Boston Red Sox: Best players on the worst teams the last 20 years
2001 – Trot Nixon
Team record: 82-79 (second in AL East)
Any time both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez go down with injuries, you know you’re in for a rough ride. Add that to the firing of Jimy Williams, who had piloted the ’98 and ’99 teams to postseason appearances amidst numerous folksy quips, for curmudgeonly pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, and you’ve got a real whopper.
A number of disgruntled veterans would be kicked to the curb after this one. Adios Dante Bichette, Mike Lansing, Carl Everett, Troy O’Leary, and others.
The first year of the Manny Ramirez Project went as expected. He bopped to the tune of 41 homers and 125 RBI, earning his unheard of (for Boston) $20 million annually salary and introducing New England to a spate of behaviors that would later be known as “Manny Being Manny.”
Hideo Nomo tossed a no-hitter in his first Red Sox start, the first for a Boston pitcher since Dave Morehead in 1965. About the only other thing the team did right was convert Derek Lowe to a starter, as the former closer pitched 16 innings over three starts down the stretch, allowing just two runs on 12 hits and striking out 15. Lowe would win 21 games the following season.
But 2001 was the year Trot Nixon finally lived up the the hype generated as a first-round draft pick in 1993. He hit .280 with 27 homers and 88 RBI, at age 27 finally looking like the middle-of-the-order, everyday right fielder fans had waited to see since his first cup of coffee in ’96.
Sure, Trot took Roger Clemens deep to break a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of a Sunday Night Baseball game in 2000 and had shown flashes in a platoon with Troy O’Leary, but 2001 was the year it all came together. Nixon had a solid curtain call in ’02 and posted a career-high 5.1 WAR in ’03 before injuries began to take their toll.