Boston Red Sox: 11 Greats That Made Inauspicious Exits
The Boston Red Sox are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, let alone baseball.
Many great players have come and gone; some with a hero's goodbye, some with a handshake and a pat on the back and some that fans forget ever called Fenway Park home.
These guys are none of the above.
While some on this list are still looked at fondly, just with a bit of tarnish on an otherwise pristine career in Boston, others are regarded as some of the most vile human beings to ever pick up a glove.
Oh, and then there's that guy who caused an 86-year curse.
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Had the Red Sox not ended their World Series drought in 2004, this list would begin and end with George Herman Ruth.
On December 26, 1919, Ruth, fresh off a season in which he won nine of his 17 starts with a 2.97 ERA and swatted a league-leading 29 home runs and 114 RBI, was sold to the New York Yankees so that former Red Sox owner Harry Frazee could finance the Broadway play No, No, Nanette.
You know the rest.
The move is essentially the true starting point for what has been the most intense rivalry in sports and the talk of every generation of Red Sox fans since.
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Easily the most popular player in Boston in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nomar Garciaparra looked to be not only cementing himself as a player worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, but headed toward a Hall of Fame career.
As a 23-year-old rookie, Garciaparra led the league with 209 hits and added 30 home runs. The following year, he upped his total to 35 and increased his average to .323. The next two seasons, the shortstop led the league with averages of .357 and .372.
In 2001, he played just 21 games due to injury. He was never the same after that.
While his 2002 and 2003 seasons were both All-Star years, based on how fast he progressed earlier in his tenure they should have been legendary, as Garciaparra was in the prime of his career.
In 2004, general manager Theo Epstein pulled the most drastic move he made while in office in Boston, shipping the shortstop to the Chicago Cubs in a three-team deal.
Just like that, he was gone.
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Long before his Sugar Land Skeeters career, Roger Clemens wore a Boston Red Sox uniform.
And he wore it well.
The right-handed hurler stands as one of, if not the, best pitcher in Boston history. In 13 seasons with the team that drafted him 19th overall in 1983, Clemens compiled 192 wins.
So why does he make this list?
Despite being offered what former general manager Dan Duquette called "by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise" (via Boston Herald, h/t pqasb.pqarchiver.com), Clemens instead chose to sign with the Blue Jays for a four-year, $40 million deal.
It felt like a slap in the face to Red Sox fans.
Throw in his two stints with the Yankees and, until recently, Clemens was public enemy No. 1 around these parts.
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Manny, Manny, Manny.
After Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz combined to take over a lot of the fan favoritism in the post-Garciaparra days, only one of them cared enough about how the Boston faithful looked at them to not be a complete tool.
(Hint: It wasn't Ramirez.)
After signing a mega eight-year, $160 million deal in December of 2000, Ramirez immediately became the focal point of Boston's offense and continued to mash the ball for the better part of a decade.
Sure, the hijinx that went along with it were cute at first. A cutoff of Johnny Damon in the outfield here, a bone-headed baserunning blunder there; it was all good.
Until he stopped running out ground balls and started pushing elderly traveling secretaries.
Shortly after his incident in the clubhouse with 64-year-old Jack McCormick, Ramirez was shipped to the Dodgers and the Boston division of Tylenol suddenly went bankrupt three months later.
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Offensively, Mo "The Hit Dog" Vaughn is considered the Manny Ramirez of the '90s in that pitchers were afraid to pitch to them because of how deadly they were.
His behavior was just as disastrous.
After a tumultuous final season in Boston in which he allegedly punched a man in the mouth outside a club and crashed his truck after a late night strip club rendezvous, Vaughn's relationship with ownership and Duquette was strained at best.
Following the 1998 season, the first baseman immediately signed a six-year, $80 million contract with the Angels, the highest contract in the game at the time.
Boston may have dodged a bullet, as Vaughn went on to play in only parts of the next five years, missing the entire 2001 season due to injury.
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Jonathan Papelbon, the outspoken, Irish-step-dancing closer who led the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2007, was one of a kind.
But even he knew when to abandon ship, leaving Boston after last September's collapse to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for four years and $50 million.
Despite being the Red Sox's career leader in saves and the first-ever Boston pitcher to record two 30-save seasons, Papelbon is looked at as a coward by some who see him as a disloyal money chaser.
It's hard to blame the 31-year-old, though.
Would you have stayed?
Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield
While still looked upon positively by most of Red Sox Nation, there's one stretch of both of their respective careers that they wish never happened.
And that's last September.
It isn't talked about enough; how, despite being the team's captain, Varitek appeared to do nothing to straighten out the clubhouse at the end of last season...nor did Wakefield, the longest-tenured Red Sox at that point, step in when his fellow pitchers were drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games.
These two are still some of the greatest Boston players of their generation, but that piece of their career will always remain.
They both went out in the lowest of the low lights.
Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford
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Josh Beckett: from World Series hero, to the most hated player to wear a Red Sox uniform, while still wearing it.
Adrian Gonzalez: from "He's worth trading our two best prospects for," to "Well, we have to throw him in to get rid of the other guys."
Carl Crawford: from the cornerstone of the Boston outfield for the next seven years to injury-prone financial blunder.
When all three of these players were shipped out of town in late August, fans rejoiced.
The most inauspicious exits of all.