The Virtual 1916-1925 Boston Red Sox (Part 2:  1920-1922)

Last time, we introduced the scenario of the Boston Red Sox under owners Joseph Lannin and (especially) Harry Frazee in the late 1910s/early 1920s not plundering the ball club’s talent for cash, but instead sustaining the investment in the pursuit of championships. Our ground rules are simple: We can’t introduce any significant acquisitions the Red Sox didn’t actually make, but we can eliminate the most regrettable transactions they did commit.

Our first installment took the franchise from 1916 through 1919. Our version of the Red Sox didn’t win any more pennants than the actual team (we had them with flags in ’16 and ’18, just as in real life), but our team cruised more easily to its crowns, and, most significantly, remained a contender in 1919, the season in which the real Bosox dropped into the second division.

So let’s pick up with the season in which the Red Sox in real life unloaded their superduperstar slugger …

Treder:

There’s only one transaction we have to undo between the 1919 and 1920 seasons, but of course it’s The Mother of All Bad Deals. Let’s just say that in our scenario, Mr. Frazee (a) doesn’t lose patience with the temperamental young Mr. Ruth, and (b) Frazee decides to find a different funding source to mount the stage play My Lady Friends (the non-musical precursor to No, No, Nannette) than the one he infamously did.

What we’re left with is essentially the same Red Sox roster we saw in 1919. The only differences are the introduction of a few journeyman players Boston truly did trade for that year: left fielder Mike Menosky, infielder Eddie Foster (the Red Sox actually played him primarily at third base, while we have him at second, which the 145-pounder was entirely capable of handling), and pitchers Harry Harper and (mid-season waiver pickup) Elmer Myers.

They were role players; the core of the team remains its stupendous first baseman Ruth and center fielder Tris Speaker, surrounded by solid stars in right fielder Harry Hooper, third baseman Larry Gardner, catcher Wally Schang, and pitchers Carl Mays, Joe Bush and Herb Pennock.

1920

 Pos Player       B Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
 1B  B. Ruth      L  25  142  457  137  173   41   11   41  139  142   80 .379 .526 .786  250
 2B  E. Foster    R  33  117  386   52  100   17    6    0   45   42   17 .259 .336 .334   81
 SS  E. Scott     R  27  154  569   45  153   21   12    4   64   21   15 .269 .300 .369   79
 3B  L. Gardner   L  34  154  597   74  181   30   11    3  118   50   25 .303 .357 .405  101
 RF  H. Hooper    L  32  139  536  115  167   30   17    7   58   88   27 .312 .411 .470  137
 CF  T. Speaker   L  32  150  552  142  209   48   11    8  103   92   13 .379 .467 .549  170
 LF  M. Menosky   L  25  113  399   65  117   18    7    2   51   49   39 .293 .371 .388  104
  C  W. Schang    B  30  122  387   70  118   30    7    4   54   64   37 .305 .404 .450  130

  C  E. Ainsmith  R  30   62  167   21   39    5    3    1   17   13   17 .234 .289 .317   61
 2S  M. McNally   R  26   62  156   23   38    2    1    0    9   14   13 .244 .306 .269   52
 OF  T. Hendryx   R  29   50  122   22   38    6    2    0   24   13   10 .311 .378 .393  106
 OF  D. Lewis     R  32   54  122   11   30    2    0    1   15    7   12 .246 .287 .287   55
 OF  C. Shorten   L  28   58   91   11   25    2    1    0   10    6    4 .275 .320 .319   68
 2B  C. Brady     R  23   27   45    9    9    1    0    0    2    3    4 .200 .250 .222   25

     Others                    93   12   20    2    0    0    7   10   11 .215 .291 .237   41

     Pitchers                 520   57  115   15    4    1   43   40  131 .221 .277 .271   46

     TOTAL                   5199  866 1532  270   93   72  759  654  455 .295 .373 .424  113


     Pitcher      T Age    G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
     C. Mays      R  28   45   37   26  312   27    9    2  304    6   82   92 2.91  125
     J. Bush      R  27   35   26   14  220   16    9    2  249    3   85   84 3.93   93
     H. Pennock   L  26   36   26   15  218   17    7    3  210    8   55   65 3.43  106
     D. Leonard   L  28   30   22    8  172   11   11    1  166    5   55   70 3.87   94
     H. Harper    L  25   29   20   10  163    8    9    0  155    8   64   73 2.71  134
     E. Myers     R  26   12   10    9   97    9    0    0   88    1   24   34 2.13  171

     W. Hoyt      R  20   26    9    5  121    7    4    2  118    2   47   46 4.23   86
     B. Karr      R  26   17    1    0   46    2    3    1   55    2   12   11 4.89   74
     E. Shore     R  29    6    1    0   15    1    1    0   19    0    7    4 4.80   76
     G. Fortune   R  25    5    1    0   14    0    1    0   15    0    8    3 5.79   63

     Others                     1    0   17    1    0    0   20    0    7    5 5.72   64

     TOTAL               154  154   87 1395   99   54   11 1399   35  446  487 3.46  105

The Bambino’s home run production would be significantly inhibited by playing half his games in Fenway Park (an extremely difficult home run park in that era) instead of the Polo Grounds (one of the easiest), but no ball park could well contain his power, and of course he was a terrific all-around hitter anyway.

This ball club would be a monster, scoring the most runs in the league (despite the pitchers’ park) while allowing the fewest. Taking the best player (Speaker) away from the actual pennant-winning Cleveland Indians, and the best player (Ruth) and best pitcher (Mays) away from the close-third New York Yankees, our Red Sox would soar ahead of their actual 72-81, fifth-place performance, going 99-54 to grab the 1920 American League pennant, nosing out the defending champion (and soon to be disgraced) Chicago White Sox.

Namee:

Before we leave 1920, I can’t resist going off on a bit of a tangent. In real life, on Aug. 16, 1920, Carl Mays (pitching for the Yankees) beaned star Indians shortstop Ray Chapman. Chapman died the next day. Unless you think that somehow Chapman was just destined to die from a beanball, you’ve got to at least consider the possibility that he might have lived had Carl Mays remained with Boston.

Chapman was a great candidate for 3,000 hits, and he probably would have made the Hall of Fame. To replace him, the Indians acquired 21-year-old Joe Sewell from New Orleans; Sewell, of course, went on to a Hall of Fame career himself. With Chapman alive, the Indians would have had no reason to purchase Sewell.

In his book on the Chapman death (The Pitch that Killed), Mike Sowell says that the New Orleans owner was offered $100,000 by an unnamed major league team for Sewell, his shortstop. Now, the dollar figure might not be right, but other major league teams were clearly interested in Sewell.

Who would have gotten him eventually? My No. 1 suspect is the Pirates. In September 1920, they purchased Pie Traynor (then a shorstop) from Portsmouth for $10,000. Then, in January 1921, they traded three players plus $15,000 to the Braves for Rabbit Maranville. A lot of other teams had holes at shortstop, but only the Pirates made a deal to acquire a shortstop in the winter of 1920-21. And given that they made two deals and spent a total of $25,000, it seems reasonable to think they might have been interested in Sewell.

This is all theoretical, and the ripple effect of the Chapman death is hard to determine. Suffice to say that several future Hall of Famers might have been in different uniforms had Carl Mays not hit Ray Chapman, and Carl Mays might not have hit Ray Chapman if Mays had been with Boston.

Anyway, moving on … 1921.

In the winter before the ’21 season, the Red Sox made a big eight-player trade with the Yankees, getting quality second baseman Del Pratt and mediocre backstop Muddy Ruel, but paying a hefty price in the process: They lost future Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt, as well as star catcher Wally Schang. Needless to say, this is one trade we won’t be making.

In March, the Red Sox made another regrettable move, sending longtime star Harry Hooper to the White Sox for uninspiring outfielders Shano Collins and Nemo Liebold. We’ll nix this one as well.

Our 1921 Red Sox bear little resemblance to the actual team:

1921

 Pos Player       B Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
 1B  B. Ruth      L  26  152  540  147  200   47   19   49  166  142   81 .370 .501 .800  232
 2B  E. Foster    R  34  120  412   53  117   18    6    0   40   57   15 .284 .371 .357   89
 SS  E. Scott     R  28  154  576   65  151   21    9    1   66   27   21 .262 .295 .335   62
 3B  L. Gardner   L  35  153  586   92  182   30   13    3  122   65   16 .311 .366 .422  103
 RF  H. Hooper    L  33  108  419   97  140   27    5    8   53   55   21 .334 .402 .480  127
 CF  T. Speaker   L  33  132  506  133  178   51   13    3   75   68   12 .352 .422 .522  143
 LF  M. Menosky   L  26  133  477   90  143   18    5    3   43   60   45 .300 .388 .377   98
  C  W. Schang    B  31  134  424   69  130   29    5    6   70   78   35 .307 .415 .441  121

 2B  M. McNally   R  27   55  160   26   41    3    1    1   19   10   11 .256 .287 .306   53
 OF  T. Hendryx   R  30   61  137   13   33    8    2    0   22   24   13 .241 .349 .328   79
 OF  C. Shorten   L  29   58  135   20   37    7    2    0   15   12    7 .274 .325 .356   76
  C  E. Ainsmith  R  31   41  106    8   30    3    2    0   12   11    7 .283 .342 .349   79
 OF  D. Lewis     R  33   54  102   11   19    4    1    0   14    8   10 .186 .239 .245   25
 23  P. Pittenger R  22   20   31    3    6    1    0    0    3    1    7 .194 .206 .226   11

     Others                    41    6    9    0    0    0    3    4    8 .220 .289 .220   33

     Pitchers                 557   64  149   20    6    3   68   23   68 .268 .285 .341   61

     TOTAL                   5209  897 1565  287   89   77  791  645  377 .300 .370 .434  112


     Pitcher      T Age    G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
     C. Mays      R  29   43   35   29  315   28    8    4  312   10   71   67 2.97  143
     J. Bush      R  28   36   31   21  249   18    9    2  236   10   93   96 3.47  122
     W. Hoyt      R  21   42   25   15  229   17    9    5  240    3   66   83 3.07  138
     D. Leonard   L  29   33   27   14  214   15    9    1  234   13   55  105 3.70  115
     H. Pennock   L  27   29   25   12  188   15   10    0  221    6   52   77 4.07  104

     E. Myers     R  27   20    8    4   85    4    5    1  105    5   26   20 4.87   87
     B. Karr      R  27   19    2    0   59    3    1    0   62    4   19   19 3.66  116
     H. Harper    L  26    8    1    1   20    2    1    0   20    1    9   10 4.05  105

     C. Fullerton R  22    2    0    0    5    0    0    0    8    1    3    2 9.00   47

     TOTAL               154  154   96 1364  102   52   13 1438   53  394  479 3.53  120

Ruth’s supporting cast is outstanding, and Hoyt emerges this year as a standout pitcher. The Yankees, who won the pennant in real life, are robbed of their best players (Ruth, Mays, Hoyt and Schang). The runner-up Indians lose two of their stars (Speaker and Gardner). Meanwhile, our Red Sox—75-79 in real life—would win their second straight pennant (and fifth in seven years) with ease, going 102-52.

Treder:

Frazee made three major trades in the 1921-22 off-season. The first was yet another in the dismal series with the Yankees: This one sent top pitchers Joe Bush and Sam Jones as well as slick-fielding shortstop Everett Scott to the Big Apple in exchange for shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh and three pitchers. Well, we don’t have Jones at our disposal, and anyway this deal didn’t make sense for the Red Sox, so we aren’t going to make it.

A follow-up trade flipped Peckinpaugh to Washington for infielders Joe Dugan and Frank O’Rourke; obviously we won’t do that one either. The other big one the Red Sox made that winter swapped first baseman Stuffy McInnis to the Indians for three good hitters: first baseman George Burns, outfielder-first baseman Joe Harris and outfielder Elmer Smith. This was a very sharp trade on Frazee’s part, but since we didn’t make the Larry Gardner-for-Stuffy McInnis deal several years earlier, this is one we can’t have.

Instead we’ll go into 1922 pretty much standing pat. Alas, our juggernaut finally encounters some difficulty: Ruth finds himself suspended no fewer than four times, and is unavailable for more than a quarter of the schedule. His performance in this emotionally troubled season suffers; though still tremendous, his hitting is less than his best.

This is of course a significant blow to our Red Sox. Another issue is that Tris Speaker misses significant playing time due to nagging injuries, though his rate of performance is as brilliant as ever. A third problem is that stalwart pitcher Dutch Leonard, holding out for more salary, refuses to report.

1922

 Pos Player       B Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
 1B  B. Ruth      L  27  110  406   94  130   26    9   29  104   84   82 .320 .434 .643  178
 2B  E. Foster    R  35  113  380   53   99   10    0    0   25   43   28 .261 .330 .287   62
 SS  E. Scott     R  29  154  557   54  149   23    5    3   50   23   23 .268 .289 .343   65
 3B  L. Gardner   L  36  137  470   64  137   32    3    2   78   49   22 .291 .349 .385   92
 RF  H. Hooper    L  34  152  602  111  184   35    8   10   79   69   34 .306 .376 .440  113
 CF  T. Speaker   L  34  131  426   95  164   49    8   10   76   77   11 .385 .469 .608  180
 LF  M. Menosky   L  27  143  529   85  149   21    7    4   50   55   48 .282 .346 .371   87
  C  W. Schang    B  32  124  408   51  129   21    7    1   55   53   37 .316 .384 .409  107

 10  C. Shorten   L  30  108  266   38   73   17    7    2   32   27   15 .274 .329 .414   93
 2S  M. McNally   R  28   68  196   28   50    3    2    0   23   21   18 .255 .303 .291   56
  C  E. Ainsmith  R  32   60  190   23   56    8    2    4   30   16   22 .295 .336 .421   97
 23  P. Pittenger R  23   66  186   16   48    3    0    0    9    9   10 .258 .291 .274   48
 OF  D. Reichle   L  25   48   84   10   21    3    0    0    5    2    7 .250 .276 .286   47
  C  E. Chaplin   L  28   28   69    8   13    1    1    0    6    9    9 .188 .275 .232   34

     Others                    26    2    4    0    0    0    0    3    2 .154 .226 .154    1

     Pitchers                 501   40  109   12    7    0   36   23   62 .218 .253 .269   37

     TOTAL                   5296  772 1515  264   66   65  658  563  430 .286 .347 .398  100


     Pitcher      T Age    G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H   HR   BB   SO   ERA ERA+
     W. Hoyt      R  22   37   31   17  265   19   12    1  268   11   74   95  3.23  127
     J. Bush      R  29   39   30   20  255   26    7    3  237   14   83   92  3.10  132
     C. Mays      R  30   34   29   21  240   12   14    2  254   10   49   41  3.38  122
     H. Pennock   L  28   32   26   15  202   15   10    2  223    6   73   59  4.14   99
     A. Ferguson  R  25   35   23    8  178   10   10    3  175    5   55   40  4.10  100

     B. Karr      R  28   37   11    5  165    7    7    3  185    8   40   37  4.31   95
     C. Fullerton R  23   28    3    0   58    1    3    0   61    4   31   15  5.12   80

     Others                     1    0   12    0    1    0   21    1    6    4 10.50   39

     TOTAL               154  154   86 1375   90   64   14 1424   59  411  383  3.75  110

The phenomenal depth of this pitching staff allows it to more or less shrug off the absence of Leonard, and remain one of the best in the league. But this ball club’s overall offense isn’t particularly special. The result is a contending team, but is it a champion?

While the actual Red Sox fell to last place at 61-93, our version is of course vastly better than that. And the actual pennant-winning Yankees, in our scenario missing Ruth, Bush, Hoyt, Mays, Schang and Scott, will certainly fall far short of their real-life 94-60 performance.

But nothing we’ve done here would have significant impact on the 1922 St. Louis Browns, with a terrific core of first baseman George Sisler, left fielder Ken Williams and ace pitcher Urban Shocker. This St. Louis ball club, despite posting an actual record of 93-61 and a pythagorean mark of 98-56, finished an excruciating one game behind the Yankees. In our scenario it will be the Browns capturing their first pennant, with the Red Sox trailing in second by a few games.

Next installment

Can the Red Sox rebound?

References & Resources
Mike Sowell, The Pitch that Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920, New York: Macmillan, 1989.

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