The Night Grady Little Destroyed Byung-Hyun Kim
As a Red Sox fan, I will confess to having my pets. Amongst my friends, I catch a lot of heat for this. As it relates to the current edition of the Sox, I have been accused of being a J.D. Drew "apologist" and heck, maybe I am. I loved Mark Bellhorn (remember, he was actually booed in Fenway Park during Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS). Heck, I was clamoring from the hilltops for Roberto freaking Petagine to be given an honest-to-goodness chance as Kevin Millar lumbered through his hangover 2005 season. Petagine, who was given just 36 plate appearances for the big club in 2005, hit .327/.452/.635 for Pawtucket that season while Millar hit .272/.355/.399 for Boston. Newly acquired John Olerud rendered Petagine useless down the stretch in 2005 as far as Terry Francona was concerned.
Another such player was Byung-Hyun Kim, a guy I could not have been happier to root for after Boston acquired him on May 29, 2003, especially given that he was traded for the likes of Shea Hillenbrand. The addition of Kim paid immediate and season-long dividends for the Red Sox. He was phenomenal, as shown below.
IP SO BB H WHIP ERA ERA+ Kim 79.3 69 18 70 1.11 3.18 147
And yet, as good as he was for the Sox in 2003, here is how he is remembered around these parts:
This shot was taken before Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS. Keep in mind the above numbers. You might also consider that from September 1 on in 2003, Kim had allowed opponents a batting line of .136/.208/.182. He had been tremendous down the stretch. And yet, he was crushed by the home fans when his name was announced. Why? A fanbase already weary of a player who had failed so famously at Yankee Stadium, remembered his four Blown Saves during 2003 better than they did his stellar performance on the whole for the season. Moreover, he was tagged with a Blown Save in Game One of the series and Boston returned home on the brink of elimination, down 2-0 to a powerful Oakland Athletics squad.
So what happened in Game One? Staked to a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Little hands Kim the ball to nail the win down. He promptly induces a Ramon Hernandez fly-out before walking Billy McMillon and hitting Chris Singleton. With men on first and second, he then strikes out Mark Ellis. With two outs, two men on and his best relief pitcher on the hill, what does Grady do? He pulls Kim in favor of Alan Embree with lefties Erubiel Durazo and Eric Chavez set to hit.
Here's what Little might have considered; Embree that season yielded a .696 OPS against lefties, compared to Kim’s .664. Further, Kim had been Boston's Closer and had just struck out Ellis! With one out remaining and a one-run lead in the ninth, Grady opts for Embree, who promptly gives up a single to Durazo which plates the game tying run. Because the run is charged to Kim, he gets the Blown Save. Oakland wins in the twelfth.
Of course after losing Game 2, a feisty (and dare I say a tinge racist) Boston crowd greets Kim for Game 3 with a chorus of boos. Grady capitulates and fails to use him for the remainder of the post-season. Yes, the very same Grady Little who would leave Pedro Martinez in the game too long in Game 7 of the ALCS just 12 days later.
Kim would never be the same after 2003, his age 24 season.