Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2004: The Remaining Idiots

For the first time since, well since before Scott Hatteberg's catching career threw its arm out and sent itself headlong into the Billy Beane Moneyball machine, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield will not be members of the Boston Red Sox. 

1998 to be exact.

Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
With truck day on the near horizon, the Sox roster is undergoing an out-of-body experience of sorts without the two veterans. Heading into spring with an enigmatic and disjointed team following an offseason which addressed major issues with answers along the lines of "umm" and "kind of," the departure of Varitek and Wakefield has largely flown under the radar. 

Though I wouldn't rule out the possibility of either of the vets returning--especially Varitek--in the face of the very real possibility that  Josh Beckett starts the season 0-3 causing the Texas Tough Guy to send his spittle flying in the face of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a tidal wave of greasy rage. 

Just sayin'.

But the impending baseball demise of these two franchise icons brings another fact to mind: this has not been a good offseason for the 2004 World Series champions. Or what's left of them. 

Here's a quick rundown of the players from that squad who are still in baseball as of today:

The Holdovers
David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis
And then there were two. With Wake and Tek gone, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis are the only remaining pair who held roster spots during the '04 season. Clearly, Papi's late inning heroics during those epic battles with Mariano Rivera are surpassed only by the Bloody Sock, while Youkilis was in his rookie year in '04. Youk saw limited playoff action in just a single game versus the Angels in the ALDS with only two plate appearances.

The Departed
Bronson Arroyo
An integral part of Terry Francona's inaugural pitching staff, Arroyo is still sporting his silly haircut in Cincinnati. Despite a down year in 2011 (5.07 ERA,)  Bronson has been good for 200 innings and at least four harrumph inducing imitations of Eddie Vedder per year.

Orlando Cabrera
Some thought Cabrera would give Pedro Martinez and Andre Dawson fits in the competition for best afro in Expos history.  Clearly he did not. 

But what he did do was play for 15 seasons with a respectable .272/.317./.390 career slash-line. Alas, according to this tweet from Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes in January, Cabrera plans to call it quits. 

Currently, he's still a free agent and is able to hook on with any team for 2012 so I've included him on this list.

Johnny Damon
Not much to say about baseball Jesus. He's 17 years into his career, and was one of the ringleaders of The Idiots along with Kevin Millar. You all know him, some of you still love him, harbor ire towards him for bolting to New York, or simply adore noodle-armed baseball players. Today he is beardless and searching for a new contract after finishing up last year with Tampa Bay.

Lenny DiNardo
Shocking, but the lefty reliever you probably don't remember is still kicking around. Just 24 years old in '04, DiNardo did not see any playoff action that season and last pitched in the majors in 2009 with the Royals. Yet he was throwing in the A's minor league system in 2011 and a return to the major league club is not impossible.

You can now all hold your collective breath.

Derek Lowe
Can one mention Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek in the same article without bringing up the Heathcliff Slocumb trade? Probably not. I think it's a rule somewhere.

After leaving Boston in '05 to sign a four-year deal with the Dodgers, Lowe has enjoyed the most post-Red Sox success out of this group aside from Johnny Damon. While he never matched the success he had for Boston, his best season after leaving was 2006 when he posted a 4.7 fWAR for Los Angeles. 

The 39-year old righty had a rough go of it last year, putting up a 9-19 record with a 5.05 ERA. This is likely to be his last season as his contract is up ad the end of the year.

Manny Ramirez
Yes he's still facing a 50 game suspension. Yes, he officially retired after failing yet another drug test last season, this time with the Rays. And yes, he should probably stay exactly where he is in lieu of picking up another bat.

But the one thing we always knew about Manny that he was a baseball savant. As nonchalant as his attitude seemed, baseball was and is his life. Not in the Michael Jordan sense of the idea of competitiveness, but in the way that baseball can permeate the very soul of a person.

If Manny gets his way, we'll all get to witness him being himself for one more year.

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