Leave it to ESPN to lazily start something potentially great
…but not finish the job. Due to the New York Yankees – Boston series this weekend, the network decided to announce an “all-time” Yanks-Sox squad
…gee whiz– such a tough task to realize Yogi Berra, Ted Williams and Derek Jeter are among the best ever
at their respective positions! After filling the requisite 15-20 minutes and wasting the time of everyone
from Peter Gammons to Dave Winfield.
I’ll go one better…can you come up with a team of all time players who spent time at Fenway and in Pinstripes? Here’s my all-time Soxyank squad:
FIRST BASE: Bob Watson came to Boston in a 1979 mid-season trade…after hitting .337 and driving in 53 runs over 84 games the ex-Astro signed with the Yankees in the offseason as a free agent and had a decent (.307, 13, 68) first year in the Bronx… plus, he had the pivotal role in Bad News Bears Breaking Training (“Let them play! Let them play!”).
SECOND BASE: a very thin position has Mark Bellhorn the only crossover I could think of: the starter for the 2004 champs was waived the following summer only to be picked up by the Yanks…where he didn’t fare much better (.118 in the Bronx after hitting .216 with the Sox).
SHORTSTOP: Spike Owen leads another weak field… although he hit .366 in the 1986 postseason. The switch-hitting contact specialist was one of three former Texas Longhorns on the ’86 team (Clemens, Schiraldi). His 1993 campaign in the Bronx was nondescript.
THIRD BASE: Wade Boggs won four straight batting crowns in the 80’s and was pantsed in an episode of Cheers…the 90’s brought a guest appearance on The Simpsons and four straight years hitting .300 with the Yankees.
RIGHT FIELD: Babe Ruth ties it all together–he was on three World Championship teams in Beantown and the Yankees first four title squads…
CENTERFIELD: Johnny Damon gave Red Sox fans one of the best lines ever--“looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary”… but nobody questioned his bat.
LEFTFIELD: Rickey Henderson spent time with nine major league teams–it’s only fitting the Yankees were his second stop and the Red Sox were his second to last employer at the big league level.
CATCHER: for a rivalry defined by dueling catchers in the 70’s…there have been plenty of crossovers in this position–Jim Leyritz, Rick Cerone and even Elston Howard take a back seat to Mike Stanley…who much like Kelly Taylor on 90210 was seemingly passed around the AL East for the better part of a decade: he spent 1992 through 95 in pinstripes, the next season and a half near the Citgo sign before joining the NYY as a late-season pickup…and after fitting Toronto in Steve Sanders-like in 1998 went back for a second term with Boston in ’99.
DESIGNATED HITTER: Don Baylor for Mike Easler was the first trade between the two teams since the Danny Cater for Sparky Lyle fiasco…and paid big dividends in the 1986 AL Championship run despite George Steinbrenner saying “his bat will die by August”. Along with Easler there were two other big bats to consider– Jose Canseco and Jack Clark… who came to Boston as “Jack the Ripper”only to become “Jack the Whiffer” and leave not with a bang but as“Jack with a Whimper”.
Easler, Clark, Howard, Canseco, Leyritz and Cerone comprise the reserves…not a lot of variety, but there’s not a lot to choose from.
STARTING PITCHING: I’ll hold Babe Ruth out of the rotation because I want him as my everyday rightfielder:
1–Luis Tiant…the heart and soul of the Boston contending teams from 1972 through ’78… his offseason signing with the Yanks effectively the first domino to fall in the three year run that saw the dismantling of a near-champion…and he also smoked cigars in the shower… I still don’t know how the Sox let him go to the Bronx in ’79.
2–Red Ruffing…sign of the times in the 20’s and 30’s–a decent pitcher who was 57 games under five hundred for the Sox who became a Hall of Fame hurler (107 wins over break-even) for six world championship Yankee squads.
3–Roger Clemens…pitches third in the rotation because before, um, his “late-career surge”… he was ever so disappointing in the postseason.
4–Mike Torrez…helped deliver the Yanks their first world title in 15 years by winning two World Series games in 1977…helped the Yanks repeat as champion by allowing a home run to Bucky Dent in the playoff game for the AL East.
5–David Wells/David Cone… a lefty-righty combination with the non-starter on the short list for long-relief: each enjoyed a stellar Yankee career punctuated by perfect games… before going on to moderately successful but brief stops in Boston (Cone: 9-7 in one season; Wells: 17-10 over a year and a half) … and both spent the bulk of their careers with other teams (3 for Cone, 7 for Wells) … collecting rings with the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays.
SETUP MAN: Ramiro Mendoza… along with Ruth I believe the only man to win world titles with both teams–could spot-start as well as come out of the pen.
WASHED UP EX-CLOSERS: Lee Smith and Jeff Reardon both bounced around after
being the man in Boston before finding safe harbor in the Bronx; while Smith this was Reardon’s final stop.
CLOSER: Sparky Lyle…despite going from Cy Young to Sayonara when the Pinstripes signed Rich Gossage– the man who sat naked on birthday cakes was one of the games first dominant firemen.
MANAGER: Joe McCarthy…led the Yanks to 7 world titles before guiding the Red Sox to a pair of second place finishes over three years plus a 94 win season.
COACHES: Ralph Houk and Don Zimmer… Houk was at the helm of consecutive World Series Champs in 1961 and 62–before wrapping up his career in the Red Sox dugout in the 80’s. Zimmer turned into a wise sage as Joe Torre’s key advisor after a managerial career that included three straight 90+ win seasons in Boston.