By The Numbers: Red Sox turned Yankees

Several ex-Bostonians have fared well against their former team while in pinstripes
04/10/2014 5:57 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

In the eyes of Red Sox fans, Johnny Damon went from beloved "idiot" to just plain idiot in 2006.(AP)
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is one of the biggest in sports, but it becomes an even bigger spectacle when someone from one of the teams "defects" to the other.

This phenomenon happens more than you think - this season, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Thornton became the 218th and 219th players to spend time in both Beantown and the Bronx - but it stings more when, like Ellsbury, the defector is a member of the beloved core, a product of the Yankees or Red Sox system moving on to greener (or redder or more pinstriped) pastures.

Ellsbury, Thornton, and the Yankees face the Red Sox in the Bronx this weekend, and in honor of their first chance to strut their stuff against his old team, the latest edition of By The Numbers takes a look at how some notable Sox who slouched south earned their pinstripes by scorching their old mates.

.328: That's the career batting average of Wade Boggs, who, after 11 years in Boston, left the Red Sox following the 1992 season and spent the next five in pinstripes. He only hit .265 against his old teammates while in New York, but just a few months after Sox fans had to watch Boggs parade around Yankee Stadium on a horse after finally winning his first World Series, they had to watch perhaps the most memorable hit of his final Yankees season too. That came on June 1, 1997, when Boggs, who was 0-for-6 in the game to this point, clubbed a three-run homer off Rich Garces in the 15th inning of what was eventually an 11-5 Yankees win.

18: Though he was in his eighth season when he came to Boston and spent just four seasons there, Johnny Damon became one of the beloved "idiots" when he helped the Sox break the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. That love turned to vitriol when he defected to the Yankees for a four-year deal in 2006, and in 66 Yanks-Sox games where he wore pinstripes, Damon hit .259 with 14 homers and 42 RBI - a pretty good season if you extrapolate that out to 162 games. Perhaps most hurtful, though, was the way he crushed Boston's playoff hopes in August 2006, when he went 10-for-23 (.435) with three doubles, a triple, two homers, eight RBI, and six runs scored to help the Yankees complete a five-game sweep in an extended series at Fenway Park.

7/1/04: Sometimes, a single moment is enough, as it may be for current YES Network analyst John Flaherty. Despite being a Boston draftee, "Flash" isn't necessarily a "defector" per se, as he played in just 48 games over parts of two seasons with the Red Sox (1992-93) and was with three other teams over the next decade before closing his career with three seasons in the Bronx (2003-05). Flaherty had just four hits in 14 games played against the Sox in that final span, but one of them is perhaps the most overlooked game-winning hit of all-time; after all, while almost everyone remembers the July 1, 2004 Sox-Yanks game as the one where Derek Jeter dove into the stands, "Flash" certainly remembers it as the day he pinch-hit for Tanyon Sturtze with two outs in the 13th inning and smacked a game-winning single off Curtis Leskanic to give the Yankees a 5-4 victory.

23 2/3: Flaherty's principle also applies to Derek Lowe, who threw just 23 2/3 innings for the Yankees in 2012 but made his final two a dagger in the hearts of his former team. Making an appearance in the middle game of the season-closing series between Boston and New York, Lowe pitched two scoreless innings and ended up the winner after Raul Ibanez's walk-off single in the 13th (four innings after Ibanez began his October heroics with a pinch-hit, game-tying homer in the ninth inning). It wasn't the final nail in the coffin of Bobby Valentine - the Yankees would clobber the Sox 14-2 the next night for that - but it was hurtful nonetheless: New York clinched a share of the AL East on Lowe's night, and the win went to a man who had won 70 games, saved 85 more, and helped break the Curse during his eight seasons in Boston.

273: Next we go to the career win total of Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing, who was a dismal 39-96 over six-plus seasons in Boston when the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees in May 1930 for outfielder Cedric Durst and $50,000. Durst hit .245 in 103 games for the Sox that season and was never heard from again, but Ruffing went on to win 231 games and six World Series rings over 15 seasons with the Yankees. He was pretty tough on the Sox in those years, too, going 29-14 with a 3.24 ERA in 51 starts against Boston as a Yankee.

354: By sheer power of chronology, Roger Clemens had the majority of his numerical success, including 192 of his 354 career wins, over his 13 seasons in Boston. However, "Rocket" will be forever linked to the Yankees for his six years in pinstripes, during which he went 7-5 with a 4.22 ERA in 17 starts against the Sox. What surely chaps the Boston faithful, though, isn't the two Cy Young Awards Clemens won in the Bronx, but more the two World Series rings they watched him collect as part of the Yankees dynasty. If there is any consolation, though, it's that after Clemens won his 299th career game against the Sox in 2003, it was Boston who denied him in his first chance to score No. 300.

21 & 22: Though they're much different, Sparky Lyle is in a way similar to Clemens: an ex-Red Sox pitcher who went on to help the Yankees begin a dynasty. In Lyle's case, the lefty reliever had five pretty good years in Boston (going 22-17 with a 2.85 ERA and 69 saves) before being inexplicably traded to New York in March 1972 for utility man Danny Cater, and surely you can figure the rest; Cater had three serviceable years in Beantown, while Lyle racked up 141 saves, posted a 2.41 ERA, and won the 1977 AL Cy Young Award over his seven seasons with the Yankees. Oh, yeah, and he also won the 1977 and 1978 World Series with the Yanks, too, and while he struggled against his ex-mates, he capped off his Sox-Yanks rivalry career by being on the right side of Bucky Dent's moment of glory in 1978.

86: Of course, our final number memorializes the most noted Red Sock-turned-Yankee, the Great Bambino himself, Babe Ruth. Obviously, it became apparent how bad the Sox organization needed cash when they sold a 24-year-old Ruth - who was 89-46 with a 2.19 ERA on the mound in six years with the Sox and had just led the AL in homers (29) and RBI (113) in 1919 - to the Yankees for $100K, but no one really knew how that would end.

Boston would see Ruth finish out his career there as a Brave in 1935, but in the 15 years he was gone, The Babe hit 659 homers, won four World Series and appeared in three more, and added the 1923 AL MVP Award to his trophy case en route to becoming the greatest player of all time. He did pretty well against this old mates, too, hitting .337 with 90 homers in 293 career games against the Red Sox, and, oddly enough, he stole more bases off Sox pitchers and catchers (22) than any other set of batteries in the league.

So that's what happened when Ruth came to the house he eventually built, and all the Red Sox got was a lousy $100K and an 86-year "Curse of the Bambino."

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