Editor’s note: NESN.com is holding a three-week tournament to determine “Boston’s Best Newcomer.” The Red Sox added a lot of new faces in 2013, and the results have been impressive. It’s time to determine which new addition from 2013 best embodies Boston baseball.
The 2013 Red Sox are successful, likeable and poised to make a deep playoff run. Boston has a ton of new faces to thank for its turnaround.
The Red Sox brought in a number of key veterans in the offseason and throughout the year. The goal was to improve not only the roster, but also the clubhouse culture. An emphasis was placed on acquiring players who are both talented and possess a lot of character. The Red Sox have discovered that it’s a winning formula.
The veterans that the Red Sox have acquired since the end of the 2012 season, which ended with a disappointing 69-93 record, are all unique. They’re also becoming more well-known to Boston baseball fans as we head down the stretch and toward the postseason.
But which player acquired over the last 11 months is Red Sox Nation’s favorite? Red Sox fans typically gravitate toward players who combine on-field success with a dash of personality, and a number of this season’s newcomers fit that mold.
Fans are asked to consider the players’ total package (personality, style of play, on-field success, impact, intangibles, etc.) while voting for their favorite. NESN.com’s “Boston’s Best Newcomer” tournament will determine which 2013 newcomer best personifies Red Sox baseball.
Weight: 195 pounds
MLB experience: 5 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (one-year, $4.25 million deal with vesting option for 2014)
Round 1: Defeated Mike Carp (87.96 percent to 12.04 percent)
The Red Sox had a busy offseason, but the signing of Koji Uehara flew under the radar a bit. Uehara is no longer flying under the radar, though, as the 38-year-old has since been thrust into Boston’s all-important closer role.
Uehara, who enjoyed success with the Orioles and Rangers before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent back in December, started the 2013 season as a setup man. He thrived in the role, earning himself a spot on the American League All-Star Final Vote ballot through his dependability and seventh- and eighth-inning dominance.
The Red Sox had a closer dilemma, however. Both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went through rough patches before eventually landing on the disabled list with season-ending injuries. Uehara was thus handed the keys to the Red Sox’ ninth-inning duties on June 21, and he has since become even more dominant in his new position.
Uehara’s incredible strike-throwing ability has made him one of baseball’s most reliable closers, while his personality and energy have made him one of the Red Sox’ most unique characters. Uehara has pitched and high-fived his way into the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere.
“We’ve seen the consistency from start to finish. He has saved our tail end all year long.” (Sept. 1)
Weight: 195 pounds
MLB experience: 12 years
Acquired: Via trade from White Sox in three-way deal involving Tigers. (Red Sox received Peavy and Brayan Villarreal, and traded away Jose Iglesias, Cleuluis Rondon, Francellis Montas and Jeffrey Wendelken.)
Round 1: Defeated Mike Napoli (51.34 percent to 48.66 percent)
The Red Sox wanted to add a starting pitcher for the stretch run. Enter: Jake Peavy.
Peavy was acquired from the White Sox as part of a three-team deal involving the Tigers. It was a polarizing deal given that the Red Sox had to part ways with highly regarded shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias, but Peavy has already won over much of the fan base through his success on the mound, his bulldog mentality and his emphasis on winning.
Peavy was once considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. He won a Cy Young award with the Padres in 2007 and has been named to three All-Star Games, including the 2012 Midsummer Classic as a member of the White Sox. The right-hander might no longer be an ace, as he has battled some injuries throughout his career, but he’s a very good pitcher who is capable of anchoring a rotation. It didn’t take long for Red Sox fans to get a glimpse of Peavy’s talent, as the 32-year-old went seven strong innings in his Boston debut on Aug. 3. He hasn’t stopped pitching well since.
Peavy’s intensity is what stands out the most. He’s clearly a guy who wants nothing more than to win baseball games, and sometimes, it even causes him to yell at himself on the mound. The shouting is Peavy’s way of staying focused, but it also shows just how fiery a competitor he can be.
While Peavy hasn’t been in Boston long, he has fit right in since joining the Red Sox on July 30. He now figures to be a big part of the Red Sox’ playoff run.
“He’s been everything we could have hoped for since coming over here. He’s worked deep in games. He’s thrown a lot of strikes. He’s made some big pitches in key moments when he’s needed. And even when he’s gotten some traffic on the base paths, he finds a way to minimize the overall damage and that’s held true in five of the six starts he’s made for us. A very strong competitor, as we see.” (Aug. 31)