Some idle thoughts one week before the equipment truck leaves Yawkey Way for Fort Myers:
• Something to ponder while watching the Sox shift Jacoby Ellsbury to left for Mike Cameron: Of all the teams that have had a starting center fielder 37 or older (minimum 120 games, 85 percent in CF), only one made it to the World Series, and that was in a war year, 1945.
There have been 24 seasons (17 players) in which a team has had a starting CF that met the age and playing criteria noted above. Doc Cramer was 39 years old when he played for the 1945 Tigers, who beat the Cubs in seven games to win the World Series. Cramer, who played 5 of his 20 big-league seasons with the Red Sox, making the All-Star team four times, hit .379 in that series, collecting three hits in Game 7.
Cramer was the only one to make it to the World Series. Only three other center fielders in Cameron's age group advanced as far as the playoffs, and all were eliminated in the first round: Kenny Lofton, Steve Finley (twice) and Brett Butler.
Cameron has never played in a World Series. He was the center fielder for Mariners teams that lost the ALCS to the Yankees in 2000 and 2001. He also played for the Padres in 2006 and Brewers in 2008, both of whom lost in the division series.
He is the oldest center fielder in the big leagues. There were only five regular center-fielders 30 or older in the big leagues last season: Cameron; Torii Hunter, 33, Kosuke Fukudome; Aaron Rowand, 31; and Vernon Wells, 30. But since his big-league debut in 1995, he has been on the disabled list just three times, one stint stemming from his horrific collision with Carlos Beltran while playing for the Mets on Aug. 12, 2005, ending his season. He also dislocated his finger on a slide in 2000 and had tendinitis in his left wrist at the start of the 2005 season, which cost him a month.
• Anyone planning to accompany the Red Sox on their first road trip of the season to Kansas City should make the Negro Leagues Museum an absolute must-see. Last week, the museum gave out its annual awards, one going to Cameron, who received the John Henry “Pop” Lloyd Legacy Award , given in recognition of “baseball and community leadership.” The award recognized the work Cameron has done with urban youths in the Milwaukee area.
Claire Smith, my ESPN colleague, who received the baseball writer of the year award from the museum, says that Bob Kendrick, the museum’s vice president of marketing, told her that Cameron brought 11 family members to the event at his own expense. Cameron has been to the museum three times, and Kendrick told Claire that he has been one of the museum’s biggest financial supporters.
• ESPN crack researcher Jeremy Lundblad passes along a few of his findings on Joe Nelson, the right-handed reliever signed by the Sox to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to big-league camp.
Nelson was nearly unhittable with the bases empty last season. Over his career, opponents are hitting just .195 against him compared to .261 with runners on.
Lowest opponents' batting average with the bases empty in 2009 (min. 75 Batters Faced):
Mike Adams, Padres -- .091
Joe Nelson, Rays -- .138
Robinson Tejeda, Royals -- .138
Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers -- .147
Huston Street, Rockies -- .147
While Nelson was stingy with the bases empty, it’s a different story with runners on base. In 2009, Nelson faced 80 batters with runners on base, yielding an opponents’ batting average of .317 and an OPS of 1.074.
Sox left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima had a very similar 2009 season from this standpoint. With the bases empty, opponents hit .199 compared to .305 with runners on.
In 2008, Nelson had a 2.00 ERA for the Marlins, the ninth-lowest among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings. So what was the biggest difference between that pitcher and the one who was designated for assignment last September by the Rays? You could make a good case that it was his performance with men on base. In 2008, opponents hit just .219 against him with men on base.
After posting an 8.53 ERA last May, Nelson had a 1.45 ERA and .115 opponents batting average in June and July combined. However, he was demoted on August 1 after a wild July. After walking 1 batter in 10 2/3 IP in June, Nelson issued 10 walks in 8 IP in July.