On Sunday, October 2, Mike Lowell played his last game of professional baseball. In many ways, it's amazing that this was notable in Boston at all.
Consider that Lowell first appeared in Boston as a 32-year-old third baseman fresh off the worst year of his career-a year that would have threatened many player's careers. Consider that he came over as a salary dump. For all intents and purposes, Mike Lowell was supposed to be $9 million of dead weight-the (monetary) cost of acquiring Josh Beckett from the Marlins. An over-the-hill third baseman who had lost both his swing and a step in the field (OK, so actually he'd just won a Gold Glove, but come on, those don't mean much).
Suffice to say, things didn't quite turn out that way.
Lowell arrived in Boston as a potential team-killer in 2006. He finished the year batting in the middle of the lineup while playing a plus third base. 2007 was even more surprising, as Lowell earned a spot on the All-Star team thanks to the best offensive year of his career, capping the year off by winning the World Series MVP award as the Red Sox swept the Rockies for their second championship in four years.
Mike was never really the flashy guy. He made some good plays at third, but really it was more just that fans could feel safe with him manning the hot corner. When he won the World Series MVP, I was surprised until I checked his stats and realized he had gone 6-15 with three doubles and three walks, driving four runs in and scoring six times. That's just the way he was, really--he snuck up on you.
Obviously, the last half of Lowell's Red Sox career did not go the way any of us would have wanted. After a strong start to 2008, Lowell hit a rough patch in July before running into the injury that would derail the rest of his career. With a bad hip sending him to one of his worst years defensively, Lowell found himself without a position and without enough of a bat to warrant much time at first or DH. With yet more injuries preventing the Sox from finding a home for him, Mike was forced to finish out his career as a bench player with neither a particularly impressive bat, nor glove. In a way, the Sox ended up getting what they had expected when they first got Lowell-two years of payroll weight.
Still, Mike gave us our bright moments to cheer about. No stranger to dramatics, Lowell was full of memorable moments. Homering in his first game with the Sox. The two-bomb night after replacing Youkilis, who was ejected for his brawl with Rick Porcello. The first-pitch shot this August after being relegated to the bench for so many games. And, of course, those games that earned him his most prestigious award in the first place.
Lowell has his place in Red Sox history. A starter for only four years, he nevertheless earned the title of "best throw in contract ever" to go along with "World Series MVP" (and, for my father, "the revolutionary poet of Baseball"). While things may not have ended on ideal terms for either side, I'm proud to have Mike Lowell retire as a Red Sox.