BOBBY DOERR

BOBBY DOERR

Bobby Doerr played in 67 games for the Hollywood Sheiks in the Pacific Coast League, then a Class AA league, in 1934. He only hit .259 but that wasn’t too bad for a sixteen year old. He had been born on April 7, 1918 and had just turned 16 at the start of that season and hadn’t finished high school yet.

The following year, at age 17 he played in 172 games for the Sheiks and hit .317. At the end of that season, the Boston Red Sox bought an option on his contract and he played the 1936, his third in professional baseball, at the age of 18, with the same team which had been moved to San Diego and renamed the Padres, still in the Pacific Coast League. That year, he played in 175 games, hit for a .342 average with 238 hits, 37 were doubles, 12 triples and two homers and he scored 100 runs.

He went to Spring Training with the Red Sox and won the starting second base position. On Opening Day, in Philadelphia, against the Athletics, 13 days after his 19th birthday, he made his Major League debut, batted lead off, went 3 for 5 and scored a run in the Sox 11-5 win. The next two games, against the Yankees, he went 2-6, with a double and run scored and 1-4 with a home run and two RBI’s. At the end of his first three games in the Big Leagues, he was 6 for 15 or .400.

A few games later, he got hit in the head with a pitch and missed a few games. When he came back, he was not hitting as well and didn’t play much in June, July and August but got back in on a regular basis in September. He played in a total of 55 games that year, hitting just .224.

He won back his starting position in 1938 and hit .289 and had 80 RBI’s in 145 games, batting in the sixth and seventh position. In 1939, he increased his average to .318 with 73 RBI’s batting mostly lead off.

In 1940, he hit .291 with 22 homers and 105 RBI’s in 151 games batting all around the lineup. This was the first of six times he would drive in over 100 runs in a season.

He made his first All Star Team in 1941, with a .282 average and 93 RBI’s. He would make the All Star Team nine times from 1941 to 1951, missing only 1945 when he was in the Army and 1949.

He averaged .290 and .270 in 1942 and 1943 with 67 doubles, 31 homers and 177 RBI’s, making the All Star Team both years. He played in 299 games those two years.

Bobby had his best year at the plate in 1944, hitting .325 with 30 doubles, 10 triples, 15 homers and 81 RBI’s and led the league with a .528 slugging percentage. He also made the All Star Team again and was seventh in the Most Valuable Player voting. In his first eight seasons, the Sox had finished second four times and never better than fourth the other four.

He spent 1945 in the United States Army and returned to the Sox in 1946. The Red Sox won the pennant that year, winning 104 games and losing 50 but lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Doerr hit .271 with 18 homers and 116 RBI’s in 151 games. He was named to the All Star Team and came in third in the MVP voting behind teammate Ted Williams who hit for a .342 average, with 38 homers and 123 RBI’s and Tigers’ pitcher Hal Newhouser who was 26-9 with a 1.94 ERA.

The Sox were ahead in the World Series three games to two going to the last two games in St. Louis but Harry Brecheen pitched a complete game against them giving up just one run for the 4-1 win. In the final game, Brecheen pitched the last two innings, in relief, shutting out the Sox while his team won 4-3. Brecheen had pitched a complete game shut out in Game 3, winning 3-0 for three wins in the Series. Doerr went 9-22 in the Series, his only post season appearance.

In 1947, the Sox slipped to third place, Doerr hit .258 in 146 games and made the All Star Team again. On May 13, 1947, he hit for the cycle for the second time to become the first Red Sox player ever to do so twice in a career.

In both 1948 and 1949, the Red Sox went to the last game of the season tied for first place. In 1948, they were tied with Cleveland and were playing the last game of the season against Cleveland at home and lost the game and the pennant 8-3. In the sixth inning, with the Sox down 6-1, Doerr hit a two run homer but that was all the scoring for the Sox as they finished in second place.

In 1949, they were tied with the Yankees and were playing the last game of the season against the Yankees in New York and lost 5-3. In the ninth inning of the game, with the Sox down 5-0, Doerr hit a triple scoring two runs and scored on Billy Goodman’s single but the rally fell short and the Sox finished in second again.

He hit .285 with 27 homers and 111 RBI’s and made the All Star Team in 1948 and .309 with 18 homers and 109 RBI’s in 1949 but didn’t make the All Star Team for the only time in his last 10 playing years.

With the Sox falling to third in 1950, he batted .294 with 27 homers, tying his output in 1948 for his highest career mark, and 120 RBI’s and led the league in triples with 11.

He played in 106 games in 1951, batting .289, before a major back problem forced him to retire after playing his last game on September 7. Despite the back problem, he was named to the All Star team for the ninth time.

He was a fine defensive player, playing every game of his entire career at second base for Boston. His Hall of Fame page says ‘Defensively, he led the AL in fielding percentage six times and in double plays five times. He once held the AL record for most consecutive chances at second base without an error—414. “I never saw him misplay a ball, and he had the best backhand of any second baseman I ever saw,” said Red Sox teammate Johnny Pesky.

After his retirement as a player, he worked as a Scout for the Red Sox from 1957 to 1966 and as a first base coach from 1967 to 1969. He was the hitting coach with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977 to 1981.

He had a career batting average of .288, with 2,042 hits, 223 homers and 1,247 RBI’s. He played in 1,856 games, had 7,093 at bats and a .362 career on base percentage. In the field, he had a .980 fielding percentage, handling 10,638 chances with just 214 errors and was involved in 1,507 double plays.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1986 and the Red Sox retired his uniform number 1 that year. As of this writing, March of 2017, he is the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If he hadn’t been forced to retire because of his back problems at age 33, there is not telling what he might have accomplished. An all around gentleman with a great reputation in the game, New York Yankees rival Tommy Henrich said “Bobby Doerr is one of the very few who played the game hard and retired with no enemies.”

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUNT??

On July 14, 1946, in the first game of a doubleheader between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, at Fenway Park, Ted Williams went four for five, with three homers, and eight runs batted in as the Sox won, 11-10. His first time up in Game 2, Ted doubled to right field.

When he came to the plate the second time, Cleveland Manager Lou Boudreau moved his entire infield onto the right field side of the field to try to stop Ted. Even third baseman, Ken Keltner, was behind second base. This was supposedly the first use of a defensive shift in Major League baseball.

Last Sunday night, I was watching the Yankees play the St. Louis Cardinals, in an inter league game, in Yankee Stadium on national television. In the top of the first inning, Michael Pineda was pitching for the Yankees and he got the first two batters out. The next batter, Matt Carpenter, drew a walk.

Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals’ clean up hitting slugger was next up. With the count 0-1, and the Yankee infield shifted to the left, with everybody but the first baseman on the left side of the infield, for the right handed hitting Piscotty, he dropped a bunt between the pitcher’s mound and first base. By the time Pineda and first baseman Bird could get to the ball, Piscotty was safe on first and Carpenter was standing on second. With two out, the Cards had a runner in scoring position with Matt Adams at the plate. Adams then struck out and the inning was over.

If Piscotty had lined a single to left field, sending Carpenter to second, instead of bunting, we would have heard what a nice piece of hitting it was. Instead, a discussion ensued about whether it was wise to have a slugger like Piscotty bunt rather than swing away. The usual argument is that you take the bat out of a slugger’s hand when you have him bunt, after all he might get an extra base hit.

In his career, prior to that at bat, Piscotty had 843 at bats and had gotten 89 extra base hits. In other words, he could be expected to get an extra base hit 10.6 percent of the time. To me, dropping that bunt down the first base line was a good investment of his time. With the defensive configuration, the odds of a fair bunt resulting in the same thing as a line drive single are pretty good.

That supposes that he bunts it fair. Suppose he doesn’t? Now you’ve got your slugger back at the plate with a 1-1 count ready to go for his extra base hit. Add to that the fact that now the defense has to worry about him bunting and this obviously reduces their willingness to shift when he comes up.

The next day, Kyle Schwarber, perhaps the least typical lead off hitter in baseball, leading off the first inning for the Cubs against the Brewers, dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single on the first pitch. Schwarber, the 6′, 235 pound, left handed hitting left fielder, placed a perfect bunt that rolled right down the line and actually hit the third base bag.

Schwarber ended up on first, went to second on a passed ball, and after Chris Bryant grounded out to third and Anthony Rizzo struck out, scored on a single by Ben Zobrist.

This bunt, because of Schwarber size and slugging ability, in addition to the fact that it was a perfectly placed bunt, got national headlines. As with Piscotty’s bunt, everyone questioned whether having a slugger bunt was wise. Again, if it had been a line drive base hit, it would have had the same result. Of course, the same arguments were made about taking the bat out of the slugger’s hands.

Schwarber, prior to ‘THE BUNT’ had batted 281 times in the major leagues and had had 28 extra base hits. Ten percent of the time, he could be expected to get an extra base hit. Is bunting the ball in this situation a poor use of his time and talent? I think not. As with Piscotty’s bunt, if it were bunted foul he’d still be at the plate with a chance to hit and the bunt itself makes the defense at least think about adjusting its alignment. If it were a line drive single, it would be praised as good hitting, but would have achieved the same result.

With the defensive alignments as extreme and frequent as they have become, the odds of a fair bunt being beaten out have increased tremendously. From 2010 until the start of the 2016 season, the Rays and Astros, who use the shift most often, had shifted over 4,200 times each.

The ‘Moneyball’, Sabermetrics and other so called experts would have you believe that a bunt is always a waste of time but their reasoning is often based on statistical analysis of events that took place before the extreme shifts began.

I don’t think that the bunt will ever do away with defensive shifts but it does and will continue to require adjustments which, in themselves, are good from a hitter’s point of view.

Of course, these shifts are based upon statistics which show where a batter is most apt to hit a pitch and the defense adjusts accordingly. Most often, it is used against pull hitters, more often against left handers than right handers because the need for the first baseman to stay close to the base to receive throws makes a larger hole on that side with the shift on.

Because of the resulting defensive configuration, pitchers try to locate their pitches to reduce the chance of a ball going to the opposite field. A pitch on the inside of the plate is harder to hit to the opposite field than an outside pitch so pitchers generally throw inside with the shift in place. The pitcher still has to throw the ball over the plate but, because of the shift, less of the plate is available to him as he has to stay away from the outside pitch.

Batters, traditionally have located themselves in the batter’s box, close enough to the plate to be able to easily reach a pitch on the outside corner to avoid hitting it toward the end of the bat which reduces their power and often results in hitting to the opposite field.

If a batter moves back from the plate, it tends to put the part of the plate available to the pitcher in the middle of the strike zone instead of on the inside while, at the same time, encouraging the pitcher to use that outside part of the plate, thereby increasing the chance that the ball will not be pulled into the shift. The less the hitter pulls the ball into the shift, the less effective the shift becomes.

Defensive shifts are here to stay in various shapes and forms. The offense has to make adjustments to discourage its use by beating it. The bunt and hitting the ball to the opposite field more frequently are the best ways available to do that.

 

SPRING TRAINING IS SPECIAL

After the drama and excitement of the Playoffs and World Series of 2016, it seemed like it took forever for baseball to come back but it’s back. Spring Training games started this week and the Red Sox are co-favorites with the Chicago Cubs, at 9-2, to win the World Series.

It doesn’t get any better than that in New England, especially after the excitement of the Patriots fifth Super Bowl win. Fans can’t wait to get into Fenway Park and see their heroes back at work. People have written for years about the special experience of coming up out of the tunnel at Fenway and seeing the green grass and that magnificent old Ballpark. I have been in 23 Major League Ballparks and the feeling when you first see the field is always awesome but none as special as Fenway.

The season opens on April 2 and the Red Sox open their season at Fenway against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 3 at 2:05 p. m.

I saw a video of a player on Facebook today playing catch with a youngster in the stands during a Spring Training workout and was reminded that, even though watching a Major League game in person is one of life’s special thrills, going to a Spring Training game can be even more special, in some ways.

If you have never gone to Spring Training and enjoy baseball as much as I do, you have missed a great experience. The Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays, the entire American League East, the most powerful division in baseball, all do their Spring Training in Florida, along with 11 other teams.

The pictures of the player playing catch with the kid in the stands is typical of the Spring Training experience. Spring Training is a time for fans to get an opportunity to interact with players in a relaxed atmosphere while getting away from the cold of the northeast. Getting away from the snow is wonderful in itself but when you add in the opportunity to watch the greatest baseball players in the world get ready for another season, you are as close to baseball heaven as you can get.

Just watching the players interact with the fans before the pressure of the season is worth the trip. I recall one year, at Spring Training in Arizona, watching Cory Hart, who at the time was with the Milwaukee Brewers, signing autographs for kids on the first base line before a game and they had to physically pull him away and get him to right field so they could start the game. Often, before a game, a player or coach will climb over the railing and sit and talk with people in the stands for a few minutes.

There are 13 ball parks in Florida hosting Spring Training for 15 teams. The St. Louis Cardinals share a field for home games with the Florida Marlins and the Houston Astros with the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox, of course, play at Jet Blue Park, also known as Fenway South, a modern stadium, in Fort Myers, that seats 11,000 fans. Outside the park there are picnic benches, food tents and music and, before the game starts, people gather for a social event. Inside, of course, you have the replica of the Green Monster and all the joys and comforts of an exceptionally fan friendly ball park.

To top it all off, admission is relatively cheap compared to a regular season game. For example, tickets to see the Sox host the Tampa Bay Rays next week are $10-$28. depending upon the type seat and you can stand or sit on the grass berm for $5. One thing never changes, whether it’s Spring Training or regular season, you’ll still pay an arm and a leg for a beer or hot dog, but getting into the game is more than reasonable.

Up the road in Tampa, where the Yankees play at George M. Steinbrenner Field, you park in a lot shared with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football field, Raymond James Stadium, and walk up a ramp over the highway to get to this beautiful stadium which seats 10,000. The park has all the amenities of the new Major League Parks, including souvenir shops, pubs, hot dog stands and other places to spend your money. Over the last two off seasons, the park underwent $40. million dollars in renovations and now is better than ever.

The crowds always have a large percentage of older fans but there are many young people and children as well and the atmosphere is always relaxed. All the ball parks have more than enough volunteers, usually retirees, which there are always plenty of in Florida, to help you with seating, directions or anything else you need to make your visit comfortable. Those retirees are happy to help of course, what could be better than answering a few questions and helping a few people to get to see a game free and hob nob with the players.

Most of the fields are on or near the west coast so within fairly reasonable driving distance of each other and sometimes, if you are a real baseball nut, like I am, you can get to see two games in one day, one in the afternoon and one at night.

Another unique characteristic of Spring Training that appeals to the truly dedicated fan is the opportunity to visit the training complex outside the Stadium. Most of the teams have practice fields adjacent to the stadiums where you can watch your favorite players and even the players of the future take infield, batting practice or other drills.

The Spring Training experience is something every baseball fan should do at least once, but Spring Training is like potato chips, you can’t eat just one. If you go to one, you’ll be hooked and will be back.

HAPPY NEW YEAR RED SOX FANS

Happy New Year to all baseball fans. Fifty-four days from today, the Red Sox open their Spring Training schedule with a split squad doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College and, the next day, play the Minnesota Twins in the first real Spring Training Game. Ninety-two days from today, they open the regular season at Fenway against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Red Sox fans have reason to be optimistic at this time. Dave Dombrowski and his staff have put together a team that could be as good as almost any in baseball. At this point, my advice to Dombrowski, if he’s interested, is; Don’t do anything else. You don’t need any more pitching, either starting or relief. Your position players are among the best in baseball at almost every position. You have a strong and versatile bench to fill holes as they occur.

How many teams in baseball will be starting the season with two starting pitchers, Price and Porcello, who recently won Cy Young Awards, another starter, Sale, who has finished in the top five in the Cy Young voting every year for the last five years; have three pitchers, Sale, Kimbrel and Wright, who were on last year’s American League All Star team and also have three position players, Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley, who made the starting lineup in last year’s American League All Star team?

This on a team that led the league in almost every offensive category last year and won the toughest division in baseball before a three game meltdown in the first round of the playoffs ended their shot at their fourth World Series win in the first 16 years of this century.

They led all of baseball in most offensive categories. Their .282 team batting average, .348 on base percentage, .461 slugging percentage, 878 runs scored and 1,598 hits were all the best overall. They have two players coming back, Pedroia and Betts, who finished in the top ten in all of baseball for batting average at .318 and .319 respectively. Betts was runner up in the Most Valuable Player voting.

Of course, they lost David Ortiz, arguably the best Designated Hitter in the history of the game who retired as advertised and went out with possibly the biggest bang in baseball history. They also lost Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara to Free Agency. The loss of those two workhorse pitchers would have been devastating ordinarily but, with Carson Smith returning from surgery and the addition of right handed reliever Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee, along with the return of Brandon Workman from surgery, the loss should not be significant.

The addition of Sale, who won 74 and lost 50, with a 3.00 ERA, in five full years with a weak Chicago White Sox team, to go with Porcello and Price, gives the Sox one of the most potent tops of the rotation in baseball. You have to assume that Steven Wright, if he is healthy, will be the fourth starter and the fifth and sixth spots have plenty of competition with Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and even Joe Kelly fighting for inclusion in spring training. (Rodriguez tweaked his knee in Winter Ball this past week, but it doesn’t seem serious.)

The biggest addition, outside of Sale, or maybe more importantly than Sale in the overall scheme, is Mitch Moreland, the Free Agent first baseman. Moreland, a Gold Glove winner last year at Texas, is only a .254 career hitter, but had 22 homers last year. He opens up the door to use Hanley Ramirez as a replacement for Ortiz at DH, ( where he won’t have to bend over except to pick up the batting donut in the on deck circle ). Ramirez made a remarkably good adjustment to first base last year but may be even more valuable as a DH.

The big IF in the lineup is Pablo Sandoval. He has lost, if you believe the reports, 30 pounds, and can keep it off. He looks great in pictures compared to what he looked like at Jet Blue last spring. If he can keep the weight off and returns to the form that gave him a .294 regular season batting average and a .344 average in post season games, in seven years at San Francisco, with Moreland at first and Bogaerts and Pedroia up the middle, this could be one of the best infields in the game.

Defensively, they have two reigning Gold Glove winners in Moreland and Betts. As a team, they had the third best fielding percentage in the American League and the fourth best team ERA in the League.

There is plenty of talent in the bullpen and Closer Craig Kimbrel, who did not pitch as well as his 31 saves in 33 attempts record looked, a year older and with that dreaded first year in Boston behind him, should be better. There is plenty of short and middle relief available in the rest of the bull pen.

To say that this is a well balanced team is to state the obvious. There is plenty of talent there and there is also plenty of depth both on the roster and, despite the talent traded away, plenty of replacements in the system. The best thing is that the nucleus of this team is locked into the Red Sox, contract wise, for the next few years.

On paper, this is as good a team as the Red Sox have fielded in a long time. There is no reason to tweak it any further at this point particularly if it would cost trading off any of the young nucleus. No one can predict the future and injuries or other factors can change the team’s prospects quickly. But, unless and until that happens, you have done a great job so far Mr. Dombrowski.

You’ve given Red Sox fans a thoroughbred, sit back and let John Farrell ride it.

MOOKIE VS. MIKE

It’s been 48 days since the Red Sox lost Game 3 of the American League Division Series to Terry Francoa and his Cleveland Indians and 25 days since that decimated Cleveland Team took the Chicago Cubs, the team with the best record in baseball, to a seventh game in one of the most exciting World Series ever.

In case you are interested, it’s been three years, three weeks and six days since the Red Sox won Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, their third World Series win in this century and their first three after an 86 year drought.

It’s been just 10 days since the Baseball Writers of America gave the Most Valuable Player Award to Mike Trout instead of Mookie Betts, the most exciting young player to come along in the American League since………well, since Mike Trout. Mookie was, of course, every Red Sox fans’ favorite for the Award. I still think he should have gotten it but there’s not anything you can do about it.

There’s no question that Mike Trout is one of the most talented young players ever to play the game. In five years, he has won the Rookie of The Year Award, the Most Valuable Player Award twice and, in the other three years, including his rookie year, has been second in the voting for Most Valuable Player. At 25 years of age, 6’2”, 235 pounds, he is built like a full back, runs like a deer, hits for average and power, has a cannon for an arm, is one of the best defensive outfielders and base runners in baseball, plays the glamorous center field position and looks like everybody’s ideal picture of an All American Boy.

Mookie, on the other hand, by comparison, is a scrawny little 5’9”, 180 pound kid who looks like he’s having the time of his life every time he sets foot on a baseball field but doesn’t really fit the All American Boy mold. But, guess what, he runs like a deer, hits for average and power, had a powerful and accurate arm, is the best defensive player in baseball this year, is one of the best base runners in baseball, and plays one of the most difficult, if not so glamorous outfield positions in baseball, right field in Fenway Park.

Mookie did everything Mike Trout did this year and he did it for a team that won 93 and lost 69, finished first in the toughest division in baseball and lost in the first round of the Playoffs. Mike Trout worked his magic for a team that finished in fourth place in its Division with a record of 74-88, 14 games under .500.

Mike Trout has been compared to Mickey Mantle and his numbers, in his first five years, if anything, are better than the Mick’s. Even the most rabid Red Sox/Mookie Betts fan will have to admit that, based on numbers alone, it was a close call this year between Mookie and Mike. Unfortunately, only one could win and the Baseball Writers picked Trout.

As I said in an earlier article, even the Baseball Writers’ Association admits that ‘There is no clear cut definition of what Most Valuable means.’ It means different things to different people but I am sure that, in Boston, Mookie is still considered the Most Valuable. Unfortunately, he will not be listed in the record books along with other Red Sox stars who have won the honor.

The only Red Sox Player to win MVP since Mo Vaughn won it in 1995, was Dustin Pedroia in 2008. Previous Sox winners were Tris Speaker, 1912, Jimmy Foxx, 1938, Ted Williams 1946 and 1949, Jackie Jensen, 1958, Carl Yastrzemski, 1967, Freddie Lynn, 1975, Jim Rice, 1948 and Roger Clemens,1986.

Ironically, on this date in 1941, The Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, edged out the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, for the MVP Award, even though Ted hit .406 that year. Of course, the fact that Joe played for the pennant winner with 101 wins while Ted played for the Sox who finished 17 games back had nothing to do with it. It may also have had something to do with Joe having a 56 game hitting streak that year.

Anyway, that’s over with and we have a long winter to look forward to. It is exaclty 88 days until the Red Sox open up their Spring Training Season with the traditional double header against the college teams and the next day play the Mets at Jet Blue.

They open the season at home this year against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 3rd, 5th and 6th, then fly to Detroit for a three game series against the Tigers before coming home, after a day off, to host the Orioles for two. They then play four against the Rays at home before going on the road to play three games at Tampa Bay and three at Baltimore before coming back home to host the Yankees for three. With 15 of their first 21 games against Eastern Division opponents, they will have their work cut out for them early.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll have to do what I always quote the great Rogers Hornsby as saying when asked what he did in the winter when there was no baseball and he said ‘I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for Spring.’

Before you know it, the truck will be leaving from Fenway bound for Fort Myers, pitchers and catchers will be reporting, and we’ll be off again for another year of baseball. It’s too early to begin to make predictions but, right now, the Sox look to be the team to beat, at least in the Eastern Division.

THE CY YOUNG AWARD

In 1956, Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick initiated the Cy Young Award to recognize the best pitcher in baseball each year. For the first eleven years, the Award was given to only one player from all of baseball. In 1956, after Frick left office, the Award was expanded to include the best pitchers from each league.

Cy Young pitched for 22 years, from 1890 until 1911. He began his career with the Cleveland Spiders of the original National League before there were two leagues, and was assigned to the St. Louis Perfectos, also in the National League, before the 1899 season.

He was with the Perfectos in 1899 and 1900 before jumping to the Boston Americans in the new American League in 1901. He stayed with the Americans until 1908, the year they became the Red Sox, when he was traded to the Cleveland Naps, also an American League Team. In 1911, he was released by the Naps part way through the season and signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Rustlers, later the Braves. He finished the year there and retired after the season.

In his career, he won the most games in the history of baseball, 511, and also lost the most, 316. He started the most games, 815, had the most complete games, 749, and the most innings pitched, 7,356, of any pitcher in history. Baseball was, of course, a much different game in those days.

The winner of the Award is selected by a vote of fifteen members of the Baseball Writers Association of America one from each team, in each league. Each voter selects five pitchers, ranking them from 1-5, and the winner is determined by a weighted score for each player depending upon where they are ranked.

This week, sixty years after the first Cy Young was given, Rick Porcello became the fourth Red Sox pitcher to receive the Award. In one of the closest votes ever, he beat out Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. Verlander, with a 16-9 record and a 3.04 ERA this year had previously won the Award in 2011. Kluber was 18-9 this year with a 3.14 ERA and had won the Award in 2014.

Porcello, of course, won 22 and lost just 4, including winning eight of his last nine decisions, down the stretch, this year. He had a 3.15 ERA, and had averaged just 1.3 walks per nine innings and 6 2/3 innings per start for 33 starts while being a major reason the Sox won the Eastern Division before losing to the Indians in the Division Series.

After the debacle that was 2015, his first year with the Red Sox, when Porcello won just 9 and lost 15 for a .375 win/loss percentage, he reached the potential he had shown when with the Detroit Tigers, pitching behind Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and even David Price. Only one pitcher in American League history has ever won a Cy Young Award after having a lower win/loss percentage the previous year. Jim Palmer, the Orioles Hall of Famer, won the Award in 1975 with a 23-11 record after posting a 7-12 record for a

.368 win/loss percentage in 1974. He had won the Award with a 22-9 record, in 1973, the year before his terrible 1974 record and won it again in 1976 with a 22-13 record.

While with Detroit, from 2009 to 2014, Porcello had won 10 or more games every year and has now won 107 and lost 82 and has started 27 or more games every year for eight years. At age 27, he should have many productive years ahead of him and he is under contract with the Sox until he becomes eligible for Free Agency in 2020. The $95.+ million dollar, five year contract he signed with the Sox looks like a much better deal now than it did in 2015.

The first winner, in 1956, was Don Newcombe of the then Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves Warren Spahn won it the next year to become the first left hander to win the Award. The first Red Sox pitcher to win the Award was Jim Lonborg, who won in 1967, the first year there were two awards given, with a 22-9 record and a 3.16 ERA. Roger Clemens won it when with the Red Sox three times, in 1986 with a 24-4 record, 1987, 20-9 and 1991, 18-10. Pedro Martinez won it with the Sox in 1990, with a 23-4 record and again in 2000, with an 18-6 record.

Clemens won the Award seven times in his career, the most in history. In addition to his wins with the Sox, he won it with Blue Jays in 1997 and 1998, with the Yankees in 2001 and with the Astros, in the National League, in 2004. Randy Johnson, The Big Unit, won it five times and Jim Carlton and Greg Maddux won it four times each.

The 2015 Cy Young winners were Jake Arrieta, of the Chicago Cubs in the National League with a 22-6 record and Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros, 20-8.

There has been much controversy over the years since the Cy Young began, over whether a pitcher should also be eligible for the MVP Award, since there is a specific Award for pitchers. Over the years, there have been 10 instances when the Cy Young winner also won the MVP Award, the latest being Justin Verlander who won both in 2011 with Detroit when he won both with a record of 24-5.

Other winners of both Awards, in the same year, in the American League were Denny McLain, of Detroit, in 1968, Vida Blue, Oakland, 1971, Rollie Fingers, Milwaukee, 1981, Willie Hernandez, Detroit, 1984, Clemens, Boston, 1986, and Dennis Eckersley, Oakland, 1992. There have been only three multiple winners in the National League, all from the Dodgers, Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1963 and Clayton Kershaw, L. A. Dodgers, 2014.

The Award has only been shared in one year, 1969, in the American League, when Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar, 23-11, and Detroit’s Denny McLain, 24-9, tied in the vote with 42% each and were named Co-winners. A tie has never occurred in National League voting.

Rick Porcello has proven that he is as good as the Red Sox hoped he would be when they signed him as a Free Agent. Now, if David Price can regain the form that he showed prior to his first year in Boston, the Sox will have gone from a pitching staff with no Ace to one with two. The future for the Red Sox looks a lot better than it did a year ago and Rick Porcello will be a big part of that future.

(From Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash from first to home to win the 1946 World Series to Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych’s meteoric rise and fall, my latest book contains 50 essays about major events and players in baseball, both historical and contemporary.  It’s available on Amazon, Kindle and Independent Book Stores or signed by emailing me at baseballworldbjt@yahoo.com.)

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MOOKIE FOR M V P

This coming Thursday, at 6:00 P. M., the Most Valuable Player Awards for both the American and National Leagues 2016 seasons will be announced on the MLB Network beginning at 6:00 p. m.

Of course, the American League Most Valuable Player Award is of most interest to Red Sox fans as Mookie Betts is one of three finalists for the Award. The other two finalists are Jose Altuve, the Astros second baseman, and Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels’ center fielder.

Betts, in just his second full year in Major League Baseball, had a career year in 2016. In addition to finishing second in the American League batting race, at .318, just one point ahead of team mate Dustin Pedroia, 19 points behind Altuve and 3 points ahead of Trout, he had some other impressive numbers.

He led all of baseball in total bases with 359, at bats with 672 and finished second in all of baseball, again behind Altuve, with 216 hits. With 42 doubles, he was tied for sixth in all of baseball with, who else, Altuve, and two others. His 113 runs batted in placed him sixth in all of baseball. With 26 stolen bases in 30 attempts, for an 86.6% success rate, he was sixth in all of baseball. He also hit 31 home runs, had a .363 on base percentage and a .534 slugging average.

In the field, playing almost exclusively in right field, he played 157 games of his team’s 162, led American League outfielders in fielding percentage, with .997, handling 361 chances with just one error. He also was second in assists by an outfielder in the American League with 14 and, if you watched the Sox play at all this season, you know that he made several spectacular catches in those 361 chances. This week, he was named the only Red Sox player to receive a Gold Glove Award and was the only one of the three MVP finalists to be so honored.

On the other hand, Jose Altuve, the Astros 26 year old, 5’6”, 165 pound, second baseman, led the league in hitting for the second time in three years with a .338 average.

He also had 24 home runs and 96 RBI’s and stole 30 bases but was caught 10 times for a 75% success rate. He played in 161 games.

In the field, he handled 574 chances with 7 errors for a .988 fielding percentage. Houston finished in third place in the American League West with a record of 84-78, eleven games out of first.

Mike Trout, who has been a finalist for the MVP Award in three of his four years in the Big Leagues, 2012, 2013 and 2015, and won it in 2014, had another great year. He hit for a .315 average, fifth best in the league, and led the league in runs scored with 123, bases on balls with 116 and on base percentage with .441 and played in 159 games.

He had 29 homers and 100 runs batted in and was 30 for 37 in stolen base attempts. In the field, he committed four errors in 371 chances for a .989 fielding percentage and had just 7 outfield assists. His Los Angeles Angels finished in fourth place in the American League West with a 74-88 record, 21 games out of first.

On the surface, the three look almost even and deciding who deserves the Award most would appear to be a difficult decision. When you look at the rules of voting for the Baseball Writers Association of America, which determines the winner, it becomes even more difficult.

The prelude to the rules of voting states, ‘There is no clear cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Payer in each league to his team (italics added). The MVP need not come from a Division Winner or other playoff qualifier.’

It goes on to state that ‘The rules of voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931.

  1. The actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
  2. Number of games played.
  3. General character, loyalty and effort.’

Two representatives on the BBWAA of America from each Major League city vote for the MVP of the league in which their team plays, making 30 ballots for each league. The voters name their top ten choices and points are assigned for each time a player is named depending upon his rank on the list, from 1-10. The three finalists are the players with the highest total points and the winner the player with the most points.

Picking among the three finalists in this case is not made much simpler by the guidelines above. Their strengths of offense and defense are fairly equal according to the numbers. All three seldom missed a game.

It is the third category that, in my opinion, gives Betts the edge and perhaps this is where my experience colors my judgment. Having watched Betts far more often than the others, I have a hard time imagining that, as hard as the other two play, anyone could give more to his team than Mookie did this year.

Whether running from first to third or second to home when he immediately realized a base was uncovered, sliding between two other players to make a spectacular catch of a sure base hit or making a perfect throw to third to cut down a runner like Kevin Kiermaier at third from deep right field, or doing the many other things that his natural instincts and talents give him the ability to do, Mookie gave it his all, from start to finish. No one works harder at improving his game daily than he and it shows in his contributions to a young team that won their Division.

Scan0001Mookie Betts should get this award. To paraphrase the old John Houseman commercial for Smith Barney ‘ He got it the old fashioned way, he earned it.’