Results tagged ‘ Todd Noel ’
The Red Sox paid tribute before Saturday’s day game against the Yankees at Fenway Park to Mike Lowell, the popular infielder who will retire at the end of the season, which is Sunday. Lowell is an excellent example of how fortunes can change for a player in the major leagues.
Lowell was signed originally by the Yankees and was being groomed as the heir apparent to Wade Boggs at third base. I can remember in Lowell’s first major-league training camp in 1997 how manager Joe Torre likened him to Ken Boyer, the perennial All-Star third baseman with the Cardinals in the 1950s and ’60s. This was high praise from Torre, who also thought the slim, black-haired Lowell resembled Boyer physically as well.
When told this, Lowell sort of squinted and didn’t respond. I figured that he might not know who Ken Boyer was, so when the joint interview with writers was over I doubled back to talk to him alone. He said he was familiar with the name only because he knew Clete Boyer, Ken’s younger brother, had been a coach with the Yankees. When I filled him in about Ken Boyer’s career and the regard Torre had for him, Lowell said, “Wow, those are pretty big shoes to fill.”
Lowell never got to fill those shoes with the Yankees. Boggs applied for free agency after the 1997 season and went home to Tampa to sign with the expansion Devil Rays, as they were then called. The Yankees didn’t think Lowell was ready for the majors and projected him to play at Triple A in 1998. They decided to get a veteran third baseman to keep the position warm for Lowell and targeted Oakland’s Scott Brosius, who was the player to be named in the trade that sent pitcher Kenny Rogers from the Yankees to the Athletics.
A lot of scouts at that time thought Brosius was washed up. After all, Brosius hit only .203 in 479 at-bats in ’97. He became rejuvenated with the Yankees and had a career season in 1998, batting .298 with 19 home runs and 98 RBI and was the World Series Most Valuable Player of the Yankees’ sweep of the Padres. That led to the Yankees to sign Brosius to a three-year contract. They went to the World Series in each of those seasons as well and won two.
Lowell became expendable and was traded in February 1999 to the Marlins for minor-league pitchers Ed Yarnall, Mark Johnson and Todd Noel. Yarnall pitched in three games for the Yankees in 1999 and 2000. Johnson went to the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft and pitched in three games for Detroit in 2000. Noel never made it out of the minors.
With the youthful Marlins, Lowell developed into the player Torre had imagined. Lowell drove in 100 runs for the first time in 2001, made the first of four All-Star Game appearances in 2002 and had 32 home runs and 105 RBI in 2003 when the Marlins went on to win the World Series over the Yankees.
Two years later, however, Lowell slumped to .236 with eight home runs and 58 RBI in 500 at-bats. The Marlins held up a trade of Josh Beckett to the Red Sox by demanding that Boston take Lowell as well. He had two years and $18 million left on his contract, and Florida wanted to dump it. The Red Sox made the deal and never regretted it.
Lowell bounced back in 2006 and hit .284 with 47 doubles, 20 homers and 80 RBI. He did even better in 2007 with a .324 average, 21 homers and 120 RBI and pulled off a Brosius by being named the World Series MVP in the Red Sox’ sweep of the Rockies that year.
Hip and thumb surgeries curtailed Lowell’s career the past two seasons, and he has decided to hang them up. The tribute was well deserved from Red Sox Nation, which cheered loudest when he doubled in two runs off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in the first inning.