Finally, it's looking like the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry is starting to get back to its heyday. Though the teams aren't involved in those high-priced, vocal free agent bidding wars the way they were a decade ago, the young talent on both teams - Gary Sanchez, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Aaron Judge, Masahiro Tanaka, et all - are helping to revive the greatest rivalry in sports.
Before both of these teams were back to contending, they were filling their rosters with aging veterans and players who, even a few short years later, fans likely don't remember (or, choose not to remember). From former All-Stars to prospects who became elite players with other teams, the Boston Red Sox have had plenty of players over the past few seasons who, when their names are mentioned in the same name as the team, will cause fans to say, "wait, they were on the Red Sox?"
Or, in the case of Carl Crawford, will cause fans to start looking for baseball bats and lighters.
Today, let's look at some of those former Red Sox players that, for one reason or another, likely aren't remembered by even the most diehard fans...
15 Jed Lowrie, infielder
A journeyman infielder seemingly known best for his days on the pre-rebuilding Oakland Athletics, Lowrie came up with the Red Sox in 2008 after being named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year the previous year. Quickly becoming a fan favorite as an infielder who could both hit and field - it's hard for many Red Sox fans to forget how bad Julio Lugo was - Lowrie was a key part of the 2008 and 2009 Red Sox teams that both made the postseason. In 254 games with Terry Francona, Lowrie hit .252/.324/.408 and also ended the 2008 American League Division Series with a walk-off hit against the Angels.
When new management took over the Red Sox following their late season collapse in 2011, Lowrie became expendable and was dealt to the Houston Astros for reliever Mark Melancon weeks before the calendar year ended. Across his four years in Beantown, Lowrie compiled two seasons with a WAR of 1.5 or higher, making him one of the more successful players on this list.
14 James Loney, first base
With one of the shortest tenures among players on this list, it's hard to blame readers who may not remember Loney's 30 game stint with the Red Sox in 2012. But, as a member of the blockbuster trade that sent Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles, Loney was dealt by the Dodgers - who had drafted him in the first round back in 2002 - to Beantown where, maybe with a good finish, he could try to cement himself as a first base option for the future. Loney was only 28 at the time and his career was in the midst of a downward spiral, but a change of scenery may have been what he was looking for, right?
Based on the fact Loney only played 30 games with the Red Sox, the answer to that is pretty obvious. Slashing a pathetic .230/.264/.310 in 106 plate appearances, Loney was let go at season's end and joined division rival Tampa Bay, where he'd turn things around during a three-year stint from 2013-15. Although, Loney's struggles in Boston were probably best for the organization, as the Red Sox may not have won the World Series in 2013 without Loney's replacement at first: Mike Napoli.
13 Cody Ross, outfielder
Another fan favorite who had a brief stint with the Red Sox, Ross spent the 2012 season with the Red Sox after being a journeyman for the bulk of his career. Ross did spend 2006-10 with the then-Florida Marlins and won a ring in 2010 after joining the San Francisco Giants, but the Red Sox signed him to a one-year deal in January 2012 expecting him to be the hard-hitting, journeyman, reserve outfielder he'd been since coming up with the Detroit Tigers in 2003.
What the Red Sox instead got, however, was Ross having one of the best hitting outputs on the entire team with 22 home runs, 81 RBI, and 34 doubles in 476 at-bats. When that aforementioned blockbuster went through, Ross claimed Carl Crawford's starting job in left field. Ross was expected to hold that position for the future, but signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason and officially announced his retirement last year.
12 Andrew Bailey, pitcher
When Andrew Bailey joined the Boston Red Sox in a trade following the 2011 season, it was a trade that made sense and fixed a problem that plagued the Red Sox during their recent collapse: the bullpen. With Jonathan Papelbon headed to Philadelphia, the Red Sox needed a closer and Bailey, a two-time All-Star in Oakland with 75 saves and a 2.07 ERA over the past three seasons, fit the bill perfectly...on paper, at least.
What makes sense on paper doesn't always work on the field, as Bailey missed several months after reconstructive thumb surgery and had a 7.04 ERA in 15.1 innings for the Red Sox in 2012. To their credit, Boston didn't give up on the New Jersey native after only one season and brought him back in 2013, where he pitched to a 3.77 ERA with eight saves in 28.2 innings. Shoulder injuries ended his 2013 season prematurely and now, after stints with the Yankees and Phillies, Bailey is hoping to find more success in the American League West with the Los Angeles Angels.
11 Nick Punto, infielder
I have no problem being 100 percent honest and admitting that until I went back to do the research for this article, I had not only forgotten that Punto was on the Red Sox, but that they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. When I saw Punto played in Boston during 2012, I had mistakenly thought he was with the Dodgers; they traded him to Boston for salary purposes, and he re-signed with them in the offseason. Instead, Punto had signed a two-year deal with Boston after the 2011 campaign and, likely for salary purposes, was traded to the Dodgers in the blockbuster deal.
At least I can understand why I couldn't remember Punto's stint in Boston: the guy barely played! Appearing in 65 games for the Sox through August 25, Punto hit a measly .200 with a disappointing -0.1 defensive WAR. Once the former World Champion reached Hollywood, Punto regained his hitting skills and slashed .258/.335/.325 over 378 plate appearances between 2012 and 2013; Punto was also 2-for-6 in the 2013 NLCS, a fine veteran addition to a Dodgers team who could utilize him better than the Red Sox did.
10 Marlon Byrd, outfielder
Most of what I said about Byrd's career in the Cubs article is still relevant, so I'll do my best to keep his time in Boston short because that's exactly what it was. Traded to the Red Sox three weeks into the 2012 season after a 3-for-43 start to the new year, it's still not quite sure why Byrd was added; maybe Boston was hoping to get the Byrd who crushed home runs in Texas and made an All-Star Game with the Cubs in 2010, or maybe they thought he'd have some trade value later in the year.
In 30 games with the Red Sox, Byrd did neither, hitting one home run in 106 plate appearances and compiling his worst WAR in a season (-0.4) since a -2.1 showing in 106 games with the 2004 Phillies. Byrd never had enough time to fly under Bobby Valentine, being designated for assignment - and then waived - in June and receiving a 50 game suspension for PEDs in August. A forgettable stint, indeed.
9 Érik Bédard, pitcher
This is another former household name I couldn't remember playing for the Red Sox, but once the big fishes on the 2011 trade market - Roy Oswalt, James Shields, and Ubaldo Jimenez - were either dealt or kept by their original teams, Boston apparently made a play for Érik Bédard and landed him for nothing. Seriously, even with Bédard's injury history, the Mariners couldn't have gotten more than Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang?
If there's any positive to come out of giving nothing up for Bédard, it's that the former sixth-rounder did nothing for the Red Sox. Pitching to a 1-2 record with a 4.03 ERA and a 38-18 K-BB ratio in 38 innings, the lack of any impact from Bédard down the stretch was certainly a reason the Sox fell apart in September. At least the Red Sox didn't give up a Jackie Bradley Jr. or a Josh Reddick for the one-time Orioles ace...
8 Aaron Cook, pitcher
After nine seasons with the Colorado Rockies, it was time for Aaron to get things cooking with the Boston Red Sox. Puns are fun, folks, but watching Aaron Cook pitch? I'm not quite sure if fun is the word I'd use, though I will admit that the former second-rounder was certainly efficient in his prime days with the Rockies. With a 51-39 record and a 4.07 ERA from 2006-10, Cook was perhaps the greatest starting pitcher in franchise history and, after a down 2011 season, Boston thought the Kentucky native could return to his All-Star ways.
What is it with players on the 2012 Red Sox failing miserably in that department? In 18 starts, Cook was 4-11 with a 5.65 ERA - his third straight season with an ERA over 5.00 - and was let go after the season's conclusion. The one bright spot of Cook's season, however, was a complete game shutout of the Mariners in June. I told you guys that Aaron could cook!
7 Grady Sizemore, outfielder
After years of injuries, the start of Grady Sizemore's Boston career was nothing more than a tease. Signed as a reserve and platoon outfielder for the 2014 season, the three-time All-Star hit a home run on opening day and a three-run home run against friend and former teammate C.C. Sabathia later in the month. Through April 15, Sizemore was healthy and slashing .308/.357/.513 for the defending champion Red Sox.
Unfortunately, Sizemore was waived in June after his final numbers in Beantown dipped to .216/.288/.324 with those two home runs and 15 RBI. It's hard to think that Sizemore was only 31 when he was with the Red Sox, but that was more-or-less his final chance at cementing his place as a big-league starter. But, when you can't stay healthy, that's to be expected...
6 Vicente Padilla, pitcher
I certainly remember Vicente Padilla for his 2012 stint with the Red Sox, but do you know why I remember it? See, as the Red Sox were suffering through their worst season in decades and the Yankees were on their way to their fourth straight playoff appearance, Padilla and Mark Teixeira got into a bit of a spat. Even as teammates, the two had been enemies for years and, during a Yankees-Sox series at Fenway Park, Padilla made the following questionable comments after Tex accused him of intentionally plunking hitters.
"In this sport, as competitive ball players, we get pretty fired up. So I think, maybe, [Teixeira] picked the wrong profession. I think he'd be better off playing a women's sport. ... The problem is he talks about all the wrong things that others have done, but the things he's done -- against the Latinos [on the Rangers] -- he doesn't open his mouth about. He once threatened me and said he was going to hit me with a bat, and that's when we were playing on the same team. And then, he also had problems with Frank Francisco, our closer back then. But he doesn't talk about that, does he? Then, of course, he goes on and makes those comments about me."
So, Tex is not only best for a 'women's game', but is also a racist? Well, Teixeira certainly got his revenge when he took Padilla deep to tie a game in July. Padilla would finish his 2012 season 4-1 with a 4.50 in 56 games out of the bullpen, a far cry from his 'heyday' with the Phillies and Rangers.
5 Mike Cameron, outfielder
I remembered Mike Cameron as an outfielder with the Red Sox in 2010, but I had not remembered that he played for them in 2011 as well. How would I remember that, though, when Cameron did absolutely nothing with the Red Sox? Signed to play center field after Jacoby Ellsbury was moved to left field as Jason Bay's replacement, Cameron played a total of 81 games with the Red Sox and hit .219/.285/.352 with seven home runs.
A three-time Gold Glover in his career, Cameron was horrendous in the outfield during those 81 games, compiling a -0.9 defensive WAR. I'll give the former All-Star a slight pass because he was 37 and 38 during his stint in Boston, but it was painful to watch Cameron run sooooooo slooooooooooowly for balls that once were easy plays for him. It was a sad finish for a once-great player, but Superman can't fly forever...
4 Josh Reddick, outfielder
Why do people think Josh Reddick came up with and made his big-league debut for the Oakland Athletics? I know that Reddick wasn't a mainstay with the Red Sox the way he was in Oakland, but he still played 87 games for them in 2011 and a total of 143 from 2009 to 2011, so what gives?
The main piece the Red Sox gave up in the aforementioned Andrew Bailey deal, Reddick was a 17th-round pick of Boston in 2006 and made his big league debut three years later, rotating between the majors and AAA for the bulk of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Come 2011, the 24 year old Reddick was on his way to becoming a fan favorite - hitting a walk-off against the Yankees certainly helped - and the future of the Red Sox in right field, but the hopeful replacement for J.D. Drew was headed to Oakland in the winter.
With the power Reddick has shown in his post-Boston career, you really have to wonder what would have happened if the Red Sox kept him around. That's what the classic baseball video games are for, though...
3 Mark Melancon, pitcher
Before settling in with the Pittsburgh Pirates, All-Star closer Mark Melancon was a bit of a journeyman. Starting his pro career with the Yankees as a potential closer of the future when Mariano Rivera eventually called it quits, Melancon made his big-league debut in 2009 and was traded a year later when the Bronx Bombers acquired Lance Berkman. Why the rebuilding Astros would then want to trade Melancon, who had 20 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 2011, at the age of 26 continues to confuse me; the Red Sox, however, had no qualms about acquiring the former Yankee and traded Jed Lowrie for the blooming reliever.
All of the progress made in Houston, however, seemed to vanish as Melancon couldn't get anyone out during the 2012 season (then again, no Boston pitcher not named Jon Lester could really do that). After four games, Melancon had an ERA of 49.50 and finished the year with a 6.20 ERA in 41 games. Boston got rid of the future All-Star in a trade after the season that both teams won, with Boston obtaining Brock Holt and Joel Hanrahan in exchange.
2 Carl Crawford, outfielder
Like Milton Bradley with the Cubs, this is another one of those moves that fans voluntarily choose not to remember. For baseball fans who thought that Carl Crawford's monstrosity of a contract was one that the Dodgers voluntarily gave out, you'd happen to be wrong as it was the Red Sox who, at the 2010 Winter Meetings, gave the four-time All-Star a 7-year, $142-million contract. At the time, it made sense and from a non-biased point of view, the deal still made sense.
Leaving Tampa Bay for big-market Boston, however, seemed to be something that Crawford couldn't handle as all of the skills that made him an All-Star with the Rays - speed, hitting, occasional power - disappeared when the former second-rounder first donned a Red Sox jersey. In 161 games with the Red Sox, Crawford slashed .260/.292/.419 with only 23 stolen bases in 29 attempts before that August 2012 blockbuster with the Dodgers went through. Good riddance, say Boston's faithful fans.
1 Adrián Beltré, third base
After an atrocious five year stint with the Seattle Mariners, Adrián Beltré was almost on his last legs when he joined the Red Sox on a one-year, $9 million deal in January 2010. If it went well, Boston had a power-hitting third baseman they could try to lock up long-term and if it didn't go well, he'd leave after the season. It was, in NFL terms, a 'prove-it contract'.
And prove it, Beltré did. Though the Red Sox missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the All-Star third baseman was not the person to blame as Beltré led the team in hitting with a .321 average, 49 doubles, and tied David Ortiz with 102 RBIs to lead the Red Sox. With 28 home runs and the sweet-swinging stroke that made him a household name with the Dodgers, Beltré revived his baseball career, signed a five-year deal with the Texas Rangers, and has filled their third base void. Boston, on the other hand, is still looking for a permanent answer.
What players do you remember randomly suiting up in a Boston Red Sox uniform? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!