BOSTON—It has the makings of a new Red Sox trend: win a Silver Slugger, leave town.
Adrian Beltre on Thursday was named winner of an American League Silver Slugger award, given to the player judged the best hitter at his position by a vote of league managers and coaches. There was no stuffing the ballot boxes: Terry Francona and his coaching staff by rule were not allowed to vote for their own players.
One Red Sox player won a Silver Slugger in 2009: the left fielder, Jason Bay, who as a free agent parlayed that success into a four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets. In what Beltre, a free agent in high demand this winter, has to hope is not a cautionary tale, Bay’s first season with the Mets was a disaster, as he hit a career-low six home runs, saw a 172-point drop in his OPS (from .921 to .749), and sustained a season-ending concussion.
Coming into the season, Beltre would hardly have loomed as favorite for the award, given that he was competing against the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, a 10-time winner of the award (3 times at third base) and the Rays’ Evan Longoria, who won last season.
But Beltre’s .919 OPS led all third basemen, as did his 49 doubles and .553 slugging percentage. His 28 home runs were second to Rodriguez’s 30.
This is the 33d time since the Silver Slugger was first awarded in 1980 that a Red Sox player has won the award. Beltre becomes the fourth Sox third baseman to win the award, joining Carney Lansford (1981), Wade Boggs (1983, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’91) and Bill Mueller (2003). Of current players on the Sox roster, David Ortiz is a four-time winner (2004-7) and Dustin Pedroia won in 2008. Boggs and Manny Ramirez both won the award a team-leading six times while with the Red Sox.
Ortiz could easily have won a fifth Silver Slugger this season but lost to Vladimir Guerrero at designated hitter, an outcome not supported by the numbers. Guerrero batted .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs, but only 9 of those home runs came after the All-Star break, and his post-break .OPS was just .748. Ortiz hit more home runs (32), outslugged Guerrero (.529 to .496), and had a much higher .OPS (.899 to .841).