was around. They were overjoyed at the opportunity to meet him, to talk about baseball, to talk about family, to talk about life. And Mr. Pesky was just as thrilled to talk to people as they were to listen. He got as much, if not more, out of these interactions as they did.

My Uncle Frank was the same way. He was a bridge that took me (and so many others) back to the 1930’s and 1940’s, to what life was like for the Greatest Generation. Similarly, Mr. Pesky connected us, as fans, back to the days of Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, to a time that truly made the game of baseball America’s first pastime.

I’m sure that I am just one of many, many people who, when they learned of Mr. Pesky’s passing, thought of a relative or a friend that reminded them of him or her. It’s a testimony to the life that Mr. Pesky lived.

As the line of folks Upstairs who are waiting for a chance to exchange words with the old infielder begins to thin out a bit, I’m sure my Great Uncle Frank will make his way over to Mr. Pesky–just to say hello and talk about the good old days.

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