The Boston Red Sox have had their share of spring training strangeness, but Julian Tavarez is one that I remember quite vividly as he kick-started his Red Sox career.
Spring training is supposed to be a relaxing time for Boston Red Sox players and fans, but sometimes exuberance overcomes the players and a crisis develops. This certainly is occasionally a welcomed addition to the usual mundane happenings centering on the competitive desire for a coveted roster slot.
Management decisions are certainly not perfect and that applies to all of us with decisions that sometimes make us and others question our sanity. The Red Sox made such a move in 2006 when they were on the prowl for addition pitching help and decided to sign Julian Tavarez. I was simply stunned.
Statistically, Tavarez appeared to be a capable pitcher who could do service as a starter or a reliever. The contract was for two years and $6.7 million, but a quick glance showed Tavarez wore out his welcome rather quickly. Boston happened to be his seventh organization in 13 years – a rather checkered career.
Boston had previous experience with Tavarez having hung a loss on him in the 2004 World Series thanks to Mark Bellhorn going deep. With his previous employer – the St. Louis Cardinals – Tavarez had bagged a suspension from MLB for doctoring a ball – this, however, was just another addition to his professional rap sheet. Tavarez was not a baseball solid citizen.
”Why should I care about the fans? They are nothing but a bunch of [expletives] and [pejorative term for gays].” – Julian Tavarez, per the Boston Globe.
In 1996 while with his original team – the Cleveland Indians – Tavarez had his first run in with the baseball law. A brawl between the Indians and Brewers resulted in a three-game suspension. Tavarez – the latest entry into baseball’s “loose cannon sweepstakes” was not done.
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While toiling for the Giants, Tavarez managed a heated exchange with an umpire and in these verbal battles the one guarantee is the player always loses and Tavarez did – another suspension. With the Chicago Cubs. Julian had received a suspension for his participation in a bench-clearing brawl. But Tavarez had versatile behaviors.
The same season he decided cosmetic surgery on a ball he also took out his ire on a dugout phone. Inanimate objects do have some sturdy resistance and in this confrontation, it was a busted finger for Tavarez. David Ortiz had the good sense to use a bat on the phone. That, folks, was what was arriving in Boston.
My immediate reaction was the same as when Paul Newman sees the Hanson Brothers play in the great movie “Slap Shot.” Sooner or later with, the sooner being most likely, you would have a Tavarez incident. This is not a Nostradamus insight, but simply expecting established behaviors to surface.
”I wish I don’t have to [throw a punch], because I’m not here to fight, you know. Little things happen in baseball, you know. No big deal.” – Julian Tavarez.
Tavarez started his Red Sox career in stir – a ten game suspension thanks to his use of Tampa’s Joey Gathright as a soccer ball. This was after Tavarez reportedly has sucker punched Gathright Needless to say this was just another episode in the long tumultuous history of the Red Sox versus the Rays.
I wished when this happened, I was shocked. Not so. I expected it since the legendary Dr. Phil has often stated that past behaviors will dictate present and future behaviors – I think I got that reasonably correct?
Tavarez got a ring in 2007 (7-11, 5.15), but did not appear in any postseason action. Julian’s Boston stay was just another career bookmark as he moved on to three more organizations. Later Tavarez revealed that he was illiterate – growing up as poor as poor can be in the Dominican Republic and that link has the rest of the story about Tavarez, but I will always remember his arrival that spring training.
For some bizarre reason, I actually had some mild admiration for Tavarez. If you saw him at a game or outside the ballpark he was quite accommodating. Need a picture? No problem. Even would give away a cap. As a friend once stated Tavarez was an example of the good, the bad and the ugly all in one package.
Sources: Baseball-Reference/Deadspin/Chicago Tribune/Boston Globe