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)
Round 2: Defeated Jake Peavy (68.27 percent to 31.73 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)
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 190 pounds
MLB experience: 8 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (one-year, $9.5 million deal)
Round 1: Defeated Jonny Gomes (51.99 percent to 48.01 percent)
Round 2: Defeated Shane Victorino (51.31 percent to 48.69 percent)
Stephen Drew just keeps going about his business, and it’s led to an excellent season for the veteran shortstop.
Some questioned the Red Sox signing Drew in the offseason. Jose Iglesias was still in the mix, Xander Bogaerts looks like he’s poised to become a fantastic major league shortstop and Drew’s brother, J.D., had one of the more polarizing Red Sox tenures in recent years. But Drew has proven to be a very valuable piece of the Red Sox’ 2013 puzzle through solid defense and consistent hitting.
Drew went through some early offensive struggles after missing the start of the season because of a concussion, but he’s been a reliable presence in Boston’s lineup ever since. His sweet swing looks effortless, yet it gets the job done. There was even a stretch this season when Drew was one of the Red Sox’ best hitters.
Drew has also come up with some timely hits for Boston. The easiest way to a fan’s heart is to produce when it matters most, and Drew has been clutch all season. If that continues into the playoffs, Red Sox fans could be calling for him to be more than just a one-year bridge to Bogaerts.
“He’s technically sound. He might not show you the flash that some other shortstops do, but as far as turning double play and making every play at different points or critical points of the game, he’s very dependable.” (Aug. 27)