Monday, June 14, 2010

And Old Project On The Boston Red Sox

Some time back, I did a project for college on the Boston Red Sox. Looking through my hardrive, I was surprised to find it. I didn't remember transfering it. This is from 2002, if it matters.

Although the Boston Red Sox were one of the best teams in major league baseball in the first twenty years of the twentieth century, no Red Sox team has won a World Series championship since 1918. The downfall of the Boston Red Sox after 1918 can be blamed mainly on poor management, crucial injuries and bad luck .

Before 1920, Boston had one of the most dominating teams in baseball. In the 1890s, the team featured Cy Young, winner of 511 games, the most of any pitcher ever at the major league level. When Boston moved into Fenway Park in 1912, the team featured a dynamic pitching staff that no Red Sox team has had since. The team won the World Series that year, and again in 1914, 1916, and finally 1918.

Starting in 1912, the team featured the arm of pitcher “Smokey” Joe Wood. That year he won 34 games, including 16 in a row. This leads to the first case of management failing. Thanks to Wood’s great drawing power and because he was the best pitcher in baseball that year, Red Sox management decided that they should continue pitching him, despite the fact that the pennant was already well in hand. Wood ended the season with 344 innings pitched, not counting the 26 innings he pitched in the World Series that year. One of the keys to having a long career as a pitcher is rest, especially a fast ball pitcher like Smokey Joe.

Complicating matters was that in a game against Detroit the following year, Wood fell awkwardly on his pitching hand, breaking it. He pitched for the Red Sox for three more years, but he never turned in another full season on the mound. Woods did, however, return as a outfielder from 1917-22 for the Cleveland Indians. While he was no star as a fielder, he could have helped the Red Sox, but they made no effort to sign him.

The Red Sox, however, had more stars than just Smokey Joe during this period. The best of these were pitchers George Herman (“Babe”) Ruth, Dutch Leonard and outfielder Tris Speaker.

Like Smokey Joe Wood, Babe Ruth was an outstanding pitcher, finishing his career with a record of 93 wins and 40 losses. The Red Sox wisely used him in the outfield when he wasn’t pitching. Legend has it that he copied the swing of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and turned himself into the greatest player of all time. The more he played outfield, the better he hit. Home runs were rare back then, but the Babe turned them into his personal signature.

After winning the World Series in 1918, the Red Sox surprisingly sold the Babe to the New York Yankees. This was no doubt the worst Red Sox management move in this century. It was made because Sox owner Harry Frazee had many investments outside of baseball, among them theatrical productions, and at this time they weren’t attracting much of an audience.

Nor were the Red Sox much of a drawing power, at least in 1918. Their schedule (and every other baseball team’s) was shortened by 26 games because of the American entry into World War I. In the World Series that year, no game drew much of a crowd.

So the Babe left Boston, not to return for 16 years, then with the Boston Braves. Soon, all the Red Sox star players were gone, not because they were underachieving, but because the owner couldn’t afford them. Other than money, the Red Sox got few or no players in return. Certainly, there was no one in the game at any time who could have replaced Babe Ruth. The Sox, minus the nucleus that had made them so powerful, would tumble into oblivion in the 1920’s and the early 30s while Babe Ruth and the Yankees would become a dynasty, a tradition and the Sox’s bitter rival in the American League for the rest of the twentieth century.

In 1934 Joe Cronin took over as the Red Sox manager/shortstop and guided the team back to respectability, adding Hall of Famers Jimmy Foxx (500 home runs) and Lefty Grove (300 wins) to the lineup. Then in 1939, the Red Sox signed Ted Williams. While The Sox lost Babe Ruth, the greatest player ever, the Sox now had the greatest hitter who ever lived. Except for the years Williams spent in World War II and the Korean War, Ted would be a fixture in the Boston lineup for the next 21 years. However, around this time, Boston ownership failed to keep a Hall of Famer. When the Red Sox bought Louisville of the American Association, they had the rights to shortstop Pee Wee Reese. But Joe Cronin, who himself would one day be enshrined in the Hall, didn’t want to lose half of his job, so Pee Wee Reese became a Brooklyn Dodger. Reese helped the Dodgers to many World Series appearances in the late forties and fifties.

With Ted Williams guiding the way, Boston’s record in 1942 was 93 wins and 59 losses, second to the Yankees. If the Sox management could just acquire some more pitching and better catching, surely the Sox could win a pennant. In 1945 the Sox missed out on a grand opportunity to break the colour barrier . The Red Sox had three stars from the Negro League, Marv Williams, Sam Jethroe and Jackie Robinson, try out at Fenway Park. The three impressed scouts, but manager Joe Cronin said that the only opening for the three would be in Louisville and he didn’t think that it would be a good idea to send black players there. In any event, none of three players would ever hear from Red Sox management again. The Sox would be the last major league team to sign a black player, and it would not happen until 1959. Jackie Robinson, the first black ever to play in the major leagues, went on to the Hall Of Fame with a career .311 batting average with the Dodgers, where he played alongside Pee Wee Reese.

After Williams returned from the war in 1946, Boston did win the American League pennant, their first in 28 years. The start of the World Series was delayed because of a best two of three game playoff necessary to decide the National League pennant. With a few days off, the Red Sox management came up with an idea that would hurt their star player and their World Series chances. They assembled a team of all-stars from the American League to face the Sox in two games to keep them sharp for the Series. In game two, against the All-Stars, Williams was hit in his right elbow by a pitched ball. The elbow turned blue and swelled up. This was the last thing the Red Sox needed. Then, rumors began to spread that the Red Sox were going to trade Ted. Red Sox management made no effort to confirm or deny the report so Williams had to deal with a damaged arm, trade rumors and the Ted Williams’ shift in the World Series. All the Red Sox management had to do was tell Ted that he wasn’t going to be traded. Instead, they waited until after the Series to tell him

The National League winners, the St. Louis Cardinals, opposed the Sox in the Series. Boston was heavily favoured but the Cardinals had other ideas.

The Cardinals used the “Williams Shift”, where they bunched all four of their infielders between first base and a few feet left of second. Due to the shift’s effect on Williams’ hitting (the Boston star batted only .200 with no home runs and just one RBI) and some strong St. Louis pitching, the Series went to the seventh and deciding game. Although Williams had his best games of the series, he did not reach base. Boston Manager Joe Cronin made a poor decision in that deciding game that cost the Sox the Series. With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Cronin took out pitcher Joe Dobson and replaced him with Bob Klinger, who had not yet pitched in the Series. With two outs and Enos Slaughter on first, Harry Walker lined a ball into center field normally occupied by all-star Dom DiMaggio. However, DiMaggio had hurt his leg earlier in the game and had been replaced. Slaughter surprised the Sox by not stopping at third, and when shortstop Joe Pesky hesitated to throw, Slaughter scored the winning run.

Two years later, the Red Sox had a new manager, Joe McCarthy, whose resume included a pennant with the Cubs in 1929 and four straight World Series titles with the New York Yankees in the late 1930s. Pennant fever once again gripped Boston. But McCarthy might have been the wrong manager for the Red Sox. He didn’t get along with many of his players, and tended to manage too much on his hunches. McCarthy decided not to use Tex Hughson, the one time ace of the pitching staff, because of their differences. Hughson had been a great clutch pitcher, having been the winning pitcher in the pennant clinching game in 1946.

When the season came down to a one game playoff game between Boston and Cleveland, McCarthy chose Denny Galehouse to pitch for the Sox. Although Galehouse had a 4-1 record as a reliever and had pitched well for the St. Louis Browns in a key game against McCarthy’s Yankees two years earlier, more telling was his 4-6 record as a starter in 1946.

Galehouse lasted less than four innings, giving up a pair of home runs and leaving with game out of reach. McCarthy should have started one of the Sox aces (Hughson among them) and if he had tired or gotten in trouble, then Galehouse should have been brought in.

The next year the Red Sox season again came down to one game. Going into the last game of the season against the Yankees, Boston and New York were tied for first place. McCarthy and the Sox trailed 1-0 going into the top of the eighth when McCarthy decided to pinch hit for his starting pitcher, Ellis Kinder. Not only did the Sox fail to get a run in that inning but in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees finished off Boston with four runs against Hughson, who was a poor reliever. If McCarthy had left Kinder in, who knows what might have happened? Perhaps those three runs in the ninth would have meant a 3-1 Boston victory.

The Red Sox then went through several different managers to try to return them to glory. All failed until Dick Williams guided them to a pennant in 1967. The season had been a traumatic one for Boston. They won a tight pennant race on the last day of the season in a game decided by only two runs. The Sox had lost their promising outfielder, Tony Conigliaro, for the end of the ‘67 season and all of 1968 when he was struck down by a pitched ball in an August game. Essentially, the Sox had only two good starting pitchers, one of whom was Jim Lonborg, who had pitched the last game of the season and thus would not be able to start the first game of the World Series against St. Louis.

Lonborg kept the Sox alive in the Series, but the Sox other strong starting pitcher, Jose Santiago, injured his elbow in the fourth game and was not available for game seven. Dick Williams decided to go with Lonborg in the deciding game, but it would be on two days rest.

When Williams decided to leave Lonborg in with Boston trailing 4-1, the tired Sox hurler gave up a three run home run to once again end the Boston World Series dream.

Another management decision involving a pitching change in game seven of a World Series, this time against the Cincinnati Reds in 1975, might have cost the Sox another Series. Sox reliever Jim Willoughby was keeping the score tied. As with Ellis Kinder, it was his turn to bat in the eighth so Boston manager Darrell Johnson decided to hit for him, but the Sox failed to score. In the ninth, Sox reliever Jim Burton gave up the winning run.

Three years later the Sox management surprisingly decided to get rid of two very popular and valuable players, pinch hitter Bernie Carbo and pitcher Bill Lee. After Carbo was traded the Red Sox closed the season on a stretch where not one pinch hitter hommered or even knocked in a run. That same year, Bill Lee, a fairly good lefty, slumped early in the season and was not used down the stretch by manager Don Zimmer. Zimmer decided instead to use Bob Sprowl who was nowhere near Bill Lee’s status as a pitcher. At the end of the season, Lee was traded to the Montreal Expos, where he had an impressive 16 win, 10 loss record the next year. The loss of these two players removed the heart from the team. While neither Lee nor Carbo were Hall of Famers, they were two players who had made significant contributions for Boston.

But it has certainly been more than just bad management that has hurt the Sox. In many cases injuries to star players have damaged Boston’s chances for American League pennants and World Series crowns. Even with their loss to the Cardinals in 1946, the Red Sox looked like a team destined for at least a few more pennants. Their big weapon, aside from Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Vern Stephens, was their strong pitching staff. With Tex Hughson, Dave Ferriss, Joe Dobson and Mickey Harris, the Sox had tremendous depth.

Dobson had a great year in 1947, but almost every other pitcher got hurt. Ferriss hurt his arm and would retire prematurely in 1950. However, the worst injury to the Sox around this time was to Ted Williams who suffered an arm injury in the 1950 All-Star game. The Sox finished the season with a commendable 94-60 record but, had Williams not missed 64 games, it is a good bet Boston could have won the pennant.

Nearly two decades later, the Sox assembled another promising team with a very strong pitching staff. But as before, injuries interfered with the Sox’s chances as pitchers Dick Morehead, Jose Santiago, and Jim Lonborg were struck down in their primes.

Morehead, who tossed a no-hitter on September 15, 1965, hurt his arm the next season and never regained his old form. Santiago and Lonborg both were hurt within a season of each other. Lonborg had a 22 win season in 1967, but that winter he hurt his arm in a off season skiing accident. While he eventually recovered, it was not until a few years later that he made significant contributions, and by then he had been traded. Santiago had a few good years with the Sox, especially in 1968 when he had an excellent earned run average. Unfortunately, he became the victim of a sore arm and retired in 1970.

Boston had two injuries to deal with in the 1975 World Series that undoubtedly contributed to their loss to the Reds. Jim Rice their strong left fielder, missed the entire postseason. Then, in the World Series, Bill Lee was pitching very well in the seventh game. But going into the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead, Lee developed a blister and had to be taken out.

Three years later another valuable Sox player was lost at a key time in the season. With Boston neck and neck with the New York Yankees for the pennant, Dwight Evans, who was winning games with both his glove and his bat, was lost for the last 15 games of the regular season. Eventually Boston would lose a one game playoff to the Yankees by one run. Perhaps, had Evans been healthy, the Sox could have won the pennant that year.

The final insult to the Boston Red Sox has been their endless string of bad luck. Their teams in the 1940s had to go against the New York Yankees, who, except for the war years, pretty much dominated the American League from 1936-1964. During that time the Sox fielded some of their finest teams ever. In 1948 and ‘49 Boston won 96 games each year, usually enough to win a pennant. Williams or no Williams, their 1950 team was very good too; but only good enough for third that year.

It was a similar story after their pennant win in 1967. Again, the Sox fielded some good teams prior to their next pennant win in 1975 but that era was dominated by the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers.

Not only has the team had bad luck but also individual players have suffered bad luck as well. Boston was sent back three seasons (1943-1945) with Ted Williams off fighting for Uncle Sam in World War II. Then in the 1952 season, the Boston slugger volunteered for duty in the Korean War, never to play more than 136 games in a season for the rest of his career, which ended in 1960.

One of the greatest players ever to suit up for the Boston Red Sox was Jackie Jensen, who was the American League MVP in 1958. Jensen though, suffered from a fear of flying, and retired for good at the end of the 1961 season. He was only 34 years old.

The Red Sox biggest tragedy of the 1950s was Harry Agganis, the Golden Greek. In 1955 Agganis was in his second year with Boston when he suddenly died of a pulmonary embolism.

Another bad luck case around this time was Jimmy Piersall, a great fielder with a strong arm, who was the heir apparent to Dom DiMaggio. Piersall who was a schizophrenic suffered a nervous breakdown in 1952 when he was only 22. He recovered, but in 1954, he hurt his arm in a throwing contest. He would never throw the same again.

The Red Sox had further bad luck with one of the premier relief pitchers in the early sixties, Dick Radatz, nicknamed the monster because of his size. Unfortunately, Radatz was stuck on a bad Boston team and by the time the Sox became contenders, his overpowering fastball had lost its kick and he had been traded.

Incredible bad luck once again struck the Red Sox in 1972, when they finished second by a half a game because of a players’ strike. The rival Detroit Tigers played one more game and that made the difference.

Finally, probably topping every other instance of Red Sox futility was their loss to the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series. In game six, the Sox carried a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the tenth and were just one strike away from winning their first Series since 1918. However, a base hit, a wild pitch, and then an error by first baseman Bill Buckner who was known for his defense led to a 6-5 Mets victory. Then in game seven, New York rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the Series.

Thus as the 2002 major league season begins, all Red Sox fans undoubtedly wish that poor management decisions, injuries to key players and their run of bad luck will end and Boston will after eighty four years again be the World Series champion.

Makes the 2004 and 2007 World Series that much more worth it, eh?


References


Anderson, D. (1994). Pennant races: Baseball at its best. New York: Doubleday.

Golenbock, Peter. Fenway: An Unexpurgated History of the Boston Red Sox. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1992.

Johnson, Dick, and Glenn Stout. Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures. New York, NY: Walker, 1991.

Linn, Edward. Hitter: The Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.

Nemec, David. 20th Century Baseball Chronicle: A Year-by-year History of Major League Baseball. Montreal: Tormont, 1992.

Seaver, Tom, and Martin Appel. Great Moments in Baseball. New York, NY: Carol Pub. Group, 1992.

Total Baseball. 1994 Edition. CD-ROM. Chicago, Ill: Creative Media. 1994.

Sports Reference LLC.  Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. (Retrieved April 3, 2002)

"History Of The World Series-1946." http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/worldseries/1946,html (Retrieved March 7, 2002) (Broken link)

"History Of The World Series-1967." http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/worldseries/1967.html (Retrieved March 7, 2002) (Broken link)

Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns. Prod. Ken Burns. PBS. 1994. Television.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Stanley Cup Finals:

Chicago vs Philadelphia

And now, there are two

Amazing...I've picked Chicago in every series and I've picked every team to beat Philly, except Montreal.

Chicago won in four straight over San Jose. But every game was close. Chicago showed tremendous fortitude. They will probably need that in this series. Philly just keeps doing things that have so rarely been done in, not only hockey, but pro sports.

For Chicago, boy, has Toews (pronounced "Tays" by the way) been getting it done. He has now 26 points, including 19 assists in just 16 games. He keeps this up and he might have the best single season playoff assist total ever by someone not named Gretzky or Lemieux. And then you have Patrick Kane (who is also all of 21 years old) with 20 points. Continuing the onslaught is Sharp (16 points), Hossa (11 points), Byfuglien (8 goals. Alright, I admit, I don't know how to pronounce his name, even though I've heard it said 100 times this playoff alone), Bolland and Keith.

Keith, Seabrook and the continuing surprising Hjalmarsson, are manning the fort on defence. Seabrook is an impressive plus 8 in 16 games. And then their is the unsung defencemen on this team: Brent Sopel and Brian Campbell.

Niemi was tested against the Sharks, twice facing over 40 shots a game. This will be his first Stanley Cup Finals. Previous trips to the finals for the Hawks, in goal, were the following goalies:

1961 Glenn Hall (407 wins)

1971 Tony Esposito (423 wins)

1973 Tony Esposito (again)

1992 Eddie Belfour (484 wins)

2010 Antti Niemi (27 wins)

Kinda looks out of place, don't you think? But, of course, Niemi is far from finished his career. It's just he's not far removed from the beginning. Funny though, Hall played in a Stanley Cup final in his first full year (earlier in 1956 forDetroit), Esposito and Belfour in their second full year. So Niemi isn't so alone, after all! And one way or another, this playoff experience will be a huge experience to build on.

Philly, meanwhile...I gotta say this: This has got to be one if not the most amazing run to the Stanley Cup final, ever. Two original six teams set aside plus and excellent New Jersey. Injuries have been shrugged off, odds have been laughed at, and history has been made.

Whose making it? Leighton, the team itself, but more on that later.

Mike Richards continues to get it done when his teams it needs it. Now he has 21 points in 17 games and is a plus 6. Briere also continues his strong play with 18 points. Then you have the surprising Claude Giroux. A point a game and a plus 10! Simon Gagne is playing like he is unfazed by his injury. After returning in game 4 vs Boston, he went on a seven game point scoring streak. He's been held scoreless for the last two games...but look out in the final. Leino and Carle (10 points and a plus 8 for the defence) might be overlooked, but Chicago better not do that in the finale. Jeff Carter, by the way, returned for Flyers after missing 11 games and scored 2 goals in the clinching fifth game against Montreal. Fan favourite (and opponent pest) Daniel Carcillo once again proved to be one of the games best aggitators in that series against the Habs, so expect that to continue in the finals.

Defence, or should I say, "Offence"? The defencemen on this team are getting it done at both ends. Pronger's overall game (+/- wise), statistically, might be overshadowed by Carle, but he's still got 14 points in 17 games. Also to pay attention to: Timonen. Like Carle, he's looking for his first goal of the playoffs, but he now has 8 points and a plus 6. Brandon Coburn is a plus 7.

As for goaltending, Leighton set a Flyers record for most shutouts in in one series with three against Montreal. Throw away game three of that series and he allowed 2 goals in 4 games! He seems to be getting better with every series and maybe every game. He will be tested severely by Chicago. Boucher is apparently going to be available for game 1 of this series, although it is quite likely he won't be playing, at least starting. He's been great, too. But the long layoff might hurt him. Hard to stay on a roll when you're injured.

Chicago in the finals has more guys comming in 100%. Gagne, Carter, Lapierriere (Boucher, too if he plays) are comming in less than that. But even with a fully healthy Flyers, I just feel it's Chicago, with their depth, and road play (they've won seven games on the road in this years playoffs) that make me feel they've got this series. They're going for their first Cup since 1961, and right now I can't see anyone stopping them.

Prediction: Chicago in six games.


References


"Official Site Of The National Hockey League." NHL.com. The National Hockey League, n.d. Web. 06 June. 2010. <http://www.nhl.com/>

Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 06 June. 2010.