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Where'd They Go?: 1987 Boston Red Sox

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My 1987 A.L. MVP Redo helped me find my next “Where’d They Go?” subject as there was one team that year that had three players in my top 10, that being the Boston Red Sox. Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Dwight Evans all had great years and having three players of that caliber playing for the defending A.L. Champs you’d think that'd lead to a successful year. They finished 78-84. What happened?


Obviously three stars can not lead a team of 25 to a championship. After you got past those three and Mike Greenwell the ’87 Sox were a terrible team. They spent just one day over .500 (8-7 on April 22nd) the entire season. The major problem was pitching as they posted 4.77 team ERA, only Baltimore and Cleveland were worse. The bullpen was particularly awful with an ERA of 5.42 and only 16 saves. Maybe the most glaring problem for the Red Sox was they were seemingly a completely different team on the road. They were a very strong 50-30 at home. They were a miserable 28-54 on the road.


C: Marc Sullivan (.169/.198/.238, -14.7 VORP, 2 Win Shares) – 14 OPS+. 14! How is that even possible for a non-pitcher? Sullivan was part of a three headed non-hitting monster at catcher for the Sox along Rich Gedman and John Marzano. The previously reliable Gedman heldout the first month of the season and then had a thumb injury midseason. How in the world was Sullivan in the Majors you ask? His dad Haywood Sullivan was co-owner of the Red Sox at the time. Aww nepotism. This would be Sullivan’s last year in the bigs.


1B: Dwight Evans (.305/.417/.569, 57.7 VORP, 25 Win Shares) – Dewey was moved to first in July after they released Bill Buckner. Evans struggled badly at first and I’m not sure why they chose to move him to first instead of rookie Todd Benzinger who got the majority of time in right field the remainder of the year. I guess maybe the thinking was with Evans being 35 they wanted to attempt to extend his career by moving him to first. Stayed with the Red Sox thru 1990 and spent his final year in Baltimore. Deserved a lot more support for the Hall of Fame than he got, which was almost no support at all.


2B: Marty Barrett (.293/.351/.351, 18.1 VORP, 16 Win Shares) – Barrett had a decent year after his career year of ’86. In 1989 a knee injury cut his year, and eventually career, short and rookie Jody Reed took his job from there. Left the Sox after 1990 and had a brief stint in 1991 with the Padres before being released.


3B: Wade Boggs (.363/.461/.588, 90.1 VORP, 32 Win Shares) – Boggs was well into his peek here with another MVP caliber season winning his third of four straight batting titles. This was the one year that Boggs showed serious power as he hit 24 homeruns in an assumed juiced ball year. His production dipped severely in 1992 and after that year he signed as a free agent with the Yankees where rebounded with a great year in 1994 and won his only World Series ring in 1996. Closed out his career with the Devil Rays, retiring after 1999. He actually gave his HOF cap rights to the D-Rays as part of his contract but thankfully the HOF changed it’s rules and players no longer are able choose the cap they wear on their plaque. Inducted with a Red Sox cap last year.


SS: Spike Owen (.259/.337/.343, 10.7 VORP, 9 Win Shares) – Owen sure made a career out of being a weak hitter and unspectacular defensive shortstop. Traded after 1988 to the Expos where he’d spend four years. Traded again after 1993 to the Yankees. In 1994 with the Angels he put up a shocking .310/.418/.422 line in 82 games but he went back to his usual numbers in ’95 which was his final season.


LF: Jim Rice (.277/.357/.408, 9.9 VORP, 8 Win Shares) – This was the year where Rice seemed to age about five years as he was hobbled with knee problems. Moved to DH the following year but that failed to really extend his career and he retired after 1989. His HOF support is continuing to grow and though he’ll have no shot for 2007 with the Ripken/Gwynn ballot, I will not be surprised if he is elected on the 2008 ballot over the more deserving Tim Raines.


CF: Ellis Burks (.272/.324/.441, 17.4 VORP, 15 Win Shares) – Solid rookie year for Burks who was just 22 at the time. Had his first of many injuries in 1989 when he was limited to 97 games due to a shoulder injury. In his 18 year career he only played more than 140 games in a season four times but when he was in the line up he was usually great. Signed with the White Sox in 1993 for one season and then signed with the Rockies. Traded in a deadline deal to the Giants in 1998 and played there thru 2000. Spent the next three years in Cleveland and made a return to the Red Sox in 2004 but only played in 11 games.


OF: Mike Greenwell (.328/.386/.570, 41.9 VORP, 17 Win Shares) – This was Greenwell’s “rookie” year but he had played parts of the last two seasons and started 61 games in left, 28 games in right, and 15 games at DH. Really broke out the following year finishing in the Top 5 in the A.L. in average, OBP, SLG, hits, rbi, and a few other categories. He finished 2nd in the MVP voting but would never come close to match that year again. Would spend his entire MLB career in Boston, leaving after 1996 to play in Japan.


DH: Don Baylor (.239/.355/.404, 9.7 VORP, 7 Win Shares) – Boston stats only as Baylor would be traded with a month left in the season to the Twins. He was playing on borrowed time at this point although he would have a great World Series. Played his final year in 1988 with Oakland.




Roger Clemens (154 ERA+, 92.8 VORP, 28 Win Shares) – Who?


Bruce Hurst (103 ERA+, 40.2 VORP, 15 Win Shares) – Hurst was the only other competent pitcher on the Sox, starters or bullpen, although this wasn’t a particularly good year for him. Oddly enough made the All-Star team but Clemens didn’t. Signed as a free agent with the Padres in 1989 and had arguably his best year posting a 2.69 ERA. Had three good years in San Diego but a shoulder problem hampered him in 1992 and he found out after the season he had a torn rotator cuff. Only would pitch 51 innings after that, traded to the Rockies midseason in 1993 and then spent 1994 with the Rangers.


Al Nipper (84 ERA+, 4.5 VORP, 6 Win Shares) – Nipper was a junkballer who fooled some hitters a few years earlier when he first came up to the Majors but by this time he was figured out. Sox traded him and Calvin Schiraldi to the Cubs in an absolute fleecing to get Lee Smith. Nipper actually did pitch fairly well splitting time between starter and reliever in ’88. Was released right before the 1989 season and did not pitch in the Majors that year. Not sure if he was injured or in the minors. Pitched 24 innings for the Indians in 1990, his final year.


Jeff Sellers (86 ERA+, 10.7 VORP, 6 Win Shares) – Supposedly had great stuff but apparently never knew where it was going. Traded after 1988 to Cincinnati in the Nick Esasky deal and never pitched in the Majors again.


Bob Stanley (91 ERA+, 8.8 VORP, 5 Win Shares) – This was a forgettable return to starter for Stanley who’d only made two starts in the previous six years. The workhorse reliever was moved back to the bullpen the following season and had a good year but struggled in 1989, announcing his retirement at the end of the season.


Closer: Wes Gardner (84 ERA+, 7.0 VORP, 4 Win Shares) – Red Sox didn’t really have a closer for their awful bullpen but Gardner picked up 10 of the 16 saves. Spent the following year as a long reliever/fifth starter and had his only productive year in the Majors. Traded to the Padres after 1990, splitting his final year with them and the Royals.

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He actually gave his HOF cap rights to the D-Rays as part of his contract...


Was Boggs really that hard up to play baseball somewhere at that stage in this career?

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No, he could still make good contact so I'm sure other teams would have signed him but some players in the past would cut deals with new teams they signed with to agree to wear their cap into the Hall of Fame to get a little more money out of the contract. Roger Clemens did it with the Yankees as well. But again the Hall changed the rule in 2003 to prevent deals like this.

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SS: Spike Owen (.259/.337/.343, 10.7 VORP, 9 Win Shares) – Owen sure made a career out of being a weak hitter and unspectacular defensive shortstop. Traded after 1988 to the Expos where he’d spend four years. Traded again after 1993 to the Yankees. In 1994 with the Angels he put up a shocking .310/.418/.422 line in 82 games but he went back to his usual numbers in ’95 which was his final season.


Being friends with Roger Clemens, and having a great Shortstop name can keep you in the league for 10 plus years.

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