4 Boston Red Sox Has Boston restored power after the loss of Mo Vaughn? No way, Jose!

March 29, 1999

The truth is, it would have been a lot to ask of Bernie Williams
or Rafael Palmeiro or Albert Belle. Even a guy with the ability
to hit 40 homers, drive in 120 runs and add a few volts of star
power to the Red Sox lineup would have had a hard time filling
the prodigious void left by Maurice Samuel Vaughn, on the field
and off.

To ask Jose Offerman to handle the job, then, is not only
unrealistic, it's unfair. Poor Jose, who in his nine-year career
has 22 home runs and 312 RBIs. He's Shemp Howard, Larry Holmes,
Tim Floyd, Sammy Hagar. He doesn't stand a chance.

Boston general manager Dan Duquette is quick to point out that
he signed Offerman (four years, $26 million) as a free agent
before Vaughn bolted for Anaheim and a six-year, $80 million
contract. So, says Duquette, the 30-year-old slap-hitter should
not be viewed as a successor to Vaughn, the 1995 American League
MVP and the most popular Red Sox player of his time. But as of
March 22, Duquette had not added a high-caliber slugger to the
power-challenged Boston lineup, and it looks as though Offerman
may even hit third, Vaughn's old spot in the order. How can the
Fenway faithful not view Offerman as the Man Who Would Be Mo?

"I hope people don't compare me to [Vaughn]," says Offerman.
"There's a lot of difference between us. I'm way behind him."

Last season Vaughn had 40 homers and 115 RBIs for the Red Sox,
who earned the American League wild-card berth with 92 wins.
Duquette said that Offerman (who hit a career-best .315 in '98)
would replace Vaughn's "on-base capability," but the G.M. did
nothing to replace Vaughn's other offensive capabilities. Unless
shortstop Nomar Garciaparra can repeat or at least come close to
last season's 35-homer performance--a tall order, given that he
won't have Vaughn batting behind him--Boston could have no one
hit 30 homers this year.

"Offerman is one of the better offensive players in the league,"
says Duquette. "He led the majors in triples [13] last season
and can also steal bases [45 in 57 attempts]. What I find kind
of humorous is that Offerman was the cheapest premier free agent
that was signed in the off-season. Everyone made a big deal out
of the kind of money we paid him. But we're basically paying him
what we're paying [third baseman] John Valentin, which is the
going rate for good offensive infielders." For all his touting
of Offerman, Duquette did attempt to trade for Greg Vaughn
(before the Padres sent him to the Reds) and inquired about the
availability of White Sox slugger Frank Thomas but had to settle
for a first base-DH combo of Offerman and Mike Stanley.

In a switch from team tradition, the Red Sox have emphasized
pitching and defense since Jimy Williams took over as manager
two years ago, and now, with Mo gone, they're singing that song
louder than ever. The ace of the staff, of course, is
righthander Pedro Martinez, who went 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA last
year and finished second to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young
voting. Duquette shored up the rotation with veterans Mark
Portugal and Pat Rapp, but Martinez, 27, remains the only
starter under 31. Pedro's older brother, former Dodger Ramon
Martinez, signed with Boston in early March and hopes to return
from right rotator-cuff surgery by the All-Star break.

On its way to a surprise playoff appearance last season, Boston
saw many of its veterans--such as closer Tom Gordon and
outfielders Darren Lewis and Damon Buford--enjoy their best
seasons, and it may be too much to expect them to play to those
levels again. Still, in Pedro Martinez and the 25-year-old
Garciaparra, the Red Sox have two of baseball's best players,
and, provided that an injury to Garciaparra's right elbow, which
caused him to miss a few games late in spring training, heals,
the club should at least have more wins than losses in '99.

Throughout the summer, though, the heat will be on Offerman. In
Kansas City the past three seasons he played mostly second base.
But Boston had a busload of second basemen in camp, including
Jeff Frye, who as the starter and the leadoff man in '97 hit
.312 but then suffered a torn ligament in his left knee last
spring and was sidelined for the entire '98 season. Jimy
Williams and a few players have made no secret that they prefer
Frye at second over Offerman.

There's also some question as to how Offerman will handle the
pressure of playing in Boston, an intense baseball setting.
Offerman spent the first four-plus seasons of his career at
shortstop for the Dodgers, and he did not seem comfortable at
the position (he led National League shortstops in errors three
times) or in Los Angeles. Upon his arrival in Kansas City before
the '96 season, he said the atmosphere in L.A. was simply no
fun: "There was a lot of pressure on me. Every time I made a
mistake, it was a big deal for everybody. It was a big deal for
the manager, it was a big deal for the press. You can't enjoy
yourself playing like that."

If Offerman makes a mistake in Boston, it's not just a big deal
to the manager and the press. It's a big deal to everyone in New
England. Mo Vaughn knew it well. Jose Offerman will soon find
out.

--Gerry Callahan

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER No longer protected in the order, Garciaparra will have to muster most of the firepower in Boston's popgun attack while anchoring the team in the field. COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES

By the Numbers

1998 Team Statistics (AL rank)
1998 record: 92-70 (second in AL East)

BATTING AVERAGE .280 (3)
RUNS SCORED 876 (3)
HOME RUNS 205 (5)
OPP. BATTING AVG. .255 (2)
ERA 4.18 (2)
FIELDING PCT. .983 (4)

From Start to Finish

Tom Gordon is one of the nine pitchers to have started at least
100 games before his first 20-save season. But among those, only
three have had more than one 20-save season: Dennis Eckersley
(nine), Dave Giusti (four) and Tom Murphy (two).

Previous 20-SAVE SEASON Career
Pitcher Career Starts Team(s) Saves Saves

Tom Gordon 203 1998 Red Sox 46 60
Mark Leiter 146 1998 Phillies 23 26
Bruce Ruffin 152 1996 Rockies 24 63
Dennis Eckersley 361 1988 Athletics 45 390
Dan Spillner 123 1982 Indians 21 50
Skip Lockwood 106 1977 Mets 20 68
Tom Murphy 147 1974 Brewers 20 59
Dave Giusti 133 1970 Pirates 26 140
Mudcat Grant 293 1970 Athletics-Pirates 24 41

Next Up...

Six years after Trot Nixon, a star high school quarterback,
passed up a football scholarship to North Carolina State to sign
with the Red Sox, Boston fans will learn whether the hoopla over
the seventh player picked in the 1993 draft was justified. Last
year, after hitting .310 with 23 homers and 26 steals at Triple A
Pawtucket, Nixon shone in the Division Series against the
Indians. He singled, walked and played well in rightfield,
helping himself win a job in '99. "I was always the top dog in
high school," says Nixon. "But I had a lot to learn. If I struck
out twice, I'd let it get in my brain too much. I've learned to
put it behind me."

Projected Roster With 1998 Statistics

Manager: Jimy Williams (third season with Boston)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

CF Darren Lewis R 109 .268 8 63 29
3B John Valentin R 162 .247 23 73 4
1B Jose Offerman[1] S-R 50 .315 7 66 45
SS Nomar Garciaparra R 10 .323 35 122 12
LF Troy O'Leary L 98 .270 23 83 2
DH Mike Stanley R 160 .256 29 79 3
C Scott Hatteberg L-R 189 .276 12 43 0
RF Trot Nixon (R)* L 209 .310 23 74 26
2B Jeff Frye[#] R 280 .312 3 51 19

BENCH

DH Reggie Jefferson L 241 .306 8 31 0
IF Donnie Sadler R 281 .226 3 15 4
OF Damon Buford R 300 .282 10 42 5
C Jason Varitek S-R 334 .253 7 33 2

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Pedro Martinez 4 19 7 7.1 1.09 2.89
RH Bret Saberhagen 47 15 8 5.6 1.20 3.96
RH Tim Wakefield 80 17 8 6.4 1.34 4.58
RH Mark Portugal[1] 132 10 5 6.4 1.31 4.44
RH Pat Rapp[1] 245 12 13 5.9 1.67 5.30

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Tom Gordon 22 7 4 46 1.01 2.72
RH Derek Lowe 209 3 9 4 1.37 4.02
RH Jim Corsi 274 3 2 0 1.23 2.59
LH Mark Guthrie[1] 312 2 1 0 1.48 3.50
RH John Wasdin 324 6 4 0 1.44 5.25
RH Ramon Martinez[1] 144 7 3 0 1.15 2.83

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS:
Innings pitched per start WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning
pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Triple A stats [#] 1997 stats

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)