Wily Mo Pena 2008 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 13, 2017


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My predictions are often really REALLY terrible. It is one of the reasons I do not gamble. When I make predictions and they don’t turn out, they don’t cost me money.

But every once in a while I make a prediction that is spot on. One involved Wily Mo Pena and how my team made a trade that I thought sucked the minute I saw it.

Wily Mo Pena is a great baseball name, right down to the oddly spelled Wily with one L. And to be sure I would have liked him on my team, but not at what turned out to be the cost.

Pena was a Domincan prospect signed by the Yankees with much fanfare. He was a huge right handed slugger who put on quite a show at batting practice. In 2001, the Yankees dealt him to Cincinnati for former Quarterback Drew Henson in a deal that was head scratching at best.

In 2002, Pena made his big league debut after launching his share of homers in the minors. He did not fare well in his 2002 cameo nor in his 80 games in 2003 where he only hit 5 homers, slashed .218/.283/358 and struck out 53 times in 181 plate appearances. But he was young.

In 2004, with the Reds not exactly a powerhouse, 22 year old Pena hit 26 homers in 110 games. He also crushed 19 homers in just 99 games with the 2005 Reds. He looked like raw talent with great power. His strikeout total was still high but his average was up to a mediocre level.

Meanwhile in Boston, the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and made the 2005 playoffs, all the while continuing their Cold War spending habits against the Yankees.

Heading into 2006, the Red Sox had Curt Schilling, David Wells, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and young Jonathan Papelbon in their rotation. (Bet you forgot Papelbon was a starter.)

On the surface they had a surplus of starters and could make a deal. Throw into the equation was the acquisition of Josh Beckett.

The Red Sox had recently signed Bronson Arroyo to a team friendly extension. He could have got more on the open market but he just wanted to stay in Boston. Evidently after making the deal, Arroyo joked “Don’t trade me now.”

Everyone laughed. And then they traded him.

He was shipped off to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena.

And right away I called XM Radio and complained to Kevin Kennedy and Rob Dibble. My reasons for being pissed?

Well first of all it made the Red Sox organization look petty which you don’t want when you are trying to get players come over to your team.

But the main reasons I hated the trade was two fold. I didn’t have the overwhelming confidence in the rotation as some of the experts did. Schilling and Wakefield were in their late 30s and Schilling was coming off an injury filled season. Wells was 43 years old and fat. Clement slumped badly in the second half of 2005. Papelbon was probably better suited in relief. And Beckett was an X factor.

Meanwhile Arroyo was young and an innings eater who WANTED to be there.

And what did they get back for him? Essentially a platoon outfielder. A slugger without a position. People on internet boards trashed my POV. Pena was young, a slugger, was about to explode into superstardom and there was plenty of pitching to make up for Arroyo, who was overrated.

I stood my ground. The team could not afford to trade away the innings that Arroyo would have provided and Wily Mo Pena was a bench player.

So what happened? Arroyo homered in his first game with the Reds and fit right into their rotation. He led the league with 240 2/3 innings pitched and threw for a solid 3.29 ERA, earning a spot on the All Star Team.

Pena? Well, he was a platoon oufielder and one that spent his time on the Disabled List. Yes, he batted .301 in limited time, but he also required surgery and sidelined him as Arroyo was piling up innings.

Meanwhile Clement flopped, Wells was injured, Papelbon was in the bullpen and Beckett flopped in his first year in Boston. Contending for much of the year, the Red Sox flopped badly in the last few months as their rotation crumbled.

They needed an innings eater in their rotation. Instead they had a part time outfielder nursing his wrist.

In 2007, the Red Sox signed another injury prone outfielder, J. D. Drew, another move I hated. Pena’s playing time was reduced to nothing and his production, save for one game against Baltimore, was negligible. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Beckett improved, Schilling was effective and young Jon Lester was a winner. The team did not have the rotation problems of the previous year, making Arroyo’s 210 2/3 innings for the Reds less ¬†frustrating.

Down the stretch in 2007, the Red Sox cut bait on Pena and dealt him to the Nationals for Chris Carter. (No not THAT one… and not the other one…). They dumped the player they thought could click with fellow Dominicans David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and become the next great RedSox slugger after only a season and a half.

I felt oddly vindicated. People who kept yelling “He is only 24!” at me when I criticized the deal must have thought that now he was 25, he was too old.

It didn’t hurt the Red Sox in 2007 of course, who went on to win the World Series.

Pena suffered through a poor 2008 season in Washington and was released. To Pena’s credit, he has become a baseball survivor. Over the next decade, he tried to catch on with the Mets, Diamondbacks, Padres and Mariners. In 2011, he briefly appeared with Arizona and Seattle in the majors. He played for the Independent League Bridgeport Blue Fish and several years in Japan.

Meanwhile in 2010, when a thin rotation kept the Red Sox out of the playoffs, Bronson Arroyo finished 12th in the Cy Young vote, winning 17 games for the Division Champion Reds, throwing 215 innings in the process.

In 2012, the Red Sox disastrous pitching staff contributed to the worst season in Boston history since the early 1960’s. That year, 5 years after Pena was dumped, Arroyo gave Cincinnati 202 innings and helped pitch them to another Division Title.

Arroyo was never spectacular but was steady. Pena was neither. I saw that back then, and I wasn’t wrong.

This spring, Pena is getting another shot in the big leagues, reuniting with his former Red Sox manager Terry Francona in Cleveland.

I have no ill will to Pena. I hope he makes the team. I hope he is a star and wins a ring. Maybe I should predict THAT!

 

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