BSI’s Joe Meehan wrote an interesting article on the Boston Red Sox draft of 2005 and now the “Wayback Machine” can take us back to the Red Sox farm system of the 1950s.
The Boston Red Sox have one of the most promising and productive farm systems if one cares to believe the internal and external hype. This next wave of talent is to be blended into the existing core and produce a series of playoff teams for the next decade or so, as judicious spending is complemented by aggressive scouting and signings on the national and international level.
In the last fifteen or so years I have seen prospects come through the system that I knew, without any doubt, would be productive at the major league level. Hanley Ramirez, Lars Anderson, Xander Bogaerts, Ryan Lavarnway and a handful of others. This was, to me, the crème de la crème. Can’t miss.
In the early 1950s Lou Boudreau became manager of the Boston Red Sox and instituted a full-fledged youth movement under the auspices of Tom Yawkey’s almost bottomless pit of money.
The Red Sox invested significantly in scouting and the names of scouts Ted McGrew, Mace Brown and the legendary George Digby pop up. Most trace their Yawkey roots way back, but their assignment was simply to find the best available young talent and sign them. And sign they did. Yawkey made the current Yankees and Dodgers seem frugal.
Billy Consolo was a bonus baby signed right out of high school and brought to Boston at age 18. The stipulation at the time was any player signing for more than $4,000 had to be on the Major League roster: on-the-job training for bonus babies. In his ten years in the majors Consolo hit just .221. Signed to replace Bobby Doerr, Consolo was finished at age 28.
Milt Bolling came to the Red Sox in 1952 and played on a semi-regular basis in 1952-53. Bolling slashed .236/.238/.334 in the minors and never moved beyond that in seven Major League season. Gone by age 27.
Gene Stephens was later known as “Ted Williams’ Caddy” since he often replaced Williams late in games. Stephens, a lanky left-handed hitter, came to the Red Sox at age 19 and some pictured him as a future star. Stephens finished a pedestrian 12-year career with a slash of .240/.325/.355 – never reaching that potential. Projected power? Nine home runs in 1960 was his career high.
Ted Lepcio was a solidly built right-handed batter who was, hopefully, made for Fenway Park. After less than 100 games in the minors the 22 year-old Lepcio was brought to Boston as the starting second baseman in 1952. In ten major league seasons Lepcio finished at .245/.318/.398. Lepcio’s most productive season for power was 1956 when he went .261/15/51.
Marty Keough has a last name familiar with baseball and reality fans. Marty was a left-handed hitter projected to be a future star. Keough came to Boston in 1956. In 11 seasons in the bigs, Keough slashed .242/.309/.379. The power never developed.
Tom Brewer was signed by the Red Sox in 1951 and after a stint in the military joined Boston in 1954 at age 22. Brewer was a talented right-handed pitcher who went 91-82 with a 4.00 ERA in his eight Boston seasons. Arm injuries ended Brewer’s career at age 29.
Jim Pagliaroni was signed as a bonus baby and got into one game with Boston in 1955 at age 17. Pags returned to Boston in 1960 and in his four Boston years slashed .254/.357/.436 with 29 home runs and 109 RBI. A powerful right-handed hitting catcher, Pags was shipped off to Pittsburgh in a trade that featured Dick Stuart coming to Boston.
Norm Zauchin was the prototypical right-handed power bat the Red Sox have long had “Bette Davis Eyes” for. In 1955 Zauchin had a line of .239/27/93 and led the league with 105 K’s. That was the zenith of an unremarkable career. Seems eerily similar to a certain third baseman.
I could toss in Faye Throneberry, Dave Sisler, Don Buddin, Dick Gernert and at least a half-dozen others. I could easily create a sample bio on each, but what the signings represent is incredible promise that never reached fruition. A few were signed in the late 1940s, but most were the result of bonus signings and all had one thing in common – they never attained that stardom projected.
The idea was to blend in the most promising talent with a solid core of veterans such as Ted Williams, Billy Goodman, Jackie Jensen and many others. This would create a perpetual winning formula. Sound familiar?
So when I see the lackluster results of Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley, and Felix Doubront I think back to the 1950s and it is a real “back to the future” moment for me. Will this group and those to follow in the next few years be reminiscent of that crop from the 1950s?
The Red Sox have had a productive system for years with a few down spots – not unusual. Other teams value the prospects Boston has developed over the years and realize you will get value. With that value is risk. Promise means nothing if you can’t prove it.