Boston Red Sox: The All-"Ungraceful Exit" Team (Updated with Kevin Youkilis)
Kevin Youkilis played his final game with the Red Sox yesterday. He got a pair of hits, including a triple, made some nice defensive plays at third base and left the game to a thunderous and emotional standing ovation.
Do not be fooled by the day's events. This was not a graceful exit by Youk. This was a farewell filled with anger, a sense of betrayal and pettiness from the organization.
Or as the Red Sox call it, "Business as usual."
The Red Sox like to portray themselves as warm and cozy as Fenway Park. In truth, they have been heartless and callous with many beloved players for several generations. Remember how many Red Sox legends failed to show up at the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park?
About a month ago, I created the All Ungrateful Exit Red Sox team, a 25-man roster of players who left the team in a huff and with a chip on their shoulder.
Now it is updated to include Youkilis.
There's a starting player at each position, a five-man rotation, a five-man bullpen and a six-player bench. Also, there's a coaching staff and front office of disgruntled managers and GMs as well.
Welcome to the club, Youk. As you can see, there are some pretty big names on this list.
Starting Catcher: Carlton Fisk
New England’s favorite son and 1975 World Series hero clashed with GM Haywood Sullivan over money. The Red Sox front office mailed his contract a day late, making him a free agent after the 1980 season. He wound up being a free agent and spending more years in Chicago instead of Boston.
He seemed to hit a home run every time he returned to Fenway Park and was an All-Star as late as 1991.
Starting First Baseman: Kevin Youkilis
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The beloved "Youk," aka The Greek God of Walks, played hard and with endearing intensity. He put up terrific numbers, especially in the 2007 postseason, and his gritty play and unusual batting stance made him one of the most popular players in recent Red Sox history.
But his place within the organization soured in 2011. He was believed to be the source who ratted out his teammate starting pitchers who were pounding chicken and beer during the great collapse down the stretch of the '11 season. And things went from bad to worse when new manager Bobby Valentine questioned his intensity at the start of the 2012 season.
The emergence of Will Middlebrooks at third made him expendable. Soon his playing time became sporadic and it was clear that the home-grown Red Sox star had to go.
He was dealt for pennies on the dollar to the White Sox with lingering animosity towards Boston's new manager.
Starting Second Baseman: Mark Bellhorn
Bellhorn went on a home run barrage to help sink the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and won Game 1 of the World Series with his eighth-inning home run. He was arguably the most valuable player of the curse-breaking World Series.
He had a slow 2005 and was cut during midseason. He went on to finish the season (and play in the division series) as a member of the Yankees…the same team who he helped sink the previous October.
Starting Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra
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His name, unpronounceable in New England, became a rallying cry for seven seasons. He was a beloved and extraordinarily talented player. He was a home-grown superstar who, with a month to go in 2003, looked like he was going to win the AL MVP.
Then in the offseason, he turned down a contract extension and found himself in the middle of a three-way trade that would have sent him to the White Sox and send Alex Rodriguez to Boston. The deal was voided by the league, and the relationship was ruined.
The beloved Nomar sulked and was hurt in 2004, and the fans who would scream "No-MAH!" felt it was time to go. The great irony was that for so many years, Sox fans felt that Garciaparra would be the one to lead the team to the title. Then, his trade to the Cubs was looked as the final piece that got the team over the hump.
He has since patched up his relationship with the Red Sox, but his fall from icon to Pariah was so fast it was startling.
Starting Third Baseman: Wade Boggs
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After 11 seasons in Boston where he hit .338 overall and won five batting titles and collected 2,098 hits, the future Hall of Famer was non-tendered after a subpar 1992 season. No trade. No contract offer out of respect. The Red Sox said, "You were the best pure hitter in baseball for a decade. Don't let the door hit your butt on the way out."
Boggs responded by joining the Yankees, rediscovering his stroke and Gold Glove ability and winning his lone World Series title. Despite all of the great moments in Boston, Boggs won his ring (and rode a horse) in the Bronx and got his 3,000 hit in Tampa.
The Red Sox have never retired Boggs' number despite meeting the team's requirements of 10 years with the team and a Hall of Fame induction. His number is retired in Tampa Bay—the team, no doubt, most people associate him with.
Starting Left Fielder: Manny Ramirez
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Can you imagine going back in time and trying to explain to Red Sox fans of the past about the curious case of Manny Ramirez?
Having to say "Yeah, he put up amazing numbers, hit clutch homers and had a larger than life personality. And he was the MVP of the World Series—the one Red Sox fans could only dream of for generations. And he helped win a second one as well."
They would say "Oh my Gosh! He must be the most beloved sports figure in Boston history!"
And the correct response would be, "Oh no. He's a pariah and reviled."
A lot of heads would be scratching.
But Manny Ramirez was like a trip to Las Vegas. It was fun at first. Then, it got dangerous, but still exciting. Then, it got strange and caused us all to look around and say, "This is going to end OK, right?"
And finally it just had to end or else it was going to get really ugly. Then again, pushing an old guy to the floor and lying about knee injuries was pretty ugly. He was traded to the Dodgers in the 2008 stretch run and the Red Sox breathed a sigh of relief.
Ask Indians fans and Dodger fans about their experience with Ramirez. It was eerily similar.
Starting Center Fielder: Johnny Damon
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The personification of the long-haired, free-spirited idiots who slayed the curse, Johnny spoke in his book about his loyalty to Boston and how he would never play for the Yankees…and then, he signed with the Yankees before the 2006 season.
The Sox wouldn’t give five years to him, thinking he wouldn’t be able to keep playing center field. Later, he was quoted about being a Yankee, saying “Now I’m in a place that actually wants me.”
Starting Right Fielder: Dwight Evans
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One of the great Red Sox of all time, Evans was the only player who played in the postseason for the Sox in 1975, 1986, 1988 and 1990.
An eight-time Gold Glover, he was the only AL hitter to get 20 or more homers each year of the 1980s.
So naturally after 19 seasons, he was released to make room for Jack Clark.
Evans finished his career as a part-time DH for the 1991 Baltimore Orioles. Seeing him in an Orioles uniform just didn't look right.
Designated Hitter: Mo Vaughn
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Another beloved native New Englander, Vaughn clashed with the front office.
Dan Duquette and company had a hard time with a popular AL MVP who did charity and helped heal the racial tensions of the organization.
It became so toxic that his free-agent defection was expected even before the 1998 playoffs.
He went to the Angels and was never the same after injuries and weight issues derailed his career.
Starting Pitcher 1: Roger Clemens
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Dan Duquette was an undeniably talented GM, but he loved to pick fights with top players.
He clashed with Roger Clemens throughout a very public contract squabble in 1996. On one hand, Clemens was 33, which is right around the time pitchers start to decline. On the other hand, he was tied for the all-time win total in Red Sox history with Cy Young and won three awards named after Young
He also led the league in strikeouts in 1996.
Clemens left for Toronto for the 1997 season, and Duquette said he was in the twilight of his career. Clemens responded with back-to-back Cy Young seasons.
He would go on to win four Cy Youngs after leaving Boston, giving him seven overall and becoming more identified with the Yankees than with the Red Sox
Now, how Clemens injected his motivation is currently under investigation. But the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history was always welcomed back with a chorus of boos.
Starting Pitcher 2: Bill Lee
Bill Lee's struggles with all baseball authority is chronicled in the wonderful documentary Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey.
The leader of the rebellious Buffalo Heads, Lee made manager Don Zimmer's life hell. Zimmer responded by not pitching him down the stretch in 1978—that fateful year where the Red Sox lost to Bucky "Bleeping" Dent.
He was shipped off to the Expos after the 1978 debacle for seldom-used utility infielder Stan Papi. Lee won 17 games his first year in Montreal while the 1979 Red Sox desperately needed starting pitching depth.
Starting Pitcher 3: Bruce Hurst
The postseason ace in 1986 gave the Red Sox two No. 1 starters (along with Clemens) when they won the 1988 “Morgan’s Magic” division title.
But management and GM Lou Gorman got cheap all of a sudden after the 1988 ALCS and Hurst left the Sox for the Padres.
They could have used that second ace in the 1990 playoffs.
Starting Pitcher 4: Luis Tiant
If the Yankees had not broken enough New England hearts in 1978, they added insult to injury in the offseason.
Luis Tiant, the most beloved Red Sox pitcher of his generation and the man who was the pitching hero of the 1975 World Series and forced the one game playoff in 1978, left Boston for the Bronx.
During the 1979 season, his first in New York, he did a series of hot dog commercials where he said "It's good to be with a Weiner!"
Even two World Series titles later, that still hurts.
Starting Pitcher 5: Fergie Jenkins
Jenkins did not have the best seasons in his Hall of Fame career in Boston.
But he was in Don Zimmer’s doghouse because he was one of the Buffalo Heads along with Bill Lee. The Red Sox traded him back to Texas for John Poloni, who had played in a total of two major league games.
Poloni never played a game in Boston while Jenkins went 18-8 in Texas in 1978. It's safe to say the Red Sox could have used a pitcher of Jenkins' ability down the stretch while they were fighting the Yankees.
Reliever 1: Jonathan Papelbon
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Papelbon made his debut with the 2005 Red Sox as they struggled to cling to a playoff spot and defend their World Series title. Fans instantly loved him for his enthusiasm and ability to get big outs.
When he took over as the closer in 2006, the Red Sox had a dynamic new star. He seemed to represent everything fun about the post-curse Red Sox. He did not have 86 years of misery on his shoulders. He was brash, fun and dancing jigs all the while getting big outs. And he clinched the 2007 ALCS and World Series for good measure.
But his final game for the Sox was the last day of the 2011 season in Baltimore. The Red Sox were up in the ninth inning, but Papelbon blew the save, and the great collapse was complete. He left for Philadelphia after the disastrous 2011 season.
He had harsh words to say about Red Sox fans when he arrived in Philly. Alas "shipping out to Boston" no longer was part of Fenway life.
Reliever 2: Keith Foulke
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Foulke was the single-most underrated hero from the 2004 title.
He literally risked his career throwing 14 innings (and throwing 257 pitches) that October and letting up one earned run in the process.
By 2005, his arm was shot as was his effectiveness. Fans started booing him, and he called Red Sox fans “Johnny from Burger King.”
His time in Boston ended on a sour note as he was an ineffective mop-up man with a terrible relationship with the fans and the media. All of this took place less than two years removed from delivering the highlight Red Sox fans had been waiting their whole lives for—a World Series title.
Reliever 3: Lee Smith
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Smith was one of the top closers in the game and helped lead the Sox to the 1988 division title. But before the 1990 season, with Smith still under contract, the Red Sox signed free agent Jeff Reardon.
Why did the Red Sox need two closers? Smith was dealt for Tom Brunansky. Not long after, the rumor mill said that Smith was a troublemaker.
The strange part about that was Smith never had a bad reputation in Chicago and did not have a bad reputation in St. Louis, Baltimore or California. He was only a troublemaker with the Yawkey family-led Red Sox.
Feel free to come to your own conclusion.
Reliever 4: Alan Embree
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Embree pitched well in the 2004 postseason, contributing to the highlight that so many Red Sox fans dreamed of. He threw the clinching pitch of the ALCS and began the celebration in Yankee Stadium.
A year later, he was cut in midseason, upsetting his bullpen mates. Embree wound up a member of the 2005 Yankees and seemed to take great pleasure in the Yankees clinching the division in Fenway.
Reliever 5: Bronson Arroyo
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Arroyo was a fan favorite starter and reliever. He was also a guitar playing heartthrob who loved playing in Boston. Against his agent's advice, he re-signed with the Red Sox after the 2005 season, to an extension well below his market value. Arroyo did not care about getting top dollar. He cared about staying with the Red Sox where he was content and was willing to take less money to remain in Boston.
He even said after he signed his extension that he hoped he would not be traded, according to ESPN. They all laughed. And before the season began, the Red Sox rewarded his loyalty by trading him.
He was shipped off to Cincinnati for Willy Mo Pena, who was a complete bust. Meanwhile Arroyo has pitched seven seasons for the Reds, making the All-Star team one year and winning 14 or more games four times.
After the 2010 season, he signed an extension with the Reds. They did not trade him afterwards.
Reserve: Jose Offerman
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Yes, Jose Offerman was once an All Star as a member of the Red Sox. He represented the Sox in the 1999 All-Star Game.
And by 2002, he was considered a cancer in the clubhouse and was cut in August. They cut him AFTER they finished a West Coast swing. Offerman lived on the West Coast, and the team flew him all the way back East to give him his walking papers, which led to a profanity laced, equipment throwing tirade.
Years later as a member of the independent Bridgeport Bluefish, he attacked another player with a bat. He seemed like a classy and stable guy.
Reserve: Doug Mientkiewicz
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Only us insane Red Sox fans could turn the guy who caught the final out in the 2004 World Series into a bad guy.
He caught the ball tossed to him by Foulke and decided to keep it…and who could blame Mientkiewicz?
Evidently, the Red Sox management could.
They unbelievably got into a lawsuit that needed to be mediated. They dealt him to the Mets after the 2004 World Series, and believe it or not, he became a villain to some Sox fans.
Reserve: Orlando Cabrera
Cabrera came over in the Nomar trade in July of 2004.
He gave the Red Sox stellar defense, got clutch postseason hits, helped deliver a title to Boston and seemed to fit in perfectly with the Boston clubhouse. So naturally, the Sox let him go. He left the team via free agency for the Angels after the 2004 World Series.
There were rumors of Cabrera doing inappropriate things and making management mad. Either way, Cabrera left and played in the postseason with the Angels, White Sox, Twins and Reds while the Red Sox had a revolving door of shortstops after 2004.
Reserve: Bernie Carbo
The most famous pinch-hitter in Red Sox history had 15 homers and an OPS of .931 as a part-time player in 1977.
But he was part of Bill Lee's Buffalo Heads—the group of players hell bent to make manager Don Zimmer's life hell. One by one, the Red Sox shipped off the Buffalo Heads. Carbo was sent to the Indians for cash. You'd think a solid player off the bench would warrant at least a player in return.
By the end of of 1978, all of the Buffalo Heads were gone. Bill Lee, Bernie Carbo, Fergie Jenkins and Jim Willoughby yielded one single player who only played one game with the Red Sox—infielder Stan Papi. They probably should have gotten more.
Reserve: Rich Gedman
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Like Carlton Fisk before him, Gedman was a native New Englander who got some big postseason hits. And also like Fisk, he had contract issues with the front office when free agency came calling.
The problem with Gedman's scenario was that he ran face first into collusion. Nobody would sign the two-time All-Star catcher in the 1986 offseason. He returned to the Red Sox in May of 1987, but he was never the same.
He was unceremoniously let go to the Astros during the 1990 season.
Reserve: Doug Mirabelli
It’s tough to put Mirabelli on here seeing how the Red Sox kept him employed for many years longer than any other team would…mainly because he could actually catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. That lone talent had him start Game 1 of the 2004 World Series and get a pair of World Series rings.
The Sox decided to go with Kevin Cash instead of Mirabelli for the 2008 season. That was a sound business decision, but why couldn’t they make that decision before spring training?
He accepted his 2007 World Series ring on Opening Day, but he wouldn’t wear his uniform.
Manager: Terry Francona
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Francona was a classy and respected figure who did the impossible. He managed the Red Sox team that not only ended the dreaded curse, but did so when their backs were against the wall versus the Yankees. And for good measure, he won another World Series title.
Perhaps, after eight seasons, it was time to move on. Perhaps Francona's job was done, and both sides should have parted ways. But the nastiness by the Red Sox front office and the smear campaign against the greatest manager the team ever had made the organization seem petty.
With Bobby Valentine managing less-than-stellar results, it was Francona who got the biggest cheers when he returned to Fenway during the 100th anniversary celebration. He originally was not going to go, but he probably relished the crowd's approval.
Coaching Staff: Kevin Kennedy
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Kennedy managed the Sox to a surprising division title in 1995.
In 1996, a series of ill-conceived deals gave Kennedy about 10 DHs and a decrepit bullpen. Kennedy turned the 1996 season around after a bad start and contended until the last weekend.
But he clashed with Dan Duquette (see a pattern here?); Kennedy was dumped and has been a mainstay in the broadcast booth ever since.
Coaching Staff: Tommy Harper
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The Elk’s Club of Winter Haven, Florida invited some of the Red Sox team and management to an event. Tommy Harper wasn’t invited.
Why? It was a white-only establishment. Tommy Harper complained to the media. So what did the Yawkey-run Red Sox do? They fired Harper.
He sued and won an anti-discrimination case. This wasn’t in the distant Jim Crow past. This was in 1985.
Harper eventually returned to the team, but the stench of the Yawkeys hung over the team for years.
Coaching Staff: Joe Kerrigan
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Joe Kerrigan was caught in the middle of the Jimy (sic) Williams and Dan Duquette squabble in 2001. When Jimy (sic) was fired, pitching coach Kerrigan was inserted as manager. The Red Sox were still contending then, but they lost 26 of the 43 games Kerrigan managed and fell from contention.
In the offseason with Duquette's role as GM in peril with new management emerging, Kerrigan remained the interim manager even though everyone knew he had zero chance in keeping that job for the 2002 season.
Everyone played into the charade until Duquette was fired, and Kerrigan went with him.
Front Office: Theo Epstein
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Other than Manny Ramirez, no other figure in the Red Sox championship years had a bigger fall from grace than Epstein.
At one point, he was the hero of New England. A young Red Sox fan took over the team, got the final pieces together and had the guts to pull the trigger on the Nomar trade. They won on his watch. He was the Red Sox answer to Billy Beane, seeing the value in Millar, Mueller and Ortiz. And they won again in 2007.
"In Theo We Trust" were words to live by.
Then, reality sank in. Bad moves, including Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, sunk in. Deals that helped deliver the 2007 title, like J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka, were long-term albatrosses.
By the time 2011 unfolded, John Lackey and Carl Crawford were big-time busts, and the Red Sox pitching staff was mind-numbingly thin despite their massive payroll. Most people felt that Epstein, and not Francona, should have been blamed for the collapse.
Epstein left the team a mess and went off to try and perform a second miracle by taking over the Cubs.
Front Office: Dan Duquette
The Richard Nixon of Red Sox history.
So very talented at his job (lest we forget he brought in, among others, Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Plus, he drafted Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Youkilis.)
But he was either so controlling or so destructive that he seemed to alienate the entire organization. And despite consistently putting a contender on the field, he was also on the attack against the Boston press, the players, and no doubt, cussed out Paul Revere’s statue in the process.
Whatever good he did for the team, he had to go. Remember, he was partially responsible for most of the above players leaving in a huff.