by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Christopher Trotman Nixon, better known as “Trot,” was a first-round selection of the Boston Red Sox. Despite how highly Nixon was regarded, his first few seasons in the minor leagues weren’t all that exciting. Nixon did get called up to the Major Leagues in 1996, and got 2 hits in 4 at-bats. His 1997 season at AAA Pawtucket was merely OK, although he did hit 20 HR and steal 11 bases.
But, it wasn’t until 1998 when he broke out at AAA in a big way, hitting .310/.400/.513 with 23 HR and stealing 26 bases. Trot was rewarded with a cuppa coffee in 1998 and didn’t do much to impress. The 1999 season, however, his true rookie season, would be a very good one.
As 1999 was the first season in which I personally began to watch MLB on a regular basis, Trot Nixon was a young star that I enjoyed watching play. In 126 games, Nixon hit .270/.357/.472 with 15 HR, 51 RBI, and stole 3 bases. Those Red Sox teams didn’t really run, after all. Also, despite 7 errors, Nixon flashed the leather with defense worth 15 runs above average thanks to his above-average range.
Trot finished only 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, although it was a pretty stacked year in 1999. His own teammate, Brian Daubach, in his own first full season finished 4th. It was also Carlos Lee’s rookie year, although he didn’t outperform Trot, although Chris Singleton, who finished 6th in voting, actually did. The winner that year was Carlos Beltran, which was honestly a smart decision, especially considering the career Beltran would have.
Trot Nixon’s Solid Numbers and 2003 Career Year
Because of various injuries, Trot Nixon never would display his once above-average speed in the major leagues. So, while he was once thought as a 20 HR/20 SB threat, that never came to be. What did come to be was that Trot translated his spectacular plate discipline and above-average power to above-average major league performance. Injuries would also limit his range in the field, but he’d still be an above-average defender overall for the most part until the tail end of his career.
However, from 1999 to 2005, Trot was never a below-average player. Keep in mind that 2 WAR is a roughly average regular in the major leagues playing a full season.
1999: 2.9 WAR in 124 games
2000: 2,5 WAR in 123 games
2001: 3.8 WAR in 148 games
2002: 2.9 WAR in 152 games
2003: 5.1 WAR in 134 games
2004: 0.9 WAR in 48 games
2005: 3.4 WAR in 123 games
Trot’s best year was 2003, a year that many expected the Red Sox to make the World Series. Of course, Aaron Boone made sure that didn’t happen… But Trot posted a career best slash line of .306/.396/.578 for a 152 wRC+ with 28 HR and 87 RBI. Those results were partially fueled by a slightly high .334 BABIP, but he did have a truly good year. He also hit very well in the playoffs and may have been the ALCS MVP that year had the Red Sox not been eliminated.
Nixon wasn’t a below average player until 2006, when he posted only 1.1 WAR in 114 games. Injuries finally caught up to him and he was never the same player again. He was truly awful after leaving the Red Sox for the Indians in 2007. and didn’t fare too well in 2008 with the Mets, either.
Trot Nixon’s Ability to Drive in Runs
There were a couple of knocks against Trot Nixon that limited his overall numbers. Firstly, he was dreadful against left-handed pitching (.630 career OPS vs LHP, ..872 career OPS vs RHP). The other major knock against him was that in the “clutch” it seemed like Trot was more likely to draw a walk rather than get a big hit. This may sound like a silly knock in today’s game where walks are much more highly valued. But, it is true that in high leverage situations, Trot hit just .256/.348/.433. That’s compared to .290/.380/.480 in medium leverage plate appearances and .270/.359/.466 in low-leverage PA’s.
However, I argue Trot was much more “clutch” than some commentators suggest. After all, Trot had 223 RBi in 864 plate appearances and 711 at-bats. That means Trot had an RBI for every 3.87 plate appearances and an RBI for every 3.19 at-bats. Those ratios are pretty spectacular. So, he made the hits he did get count! Trot was also an extremely good hitter in the 8th inning, with a career .879 OPS in that inning.
The reason he has a poor reputation in the clutch? He was below average in the 9th inning, hitting merely .220/.332/.390 (.722 OPS), and he hit a dreadful .200/.304/.300 (.604 OPS) in extra innings. Those things being said, not all of those 9th inning plate appearances were high leverage situations and 71 PA’s in extra innings is an awfully small sample size. He also has positive career marks in WPA (Win Probability Added) and WPA/LI (Win Probability Added in Late Innings). The one downside is that his “Clutch” score was negative in every season except 2004 and 2005.
So, was Trot Nixon bad in the clutch? Perhaps, as far as the leverage indexes are concerned. What I can say is that Trot helped his teammates trot across home plate in high leverage situations on a regular basis. In that way, I’ve always felt he was underrated.
Trot Nixon’s Time with the Indians & Mets, Retirement, and Career Overview
Somewhat ironically, it was Trot Nixon who played for the Indians that the Red Sox came back to beat down three games to one in the 2007 ALCS. After a lousy regular season, Nixon was actually a good contributor for the Indians in the ALCS. It was a strange feeling for him, especially when he came back to Boston, where he received a very warm welcome.
Nixon retired before the 2009 season after a subpar stint with the Mets and a failed comeback in early 2009 with the Brewers. Trot went home to Wilmington, North Carolina to spend more time with his two children. He now serves as a co-host for a high school football highlight show called “The 5th Quarter” for a local channel.
As it turned out, the Red Sox turned to J.D. Drew to replace Nixon. Somewhat ironically, Drew took Nixon’s #7 with the Sox. While it was a frustrating five years for Drew, who dealt with many nagging injuries, overall he was actually a very similar player to Nixon. Drew, of course, had a great 2007 playoffs and helped the Sox win the World Series. But, replacing the popular Nixon, he never really endeared himself to fans.
Trot Nixon wasn’t just a fan favorite for his consistent production, often underappreciated by non-Red Sox fans. He was a great teammate and his explosive temper actually endeared him to fans. Most of all, Boston fans loved him for his hustle and enthusiasm for the game. He constantly was getting his uniform dirty making great plays and hard slides on the basepaths. Trot became the inspiration for the term “Boston Dirt Dogs.”
Had Nixon been a bit better against left-handed pitching, he may have posted even better numbers; the Red Sox often spelled Nixon against lefty starters for guys like Gabe Kapler, Wily Mo Pena, and other lefty mashers. Still, from a sabermetric standpoint, Nixon was an above average player for a long time, even playing through injuries and ineffectiveness against same-side pitching.
Trot, hope you’re having a great time with your new career and with your family!
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
When I began following baseball around the turn of the 21st century, the Red Sox and New York Yankees rivalry was as hot as ever. One of my favorite players to watch right from the beginning was Bernie Williams…of the Yankees. That's right. The long time Yankees center fielder spent all 16 major league seasons in the Bronx. I saw him right towards the end of his prime. Today, I feel like he's become vastly underrated.
For eight seasons, 1995 to 2002, Bernie Williams was consistently one of the best players in baseball. His counting stats were never that impressive, but someone who consistently hits 20 HR, 100 RBI, steals 10 to 15 bases, and hits over .300 is going to be damn valuable. Whether coincidence or not, it so happens that Bernie's peak almost perfectly coincided with the Yankees eight year Dynasty. What held him back, interestingly enough, was his "Gold Glove" defense.
That's right. The 4 time Gold Glove winner was actually a below average center fielder. Sure, he made the plays. The problem was that he didn't really have great range as a center fielder. I certainly never thought of Bernie as bad a fielder as the defensive metrics have him. In retrospect, he was probably better suited to a corner, but staying in center field is what gave him such impressive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numbers. He finished with 49.6 WAR according to Baseball Reference. That is nothing to sneeze at, but well short of the Hall of Fame standard.
However, Bernie was a postseason hero on several occasions and probably a better fielder than Total Zone would lead you to believe. He also won FOUR World Series with the Yankees and hit very well even in losing efforts. I always thought of Bernie Williams as a future Hall of Famer? Will he ever get a plaque in Cooperstown? It's highly unlikely, but he is on the Today's Game Committee ballot for 2022.
Then again, Chris Bodig makes an excellent case for Bernie Williams as a Hall of Famer on his excellent website Cooperstown Cred. I happen to agree with his arguments. But while I am usually a stats oriented guy like he, I'm going to look back at his peak performance merely as a fan…
Of course there will be some stats and a particular focus on his breakout career year. But, mostly, observations extrapolated from my experience and memories as a teenaged fan. Of course, even then I was obsessed with stats…
Bernie Williams and His Early Career
Like many baseball stars I grew up watching, Bernie Williams' career began in the Junk Wax era of card collecting. In fact, Bernie's first cards debuted in 1987, the widely considered beginning over the Junk Wax overproduction. It's also the year of my birth.
Anyway, 1987 ProCards was the official cardboard debut for Bernie Williams. Several other minor league issues would follow in 1988 and 1989. Bernie's first official rookie card was 1990 Bowman, which thankfully has a glossy Tiffany version if you're looking for his key rookie card to collect. It's a great card. Bernie also appeared in 1990 Donruss, Topps, and Score.
Bernie's major league debut wouldn't come until 1991, but by 1992 he would become an above average player in MLB. Bernie would post a 2.0 WAR Mark in just 62 games in 1992 and a 2.5 WAR Mark in 139 games in 1993. Building my "Junk Wax" Dynasty, I would be very happy to fill out my roster with a young Bernie Williams.
Bernie's Breakout Season of 1995
After a strong showing in the strike shortened 1994 season, Bernie would have his best season in the Majors by WAR. It would be the beginning of his 8-year peak. He would amass 6.4 WAR, with the best defensive season of his career by defensive WAR (1.7)... Ok, enough stats…
I wasn't watching baseball at that time, but 1995 was the year that Bernie was becoming the player I'd later admire. His 18 HR and 82 RBI were nothing to sneeze at. He did steal 8 bases, but was caught 6 times. However, he also hit .307. Keep in mind this is back when batting average was still far, far more important than on base percentage. These were stats that fans were excited about.
The Yankees were getting really good, too. While the hobby was going into decline around this time, what kid didn't want to have some Bernie Williams rookie cards? He was a young star, and he was legit.
Bernie Williams: The Best Hitter of the Late '90s Yankees Dynasty, Who Was Almost a Red Sox...
Chris Bodig goes into it in great detail in his piece on Bernie Williams on Cooperstown Cred, but even as a more casual fan in the late 90's, I knew just by watching him that Bernie Williams was the best hitter on the Yankees. I often wished he played for the Red Sox. Well, ironically, it almost happened just as I was getting into following the sport seriously…
After the 1998 season, the Boston Red Sox actually made Bernie Williams a six year offer for $90 million - with a seventh year option on the table. Keep in mind, Mike Piazza signed a seven year $91 million deal with the Mets not long before that, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history. Arguably, that one worked out pretty well…
The great news for the Yankees is that they decided to offer a seven-year deal worth $87.5 million, which he accepted. The even better news is that the Yankees would've instead signed Albert Belle… and we all know where his career went after that. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they not only lost Mo Vaughn to the Angels, but they essentially replaced Vaughn with.Jose Offerman (who actually was quite good in 1999, believe it or not).
There's a non zero chance that had Bernie gone to Boston, the Sox may have won both the 1999 and 2000 World Series. In retrospect, the Yankees should consider themselves very fortunate that Bernie returned to the only organization he'd ever known. They likely would have won in 2003 and 2004, as well. (No one was beating Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001.)
Oh, what could’ve been…
Is Bernie Williams a Hall of Famer?
From my observations, Bernie Williams was absolutely, positively a Hall of Famer. He had as many, if not a couple more, big hits in the postseason as Derek Jeter - who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Yankees not only may not have won all four of those rings - they may not have even gotten to the postseason some years without the consistent bat of Bernie Williams. As the Yankees primary cleanup hitter, he was the centerpiece of their offense. Period.
It also helps that Bernie Williams is also one of the most likable people to ever play the game of baseball. His second career as a jazz musician has also been a phenomenal success. Since he made so much money in his career, Bernie uses his musical talents mostly for charitable causes. If he’s not a Hall of Fame ballplayer, Bernie’s a Hall of Fame human being.
Bernie Williams is one of those guys who I’ll just throw WAR out the window and put him in the Hall of Fame anyway. As it is, modern center fielders are vastly underrepresented in the Hall. If he’s not elected into the Hall by the Today’s Game Era Committee in December 2021, I will be greatly disappointed.
Bernie, I wish you continued success in all you do!
You can visit Bernie’s official website: www.bernie51.com
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
While not eligible for my Junk Wax Dynasty series, Rich Garces himself did in fact begin his career in the infamous era of overproduction for sports cards. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for Garces, setup men don't get much love at all in the sports card hobby. Who they do get love from are the sports fans, and that's what matters most, right?
As 1999, Garces' breakout year, was my first full year following Major League baseball and my hometown Red Sox, his remarkable performances stand out in my memory.
Rich Garces and his Early Career
Garces actually had two cups of coffee with the Minnesota Twins in 1990 and 1993. He certainly didn't embarrass himself, but the Twins never really gave him a chance. But because of his decent cuppa in 1990, Donruss, Fleer Ultra, Upper Deck, Bowman, Stadium Club, and Topps all gave him a rookie card. Topps even named him a Future Star. Despite Topps having a terrible track record with those Future Star predictions, they were actually somewhat correct in this case.
The Twins released Garces in October 1994 and he caught on with the Chicago Cubs in 1995. Remarkably, he pitched fairly well in 7 games, before being put on waivers and claimed by the Marlins. He didn't pitch so well for them. So, he would be released by the Florida team and find his way to the Red Sox.
Rich Garces and the Red Sox (1996 to 1998)
In 1996, Garces got his first real taste of the major leagues after impressing at AAA. It wasn't pretty, but he managed to post 0.4 WAR. He certainly didn't embarrass himself. The performance was good enough for the Pacific Card Company to name him one of their Gems of the Diamond for the 1997 Pacific Prisms set. Unfortunately in 1997, Garces pitched very little at the major league level and was roughly replacement level when he did. But, his spectacular results at AAA prompted the Red Sox to give him another chance.
Garces was actually not too bad in 1998 with the Red Sox. While he posted unimpressive numbers in AAA, he got his chance in MLB. He was pitching in one of the biggest years of offense that baseball has ever seen. Garces actually posted a career high 0.7 WAR with a solid 3.33 ERA in 30 games. Of course, like had happened so much already to Garces, he found himself released at the end of the season. Of course, the Sox would change their minds and resign him.
Rich Garces as a Premiere Setup Man
Garces actually spent a good chunk of the 1999 season at Triple-A being dominant. It would take the Sox a bit to realize that keeping him down was probably stupid. When he finally came up to stay, the portly Garces was already a fan favorite. He would respond with his best performance yet for a playoff bound Red Sox team.
Particularly astonishing about Garces was his ability to stifle left-handed batters even as a right-handed pitcher. Despite not having much of a fastball, Garces made a living as a relief pitcher with a sharp curve ball and splitter. That splitter would be his bread and butter pitch at his peak.
Despite his 1.55 ERA in 1999, it would not be his career year. Despite an ERA of 3.25 in 2000, Garces was actually much better, posting a 2.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to Baseball Reference in 64 games that season. Whether you believe in WAR or not, his 2.0 mark along with his 1.7 WAR in 1999 is actually a fair representation of his actual value to those Red Sox teams.
Somewhat tragically for the hobby, there were no major card releases for Garces in either 1999 or 2000. We'd have to wait for 2001 Topps and Topps Chrome to collect Garces in a mainstream release again. He did have a couple of minor league cards and a 2000 Red Sox Photocard.
The Twilight of Rich Garces' Career
For the rest of his career, Garces was a decent, if unspectacular middle reliever. Even in 2001 for the Red Sox, he wasn't quite the same, although he was worth 1.1 WAR in 62 games. After a dreadful showing in 2002, Garces was done in Major League Baseball, although he attempted a couple comebacks before retiring as a player to become an independent league pitching coach.
Thanks for the memories, El Guapo!
Lyn Lomasi is founder and owner of the Brand Shamans Content Community. Services include ordained soul therapy and healing ministry, business success coaching, business success services, handcrafted healing jewelry, ethereal and anointing oils, altar and spiritual supplies and services, handcrafted healing beauty products, and more!
Lyn is your brand healing, soul healing, marketing & content superhero to the rescue! While rescuing civilians from boring business practices and energy vampires, this awesomely crazy family conquers evil and creates change.
They live among tigers, dragons, mermaids, unicorns, and other fantastic energies, teaching others to claim their own power and do the same.
By supporting us, you support a dedicated parent, healer, and minority small business that donates to several causes. Profits from our all-inclusive store, Intent-sive Nature support these causes and our beautiful family!
HIRE OR SHOP WITH LYN | CONTACT LYN