Dougie’s going deep tonight! A popular meme about a day in the life of Doug Mirabelli (there were two such days, I can’t find the other one) was passed around back when Mirabelli was a cult figure in Boston.
It might be odd for some to think that Doug Mirabelli was a cult figure for Red Sox fans, but I can assure you… he was.
Mirabelli was acquired as a response to Jason Varitek breaking his elbow on the since-removed on-deck circle in 2001. At that point, Mirabelli was 30 and quickly gained a reputation for being a defensive whiz with a cannon for an arm behind the plate… as well as launching bombs at the plate without batting baseball gloves, adding a bit of intrigue in the process.
In 141 at-bats for Boston that year, he hit. 270/.360/.518 with nine home runs. I remember attending the August 16, 2001 game in which Ichiro Suzuki and Mark McLemore were ruthlessly gunned out trying to steal by Mirabelli, and the crowd was in an uproar. We couldn’t believe it. Mirabelli had a cannon.
In 2002, Mirabelli began the season as the personal catcher for Darren Oliver and Frank Castillo, but the two quickly lost spots in the rotation. Thus began the partnership with Tim Wakefield that would last six years (with a brief interlude in between the fourth and fifth year).
From 2002 to 2005, Mirabelli hit .249/.325/.451 with 28 home runs in 610 at-bats. He fast gained a reputation as someone who rarely put the bat on the ball — but when he did, sparks few. In fact, Mirabelli is the only player in baseball history to hit six or more home runs in six consecutive seasons of fewer than 200 at-bats (2001-2006).
Mirabelli was traded after the 2005 season, as Theo tried to get rid of the aura surrounding Mirabelli’s handling of Tim Wakefield’s fluttering knuckleball, an aura that had only been strengthened by Jason Varitek’s befuddlement during the 2004 playoffs. (It has been said by multiple parties that Mirabelli would have had just as much trouble the way the knuckleball was moving at the time — maybe so, but you will have a hard time convincing me Mirabelli wouldn’t have been in as much trouble.)
Off he went to San Diego for Mark Loretta, only to return rather hastily on May 1, when Theo had enough of Josh Bard’s complete and utter failure in catching Wakefield’s knuckleball. In what Theo considers his worst trade, Cla Meredith and Bard were shipped off to San Diego (the two players going on to have solid seasons) for Mirabelli. Want a clue as to how much of a cult figure he was? Mirabelli was given a police escort to the impending game, changing in the car so he could take charge of Wakefield that night against the Yankees. (Boston won, 7-3.)
Unfortunately, Mirabelli only hit .193, although he did bang out six home runs for a .342 slugging percentage which is pretty good given that batting average. That .603 OPS got slightly better in 2007, to .637, in 127 at-bats and narrowly missed a self-breaking record seventh straight season of six or more home runs in less than 200 at-bats… by one home run.
Mirabelli was brought into spring training for the 2008 season, but Boston abruptly cut ties with him in spring training and went with Kevin Cash instead. Of course, we all know that Cash worked out well… and then George Kottaras and Victor Martinez did splendidly in 2009, so it probably was the right move given Mirabelli had no more ability with the bat.
All told, Doug appeared in 389 games over seven years, totaling 1,026 at-bats and a .238/.315/.433 line.
There’s no denying his impact on Red Sox fans, however, and also certainly on Red Sox players who loved his attitude in the clubhouse. Curt Schilling was an especially big proponent of Mirabelli:
In the 20 years since I was first called up to the big leagues I’ve played with exactly 2 players who’s presence in the clubhouse carried onto the field. Darren Daulton in Philadelphia, and Doug Mirabelli here in Boston.
Very few players have that ability, and when they have it you know it. 4am landing in Toronto after a sweep, quiet plane, get on the bus for the 40 minute ride to the hotel, dead silence and everyone is wiped. By the time you got to the hotel the entire bus was laughing and the day was behind you. It’s a gift and Doug had it in spades.
Doug Mirabelli’s legacy in Boston is secure: He has a place on the All-Aughts Team of the Decade.