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Lynchburg Red Sox

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In 1988 the former New York Mets affiliate in Lynchburg, VA switched over to the Boston Red Sox. The new Lynchburg Red Sox had a rocky start, going 25-45 for the worst first-half record in the northern division of the Carolina League. In the second half they bounced back with a 43-27 record and took the title over the Hagerstown Suns. Overall they were just 68-72 but they beat the Salem Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs then barely lost a best-of-5 series with the Kinston Indians in the championship. Carolina League Manager of the Year Dick Berardino's team drew 81,197 fans, 6th in the 8-team league but close to last. The team had four All-Star position players - 1B Jim Orsag (.324/~.436/.496, first in slugging, tied for the league lead with 91 runs, 3rd in the league in average and OBP), 3B Scott Cooper (.298/~.373/.471, a league-high 45 doubles and 234 total bases and tied for the lead with 148 hits), OF Bob Zupcic (.297/~.384/.467, second in the league with 97 RBI and 33 doubles) and OF Mickey Pina (who was named MVP after a .273/~.388/.489, led league with 21 HR and 108 RBI, tied for first with 91 runs, second in slugging and walks {84}, plus 11 steals in 12 tries). Five other players hit under .200 with over 150 AB, though, making the team an unbalanced offense. Cooper was named the #2 prospect in a poll by league managers (behind Bernie Williams and ahead of Albert Belle among others), Pina was picked as the #4 prospect and Orsag was 9th.

Gary Allenson became the manager in 1989 and the team was a polar opposite of '88 - first in the division in the first half (though just 35-34) and third in the second half (though their record was better at 35-32). Attendance fell to 74,375 (7th of 8 teams) and the team fell in the first playoff round. For the 6th time in 8 years, Lynchburg had the Carolina League MVP - OF Phil Plantier, voted as the #5 prospect in the circuit. Plantier hit .300/~.400/.546. Plantier led the league in slugging, total bases (242), homers (27) and RBI (105) and was third in average and within 10 points of the OBP lead. The shortstop position was split between two future major-leaguers - Tim Naehring (.301/~.371/.401) and John Valentin (.246/~.348/.379). Derek Livernois (10-8, 3.50) led the league with 151 strikeouts while Kevin Morton (4-5, 2.35) was picked as the 7th-best prospect in the circuit.

The 1990 Red Sox set a league record for batters striking out as they whiffed 1,198 times. Allenson's club drew 92,607 (still 7th in the CL) though their record was an unimpressive 58-80. Brian Conroy (10-12, 3.53) threw 4 shutouts to lead the league, while OF Greg Blosser (.282/~.362/.459) became the third straight Lynchburg Red Sox player to top the league in homers (18). Blosser was named the league's top prospect. In other news, 3B Chris Whitehead was married at home plate one day; Whitehead did make as much impact with his abilities at the plate - hit .210/~.335/.316 and led the league with 164 K's.

A sub-.500 Lynchburg team again boasted the top prospect in '91. Manager Buddy Bailey's team went 67-72 but again won a second-half title and made the playoffs below .500. They made it to the finals but were swept by Kinston in a rematch of three years earlier. The team drew 88,897 fans. Tim Smith (12-9, 2.16) led the league in ERA while OF Boo Moore (.249/~.303/.404) hit 30 doubles, the most. 1B Willie Tatum hit .287/~.393/.423 with 15 steals in his second year with the club; he was 7th in the league in average and made the All-Star team. The top prospect in the league was OF Jeff McNeely (.322/.436/.421; McNeely led the league in average and OBP and stole 38 bases despite missing 30 games with injuries).

Bailey's team had its best year yet in 1992, winning the first-half title and the second-half title and posting the best overall record (77-58) before falling to the Peninsula Pilots 3 games to 2 in the finals for their third loss in the championship in their first five seasons. The team drew 92,778 fans. Reliever Joe Caruso (6-4, 15 Sv, 1.98, 132 K in 118 IP over 49 relief spots, just 68 hits allowed) led the league in ERA without making a start and was the club's sole All-Star but was joined on the top-10 prospect list by fellow pitchers Aaron Sele (13-5, 2.91) and Frank Rodriguez (12-7, 3.09) while another reliever, Cory Bailey (5-7, 23 Sv, 87 K and 43 H in 66 IP, 2.44) led the league in saves. Tim Van Egmond (12-4, 3.42) was a fine third starter and pitched a no-hitter. The team's 4th member on the top-10 prospect list was 3B Luis Ortiz (.290/~.332/.456). The top average was posted by infielder John Malzone (.306/~.354/.430).

Mark Meleski became the manager in 1993 and the team went 65-74 in his first season, 7th in the CL. They topped 100,000 in attendance (100,113) but were last in the league in that area. 3B/SS Bob Juday (.297/.430/.379) led the CL in walks (83) and OBP and was in the top 10 in average. The batting champ was DH/1B Felix Colon (.320/~.403/.539), who like the rest of the team was left off the All-Star squad. Joel Bennett (7-12, 3.83) led the league with 221 strikeouts in 181 innings. Futue big-league pitcher Ron Mahay patrolled the outfield and hit .213/~.245/.311. The top prospect was OF Jose Malave (.301/~.374/.484).

Meleski's Lynchburg team was even worse the next year, as their 52-87 record was 42 and a half games behind the Wilmington Blue Rocks and even 8 and a half behind 7th-place Kinston. Their 100,724 attendance was last in the league. The team had just three future major-leaguers, half of the next-worst club. Highly promoted prospect Trot Nixon hit .246/.357/.428, missed half of the year due to a back injury and was still named the 6th-best prospect in the circuit at league's end. 3B Bill Selby (.310/.367/.540) was third in the league in slugging and 5th in average, while 1B Ryan McGuire (.272/.371/.393) was second in the circuit with 79 walks.

In 1995 the club was replaced by the Lynchburg Hillcats, a Pittsburgh Pirates farm team.


[edit] Year-by-Year Record

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1988 68-72 6th Dick Berardino Lost League Finals
1989 70-66 5th Gary Allenson Lost in 1st round
1990 58-80 6th Gary Allenson
1991 67-72 5th Buddy Bailey Lost League Finals
1992 77-58 1st Buddy Bailey Lost League Finals
1993 65-74 7th Mark Meleski
1994 52-87 8th Mark Meleski
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