Red Sox: Boston’s historical search for a right-handed power bat

circa 1930: Full-length portrait of American baseball player Jimmie Foxx (1907 - 1967), first-baseman and slugger for the Philadelphia Athletics, wearing his uniform and holding the follow-through of his swing while standing at home plate. (Photo by Photo File/Getty Images)
circa 1930: Full-length portrait of American baseball player Jimmie Foxx (1907 - 1967), first-baseman and slugger for the Philadelphia Athletics, wearing his uniform and holding the follow-through of his swing while standing at home plate. (Photo by Photo File/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have had some great and not so great right-handed power hitters. What was in the past and what is in the future?

The Boston Red Sox have a search for their own Holy Grail and it is a right-handed power bat. The most successful have been external and not internal to acquire that one chip that is intricately designed for the confines of Fenway Park’s tempting target in left field.

Nothing unusual since baseball dimensions are limited to the infield with the outfield and foul territory the result of intoxicated designers or situational where the park has been squeezed into the neighborhood. Yankee Stadium still has that delicious target in right field for the lefty contingent.

Boston’s first attempt at securing such a formidable bat happened just after Tom Yawkey purchased the team. The Philadelphia Athletics were desperate for an infusion of cash and Yawkey had that and the A’s had Jimmie Foxx.  Foxx was known as “The Beast” and was a two-time MVP. Foxx soon made it a three-time MVP in his third Boston season. In seven seasons Foxx hit 222 home runs for the Red Sox. Their first foray into getting “that bat” was a success.

The next most notable was a shortstop from the St. Louis Browns named Vern Stephens.  Stephen’s first three seasons in Boston were dynamic with 98 home runs and an incredible 441 RBI. After that Stephens – like the double X – faded. That is the proverbial tease as Boston continued the hunt.

For recent inductees into “The Nation”, one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball came to Boston for eight seasons of premier hitting, laughable defense, and finally a sad farewell – Manny Ramirez. Manny being Manny was a .312 average, 274 home runs, and 868 RBI.  Well worth the aggravation. Another farewell is that of Mookie Betts who provided the bat and four other tools.

Now we have another outsider purchased on the baseball version of a wet market (free agency) in J.D. Martinez. Another pricey item that has shown the ability to do just what the offense needed – that right-handed power bat. But along the way, there have been busts of all sorts.

Some provided the RBI sustenance needed, but their temperament or shortcomings led to an exit. Here are a few that have surfaced from my memories, but there are far more – sorry Jason Bay, Tony Armas, Jackie Jensen, Jose Canseco, and a few more.

The most notable on the list from my view is Dick Stuart. Stuart tortured pitchers with inept fielding that is legendary.  Dr. Strangeglove slammed 75 home runs in two seasons and was gone. And with bad fielding comes the worst or the worst at third base in Butch Hobson. Hobson’s first full season was 30 home runs and 112 RBI to partner with just 27 walks and an AL-best 162 whiffs. Hobson made only 23 errors but “improved” to 43 the following season.

In the 1950s, Boston’s search provided a big success if big is defined as 6’5” and 144 RBI in Walt Dropo. A farm system and Yawkey checkbook success that failed only because of a serious wrist injury. In 1952 Dick Gernert looked like a future plus, but it never really materializes. Gernert did hit 101 home runs but never got into that track of 30+ for several seasons. Generally, the mold was physically large and white.

Next up was a favorite of mine in Norm Zauchin who hit 27 home runs in his first season and had 93 RBI.  Not bad for a beginning but it was the highlight as Zauchin went steadily downhill. Trades can bring pain and that meant the trade of pitcher Frank Baumann for Ron Jackson.

Jackson had hit 21 home runs for the 1958 White Sox. After a dismal injury-marred 1959 Jackson became available and managed to hit exactly zero home runs for the Red Sox. And Baumann? Led AL pitchers in ERA (2.67) in 1960.

More from Red Sox News

Let’s speed up to the present and see if somewhere there is a possible bat other that Martinez and Xander Bogaerts that could be the next right-hand power bat for the Red Sox. Michael Chavis showed that ability with towering home runs, but the batting average and propensity to whiff may combine to limit Chavis. However, Chavis’ potential is such he’ll be given an extra-long look and hopefully, any Will Middlebrooks or Ryan Lavarnway memories will dissipate.

Bobby Dalbec is now 25-years-old and will start the season – if there is a season – at Pawtucket (AAA). Dalbec had the calling card – prodigious power but he has a flaw – contact. Dalbec does have that one ingredient that will give him the very long look – power.

Sometimes the power package is not large such as Betts or Jim Wynn. Is the possibility there for Jeter Downs? Downs was tossed into the Betts trade and did slam 24 home runs in 2019. Projections have Downs in the 20+ home run range.

Next. Remembering my first trip to Fenway Park. dark

Sifting through the Red Sox prospect list there is simply a dearth of right-handed power on the horizon. Triston Casas is the number one prospect but is a left-handed bat. The Red Sox may have to either get lucky with a draft pick, even luckier with a trade or find some spare change for a free agent.