Being a first round pick does not necessarily equate to an extended career of baseball success and Darnell McDonald never reached the height of the mountain projected for him.
A right-handed hitter with some excellent power and that power had the famed if he connects attached to it. So McDonald bounced around different organizations and the minors before an injury to Jacoby Ellsbury brought McDonald up from Pawtucket and what a beginning it was.
McDonald pinch hit and became one of the few players to hit a home run in his first Red Sox at-bat. McDonald’s four-bagger tied up the game at 6-6 and he won it with a walk-off RBI and that was the first time that had happened in Red Sox history. McDonald also entertained the Fenway crowd with a nice throw to nail a runner.
McDonald was a player who, despite not fulfilling his promise, just stuck around and became a contributor despite often been considered the 25th man on the roster.
Rags to riches and certainly persistent is Daniel Nava, who the Red Sox purchased for the princely sum of one dollar in 2008. Nava spent most of his baseball existence scuffling until the Red Sox brought Nava up I-95 from Pawtucket in 2010.
Nava certainly had a rather auspicious start in Boston with a grand slam and then played some outfield for the remainder of the season before – again – becoming expendable.
Nava didn’t curl up into a ball and retire, but kept plugging away and resurfaced in 2010. In 2011 it was back to the minors and in 2012 another recall. In 2013 Nava was spectacular, hitting .303 and playing some first base – a skill he honed in the previous few seasons to increase his value.
Nava is still around, playing for the Angels and is representative of an everyman possibility for players at all levels. If a player is in the minors for years there is always the possibility they could be the next Nava who slashed .267/.357/.387 in five Boston seasons. The poster player for hard work and persistence.
Jonny Gomes‘ reputation as an intense, combative, competitive hard-nosed player was well established before he arrived in Boston where Gomes played two seasons slashing .242/.338/.397 with 19 home runs and 84 RBI.
Gomes would give you tough at-bats and pitchers earned the outs against Gomes, who was fearless on the field and especially the base paths. Gomes was a clubhouse police force, a baseball MP – and had always had that quality and it was one that was not dipped in fear but respect.
Gabe Kapler will manage in the majors some day and reportedly lost out to Dave Roberts for the Dodgers job. Kapler had actually managed in the Red Sox system in 2007 as skipper of the Greenville Drive.
Kapler had the nickname “The Body” since he was a workout fanatic and that body was most productive for the 2004 team with a healthy slash of .272/.311/.390 with six home runs and 33 RBI while playing all three outfield positions.
Kapler was a hustle machine on the diamond and would be fearless in the field or the base paths and actually tore his Achilles in 2005 while running out a teammate’s home run. Kap played for the Red Sox in 2006 before managing The Drive and then bounced around several teams. Everywhere he went the refrain was the same: “He will manage in the majors someday” and don’t rule out Boston.
Mike Carp was a capable left-handed hitter who did exhibit some decent power. Carp was a noted factor in the 2013 Red Sox team with a slash of .296/.362/.523 and nine home runs and 43 RBI in only 86 games.
In the post season, the magic wore off and Carp went 0-8. In 2014, the highlight was Carp getting to the mound for an infamous inning of work in which he walked five and allowed only one run despite the wildness.
Frustrated by playing time Carp asked to be traded and the Red Sox did a DFA for the .198 hitting Carp. Since then Carp has attempted to resurface with several teams, but so far results are negative. For one season Carp did a remarkable job for Boston.