Slocumb, as in Heathcliff.
Heathcliff Slocumb pitched for the Red Sox in 1996 and 1997. He was able to save 31 games for the 1996 club. He picked up another 17 in the first half of the 1997 season. Not bad totals, really. But it’s the “half” part of that 1997 season that is really Slocumb’s legacy.
Closers are an interesting breed. There are the elite, lights-out closers. Papelbon is a good one. Billy Wagner looks to be one as well. Then, there are the other guys. Guys who collect saves, but may look particularly dominant doing it. Imagine Dice-K as a closer. When you look it over, in a vast majority of his innings, he doesn’t give up three runs. He would save a large majority of his chances. He’d be a good closer. Would anybody like watching it though? Slocumb was one of those. So, by the middle of the 1997 season, Boston was tired of it. Whether it was perception, or performance, everyone was ready to dump him. So, they did. At the trade deadline, he was shipped off to Seattle for a couple minor leaguers. Anybody who’s reading this blog certainly knows that the two minor leaguers were Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe. Varitek, obviously, went on to have the best catching career the Red Sox have ever seen. Lowe ended up being an all-star as a closer…and as a starter. In fact, he started the 2002 game. So, in exchange for Slocumb, the Sox got four all-star appearances. Not too shabby. Theo didn’t even get that when he traded away Nomar. Or Manny, come to think of it. Or Hanley. Hmm.
My only specific memory of Slocumb didn’t come when he was with the Red Sox. I’ve mentioned before that I was at the home opener in 1998 when Slocumb came in as a member of the visiting Mariners. His attempt to “save” a 7-2 lead failed spectacularly. We all joked in the stands that the Sox had a chance once he entered the game…even if nobody really believed it. The Sox scored three runs off him on three hits on their way to winning the game.
So, while his time in Boston won’t be remembered as fondly, Slocumb himself certainly will. Would the Sox have won the World Series in 2004 without Lowe and Varitek? I doubt it. That makes Slocumb a pretty important piece of Red Sox history. Just ask Dan Duquette.
S is for Slocumb, Heathcliff
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