Marty Barrett 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 17, 2017

IMG_0276The Red Sox have had a lot of post season success in the last decade and a half. Since 2003, they have won 3 World Series titles, an unthinkable number for people raised on the Curse of the Bambino. Throw in ALCS appearances in 2003 and 2008 and short but sweet October berths in 2005, 2009 and 2016, Boston fans have had a lot to cheer for.

And in that time, David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, Koji Uehara, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell won either ALCS or World Series MVP. (Ortiz won both.)

But for the first 103 years of Red Sox baseball, there was a grand total of ONE Boston player who won a post season series MVP. That would be Marty Barrett. And depending on who you talk to, he almost had two.

The Arcadia California native and Arizona State grad was drafted into the Red Sox organization in the late 1970’s. Along with Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, he participated in the 33 inning game between Pawtucket and Rochester in 1981. He actually scored the winning run.

In 1982, he made his debut with the squad and eventually phased out aging Red Sox star Jerry Remy. As a Sox fan, I remember resenting Barrett for taking over for Remy, but I was eventually won over.

Not a superstar at the plate, he made terrific contact and played solid defense up the middle. He was a .303 hitter in 1984 and the Red Sox, with Boggs, Rice, Buckner, Evans, Armas and Gedman, were assembling one of their top lineups. Barrett’s ability to hit the other way, sacrifice and not strikeout made him a valuable bat in a lineup of sluggers.

In 1986, when the pitching staff caught up with the lineup, Barrett had his best year. He was moved from the lead off spot to the number 2 hole and took advantage of having the best on base percentage player in front of him.

He rewarded the Sox with career highs in RBI, hits, doubles, triples and steals and the Sox took command of the Division early and didn’t look back.

With a galaxy of stars on the roster, it was Barrett who shone brightest in 1986. Sure Dave Henderson had the highlight to end all highlights against the Angels, Barrett’s bat was actually the hottest. He was the ALCS MVP.

Keep in mind what that meant.

There was no official World Series MVP before 1918. The Red Sox won no titles between 1918 and 2004. (Maybe you heard.) The ALCS MVP did not begin until 1980, so there was no official MVP for the 1975 Red Sox series sweep over Oakland.

And then took his hot bat into the World Series.

In the entire 1986 post season, he set the record with 24 hits in 14 games. He batted .433 against the Mets and had an on base percentage .514 and an OPS of 1.014, doing so with only 2 extra base hits.

In the potential clinching Game 6, Barrett reached base 5 times, scored a run and drove in 2, including Wade Boggs with a critical insurance run in the 10th inning that game Boston a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th.

Annnnnnnd we all know what happened after that.

He got a hit in the Game 5 finale, finishing the post season with a .400 average and a .929 OPS. But he also finished the post season itself with a strikeout that ended the World Series.

Barrett had a solid 1987 and played in the 1988 ALCS for the Red Sox. But by 1990, he was phased out by the arrival of Jody Reed and Luis Rivera. He was a role player in the 1990 ALCS. After 12 games with the 1991 Padres, Barrett’s big league career was over.

Now I have heard that his 5 times on base in Game 6 made him the player of the game, until of course the Mets rally.

I have also heard conflicting accounts about the World Series MVP. Some said that had the Red Sox held onto the lead, Barrett would have been named World Series MVP, with the hitting numbers to back it up.

Another account had Bruce Hurst, who won his first two starts and logged a complete game in over of them, would get the hardware.

The point is moot and Ray Knight won the World Series MVP. But had it gone Barrett’s way, he would have had all the post season MVP awards in the history of the Red Sox until 2004.

Well in truth he WAS the only winner, but he would have had a nice match.

 

Dustin Pedroia 2010 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 14, 2017

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Will Dustin Pedroia be elected to the Hall of Fame? I am not sure.

He is certainly getting the hard parts of the Hall of Fame resume checked off. Rookie of the Year, MVP, post season glory, a pair of World Series rings, being part of two different eras of Red Sox Octobers.

If you are reading a blog like this, especially on a Sunday, then chances are you don’t need for me to deep dive into his biography the way I do normally. You know who Dustin Pedroia is.

And you know that in terms of October glory in Boston, he is the connecting tissue between the Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Jason Varitek Red Sox and the Andrew Benetendi, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts Red Sox.

Yes, I know David Ortiz was as well, but unless he returns, Big Papi is no longer on the squad. The veteran leader on this team is now Pedroia. And what a leader he is.

I remember the short firey second baseman was put into the cleanup spot between Ortiz and Ramirez and nobody blinked. He will club double digit homers and still get his 200 hits and keep his strikeout total low.

He had had some terrific post season moments, twice homering in a Game 7 of the ALCS. He also has had some bad post seasons but even then, has his highlights. Lost in the Middlebrooks obstruction call ending Game 3 of the 2013 World Series was an amazing almost game saving play by Pedroia to cut off the winning run at home.

He already has logged 11 full seasons with the Red Sox and is signed through 2021. If the Red Sox win a World Series in either 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 or 2021, then we will be in uncharted waters for the franchise. They will have a title with no members of the storied 2004 squad.

A curseless title would be led by Pedroia.

One thing that frustrates me is that Pedroia could have been part of another new element of uncharted territory: A connection with the Yankees in a post 2004 world.

As Robinson Cano is putting up terrific numbers in Seattle after taking the 10 year deal to leave the Bronx, a “What If” is emerging in the Red Sox Yankees rivalry.

Imagine this: The Red Sox and Yankee rivalry is now very different than it was in 2004. Both teams have won World Series since then. (The Red Sox in 2007 and 2013, the Yankees in 2009.) And neither team have any players left from 2004.

In other words, they have turned the page since the rivalry and the curse hit the climax and essentially the end of the narrative. There is no longer a 19-18 chant. But the likes of A-Rod, Cano and other newer Yankees have their rings as well.

The Red Sox made the post season again in 2016 with a new young cast. Meanwhile Judge, Sanchez et al are creating a new core of Yankees. There could be home grown Red Sox and home grown Yankees building a new rivalry, but one without the specter of the Yankees haunting the Red Sox.

If Cano had re-signed with the Yankees, there would have been a perfect symmetry. Both the Red Sox and Yankees would have a veteran second baseman who played with the core of 2004 and won a World Series since then. (I can’t resist pointing out Pedroia has 2.)

Both remain All Stars and both would have the “been there, done that, let’s do it again” aura to them.

Alas, it is not to be and frankly I feel odd that Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the main veterans on this rebuilding Yankee team. Actually Brett Gardner seems to be taking that mantle, but it doesn’t feel the same. He wasn’t a starter in 2009 and he isn’t the same position.

Ah well, maybe baseball isn’t supposed to have perfect symmetry. Maybe I will have to take comfort that Pedroia has a chance to lead the Red Sox to another title and if he does so in 2020 or 2021, then he would have done so in 3 different decades.

Uncharted waters indeed.

Tom Burgmeier 1981 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 10, 2017

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In 1980, I was 8 years old and obsessed with the Red Sox. I knew every player. I thought of them the same way I would think of The Super Friends. When new players came in, I felt it was an opening into an elite fraternity.

And despite all of that, I have no memory of Tom Burgmeier being an All Star for the 1980 Red Sox. Oh, I remember Tom Bergmeier. I just never remembered him being part of the cream of the crop.

The Minnesota native made his big league debut during the 1968 season with the Angels. He made 2 starts and 54 in relief for the Angels. In his 17 year career, he would have only one more start, that would be in 1978.

The 25 year old Burgmeier was plucked by the Royals in the 1969 expansion draft to be their left handed reliever. In 1971, he broke out and posted a 1.73 ERA over 67 appearances, winning 9 games and saving 17 as the young Royals finished with a winning record.

Going into 1974, Burgmeier returned to his home in Minnesota and made a nice tandem with reliever Bill Campbell in the bullpen. It meant of course that he would miss out on the Royals glory years of the mid to late 1970’s but not everyone can have great timing.He and Campbell were dubbed the Bicentennial Bullpen during their solid 1976 campaign. Campbell, the top reliever in the AL, left via the newly earned Free Agent Re Entry Draft to sign with the Red Sox leaving Burgmeier behind. But after 1977, the Bicentennial Bullpen was reunited in Boston.

Signing a free agent agreement, Burgmeier became part of a deep Boston pen for the 1978 season. Campbell, Bob Stanley, Andy Hassler and Dick Drago were all in place when Burgmeier arrived.

It was not his best season, putting up a 4.40 ERA over 61 1/3 innings pitched.

On June 19th, he entered the game against the Yankees in the 4th and pitched into the 9th, throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings to win the game.

He also pitched 5 1/3 innings in another game against the Yankees where he did not allow a run. But that game, a 7-0 loss, was part of the infamous Boston massacre in September. The team did not make the post season as they fell short in the Bucky Bleeping Dent game.

He pitched well in 1979, posting a 2.74 ERA and saving 4 games. But then came 1980, the career year that eluded me.

The Red Sox had acquired Skip Lockwood from the Mets to shore up their bullpen. But he flopped and soon Bob Stanley and Burgmeier were sharing the closer duties. He picked up 3 saves in April and 5 more in May, very few of his appearances were only one inning.

By the All Star Game he had a 2.14 ERA and 15 saves. I am guessing I saw a few of those saves, either at the game or on TV 38. I don’t remember a single one.

He was named to the All Star game. Once again, I have no memory of it.

In August he had a 0.77 ERA and in September put up a 1.65 ERA.

Remember, I elevated these players in a super natural state in my mind. I knew the prospects coming up and which bench players could help. We even went to spring training before the 1980 season.

And still the career year eluded me. He was another Red Sox in the Topps back or someone else warming up in the pen.

He would finish his career in Oakland in the mid 1980’s again JUST missing Oakland’s glory years.

So let me publicly apologize to Mr. Burgmeier. Sorry I missed your best season.

Current Red Sox, I promise to be more alert and attentive.