It’s now obvious that Marty Barrett has become Jim Rice’s Cooperstown counterpart when it comes to the Red Sox Hall of Fame selection committee.
Congratulations go out to this year’s honorees, which include the worthy trio of Mike Greenwell, Mo Vaughn, and Bill Lee. Lee’s inclusion is surprising only in that he wasn’t already a member of the now-13-year-old club, but the club’s decision to induct Greenwell and Vaughn in the same calendar year is certain to raise some eyebrows. Maybe they’ll set up a batting cage at the ceremony and try to recreate one of their finest moments. For old time’s sake.
While their 1991 Anaheim dustup was one of the more infamous moments in a less cuddly Red Sox era barren of Sweet Caroline and membership privileges, both are perhaps more in the crosshairs these days thanks to their bit parts in the wonderful world of steroids. Vaughn, of course, was named in the Mitchell Report, while Greenwell wants the MVP that Jose Canseco stole back in 1988.
“Where’s my MVP?” asked Greenwell in 2005, in the wake of Canseco’s bestselling “Juiced” and the first round of congressional steroid hearings. “[Canseco’s] an admitted steroid user. I was clean. If they’re going to start putting asterisks by things, let’s put one by the MVP.”
Meanwhile, since being named in the Mitchell Report, Mo Vaughn has attempted to open a car wash in North Attleboro and initiated a program to refurbish a Buck Rogers miniature. Beyond that, he’s been fairly quiet about his link to performance-enhancing drugs.
Before David Ortiz was Big Papi, Vaughn was the closest thing to any such incarnation in Boston. A do-gooder, he aided in many city charities during his career here, which ended after the 1998 season when Vaughn took the money and headed west to Anaheim for the start of a disastrous career with the Angels. He was often overweight, spent too much time at the strip club, and might have flipped his car once, sure, but he produced on a team devoid of stars and was a nice guy. For that, Dan Duquette was vilified yet again upon losing a second bona fide star in a two-year period (Roger Clemens in ’96).
Often criticized throughout his Boston career, Greenwell only hit more than 20 home runs and had 100-plus RBIs once, but still ranks 11th in team history in games played, 11th in at-bats, 10th in hits, and11th in total bases, extra base hits, and RBIs. Greenwell’s .463 career slugging percentage was better than that of Carl Yastrzemski (.462).
But following his near-MVP year of 1988, Greenwell never really got any better. His power numbers dipped, and his on-base and OPS numbers weren’t yet exactly cool to point out to anyone in debating his worth. The player Greenwell is most compared to on Baseball Reference.com, ironically, is Sean Casey, the new backup Red Sox first baseman whom everyone hailed as a great pickup this past offseason.
Granted, Roberto Kelly is also on the list, but still…
One of my strongest Greenwell memories was following a hitless night in a loss to the Royals at Fenway back in the early ‘90s. This was in a day, kids, when you could actually drive down Yawkey Way in the hours following a game, unlike today’s Eutaw St. imitation. Of course, this didn’t deter Mom from angling herself smack dab in the middle of the road, away from the throng of sidewalk dwellers. A pickup truck of a denomination I can’t recall came a braking shriek away from laying her out onto the pavement as a warning for future generations of Red Sox fans.
Greenwell didn’t seem too affected, driving away once she removed herself from the truck’s grill. But if I get to write her biography someday, “Mike Greenwell Ran Over My Mom” will be the non-negotiable title.
Greenwell, it could be argued, was one of the most disliked regulars in Boston over the past 20 years. Including J.D. Drew. And why? Because he wasn’t Rice. He wasn’t yet another in the lineage of sure-fire Hall of Famers patrolling left field at Fenway. He won’t be headed to Cooperstown with the likes of Williams, Yaz, Ramirez and…um, Rice, a future that was thrust upon him early on in his career by the media and fans.
On the bright side, he made life easier for Troy O’Leary, who didn’t exactly face the same pressure.