To commemorate the likelihood of Grady Sizemore winning the Red Sox center field job, one of the members of our Bosox Injection staff decided to put up a hash tag on Twitter recently called #RedSoxScrapHeap to honor this possibility.
The idea was to encourage readers and staff to think back in time to their favorite Red Sox reclamation project, ala Sizemore, that actually turned out to have some positive impact on the franchise after being brought to the team as an afterthought. Sizemore, depending on his performance in 2014, may be the next member to join this group.
For me this club is led by one man, and one man only, and that is former first baseman Nick Esasky who had a magical one year run in Boston in 1989.
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in December 1988, along with relief pitcher Rob Murphy, in exchange for first baseman Todd Benzinger and righthander Jeff Sellers, among others, Esasky had been a serviceable player the first six years of his career with the Reds. His slash line from 1983-88 read .245/.324/.759 with an OPS+ of 106 and averages of 15 HR and 63 RBI per season.
As I recall, the trade was made to improve the Sox at first base with more of a power threat in Esasky. He was a more established player than Benzinger at that point but certainly no superstar, despite being a former number one draft pick of the Reds in 1978.
But he played like one once he got to Boston.
On a mediocre Sox team that finished in third place at 83-79, Esasky simply blew the doors off the American League.
He hit .277/.355/.855 with career highs in doubles (26), home runs (30) and RBI (108). He finished 18th in the AL MVP voting, quickly became a fan favorite for his incredibly surprising performance and was probably the main reason the Sox managed a winning record in ‘89.
But then, just as quickly as he burst onto the scene, he was gone.
Esasky parlayed his great season into a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. He signed a 3-year, $5.6 million deal in November 1989 but, sadly, was never to be heard from again in baseball.
He developed vertigo from an ear infection and had to retire from baseball after playing only nine games with the Braves. It was one of the oddest ends to a career of any major leaguer that I can recall. One minute he was a budding star and the next minute it was over.
I think the Esasky story is one of the best and worst stories in the annals of baseball history. He finally broke through as a possible budding star in the game and then his health betrayed him and he lost his career.
The fact that his best days were spent in Boston in ’89 after a pretty nondescript career up to that point make him, to me, the ultimate member of the Red Sox Scrap Heap.
Who is yours? Go to Twitter, use the hash tag #RedSoxScrapHeap and let us know!