With his first official donning of the pinstripes, Jacoby Ellsbury becomes the latest in a long line of beloved Boston Red Sox players that have journeyed West from Beantown to the Bronx. While some take a longer and less direct route (Roger Clemens, Kevin Youkilis) some jump right into the fray like Ellsbury and actually sign on right after being with the Red Sox. These are certainly the transitions that are the most awkward with only a few months since the player was wearing the uniform of the Yankees' most hated rivals. Let's look at what Ellsbury has to live up to.
Luis Tiant (1979-1980)
fWAR with BOS: 30.6
fWAR with NYY: 4.9
Tiant was one of the better pitchers in the American League during his eight year term in Boston, pitching to a 118 ERA+ while winning 122 games. He also became one of the most beloved pitchers in Red Sox history. By the time he became a free agent, however, the Havana native was 38 years old and not quite the pitcher he once was. The Yankees still decided to jump at the opportunity at acquiring a pitcher who had posted an ERA under 3.00 against them, and he still proved effective for his two seasons with the team. He would pitch only another 15 games after his time with the Yankees.
Wade Boggs (1993-1997)
fWAR with BOS: 70.8
fWAR with NYY: 16.6
One of the best hitters ever to wear any uniform, Boggs was the model of consistency in a Red Sox uniform and already a likely Hall of Famer. For 9 of his first 10 years with Boston Boggs managed an OBP over .400 while hitting .300 or better in all ten. But all it took was one bad season at age 34 to have the Red Sox rethink their commitment to their star third baseman. Boston's hesitancy allowed the Yankees to pounce and sign Boggs to a four year deal. Like Tiant, Boggs was not quite the player he once was but was a huge upgrade at third and a main cog in their 1996 Championship squad. Boggs posted a wRC+ over 100 in all of his five seasons while playing plus defense before moving on to Tampa Bay.
Johnny Damon (2006-2009)
fWAR with BOS: 13.4
fWAR with NYY: 12.8
Damon's departure from Boston might have been the most contentious of them all considering he had once famously said that he would "never" play for the Yankees. But as usual, money talks, and Damon was on his way to New York sans hideous facial hair. In spite of being older, Damon was essentially the same player in New York that he was in Boston. He had some pop, took walks and stole bases at just about the same rate. He won a single World Series in both towns as well. If it weren't for the fact he left Boston for the hated Yankees, the fanbases would probably have the exact same opinions of Johnny Damon.
When you have two franchises that have a lot of money and a lot of history, it's unsurprising that they would go after the same sorts of players. Good players are good players, even if you have to drag them from the evils of Fenway Park. In fact, Jacoby Ellsbury may be one of the most interesting parts of this rivalry yet. Will the Yankees be proven correct in giving him an enormous seven year deal that he ends up being well worth, or will the Red Sox look all the smarter for letting a good player go for great player money? You can be sure you'll never hear the end of it either way.
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