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How Jerry Remy ended up with Red Sox

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 23, 2013 09:24 AM

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Before the Remy Report, there were the Remy reports.

No, this isn't a reference to RemDawg's now-infamous, beyond-hilarious Playgirl supermodel days. If you somehow don't already know what I'm talking about, a simple search on Baseball Prospectus will clue you in, and OBF also has it here. (It probably is SFW, depending upon how your boss feels about Steve Stone.)

This is about another long-lost discovery from Remy's playing days, an exhibit rather than an exhibition. Unless the 1970s Angels had a particularly unusual uniform of which I'm unaware -- entirely possible given that era -- Remy most definitely is not wearing short-jorts in any of this.

The Baseball Hall of Fame, as a companion to a new exhibit in Cooperstown honoring scouts, recently launched a website, titled Diamond Mines, that serves as a searchable database for what seems to be thousands of individual scouting reports of major league players either during their careers or as unknown amateurs.

It's not conventionally perfect. The interface may well have been lifted from a 1997 Angel Fire site. The search function has roughly a .500 winning percentage in finding what you're looking for on the first try. The list of players is incomplete. (I was bummed that there was no Lyman Bostock report. Or Butch Hobson.)

But if blunt and previously unrevealed insight and opinions from those who were trusted by big league teams to judge players is something that appeals to you, well, it damn sure is perfect.

I've been lost there more times than I can count in recent weeks, looking up all the former Maine Guides and favorite obscurities I can jostle from the back of my mind, as well as the Red Sox-related suspects and superstars you'd expect: Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek ("A real animal"), Roger Clemens, and Ellis Burks ("Shows few star qualities").

Just when you think you're done, another player pops to mind, and there goes another 20 minutes.

One discovery that I found particularly fascinating was a series of five scouting reports on Remy after the 1977 season. He was 24 years old, coming off his third full season as the California Angels's starting second baseman, one in which he hit .252 with 41 stolen bases and an OPS of .663. In retrospect, that's the season of a player who should have had to fight to earn a job the next year, but it was a different time, one in which the perception of grit got your name on the lineup card, and he was entrenched as the starter, presumably secure in his position.

Except those five unearthed scouting reports, which appear to be the product of the Angels' self-scouting postmortem on the '77 season, suggest otherwise. And they ultimately serve as key forensic information on why Remy was traded to the Red Sox that December for pitcher Don Aase.

It's a deal that worked out OK for the Angels, fairly well for the Red Sox, and very well for Remy, who had significant statistical flaws (in seven seasons in Boston, he had a .334 slugging percentage and a .334 on-base percentage) but parlayed his popularity as a player into even greater popularity as a broadcaster.

Coming from California to Boston altered the course of his life, so in a sense it was a blessing that the Angels doubted him. And they did -- here's what manager Dave Garcia, coaches Bob Clear, Jimmie Reese and Marv Grissom, and backup catcher-turned-scout Andy Etchebarren offered in candid assessment of Remy way back when:

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Dave Garcia (report here) -- Disappointed in Jerry's fielding mostly -- at times he showed fear of the ball and let too many balls play him. Complained that our infield dirt was rough. That may be true, but it shouldn't bother a major league fielder. Will have to make double play better. Offensively, has to get many more walks. Robby will work with him this spring. When he gets 100 walks he'll steal 60 bases + score 100 runs.

I tried, and I could not figure out who Robby The Walk Guru was. But Remy never approached 100 walks -- his career high actually was 59 in '77. So maybe that's why Robby remained anonymous.

[Update: So, yeah, Robby was pretty much the opposite of anonymous -- it's Frank Robinson, who accomplished a thing or two en route to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. That's who I initially assumed it was, but a cursory search couldn't provide evidence that he was an Angels coach that year. Turns out he was, briefly -- he joined Garcia's staff after he was fired by the Indians, where he had become baseball's first African-American manager two years before. Oh, OK ... that Robby. Yes, I'm a dope.]

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Bob Clear (report here) -- He is 3rd best 2nd baseman we have. Can't field good enough to put us on top. Has fear on D.P. and ground balls. Range is not good. He is not as good as he was. Can steal and runs good. Good hustler. Should be a better hitter. Move him so Grich can play second. Would have a better club. Would help our pitching.

In theory, Clear was right on, and it appears his advice was heeded. Grich, one of the most underrated players of his time, joined the Angels as a free agent before the 1977 season. He won three Gold Gloves as a second baseman with the Orioles, but moved to short with the Angels in part because of Remy's presence but also because young Mike Miley had been killed in a car accident and underwhelming Orlando Ramirez was the main holdover. But when Remy was dealt to the Red Sox, Grich returned to his natural position before the '78 season. He went on to play 10 seasons in total for the Angels, hitting 154 homers with a 124 adjusted OPS. Aase was average, going 39-39 with a 99 ERA+ in six seasons with the Angels. The Angels, who apparently didn't self-scout Dickie Thon quite so well, never did quite find a shortstop until trading for Remy's Red Sox double-play partner Rick Burleson before the 1981 season. I do wonder, though, who Clear thought was a better second baseman than Remy besides Grich. Rance Mulliniks? Dave Chalk? Mario Guerrero?

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Jimmie Reese (report here) -- It may surprise you when I say that Jerry, in my estimation, has slowed up a step, particularly in the field, where ordinary ground balls are skipping by him. Also a bit timid on double plays. Could bring a valuable player if any club needs a second baseman. He is certainly marketable.''

Reese was regarded as one of baseball's great gentlemen during his wholly distinctive 77-year career in professional baseball. He roomed with Babe Ruth -- or his suitcase, as the famous joke goes -- during the early '30s with the Yankees. (No, Reese never did play with Mariano Rivera.) Decades later, he made such an impression on Nolan Ryan during his time with the Angels that the pitcher named a son after him. I suggest that's a rather gentlemanly way of saying get Remy out of here.

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Andy Etchebarren (report here) -- He needs to learn not to hit so many fly balls, bunt more, and learn not to [be] afraid of ground balls. He plays to [sic] many balls to the side.

Given that Etchebarren was actually Remy's teammate in '77, the solicitation of his opinion is ... well, it's eyebrow-raising, that's what it is.

Marv Grissom (report here) Like everything about him.

Just a thought here, but perhaps Mr. Grissom wasn't the most thorough scout? At least Remy had someone fully in his corner.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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