Johnny Pesky: 1919-2012

34 Comments

One of the most beloved figures in Boston Red Sox history, Johnny Pesky, has died at the age of 92.

Pesky played ten seasons in the majors, eight in Boston, with brief stops in Detroit and Washington toward the end of his career. He missed three full seasons due to military service during World War II.

Over the course of his career he hit .307 with a fantastic .394 on base percentage. While he wasn’t much of a slugger — he had 17 career homers — his name will forever adorn the short right field foul pole at Fenway Park, Pesky’s Pole, which it is often claimed he used to his advantage. Of course, given that he only hit six homers in Fenway Park in his career, it’s not necessarily accurate, but legends are often made of more things than mere facts.

Pesky was much better known in recent years as a fixture with the Boston Red Sox, serving in any number of capacities. He managed the team in 1963 and 1964. After a detour to coach in Pittsburgh he returned to Boston where he was a radio and television commentator from the late 60s through the mid 70s. He then held a number of coaching jobs with the Sox, including first base coach, bench coach and hitting coach. He served as an interim manager after Don Zimmer was axed with five games to go in the 1980 season.

Since the early 90s Pesky was an instructor and front office assistant. Unlike most instructors he’d often be in uniform and would even sit on the bench during games. His presence during those years in many ways turned him into the embodiment of the old, allegedly cursed Boston Red Sox, and he was often center stage as the team ramped up for and eventually won the World Series in 2004 and 2007. In 2008 his number 6 was retired by the Red Sox.

Farewell, Johnny Pesky.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
12 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.