On Monday, Cy Young-winner and World Series champion Rick Porcello announced his retirement. Saying goodbye is hard, so let’s do it together.
Rick Porcello, Perfect Cy Young Winner
When Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for The Blind Side, she gave a typically charming speech, starting with, “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear y’all down?” But she wasn’t salty. She knew it was an off-year, someone had to win and the hand of fate had pointed at her.
It was great. It reminds me a lot of Rick Porcello and the 2016 Cy Young Award. There’s one school of thought that says “Rick Porcello” and “Cy Young Award” do not properly belong in the same sentence. There’s another, the chaos-embracing one, that couldn’t imagine a better pairing. Take a wild guess which side I’m on.
The best part of Porcello was that he never seemed to give a fuck, even as he caused chaos. He could be unhittable or the opposite. He could win the Cy Young Award or have a 5.52 ERA over a full season and it would be all “yeah, that seems right.” He was the picture of a guy whose life was defined by 80-grade hair and any baseball success felt like a bonus, and he got way more of that than anyone could have expected, himself included.
I know a lot of Detroit fans who hate him. Which makes it odd, on the day of his retirement, which has united the Over The Monster staff in a quasi-gleeful nostalgic glow, to remember how he got here. The Red Sox traded Jon Lester to the A’s for Yoenis Céspedes at the deadline in 2014, then turned around and dealt Céspedes to the Tigers for Porcello that offseason. There has been some hand-wringing about the Lester deal from the day it was made until now, but not from me: Porcello paid it off, albeit unexpectedly, and nothing’s better than found money. Especially when it comes with hair like that.
— Bryan Joiner
Rick Porcello, Maker Of Memories
Instead of doing a formal tribute, I’d like to share one of my favorite Rick Porcello stories.
Let me set the scene: it was 2018, after the Rick-Porcello-turned-Barry-Bonds game, and with the Red Sox in a prime position to win the division.
In 25 games started that season, Porcello had posted a 4.04 ERA, 3.74 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP: not exactly the definition of an MVP candidate. But something happened in the Red Sox game on Aug. 20 that makes him unforgettable in my household.
Here comes Porcello, trotting out for the seventh inning of a tie game against the Cleveland Guardians (I will call them that for reasons of simplicity).
(Sidenote: this was Porcello’s eleventh appearance in the seventh inning in the 2018 season. What was 4.04 ERA 1.15 WHIP Rick Porcello doing in the seventh inning of a game TEN DIFFERENT TIMES BEFORE THE MIDPOINT OF AUGUST for the 108-54 Boston Red Sox?)
While the poor dude is just doing his best to keep the game tied with a runner on first, he got hit with a sharp comebacker— which I will admit, he turned into an impressive out— and then crumpled to the ground.
“Ooh,” commentator Dennis Eckersley said. “Was that his hand or his hip? Sounded like a bone.”
Made infinitely funnier by the commentary of Eckersley, “Sounded like a bone,” became a cornerstone phrase in my household, and is still used to this day.
So thanks, Rick Porcello for this hilarious* memory from an unforgettable 2018 season. (If there’s one thing that man could do besides throw a mediocre-to-average baseball, it was make me laugh!) Thanks for turning into Barry Bonds for one game (against 2.16 ERA owner Max Scherzer of all people), thanks an iconic reaction pic, and thanks for your millions of nicknames. You will not soon be forgotten by many Red Sox fans.
*I WOULD LIKE TO NOTE: this is funny because Porcello got up, stayed in the game, and did not even go on the IL for this incident. I think we can all laugh about it now. Because that’s what he’d want from us.
— Avery Hamel
Rick Porcello, Pitcher
I’ve always been a Rick Porcello guy. This has afforded me a fair share of questioning by my fellow podcasters, ribbing by my fantasy league mates, and general curiosity among my friends. How is it that I can like a guy who had a career 4.43 ERA with the Red Sox so much? The bottom line is that Porcello was unique; he was a throwback to a time when guys actually pitched instead of threw. In an era obsessed with velocity and whiffs he was content to work in the low 90’s and induce groundball after groundball, a true model of efficiency. Sure, he could strike a guy out when he needed to, but what he really yearned for was getting a guy to ground into an inning ending double play.
Porcello pitched in an era when the number of pitchers who take the ball every five days and throw 200 or more innings are so few that you can count them on one hand on a yearly basis. Pretty Ricky threw 200+ innings twice in five years with the Red Sox while averaging 192.8 IP. He was dependable and his impact on the bullpen arms was hard to measure.
My love of Porcello was awarded by fate with the chance to attend the best game he ever pitched. On August 3rd 2018, Porcello drew a start at home against the Yankees. We all know the 2018 Red Sox were a wagon and when this game started they were 76-34. Despite this incredible record, the best in baseball, the Yankees were just 6.5 games back at 68-39.
The Red Sox could really make a statement here over this four-game series and put the Yankees far in their rearview. The Sox had won big the night before and Porcello could continue that momentum. Boy did he ever, Porcello threw a complete game. He struck out nine hitters, walked none, and the only damage allowed was a solo shot to Miguel Andújar. This performance required just 86 pitches, 69 of which were strikes and was aided by eight ground balls. The result was the best game score of his career, a 92. The Red Sox would go on to sweep this four-game set and the Yankees would never get close to the Red Sox for the remainder of that year.
— Jake Devereaux
Rick Porcello, New Englander
Vermont doesn’t shout at you – not in the way that other mountain states do, anyway. The Colorados and Wyomings of the west shove their soaring, deadly, awe-inspiring peaks in your face, demanding your attention. Even New Hampshire can be a little overbearing, with its rugged and wild White Mountains.
But Vermont keeps it quiet. Its gently rolling hills and valleys whisper. The Rockies and the Alps sing a power ballad; the Green Mountains hum a lullaby.
For weeks during the 2014-15 offseason, as we wondered whether the Red Sox would be able to extend the perpetually promising young pitcher they’d traded an all-star for a few months before, we were constantly reminded that Rick Porcello had a house in Vermont. This, we hoped, made him different than other soon-to-be free agents who might be tempted by brighter lights. This, we hoped, made him one of us.
And it must be said that, yeah, it did make him different. Vermont, really?? While every other ballplayer spent their offseasons on the over-fertilized golf courses of suburban, strip mall-laden Florida, Rick Porcello was in Vermont, chopping wood, fly-fishing on frosty mornings, and warming up by the fire with a plate of locally produced cheeses? Really, a young, hair-god of a big leaguer in Vermont?
But there he was, and there was no more fitting place for him to be. Rick Porcello was not going to demand your attention with his arm. He was not going to strike out 13 batters over 8 innings. He was not going to hit 99 on the gun. He was not going to preen, or dance, or fire imaginary arrows into the sky following a big out. He was just going to work quickly, pound the bottom of the zone, and lull the opposing lineup to sleep with one worm-burner after another. He was subtle, even when he was great.
When he was on the mound, Rick Porcello, like Vermont, whispered.
— Dan Secatore