See you later, Mike Lowell. It was fun for a while there.
By now you know that Lowell is retiring at the end of 2010 following a 12-year career in which he collected three World Series rings (New York ’98, Florida ’03, Boston ’07), a World Series MVP and a legacy that may lead him into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
He will retire as a man of the highest quality and character, garnering praise and credit from the baseball community for his integrity and respect of the game. For some he ranks among the most acclaimed men in Boston history such as Jason Varitek, Johnny Pesky and Carl Yazstremski. He is the type of player that good, old-fashioned, blue-collar working man that New Englanders love. His impact on the city is etched into team history.
Lowell is a champion and a 2007 World Series hero helping lead the Red Sox to their second title in three seasons.
Flags fly forever and it’s a good thing they do, otherwise many fans would be lamenting the trade of Hanley Ramirez in 2006. It was a deal that Theo Epstein was not involved in (during his short hiatus when he ran off) and it has been said that Theo would have never traded Ramirez. In hindsight, the net gain was a World Series victory so you would be hard-pressed to throw stones about this trade.
Lowell was everything and more a team could ask for in a salary dump. When the Red Sox acquired Lowell from the Florida Marlins, he had been left for dead after a dismal 2005 season that made him seem old and weak. Lowell went from 29 HRs in 2004 with Florida to just nine home runs in 2005. The Red Sox wanted Beckett more than anything, but were not getting him without eating Lowell’s contract worth $9 million dollars.
He might be the best salary dump in recent history. It’s the best one that I can think of. (If you know of any better, share them in the comments section).
Despite being a “throw in”, Lowell burst into his Red Sox career by hitting a home run on Opening Day at Arlington Stadium against the Rangers. His first game at Fenway was also a victory in which Lowell blasted three doubles. Hello, Boston. Hello, rejuvenation.
Lowell was a 2006 MLB All-Star and set the Red Sox record for most RBI by a third baseman in 2007 with 120. His $9 million salary suddenly seemed to be a under value and many of us joked that it was the “2006 gopher ball” Josh Beckett who was the “throw-in.” Beckett spent 2006 stubbornly shaking off Varitek and giving up a 1.58 HR/9. Lowell looked like the heist of the century and the obituaries being written on his career were premature.
Lowell was a personal favorite of almost every Red Sox fan from 2006-2009. He was the wisdom and intelligence that gently balanced the goofiness of Manny Ramirez. He was a wily veteran whose grey hair made him look older than his age. He was nifty at third base with the glove and could even do the hidden-ball trick. Women loved him because of his stature and men loved him because he was a winner who played the game correctly.
Lowell became such an icon in Boston that fans at the 2007 World Series “Rolling Rally” held up signs begging the Red Sox front office to re-sign him as he was now a free agent.
Emotions and nostalgia won the battle and Lowell was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $37 million dollars. Since signing the contract, Lowell has not been able to play more than 120 games in any season.
In hindsight, the feel-good choice was to pay him and retain his services, but now the Sox probably wish they had bet against the 33-year old Lowell and let him walk. For the last three seasons, Lowell has been worth just $18.8 million on that $37 million dollar investment.
Many Red Sox fans call Lowell the classiest and most professional of athletes, but others have long moved-on from Lowell with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre. It was out with the old and in with the next career-revamp. Lowell had to endure DL stints and minor league assignments in 2010 causing resentment to develop for #25.
He wanted to be playing and felt he was still good enough, but there was no room for him at the time. A lot of fans began grumbling when Lowell expressed his dissatisfaction in 2010. The passive complaining through the Boston media sent a surge of contempt towards Lowell while he sat stuffed in Rhode Island waiting for a place to play.
Fans don’t like it when players publicly cry about playing time. Especially when their skills are less than that of whom they’d be replacing. Tim Wakefield fell into this trap earlier in 2010 as well.
No matter which way you stand on Lowell in 2010, it’s still fun to reminisce on some of his greatest moments.
When he was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1995, no one envisioned that he would go on to win a World Series in both New York and Boston. Lowell joins Babe Ruth, Johnny Damon, Ramiro Mendoza and Eric Hinske as the only players in MLB history with a World Series ring for both the Red Sox and Yankees.
It’s easy to only look at today. The season is pretty much done for the Red Sox and fans want to know about the future. For now, it’s good to just appreciate Lowell and his distinguished career. Few players are cut from the same mold and Boston was more than fortunate to have had him play and win a World Series for them.
Is he the greatest “throw-in” of all-time? You can decide. For now, I just want to say:
Farewell and thank you, Mike Lowell.