Sunday, January 10, 2010

The All "Ungraceful Exit" Red Sox team of my lifetime

For whatever reason the Red Sox seem to be portrayed as a warm tradition filled franchise and the Yankees often are shown as a cold and uncaring evil empire.

But as it was addressed a few weeks ago, the Yankees aren't cold hearted at all. They are a bunch of softees.

Conversely, the Red Sox often act cooly and without sentimentality.

Mike Lowell is the latest Red Sox hero that is being told not to let the door hit his ass on the way out.

But when Mike gets dumped, he shouldn't feel too bad.

Just in my lifetime of watching baseball, the Red Sox have been able to fill a 25 man roster with all of the quality players who left the franchise in a huff and with a bad taste in their mouth.

And this is Sully Baseball where strange lists are not just pondered... they are written.

I created a 25 man roster with a starting line up, a rotation, a bullpen, a bench and for good measure a manager, two coaches and a GM all of whom ended their Red Sox tenure with the attitude of "F--- them! I'll prove them wrong!"

And my self imposed rule is they have to have been Red Sox in the era that I remember (1977 on.) I'm not including the Babe and all of the other players the Sox cast off in years past. But I had no problem making a roster with that stipulation.

And it is a roster filled with legends, Hall of Famers, beloved New Englanders, Cy Young Winners, MVPs and some of the biggest heroes of 2004.

Don't believe me... read on.

The Starting Line Up

C- Carlton Fisk

New England’s favorite son clashed with GM Haywood Sullivan over money. The Sox front office mailed his contract a day late, making him a free agent and he wound up being a free agent and spending more years in Chicago instead of Boston.

1BDoug Mientkiewicz

Only us insane Red Sox fans could turn the guy who caught the final out in the World Series we’ve been waiting our whole lives for into a bad guy! He caught the ball tossed to him by Foulke and decided to keep it… and who could blame Mientkiewicz? Red Sox management could! They unbelievably got into a lawsuit that needed to be mediated. They dealt him to the Mets and believe it or not he became a villain to some Sox fans!

2BMark Bellhorn

One of the big post season heroes of 2004 had a slow 2005… and was cut late in the season. He went on to finish the season (and play in the Division Series) as a member of the Yankees… the same team who helped sink with a pair of ALCS homers in ’04.

SSNomar Garciaparra

The man who was shaping up to be one of the great legends in Red Sox history was involved in an aborted trade to the White Sox in the 2003 off season. His 2003 was filled with injuries and sulking and was shipped to Chicago, this time the Cubs. The trade of the beloved No-Mah was considered to be the turning point of 2004.

3BWade Boggs

After 11 seasons in Boston where he hit .338 over all and won 5 batting titles and collected 2,098, the future Hall of Famer was nontendered after a subpar 1992. He responded by joining the Yankees, rediscovering his stroke and Gold Glove ability and winning his lone World Series title. Despite all of the great moments in Boston, Boggs won his ring (and rode a horse) in the Bronx and got his 3,000 hit in Tampa.

LFManny Ramirez

Manny being Manny imploded in 2008. He went from World Series hero and beloved cult figure to pariah in 9 months. Pushing an old guy to the ground will do that to you. Who knows what his response will be like if and when he returns to Fenway? It certainly won’t sound like the fans are responding to the guy who won the MVP for the Curse breaking World Series.

CFJohnny Damon

The personification of the long haired free spirited idiots who slayed the curse, Johnny spoke in his book about his loyalty to Boston and how he would never play for the Yankees… and then he signed with the Yankees. The Sox wouldn’t give 5 years to him, thinking he wouldn’t be able to keep playing center field. Later he was quoted saying about being a Yankee “Now I’m in a place that actually wants me.” Ouch.

RFDwight Evans

One of the great Red Sox of all time, Evans was the only player who played in the post season for the Sox in 1975, 1986, 1988 and 1990. And 8 time Gold Glover, he was the only AL hitter to get 20 or more homers each year of the 1980s. So naturally after 19 seasons he was released to make room for Jack Clark. Evans finished his career as a part time DH for Baltimore.

DHMo Vaughn

Another beloved native New Englander, Vaughn clashed with the front office. I guess Dan Duquette and company had a hard time with a popular MVP who did charity and helped heal the racial tensions of the organization. It became so toxic that his free agent defection was expected even before the 1998 playoffs. He went to the Angels and was never the same.

The Rotation

Roger Clemens

Dan Duquette was an undeniably talented GM, but man alive did he love to pick fights with top players. And he clashed with Clemens throughout the very public contract squabble with Roger Clemens. On one hand Clemens was 33, which is right around the time pitchers start to decline. On the other hand he was tied for the all time win total in Red Sox history with Cy Young and won 3 awards named after Young… and oh yeah led the league in strikeouts in 1996. Clemens left for Toronto and Duquette said he was in the twilight of his career. Clemens responded with back to back Cy Young seasons and two more later, becoming more identified with the Yankees. Now how Clemens injected his motivation is under investigation… but the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history was always welcomed back with a chorus of boos.

Pedro Martinez

The most exciting pitcher in Red Sox history helped turn the franchise around after Clemens’ departure. He won 2 Cy Youngs (and could have won 2 more) but his diva act started wearing out its welcome. And by the time he won Game 3 of the 2004 World Series, it was assumed it was his last game in a Red Sox uniform. The Red Sox offered 2 years and the Mets offered 4, so off to New York he went. At first it looked dreadful as Pedro kept up his Cy Young stuff his first year in Queens and the Red Sox missed the Division Title by a single game… but in the end letting Pedro go allowed the Sox to get Josh Beckett. Pedro did receive a nice hand when he returned to Boston years later.

Bruce Hurst

The postseason ace in 1986 gave the Red Sox two #1 starters (along with Clemens) when they won the 1988 “Morgan’s Magic” Division Title. But GM Lou Gorman got cheap all of a sudden after the 1988 ALCS and Hurst left the Sox for the Padres. They could have used that second ace in the 1990 playoffs.

Luis Tiant

As if 1978 couldn’t get more painful for Red Sox fans in the wake of Bucky F---ing Dent. In the off season, the beloved Lou-Eee defected to the Yankees as a free agent and did a series of hot dog commercials where he said “It’s good to be with a Weiner!” Ouch.

Fergie Jenkins

Fergie didn’t have the best seasons in his Hall of Fame career in Boston. But he was in Don Zimmer’s doghouse and was sent back to Texas for John Poloni… he of 2 career big league games. Poloni never played a game in Boston while Jenkins went 18-8 in Texas in 1978. Gee, I wonder if the Sox could have used him when they lost the Division in the Bucky Dent game!

The Bullpen

Keith Foulke

Foulke, the single most underrated hero from the 2004 title, literally risked his career throwing 14 innings (and throwing 257 pitches) that October and letting up 1 earned run in the process. By 2005 his arm was shot as was his effectiveness. Fans started booing him and he called Red Sox fans “Johnny from Burger King.” His time in Boston ended on a sour note as he was an ineffective mop up man with a terrible relationship with the fans and the media… all less than 2 years removed from delivering the highlight we’ve been waiting our whole lives for: A World Series title.

Lee Smith

Smith was still one of the top closers in the game and helped lead the Sox to the 1988 Division Title when the Sox signed Jeff Reardon. Why did they need 2 closers? Smith was dealt for Tom Brunansky, but rumors started whirling that Smith was a troublemaker. Funny. He was never a troublemaker in Chicago. Nor later in his career in St. Louis, Baltimore or California… just in the Yawkey run Red Sox… innnteresting.

Bill Lee

Sure it’s a stretch putting Lee in the bullpen, but he actually did start his Sox career as a reliever. His clashes with management and that moron Don Zimmer were legendary and can be summed up in the brilliant film Spaceman- A Baseball Odyssey featuring your pal Sully. He was benched down the stretch in 1978 and was dumped to Montreal for Stan Papi. Papi never got off of the bench. Lee won 17 for Montreal in 1979.

Alan Embree

Embree pitched well in the 2004 post season and got the pennant clinching out in Yankee Stadium. A year later, he was cut in midseason upsetting his bullpen mates. Embree wound up a member of the 2005 Yankees and seemed to take great glee in clinching the Division in Fenway.

Jim Willoughby

Yet another one of the Buffalo Heads that Don Zimmer wanted off of the team because… um… he didn’t like them. The Red Sox got exactly zero players from the White Sox for Willoughby and then had a worn out bullpen by September.

The Bench

Reserve InfielderJose Offerman

It’s hard to remember that Jose Offerman was once an All Star as a member of the Red Sox. Well he was in 1999. And by 2002 he was considered a cancer in the clubhouse and was cut in August. They cut him AFTER they finished a West Coast swing. Offerman lived on the West Coast and the team flew him all the way back East to give him his walking papers, which led to a profanity laced, equipment throwing tirade. Years later as a member of the Bridgeport Bluefish, he went after another player with a bat. Classy guy.

Reserve InfielderOrlando Cabrera

Cabrera came over in the Nomar trade, gave the Red Sox stellar defense, got clutch post season hits, helped deliver a title to Boston and fit in perfectly with the Boston clubhouse. So naturally the Sox let him go. There were rumors of Cabrera doing inappropriate things and making management mad. Either way Cabrera left and played in the post season with the Angels, White Sox and Twins while the Red Sox have put 19 different guys at shortstop since.

Reserve Outfielder Steve Lyons

Lyons was hardly a top prospect for the Red Sox, but he was one of the few rookies on the 1986 Red Sox squad. He also was John McNamara’s whipping boy. Whenever Johnny Mac woke up, he’d chew out Lyons and not raise his voice to any of the veterans. Lyons was shipped off for Tom Seaver.

Reserve Outfielder Bernie Carbo

The most famous pinch hitter in Red Sox history had 15 homers and an OPS of .931 as a part time player in 1977. But he was part of the Buffalo Heads and Don Zimmer is an idiot so he was shipped off to Cleveland for NO PLAYERS. So if you are keeping track, in the end the Sox dealt Fergie Jenkins, Bill Lee, Bernie Carbo and Jim Willoughby in exchange for Stan Papi and Jon Poloni.

Reserve Catcher Rich Gedman

Yet another native New Englander got the shaft from the front office. He was an All Star in 1986 and got some key post season hits. Yet was a victim of collusion and his career was never the same after the 1986 off season. Was unceremoniously dumped early in the 1990 season.

Reserve Catcher Doug Mirabelli

It’s tough to put Mirabelli on here seeing how the Red Sox kept him employed for many years longer than any other team would… mainly because he could actually catch a knuckleball. That lone talent had him start Game 1 of the 2004 World Series and get a pair of World Series rings. The Sox decided to go with Kevin Cash instead of Dougie. No argument there, but why couldn’t they make that decision BEFORE spring training 2008 where Doug was cut. He accepted his 2007 World Series ring on opening day but he wouldn’t wear his uniform.

The Coaching Staff

Manager - Kevin Kennedy

Kennedy managed the Sox to a surprising division title in 1995. In 1996, a series of ill conceived deals gave Kennedy about 10 DHs and a decrepit bullpen. Kennedy turned the 1996 season around after a bad start and contended until the last weekend. But he clashed with Dan Duquette (see a pattern here?) Kennedy was dumped and has been a mainstay in the broadcast booth (and my XM Radio listening) ever since.

CoachTommy Harper

The Elk’s Club of Winter Haven Florida invited some of the Red Sox team and management to an event. Tommy Harper wasn’t invited. Why? It was a white only establishment. Tommy Harper complained to the media. So what did the Yawkey run Red Sox do? They fired Harper! Of course… because he was uppity. He sued and won an anti discrimination case. This wasn’t in the distant past. This was 1985. Ahhh the Yawkey legacy.

CoachJoe Kerrigan

Yes I know technically he was the manager of the team… but was he really ever the manager? He was stuck in the manager’s role after Duquette dumped Jimy (sic) Williams. Duquette knew there was no way Kerrigan was going to keep his job when management switched over. But instead of letting him go, Duquette kept him on board into spring training where he went through the charade of being manager until the new ownership took over. When they did, to the surprise of nobody, he was let go.

The Front Office

GMDan Duquette

The Richard Nixon of Red Sox history.

So very talented at his job (lest we forget he brought in among others Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Plus he drafted Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Youkilis.)

But he was either so controlling or so destructive that he seemed to alienate the entire organization. And despite consistently putting a contender on the field, he was also on the attack against the Boston press, the players and no doubt cussed out Paul Revere’s statue in the process. Whatever good he did for the team, he had to go. Heck, he was partially responsible for most of the players leaving in a huff above!

You aren't going to top that line up! Top to bottom with left and right handed power.
And that rotation where Fergie Jenkins is the #5 starter?

Let's hope the Red Sox, with Varitek and Ortiz at the end of their time in Boston this year get to exit more gracefully.

But then again, that wouldn't be the Red Sox way, would it?

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  1. I still think the BoSox should have kept Orlando Cabrera...

  2. Terrific column, Sully. And I still think Kevin Kennedy has one of baseball's best ever porn staches!

  3. I agree Wes

    Thanks Q
    (Thank Q)

  4. Anonymous2:28 PM

    Pretty slanted view of things. Some of these guys deserved to be let go or not resigned.

  5. Wow... you are saying a Red Sox fan has a slanted view of things?