Baseball-Reference is one of the best sites on the internet. Full stop. You can have your YouTube and your Facebook. Give me some good ol’ fashioned (and new fangled) baseball stats to the face all day, every day. That’s why when I saw the following tweet, I was pretty intrigued. (Apologies if I’m late to the party on this feature).
TIP: Use the Oracle of Baseball to find out how any two players are connected, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon style https://t.co/iVdiU4EVf6— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) February 15, 2018
I was also struck with an idea. What kind of connections do the current Red Sox have with the Red Sox of the ancient past (aka 1900s)? The first one that came to mind was ace pitcher and destroyer of worlds Chris Sale and Cy Young. Sale has yet to win the award named for the all-time leader in pitching wins, but he has gotten close. Really close. Last year he came in second in the AL to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, mainly because he started to run out of gas down the stretch.
Still, with an MLB-leading 308 strikeouts and 2.45 FIP, he would have been a worthy winner. It marked the sixth-straight season he has finished in the top six in the Cy Young race and PECOTA projects him to post a 2.44 ERA and strike out 278 batters this season, so he should be in the mix once more.
But what if we just wanted to find out how Sale is connected to the actual human person named Cy Young? Young pitched for the Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, Boston Americans (and then Red Sox), Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers. With such a wide number of teams and such a long career, there are a number of paths to be taken between Sale and Young, but the following is my favorite:
First Sale is connected to Paul Konerko, his former teammate with the White Sox. That makes sense. Konerko might not be in the top 10 in bWAR among all-time White Sox players but he was the face of that franchise (along with Mark Buerhle ) for roughly 15 years.
Before Chicago, Konerko played one year with the Dodgers, the team that drafted him. That was enough to spend time as a teammate with Tom Candiotti, who was a solid starting pitcher during a 16-year career with Milwaukee, Cleveland, Toronto, Los Angeles and Oakland. He went 151-164 with a 3.73 ERA and 108 ERA+ in that time.
Candiotti got to play parts of two seasons with the great Phil Nierko, one of three Hall of Famers in this chain. Nierko failed to win a Cy Young Award or appear in the World Series in his career, but he pitched for 24 years, retiring after his age-48 season. As his career was starting to reach its conclusion, he pitched for Cleveland in 1986 and 1987 where he was teammates with Candiotti. He was also teammates with 17-time All-Star Warren Spahn with Milwaukee.
Spahn’s Baseball-Reference page is covered in black ink. He led the majors in wins eight times, ERA four times, strikeouts four times and he won the 1957 Cy Young Award. Obviously you don’t need me to tell you that Spahn was great. But you might need me to tell you that he played with Johnny Cooney on the Boston Braves.
The two shared a clubhouse during the 1942 season when Spahn made is MLB debut. However, there time as teammates was short-lived, as Spahn served in World War II before returning to the Braves in 1946 and Cooney, who was in his age-41 season in 1942, went to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943.
Cooney was a player who contributed in multiple ways. He played the outfield and also pitched. He was no power threat, with only two home runs in 3,673 plate appearances, but he did hit .286 for his career. In addition, he produced a 3.72 ERA over 795 1⁄3 career innings pitched, even though he stopped hurling after 1930.
During the 20s, Cooney played with catcher and first baseman Hank Gowdy while both were making plays with the Braves. Gowdy, a .270 hitter for his career, played parts of 17 seasons at the MLB level, including the 1911 campaign when he was traded from the New York Giants to the Boston Rustlers on June 22. Later that summer, Young signed with the Rustlers after being cut by the Naps and there you have it. I’ve taken you from Sale to Young. Let’s hope this year Sale reaches Cy Young all by himself.
Sale will certainly be trying to hold up his end of the bargain since he is a believer in the team as it is currently constructed. (Scott Lauber; ESPN)
Mookie Betts is a leader for the Red Sox because he is the best position player on the team. Now he’s taking a more active role as a leader in the clubhouse. (Steven Buckley; Boston Herald)
Xander Bogaerts is another member of the team who knows that last year wasn’t the best internally. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Mitch Moreland signed early and that’s probably a good thing. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)
We went on a winding ride to bring Sale and Young together up top, but Jeremy Barfield really knows something about long journeys. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)