Tagged: shortstop

March 22 – Happy Birthday Billy Goodman

Billy Goodman FrontThe reporters covering Red Sox baseball back in the late forties and early fifties used to call it “the Goodman problem.” Each year, when Boston opened its spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida, whoever happened to be managing the club that year was bound to be asked the same question during his first interview with the press, “Where you going to play Billy Goodman this season?” As one Boston manager after another found out, it was a great problem to have.

The son of a North Carolina farmer, Goodman was a three-sport star in high school and a veteran of WWII. After he put together two great seasons in the Southern Assocoiation, the Red Sox signed him for $75,000, which was a huge amount of money back in 1947. He made the parent club’s roster permanently by 1948 and began a 15-year big league career as one of the most versatile position players of all-time. During his decade as a Red Sox he started at every position except pitcher and catcher and played them all well.

But Goodman’s calling card was his crafty work at the plate. He had little power but he could hit the ball hard and he rarely struck out. In 1950 he won the AL batting title with a .354 average, the only player in big league history to do so without playing as many as 50 games in any one position on the field. Boston had an all-star-laden lineup back then and Goodman was used to back up most of them. During his days at Fenway he filled in long stretches for Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Walt Dropo.

When he was traded to the Orioles for pitcher Mike Fornieles in June of 1957, Goodman’s career lifetime average as a Red Sox was .306 and his on-base-percentage for Boston was a robust .386, good enough to place him 13th and 14th respectively on the franchise’s all-time leader lists in those two categories. He continued playing until 1962 and then became a long-time coach and instructor at the minor league level. He died from skin cancer at the age of 58 in 1984.

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March 16 – Happy Birthday Stephen Drew

drewIt sort of seems that Stephen Drew may be getting a bit of fraternal free agent payback from Lady Luck. This native of Valdosta, Georgia seemed to be on his way to a sizable free agent contract, when he broke his ankle sliding into home during a Diamondback-Brewer game back in June of 2011, ending his season. A collegiate All-American at Florida State, Drew had been Arizona’s first round pick in the 2005 draft and had been that team’s starting shortstop since his July 15, 2006 big league debut. He had put together four good but not great seasons for the D-Backs before the injury but at the time of the mishap, he was hoping his super-agent, Scott Boras could do for him what he had done for Stephen’s older brother, J.D. a few years earlier.

Boras had somehow convinced the Red Sox to give the elder Drew a five-year, $70 million payday for what had been only a slightly-better-than average nine-year big league career. But that broken ankle had disrupted the younger brother’s career and the agent’s eventual free agent sales pitch. Slow-to-recover from the injury, when Arizona got off to a bad start in 2012, the team’s front-office eventually accused Drew of purposely dogging his re-hab and setting his sights on becoming a free agent after that season instead of trying to get himself back into action before it ended.

As you might imagine, the relationship between the team and player soured after that and the Diamondbacks ended up trading Drew to the A’s for a shortstop prospect named Sean Jamieson in August of that 2012 season. Though he was the best shortstop available in that fall’s free agent class, the best deal Boras could come up with was the one-year offer from the Red Sox.

While Drew didn’t have a great year in Boston in 2013, his defensive ability stood out and he came away with a ring. I honestly thought he’d re-sign with the Red Sox, especially after they made him a qualifying offer to do so but Boras got him to think differently and he’s still looking for a better deal. As I inferred way up top, the younger Drew and Boras may be getting some free agency bad luck as payback for all the good fortune the older Drew and Boras received a half-decade earlier.

March 13 – Happy Birthday Mike Aviles

AvilesOne cannot blame any citizen of Red Sox nation for wanting to obliterate any trace of Boston’s nightmare 2012 season from their memory banks. That of course is impossible because the one-year-reign of Bobby Valentine as Boston’s skipper produced as many negative and bizarre headlines as it did entries on the right side of the team’s won-lost record. If there were any bright spots, however, the performance of today’s Beantown Birthday Celebrant would be considered one of them.

Mike Aviles was born in New York City in 1981 and evolved into the seventh-round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals 22 years later. It took him five seasons of minor league ball to make the Royals’ big league roster but when he did in 2008, he was more than ready. He won the starting shortstop’s job that year and in 102 games he averaged .325 with 10 home runs, 51 RBIs and finished fourth in the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year voting.

He was then invited to play for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Championship. While doing so he injured his arm and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, pretty much wiping out his sophomore season with the Royals. He did bounce back the following year, hitting .305, but when he got off to a slow start in 2011, he was traded to Boston for a couple of prospects. He then became one of the few Sox players who performed well during the final months of that Sox-plosion season, hitting .317 as the team’s primary utility infielder. Valentine then selected Aviles to replace Marco Scutaro as the team’s starting shortstop in 2012 and he set career high’s in home runs (13) and RBIs (60).

Though he was no longer on the roster when Boston turned it all around and won the World Series a year later, Aviles did make a huge contribution to that championship. He was the guy Boston  traded to Toronto during the 2013 postseason for Blue Jays’ manager John Farrell. Toronto then turned right around and traded him to Cleveland where Aviles helped former Boston manager Tino Francona get the Indians back to the playoffs in 2013.

Aviles is the nephew of one-time big league infielder Ramon Aviles.