Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Spring Training is nearly upon us but there is only so much speculating you can do, obviously if things go right there are a bunch of teams that could be World Series champs. Given enough time I’m sure someone could make a case for any team to be paper champions but that’s why we play the games.

(My Valentine for you this photo of the lovely Tina Cervasio)

Since we really won’t know anything about the upcoming season until opening day, which should be a national holiday along with the day after new years and the day the new Madden comes out, is giving us something else to think about, just in time for Valentine’s day.

Who do you love? Every day, until Valentines Day, is asking fans who their favorite Red Sox of the past 40 years are to compile an All-Beloved team. Naturally looking at this got me thinking, who are the most beloved players. I’ve always been a bit of a baseball history buff but there is so much emotion attached to the 2003 and 2004 teams. I voted on these but after thinking about it for a while I feel like these are questions that deserve closer thought.

Leading off, most beloved catcher – There are a number of choices offered by but it really comes down to just two players. Carlton “Pudge” Fisk and Jason Varitek, the case for Fisk is pretty solid. He’s got one of the most defining moments in Red Sox history the homer that he waved fair, he’s got a foul pole named after him and he is from Charlestown, NH (Live Free or Die!). He’s a Hall of Famer and no. 27 was retired in 2000. My mom loves him and if I grew up watching the Sox when pudge was playing I might feel differently but for me it’s Tek.

Varitek was part of one of the greatest one sided trades of all time, Derek Lowe and Tek for Heathcliff Slocumb, winner Red Sox. He is also only the third player ever to be named captain of the old towne team. And he ruined Alex Rodriguez in that huge brawl in 2004 that helped spark the Sox stretch run and eventual World Series win.

One more thing…he said "If a player is not a 'dirt dog,' it will be difficult to fit in into this city." It’s a tight battle between these two and it might be generational but I’m sticking with Tek.

Next up…first base. This one is a little bit tougher, Mo Vaughn, Bill Buckner, Brian Daubach or Kevin Millar. A lot of people will automatically rule out Buckner since the whole Mookie Wilson thing but I was only two years old when it happened and with out Buckner the Red Sox wouldn’t have made it that far anyway. However if we are talking about fan’s love for players then he’s out.

Dauber ruled, I used to get into constant debates with my old roommates, Preston and Wee Man as I referred to them, about whether or not Daubach was better than Tony Clark. I say yes Dauber was better Tony Clark eats. He was also one of the original dirt dogs and one of my buddies has a Daubach is my daddy t-shirt, so the Sox were all over the daddy thing before poser Yankee fans. Dauber definitely had the fan love as role players like him often do but he was outshined by Mo and Millar.

Millar is definitely my favorite first basemen of the last few years, not only does he have the cowboy up thing and all his other ridiculous antics, he also brought the attitude and persona to the 2004 team that really carried them through the playoffs and made them incredibly fun to watch. I’d love to see Millar back in Boston again as a back up just to see him loving life and pulling every thing, I’ve never seen a guy pull more balls to left then Millar, kids playing waffle ball don’t pull that much.

As much as I liked Millar, Mo Vaughn gets the nod at first for my All-Beloved Red Sox. He was a fixture at Fenway when I was growing up watching the Red Sox. My parents used to get third base line seats for the Sox on my birthday every year (they always played the Tigers and I hate Alan Trammel to this day) but I always wished we had first base side so I could see Mo.

On the stat side of thing he was the 1995 AL MVP and perhaps the most important thing for a young fan, he had a unique batting stance that if you could imitate correctly made you look cool. Also his batting stance is still good for a laugh when you are with friends, even at 22 years old.

Granted he did leave for the Angels in 1999, back when they were just the Anaheim Angles, but he left us with some great memories and he was the first home town homerun hitter that I can vividly remember and as a kid that’s something that catches your eye.

I’m just going to get this out of the way right now even if I am batting out of the order but the most beloved DH is Ortiz, no argument. Literally there is no argument anyone could possibly make for me to change my mind, it’s Big Papi end of story. agrees since they have fans voting on “DH not named Ortiz”…see I told you. Now let’s move on.

Second base has long been a lost position for the Red Sox. Guys like Jeff Frye, Craig Greybeck, Jose Offerman, Freddy Sanchez not the strongest of players. However there are a few that standout. The RemDawg (Jerry Remy incase you are an artard) Mark Bellhorn and Jody Reed (yep Jody Reed next time some one brings up an obscure baseball player drop a Jody Reed on them that or Arcamedies Poso).

As much as I want to say Bellhorn, he went to the Yankees and that is a huge minus. I mean sure he was third in RBI’s behind Papi and Manny in 2004, he had some huge hits that year and he pretty much either struck out, walked or homered you had to love him and his twin ear flapped helmet and grimy hair but the Yankees dude, the Yankees.

I was a little unhappy with Todd Walker being left off but he only played one year so I guess he is out as well, even though he’s my favorite second baseman of the last 40 years. The winner is obviously RemDawg there is no other real choice, especially with Bellhorn going to the Yankees.

I never saw him play but he is hugely popular in New England thanks to NESN and he is a great broadcaster, I hate it when the Sox play on ESPN or Fox. I’d pay to see an Orsillo, Remy vs. Buck and McCarver cage match, wouldn’t you?

Who would be RemDawg’s double play partner you ask. John Valentin was one of my favorites and I loved what the OC brought to the table in 2004 but there’s only one choice for me, Nomar. I know he left town in a bad way and everything fell apart with the whole A-Rod thing but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Nomar.

Nomar was a five time all star, he was Rookie of the Year in 97, he won the AL batting title in ’99 and 2000 batting .357 and .372 and was a legit threat to hit .400 at some point in his career. Then he was on the cover of Sport Illustrated with no shirt on and it all went to hell. He was traded (bringing in the OC which in the end was a good thing) to the Cubs and has struggled since. Still he was the biggest star in Boston sports for the better part of my development of a Red Sox fan.

Third base sparks a debate, a big debate. I pick Bill Mueller, hands down but I’m sure many would reply with Wade Boggs. I used to be a huge Boggs fan, the guy won five batting titles and went to the All-Star game twelve straight years, that definitely makes you a fan favorite.

I really genuinely liked the way he played and the fact that he ate chicken before every game, woke up at the same time every day, took exactly 150 ground balls in practice, had batting practice at 5:17 and ran wind sprints at 7:17 and he drew the Hebrew word for life in the batter’s box before each at bat…even though he’s not Jewish. Sounds like I should be picking Boggs, but nay I refuse. First of all he went to the Yankees, strike one and two right there. He also gets credit for teaching the Yankees their pitch selection technique of only swinging at perfect pitches (according to wikipedia)…d-bag.

Strike three, after he played his final two years with the Devil Rays he insisted on being inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Devil Rays cap. Excuse me? Sure you got your 3,000th hit with the D-Rays but I doubt that you’ll be remembered as a Devil Ray.

Yankees or Sox you have to pick one and show us all wear your loyalties lie, no taking the easy way out as a Devil Ray. Luckily the Hall stepped in and declared he would go in as a Sox (it’s Sox even for the singular, we’ve gone over this) so with all that said funk you wade Boggs.

Side note: Some how they left Tim Naehring out of this whole thing…not sure how you can forget him, come on ‘feed the gator’.

I pick Mueller, professional, dirt dog, batting champ, easy guy to root for, loved watching him play, he wins. He also gets bonus points for that “it’s not Ferris Biller” commercial from when he first got to Boston and people didn’t get why m-u-e-l-l-e-r is miller.

Dirt Dogs has a most beloved bullpen guy, I’ll go with Lowe. He was great as a closer for a while then he imploded but then he came back and was a good starter. Oh yeah then he came in as a closer in the playoffs and threw the two best pitches I’ve ever seen in my life. He also was lights out in the 2004 playoffs.

Batting next, most beloved right fielder, I think you know the answer since I already paid homage to him in an early column. Trot Nixon. I probably would have been a big Tony C fan but I never saw him play. My dad hates Dewey Evans so I’ve never given him much thought.

Kind of weird my dad dislikes some odd sports stars, like Dwight Evans and Doug Flutie (I know blasphemy ah! But I don’t like BC so there). Any how Trot is my pick he’s a dirt dog and I fell for that type of play and demeanor in 2003 with Millar, Trot, Mueller and company.

Left field is another one that it almost too close to call, like the Mo Vaughn, Millar situation. Manny, Jim Rice and Yaz, that is definitely the toughest position to call. Jim Rice was a great player, he was kind of a jerk to the media, but I’ve met him and he seems like a nice enough guy. I like him on NESN and he hits the piss out of a golf ball.

Yaz is another one of those guys that if I had seen him play he might be my favorite. My parents loved Yaz and he’s one of the players that sparked my interest in baseball history, along with Ted Williams and co., so I do have a deep appreciation for Yaz.

Manny is another guy that I love he is a pain in the ass but he’s fun to watch he always brings something different to the game and he’s a great hitter. His ‘Manny Being Manny’ attitude might cause some distractions but it’s far better to watch and follow then the business like cold efficiency style of the Yankees.

I’d love to pick Manny here but there are a couple other guys you can’t count out. Mike Greenwell and Troy O’Leary, I was a big time Greenwell fan when I was little he’s one of the first Sox players I remember vividly. I think I might actually be about to pick Greenwell over Manny. I love Manny but Greenwell was one of my first favorite players, how can you go against that?

Alright, alright, I’m going with Manny. Not just because he is a better player but because he is incredibly fun to watch and he gives the Sox a chance to win every single game. What’s not to love about that? I like Mike Greenwell, I really do but for most beloved I’m going with Manny, although if he has any ‘Manny Being Manny’ moments I’m bringing in Mike Greenwell.

Look at me, I can be, Centerfield. This one hurts. Johnny Damon was my favorite player for a long time. I was a big Damon fan when he was on the Royals and A’s and when he came to Boston I was pumped. He was awesome here, definitely the most beloved before he went to the Yankees. He totally sold out and ruined his legacy for a couple extra million. That even nearly ruined sports for me. It definitely made it clear that it’s about the money.

Ellis Burks was one of my favorites but I’m going with Freddie Lynn here. I never saw him play but he was my mothers’ favorite player so I’ve heard a lot about him and I know he was a fan favorite as a player, he’s another guy I wish I could have seen play. This should be Johnny but he sold out.

Finally who is my most beloved starting pitcher? There are certainly plenty of options but it comes down to two, Pedro and Schilling. Curt gets big props for making that Ford commercial were he says “I’ve go an 86 year curse to break” and then he did it. He also had the whole bloody sock thing, which ruled.

Unfortunately for Curt, Pedro takes it. Pedro was one of the core guys that solidified my passion for the Red Sox. Every game Pedro pitched was an event. You’d talk to your friends about every time Pedro was starting and if you had tickets you’d count out the days to try and figure out whether or not there was a chance that you’d get to see him pitch.

I only got to see Pedro pitch in person once and it was in his final season, 2004 in a game that I think propelled them to winning the wild card, but that’s another story. My point is that Pedro was a phenomenon and he resonated with fans and was the most dominant pitcher in baseball for a long stretch. As awesome a Schilling was in 2004 my relationship with Pedro was longer and I will never forget him coming out of the bullpen in Cleveland and pitching six innings of perfect relief in the ALDS.

Last but in no way, shape or form, most beloved unsung hero, if you even have to think about this one there is something wrong. I shouldn’t even have to say his name but that wouldn’t do him justice. Dave Roberts, I maintain that his steal of second base in the 2004 ALCS is the most important play in the history of the Boston Red Sox. You could argue but I am not listening.

There should be a Dave Roberts statue outside of Fenway and I truly hope that one day I can tell my kids the story of Dave Roberts’s stolen base in front of that statue. Everyone in the world knew he was going to steal second and he did it. There’s nothing really more to say.
I have to add in a All-Beloved NESN field reporter. I'm assuming you already know but this is my excuse for running a picture of Tina Cervasio. She easily trumps Eric Frede. Don't start with the Hazel Mae talk, she's the All-Beloved SportsDesk Anchor.

This was one of my longest Red Sox columns ever, it's also one of the few stories on this blog that I've taken a few days to write, so here is a quick wrap up.

My All-Beloved Red Sox team:

C – Jason Varitek
1B – Mo Vaughn
DH – David Ortiz
2B – Jerry Remy
SS – Nomar Garicaparra
3B – Bill Mueller
LF – Manny Ramirez
CF – Fred Lynn
RF – Trot Nixon
Bullpen – Derek Lowe
Starter – Pedro Martinez
Unsung Hero – Dave Roberts
NESN Field Reporter - Tina Cervasio’s All-Beloved Red Sox team:

C – Jason Varitek
1B – Mo Vaughn
DH – David Ortiz
2B – Jerry Remy
SS – Nomar Garicaparra
3B – Bill Mueller
LF – Carl Yastremski
CF – Fred Lynn
RF – Dwight Evans
Bullpen – Derek Lowe & Rich Garces (oh El Guapo)
Rotation – Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield
Unsung Hero – Dave Roberts

A couple of additional spring training thoughts:

The Red Sox equipment truck left for Ft. Myers monday and while it might have got a little bit too much coverage, it’s still pretty exciting news. It’s think good thoughts time.

Pitchers and catchers report on friday, which is very exciting news, especially since ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian wrote today that the Red Sox could have the best rotation in baseball. With Dice-K, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield…also Jon Lester (possibly) and I highly doubt it but Roger Clemens is still lurking around.

Even with all the questions looming, like Lester’s cancer, Schilling’s age and contract talks and the fact that Matsuzaka hasn’t thrown a pitch in the MLB yet that is still a pretty formidable rotation. I am a firm believer in the ‘you can never have too much/enough pitching’ creed, motto…creedo…so I like the fact the Red Sox six potential starters and have other guys in the bullpen that can make spot starts. Like Joel Piniero and Julian Tavarez.

The biggest question is obviously Matsuzaka, but in Kurkjian’s article he quotes Bobby Valentine saying that the most important thing for Dice-K will be his relationship with his catcher. Well is catcher is Jason Varitek who happens to be one of the best catchers in the game and is well known for being very good with young pitchers.

One more day until the heralded phrase of ‘Pitchers and Catchers report today’ is uttered.

1 comment:

Edward Ott said...

i did not know about the red seat so your blog has taught me something new. very cool.