Does size matter with the Boston Red Sox? The team had height deficiency, but certainly not talent deficiency. Here is a look at four from the past who came up short.
The Red Sox appear to lead all of major league baseball in the category of being short. The number of players in the lineup who are listed under six feet tall is rather extensive including MVP Mookie Betts, all world defender Jackie Bradley, rising star Andrew Benintendi, and even the catching duo of Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez. And Dustin Pedroia is a former shorty who was MVP.
Baseball can be a very democratic sport in relationship to size. A towering hulk can be placed beside a comparatively diminutive player such as Brett Gardner (5’11”) being followed by Aaron Judge (6’7”) in the lineup. Mitch Moreland a rather stout first baseman can be replaced by a pocket-sized Brock Holt.
Fans do have an affinity for smaller players since it becomes a matter of comparison in that the players appear “average” in size and weight. And that quite naturally can apply to other sports as well, but in baseball and with the Red Sox a few stand out that were fan favorites even for a far too short (pun intended) time.
When I first saw Betts play it was in the minors and Betts was at second base. Watching Betts hit and especially play the field I was quickly reminded of Pokey Reese. Reese will be remembered as part of the 2004 team and especially for several remarkable defensive plays. Reese – never a great hitter – finished the season with a .221 average.
Reese had one interesting statistical note in his Red Sox career and that was a two home run game, but what is interesting is how it was accomplished. One was an inside the park home run and the other a traditional Green Monster shot. The other notable Reese moment is the final nail into the Yankees in the ALCS by fielding a ground ball and tossing it to Doug Mientkiewicz.
Reese was gone after 2004, but not out of baseball as he attempted to hang on with the Mariners, Marlins, and Nationals before ending his career, but Boston was his last major league destination. Reese is now a high school basketball coach.
Donnie Sadler was an 11th round draft pick by the Red Sox in 1994 and eventually made it to Boston in 1998. The compact (5’6”) Sadler never hit much in the minors or the majors with a career average barely above the Mendoza Line at .202. In the minors, Sadler hit just .251 in 12 seasons.
Sadler didn’t have the speed of Reese who swiped 144 in 170 attempts. The best Sadler ever did was 11 in one Triple-A season. Sadler was a utility infielder in his career since his bat certainly held him back for a regular spot. Sadler finished his career with Arizona in 2007 where he received a 50-game PED suspension.
Another career .202 was a well-known local Lou Merloni who has made a media career in the area. Merloni is listed at 5’10”, but that is probably after a visit to the rack with Thomas de Torquemada. Merloni – a Framingham native – hit a home run in his first home at-bat, but that may have been his career highlight.
Merloni was a regular on I-95 as he moved between the Red Sox and their farm club at Pawtucket. I believe one of the local sportscasters referred to it as the ”Merloni Shuttle.” But that shuttle didn’t stop at Boston as Merloni did organization hopping until he retired in 2006.
A player who never made it to Boston, but became an All-Star is a lefty outfielder named Albie Pearson – a favorite of any kid who saw the 5’5” and 140 pound Pearson play. I will add him to my list anyway. Pearson was hustled off to the Washington Senators along with towering (6’4”)first baseman Norm Zauchin for Pete Runnels.
If there is any solace regarding the trade is that Pearson – who was Rookie of the Year in 1958 – hit a career .211 at Fenway Park. And Runnels? Runnels won two batting titles with the Red Sox and briefly managed the team. Of note with Pearson in 3,628 plate appearances, Pearson struck out just 195 times.
Pearson is an ordained minister who has been active by forming a youth foundation and being active in providing shelter for abandoned and neglected youth. A special player and a special person.