Lovably bad: My mediocre Red Sox

Luis Rivera terrorized Yankees fans, somehow.

Ask any fan not from New England or New York, and they’ll tell you that, yes, without question, the Boston Red Sox are a powerhouse. They have been a powerhouse for the better part of a decade now, and barring some incredible lapse in judgment, will continue to be so.

But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. Speaking as a child of the 90s, I grew up first with the pretty good Sox of the late 80s (led by Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and an aging Dwight Evans), but really hit my stride with the Butch Hobson era of three consecutive losing seasons, culminating in the World Series-killing strike. Luckily, they were nowhere near playoff contention at that time. The Montreal Expos weren’t so fortunate.

I feel like I learned to love baseball first and the Red Sox second over that period, with Greenwell and, later, Tim Naehring firmly entrenched as my favorite players. And they had some good players even when they were bad. Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, and a non-chemically-enhanced Roger Clemens. They were my team, and I loved them unconditionally.

But oh boy, they had some flops. Assembling them by position, here were my favorites:

1b: Carlos Quintana
Quintana wasn’t a complete dud, hitting .287 and .295 as the Sox’ regular first baseman in 1990 and ’91, but he’s best remembered for a car accident that caused him to miss the 1992 season and derailed his career. When he returned in 1993, Vaughn had a vice grip on first base, he suffered from numbness in his hand, and by 1994, he was given his release.

2b: Scott Fletcher
Fletcher led the ’93 Sox in stolen bases… with 16. Otherwise, he spent his time keeping his number 5 jersey warm for some shortstop that came along a few years later.

3b: Scott Cooper
By far, the worst two-time All-Star any sport has ever seen. I know third base was a weak position in the American League at that point, but … two All-Star games? His OPS those two years: .752 and .786. Horrifying. At least he seemed like a nice guy.

SS: Luis Rivera
Home runs in five years with the Red Sox: 21. Number of those that came against the New York Yankees: 6. Ask my boss (a Yankees fan) though, and he’ll swear he hit 25 of his 21 home runs against the Bombers. That has to count for something.

RF: Bob Zupcic
My predominant memory of Zupcic was his home run trot. He only had 6 with the team, and I probably only saw two. But, there he was, rounding second base with his arms sticking straight up in the air. Field goal, Zupcic!

CF: Herm Winningham
Winningham played 868 games over nine years with four different teams, and was never hit by a pitch. Weird.

LF: [Blank]
There’s been a stranglehold on left field for my entire lifetime. Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Troy O’Leary, Manny Ramirez, Jason Bay and now, Jacoby Ellsbury. They range from pretty good to Hall of Fame worthy. I’m sure I could think of some scrub that played here when either Rice, Greenwell or O’Leary were on the mend, but I won’t. I can’t besmirch the keepers of the Monster.

But if I had to… Lee Tinsley. Most notable for wearing four different numbers in parts of three seasons with the Sox: 38, 26, 47 and 10, in chronological order.

C: Dave Valle
Signed away from Seattle to be the Sox’ starting catcher in 1994, he was traded as soon as possible to bring back a personal favorite, outfielder Tom Brunansky. Thanks, Dave!

DH: Andre Dawson
Dawson will enter the Hall of Fame this year, but it won’t be for his time in Boston. After hitting his 400th career home run early in 1993, it was all sore knees and pinch runners for the Hawk. Classy dude, though.

P: Chris Nabholz
It would have been enough if he were just the awkward-looking guy he was. But, no. He also racked up a 6.64 ERA in 42 innings pitched in his only season in Boston. I’ll also never forget reading his summary in one of Bill James’ books at the time: “Two words: He sucks.” Or something to that effect.

With that, Clay Buchholz is currently on the mound, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are in the lineup, and Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon are in the bullpen. Oh, and they’ve won the World Series a couple of times, or something.

Yes, life is better now.

One response to “Lovably bad: My mediocre Red Sox

  1. See, I grew up unbelievably spoiled. The earliest I can remember baseball was 1993, when I was six (HA! YOU’RE OLD!). The first Braves game I went to was momentous for two reasons: 1.) The stadium caught fire, and 2.) It was Fred McGriff’s first game, in which he hit a game winning HR. Do I remember that? Hell no. I remember literally saying to my parents as we waited in the parking lot for the firetrucks to leave the field, “Can’t they just play it at the Georgia Dome?”

    I didn’t know losing until I was 19 years old. I saw three World Series (two in person, including the clinching game), and twelve straight division titles (I’m also not counting 1994. Good god, thank you Bud Selig). So to go from perennial postseasons to… whatever the Braves have been since 2005 is… just awful. I still can, however, make such a team.

    C. Johnny Estrada. Had one very surprising All Star season after he was picked up in a salaray dump for Kevin Millwood, but fell off the side of the planet after that. Luckily, a little someone named Brian McCann was ready to fill in.

    1B. Rico Brogna. As tempting as it is to put Scott Thorman or (already) Troy Glaus on here, I actually forgot Brogna was the starting 1B for the Braves in the beginning of 2001. In 72 games he ended up hitting .248-3-21, which is just awful. He was so bad the team ended up signing the ancient Julio Franco on a hunch based on his performance in the Mexican League. It worked out, but my God, how bad does your 1B have to be to sink that low?

    2B. Keith Lockhart. The fact that the Braves, for some reason, gave up Jermaine Dye for Lockhart and Michael Tucker after Dye’s rookie year will never stop being amusing to me.

    3B. Mark DeRosa. Look, I got it when they moved Chipper Jones to LF to make room for Coors/HGH aided Vinny Castilla. But after Vinny left, there was absolutely no reason to keep the increasingly injury riddled star in the OF. Instead, they tried DeRosa, and it failed miserably. Chipper was back at 3B soon, and DeRosa has gone on to a fine career as a utility man. Interesting note: I once worked out next to Mark DeRosa at a baseball training center when I was in high school. Pretty sure my thighs were stronger than his.

    SS. Walt Weiss. I include Weiss begrudgingly, because his series saving play against Houston in 1999 was the most clutch play in baseball since Otis Nixon. But other than him, it’s been Blauser, Furcal, Renteria, and Escobar, so a pretty tough choice. I would like to point out that the Braves won a World Series with Rafael Belliard primarily playing SS.

    OF. Raul Mondesi. Oh man that was a fun experiment

    OF. Melky Cabrera. Yup. After only 3 weeks.

    OF. Garret Anderson. Clearly should not have been in the NL/AL/AAA

    SP. Jason Marquis. Oh my god was Marquis frustrating to watch. You could tell that even Leo Mazzone wanted to beat him to death slowly with a crowbar. Which, given that he’s from Baltimore, is entirely conceivable.

    RP. Dan Kolb. Let’s put it this way: John Rocker was one of the worst racists in baseball history (a history that includes Ty Cobb and a color barrier), and I still chose Kolb.

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