It's so cold today that even I'm cold. It's the coldest day in Boston in at least two years, and while I generally welcome the winter freeze, it's the sort of day where even I need something soul-warming. Thankfully, the Red Sox have me thinking of spring training with today's announcement (courtesy of the Boston Globe) - the assignment of new uniform numbers!
I believe the Red Sox failure in 2012 is tied directly to the fact they had too many players with high uniform numbers. Teams would see numbers like 61, 64, 66, and 77(!) in the starting lineup every day and get an extra dose of confidence, thinking they were playing a spring training game against the third stringers about to be assigned to Double-A. Sure, you may think the Red Sox lost because of their vast array of injuries, an incompetent manager, or the fact that Scott Atchison ended up being their most valuable pitcher (according to rWAR), but you will be unable to convince me that it was something other than the uniform numbers.
- Will Middlebrooks: #16 (formerly #64): This was the most important number change. Middlebrooks has a chance to be the starting third-baseman for a number of years, so getting him a more dignified number was a top priority this offseason. 16 doesn't have a hugely dignified history for the Red Sox, though Dr. Jim Lonborg wore it in 1967. In 2012, Jason Repko had it during his five games.
- Felix Doubront: #35 (formerly #61): Doubront is coming off a strong first full season, and shouldn't have to fight to keep his spot in the rotation in 2013. 35 has frequently been worn by Red Sox coaches and managers, but it has gone to veteran pitchers Dan Wheeler and Aaron Cook the past two years.
- Jose Iglesias #10 (formerly #58): If you're looking for a reason why Iglesias struggled so much offensively in his September tryout, his uniform number (certainly not Valentine's frustrating incapacity to give him consistent at-bats) is a prime culprit. While many saw the signing of Stephen Drew as a signal that Iglesias would again be ticketed for either Triple-A or out of town, the assignment of such a sought-after uniform number is a true sign of confidence in him. 10 was a catcher number for many years, with Bob Montgomery holding it in the 1970's before giving way to Rich Gedman in the '80's and Scott Hatteberg in the late '90's, but it has moved around the diamond since then. Coco Crisp, another defense-first player, wore it proudly on the 2007 champions.
- Ryan Lavarnway #20 (formerly #60): Like Iglesias, Lavarnway's spring training number contributed directly to his poor results in 2012. Rumors that Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be traded have spun all off season, but it appears for now that he and David Ross will be the major league catchers. #20 was worn from 2004 through 2012 by a traitor who will not be named here.#60 isn't a bad number for a relief pitcher, but it is quite unbecoming of a catcher.
- Pedro Ciriaco #23 (formerly #77): Pedro Ciriaco will always hold a place in my heart, after his performance against the Yankees with me in the bleachers during an otherwise awful series (and season). However, #77 is a pretty cool number for a Boston athlete, and #23 is inauspicious - three players had it in 2012 and Ciriaco is the ninth to have it assigned since the start of 2009. Call it the curse of Oil Can Boyd.
- Daniel Nava #29 (formerly #66): 29 was a bit of a lost number for the Red Sox until Keith Foulke clinched a World Series wearing it. After that, Adrian Beltre used it to launch kneeling home runs over the monster. Nava has been something of a forgotten man this offseason, but he'll at least look like a major leaguer this time through.
- Junichi Tazawa #36 (formerly #63): The best on-field development in 2012 for the Red Sox was the development of Tazawa from fringy organizational pitcher to excellent shut-down reliever. His cool number flip shows his prominence in John Farrell's bullpen, AND frees up #63 for the Red Sox to bring back Justin Masterson. Anytime now.
- Franklin Morales #56 (former #46): The only player who was reassigned to a higher number, Morales gave up his jersey number to Ryan Dempster, and will apparently go into 2013 as the Red Sox starting middle linebacker.
- Chris Carpenter #37 (formerly #52): Carpenter was a September call-up last year. He gets Mark Melancon's old number, while giving up his for the player Melancon was exchanged for. Some pretty good middle relievers have worn 37, including Rheal Cormier and Hideki Okajima, so this is a positive assignment for Carpenter.
- David Ross #3: Ross wore #8 with the Braves and #28 during his short stint with the Red Sox in 2008. #3 is something of an infielder number - I might have swapped this with Jose Iglesias or Pedro Ciriaco, as 10 and 23 give off more of a catcher vibe.
- Jonny Gomes #5: Since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra, only Rocco Baldelli and Nick Punto have had #5. Miller has worn number 30 and 31 most recently, both currently held by Andrew Miller and Jon Lester, respectively.
- Stephen Drew #7: This number has been in the Drew family since 2007, with a short hiatus in 2012 during which the Red Sox had no Drew's and Cody Ross filled it admirably. This is good news for the person who owns a J.D. Drew jersey.
- Shane Victorino #18: Conveniently, the Red Sox tend to acquire players with a history with the #18 at the same time they are letting a previous one go, avoiding potential conflict. Victorino, who wore 18 with the Phillies before switching to the #8 in 2006, replaces the departing Daisuke Matsuzaka, who replaced Johnny Damon. Timing is everything.
- Koji Uehara #19: Uehara has worn 19 throughout his entire career. Was the Josh Beckett trade a clever ploy to ensure the acquisition of Uehara by opening up his favored number? It is one of the most captivating questions of this offseason.
- Brock Holt #26: The Red Sox took #26 out of circulation from 2005 until last year, likely as a tribute to Wade Boggs, but evidently decided against retiring the number.
- Ryan Dempster #46: Dempster has worn this number since 1999, with the exception of his time with the Cincinnati Reds.
- Joel Hanrahan #52: Hanrahan wore #52 with the Pirates. Closers can have linebacker numbers, so it's cool.
- Dan Butler #61: This is a strange assignment. There's a solid chance Bulter will be in the majors at some point this season, and #60 is unoccupied. #61 has been a pretty common rookie pitcher number, but Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster got other numbers in the 60's. I demand an explanation.
- Rubby De La Rosa #62: Jon Lester came up wearing #62 back in 2006, so De La Rosa is in good company.
- Alex Wilson #63: Wilson is a good pitcher and seems like a nice guy, but he better get Masterson's number off his back, now.
- Allen Webster #64: Acquired with De La Rosa in the megadeal with the Dodgers, Webster inherits presitigious new guy #64. 64 was worn by Dustin Pedroia (now #15) and Will Middlebrooks (now #16). #17 is unassigned, but the Red Sox are making Webster earn it. He's appearing on several Top 100 prospect lists, so it's not farfetched.
- Drake Britton #66: Britton was on the 40-man last year, but I have no recollection what number he wore in spring training.
- Steven Wright #67: Only two players have appeared in a regular season game for Boston wearing #67 - Anastacio Martinez and Che-hsuan Lin.
- Alex Hassan #68: Hassan is a long-shot to make the Red Sox, but he can take solace in the fact that he's wearing Devern Hansack's number.
- Christian Vazquez #70: He'll probably wear a different number in Portland, where he'll be the starting catcher. Vazquez is one to watch, as his prospect stock has risen considerably in the past two years. I like him.