Red Sox: A look back at Boston’s designated hitters legacy
A designated hitter is just supposed to accomplish one aspect and that is to hit. The Red Sox have had a few players surface at DH who simply were not up to the task and were dismissed. So the one I choose for one of the worst may be somewhat of a surprise since he has a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame – Orlando Cepeda.
Cha Cha in his prime was simply one of the best players in baseball combining speed, power, and average. A former Rookie of the Year and National League Most Valuable Player. A power hitting right-hand bat that was in the right place at the right time to get in one last season when he was sought out.
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The DH had been implemented and Cepeda was in demand. Playing the field was no option since his knees were shot and Boston was the perfect fit with a comfortable left field to target and Cepeda did. Cepeda hit .311 at Fenway Park and .271 on the road in 1973. The home run tally was a comfortable 20 – so why the negative?
Despite at OBP of .350 in 142 games Cepeda only scored 51 runs. Clogging the base paths had a whole new meaning with “The Baby Bull.” Ortiz looks like Usain Bolt compared to Cepeda. Cepeda on the bags was a total disaster as it was station to station. Even a wall ball double would be first to second for Cepeda.
Cepeda managed 25 doubles for Boston and that total could easily be in the high 30s, but those days were long gone. Cepeda also led the American League in grounded into double plays so the hitting may look impressive at first glance, but digging deeper Cepeda’s negatives outweighed his hitting. One season and done. Cecil Cooper took over in 1974. Cepeda moved on to an August signing with the Royals in 1974 only to be relesaed in late September – just one home run and .215 for KC.