RAMIRO MENDOZA – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 14

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OCTOBER 14, 1999 – American League Championship Series Game 2

When the Red Sox lost the 1999 ALCS at Fenway Park to the Yankees, I sat slumped on a couch at a bar I used to perform at in Manhattan called Indigo. Ramiro Mendoza, not Mariano Rivera, got the save in the final game. As I watched the MVP trophy being handed to starter Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, I muttered “He wasn’t the MVP. Mendoza was.”

A Yankee fan friend of mine heard me say that and retorted “Mendoza only got 7 outs. You can’t give the MVP to someone who didn’t even throw 3 innings.”

I shook my head. “Not all outs are created equally” I said. And nobody got bigger outs in the 1999 ALCS than Mendoza.

The Yankees were the defending World Champs in 1999 and looked like they were primed for a repeat. The Western Division Champion Texas Rangers provided little resistance in a 3 game Division Series sweep.

Their biggest challenge would come from the Red Sox, who erased a 2-0 hole in their Division Series fight with the Cleveland Indians and entered the ALCS with a red hot offense and an unstoppable force pitching every 4 days. Pedro Martinez put together a historically great 1999, only to be matched the next year, as the Red Sox ace put up mind boggling pitching numbers in the middle of the steroid era.

Pedro came out of the bullpen to throw 6 no hit innings to clinch the Division Series and would not be available in the ALCS until Game 3.

If the Red Sox had a hope in the ALCS against their rivals, they needed to steal a game in the Bronx in either Games 1 or 2 and hand the ball to Pedro in Game 3 and be up 2-1.

In Game 1, the Red Sox jumped on El Duque to put together an early 3-0 with images of a Game 1 win dancing in Boston fans’ heads. But the Yankees chipped away at the lead, benefited from a bad call at second and won on a walk off homer by Bernie Williams.

Game 2 became a critical game for both clubs. The Yankees could not go to Boston tied 1-1 knowing Pedro was on the mound. And the Red Sox could not be down 0-2 and be in position to lose the series in Boston even with a Pedro win.

The other Martinez, Pedro’s older brother Ramon, the former Dodgers ace, started for Boston. David Cone took the mound for the Yankees.

Jason Varitek tripled off the wall in the second inning but was stranded on third. In fact in each of the first four innings, the Red Sox stranded runners in scoring position while the game remained scoreless.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a Tino Martinez homer but the Red Sox jumped ahead 2-1 on a Nomar Garciaparra 2 run shot.

In the 7th, the Yankees rallied and made the score 3-2. Now it was a race to get to Rivera and close out the game. In the top of the 8th, Troy O’Leary narrowly missed tying the game with a homer, settling for a lead off triple. After a hit by pitch, Varitek bunted O’Leary to third and pinch runner Damon Buford to second. Now a single would give the Red Sox the lead. After an intentional walk, Joe Torre handed the ball to Ramiro Mendoza with the bases loaded and one out in a one run game.

Mendoza was Joe Torre’s jack of all trades. The 27 year old from Panama would start, close and be a set up man and middle reliever. 1999 was not as strong a year for him as 1998, but Torre never hesitated in throwing him into games with a constantly changing role.

Now he was essentially being asked to save the game. First up was pinch hitter Butch Huskey, an outfielder who slugged 22 homers between Seattle and Boston in 1999. Mendoza struck him out, ending any possibility for the Red Sox to tie the game on an out.

Next up was Jose Offerman, the Red Sox second baseman whose up and down season featured a trip to the All Star Game and a benching. His bat was heating up and he had already collected two hits in Game 2.

But Mendoza got him to fly out and end the threat. The Red Sox would later get a pair of hits off of Mariano Rivera in the 9th but once again fall short.

With Mendoza’s two outs in the 8th, the Red Sox bid to tie the game would not come through and the Yankees did indeed take the 2-0 lead.

Pedro Martinez won a Game 3 blow out but the Yankees took Game 4 in a contest much tighter than the 9-2 final would suggest. In Game 5, the Red Sox fell behind 4-0. But in the 8th, they started to rally. Varitek homered and the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out. Again, Torre turned to Mendoza with the go ahead run at the plate. He struck out Scott Hatteberg and got Trot Nixon to pop up.

When Jorge Posada padded the lead to 6-1 with a 2 run homer, the pennant was all but won. Torre let Mendoza close out the series instead of turning to Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox lost and the Yankees would avoid a second Pedro start.

And I slumped at the Indigo Bar. I was convinced I would never see the Red Sox win an ALCS, certainly not against the Yankees.

Not all outs are created equally. Yes, Ramiro Mendoza only got 7 outs. But think about 4 of them and how critical they were. Had the Red Sox rallied in Game 2, they would have taken control of the series. Even a rally in Game 5 could have set up a Game 6 “Avoid Pedro at all cost” showdown.

Instead he got the outs and eventually the save. While he never got the MVP I felt he deserved, he did become the Unsung Post Season Hero of October 14.

The All Time Tim Wakefield Red Sox Teammate Roster… Home Grown and Acquired

Tim Wakefield’s career is over, falling just 6 wins short of Roger Clemens and Cy Young’s all time Red Sox mark. His time with the Red Sox deserves a salute.

In many ways, Tim Wakefield has had one of the most unique careers in Red Sox history. No person other than Johnny Pesky has interacted with more legends of the franchise. And Wakefield has done it as an active player.

He was teammates with two members of the 1986 squad and has been a teammate of every post strike Red Sox player.

He has connections to Red Sox players that is Kevin Bacon esque. He even was a teammate of a 1978 Red Sox player! (Albeit when Eck returned to finish his career in Boston.)

I was going to make a 25 man roster of great Red Sox players who were Wakefield’s teammates over his 17 years in Boston.

But I realized that he played with so many quintessential Red Sox players that I could actually make up TWO all time Rosters. One consisting only of players who originated in the Red Sox organization and those that were acquired from other teams.

Yup, it’s another Home Grown vs. Acquired Roster.

I am calling a player who started in the Red Sox organization as “Home Grown.” So that means Curt Schilling is on the Home Grown Team even though they picked him up from Arizona later in his career. They are my rules.

As always the Rosters will consist of a starter at each position, 5 starters, 5 relievers, 2 reserve infielders, 2 reserve outfielders, a back up catcher and a 25th man who could be any position.

The All Home Grown Red Sox Tim Wakefield Teammate Team

Starting Catcher – Scott Hatteberg

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting First Baseman – Mo Vaughn

Teammates from 1995-1998

Starting Second Baseman – Dustin Pedroia

Teammates from 2006-2011

Starting Shortstop – Nomar Garciaparra

Teammates from 1996-2004

Starting Third Baseman – John Valentin

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting Left Fielder – Mike Greenwell

Teammates from 1995-1996

Starting Center Fielder – Jacoby Ellsbury

Teammates from 2007-2011

Starting Right Fielder – Trot Nixon

Teammates from 1996-2006

Starting Designated Hitter – Kevin Youkilis

Teammates from 2004-2011

Starting Rotation

Roger Clemens

Teammates from 1995-1996

Jon Lester

Teammates from 2006-2011

Curt Schilling

Teammates from 2004-2007

Clay Buchholz

Teammates from 2007-2011

Aaron Sele

Teammates from 1995-1997

Bullpen

Jonathan Papelbon

Teammates from 2005-2011

Manny Delcarmen

Teammates from 2005-2010

Daniel Bard

Teammates from 2009-2011

Casey Fossum

Teammates from 2001-2003

Justin Masterson

Teammates from 2008-2009

The Bench

Reserve Infielder – Tim Naehring

Teammates 1995-1997

Reserve Infielder – Shea Hillenbrand

Teammates 2001-2003

Reserve Outfielder – Josh Reddick

Teammates 2009-2011

Reserve Outfielder – Donnie Sadler

Teammates 1998-2000

Reserve Catcher – Kelly Shoppach

Teammates in 2005

25th Man – Jed Lowrie

Teammates 2008-2011

The All Acquired Red Sox Tim Wakefield Teammate Team

Starting Catcher – Doug Mirabelli

Teammates from 2001-2007

Starting First Baseman – Kevin Millar

Teammates from 2003-2005

Starting Second Baseman – Todd Walker

Teammates in 2003

Starting Shortstop – Orlando Cabrera

Teammates in 2004

Starting Third Baseman – Mike Lowell

Teammates from 2006-2010

Starting Left Fielder – Manny Ramirez

Teammates from 2001-2008

Starting Center Fielder – Johnny Damon

Teammates from 2002-2005

Starting Right Fielder – Troy O’Leary

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting Designated Hitter – David Ortiz

Teammates from 2003-2011

Starting Rotation

Pedro Martinez

Teammates from 1998-2004

Josh Beckett

Teammates from 2006-2011

Bret Saberhagen

Teammates from 1997-2001

Derek Lowe

Teammates from 1997-2004

Erik Hanson

Teammates in 1995

Bullpen

Keith Foulke

Teammates from 2004-2006

Tom Gordon

Teammates from 1996-1999

Hideki Okajima

Teammates from 2007-2011

Mike Timlin

Teammates from 2003-2008

Dennis Eckersley

Teammates in 1998

The Bench

Reserve Infielder – Bill Mueller

Teammates from 2003-2005

Reserve Infielder – Mark Bellhorn

Teammates from 2004-2005

Reserve Outfielder – Dave Roberts

Teammates in 2004

Reserve Outfielder – J. D. Drew

Teammates from 2007-2011

Reserve Catcher – Jason Varitek

Teammates from 1997-2011

25th Man – Adrian Gonzalez

Teammates in 2011

That’s quite a collection.
And of course I skewed it towards players who played on winning Red Sox teams. I know Dave Roberts was only there for a few months, but would you rather see him or Carl Everett?

And I was hesitant to put Varitek on the roster at all! But notice he isn’t starting. That’s Mirabelli’s spot.

And yes I know Gonzalez is a better player than Kevin Millar, but these rosters are emotional and I’m putting the World Champion in the starting line up.

So Wakefield, who stretched through the Duquette and Theo years, over Kennedy, Williams, Kerrigan, Little and Francona and played for 9 different Red Sox playoff teams, will not continue onto the Bobby Valentine era.

But if the likes of Jose Iglesias or Ryan Lavarnway ever play for a World Series winner with the Red Sox, they can be connected to the 1986 team by 2 degrees.

It’s been fun Tim Wakefield.
You are a champion and you will be missed.

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