The Intentional Walking of Alvaro Espinoza by the Coward Roger Clemens
Through 2,659 plate appearances, Alvaro Espinoza could have had a perfect career in a way, except for one instance.
Espinoza’s lifetime stats (.254/.279/.331, OPS+ 66, lifetime WAR 4.0 with almost all of it on defense) didn’t shout out offensive threat of any kind. He was a throwback to a 70’s shortstop who unfortunately played in the 80’s and 90’s.
He had no power, didn’t take a walk, and stole 13 bases in 32 attempts in his career.
What was the category that only had one blight on it?
He drew one intentional walk in his career.
Espinoza was technically a rookie in 1989, and was the regular shortstop for the Yankees. He had a good batting average, but that was it offensively. No power, no speed, no on base skills. As of August 21st, he had 13 doubles and one triple, and more sacrifice hits than extra base hits.
The Yankees played host to the Red Sox on that Friday night in August. Both teams were struggling, trying to get to .500 and get into fourth place. The matchup was Roger Clemens for Boston versus Walt Terrell for New York. Neither pitcher was meeting expectations, but Clemens was still pitching well in respect to the league.
It was a warm, rainy Friday night – typical humid August weather in New York. The Yankees scratched out two runs in the first five innings against the Rocket. In the top of the 6th, Ellis Burks tied the game with a single that scored Wade Boggs and Randy Kutcher.
The bottom of the sixth was rough for the Red Sox and Clemens. A Jesse Barfield double scored two runs, and Barfield scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch. But Boston answered with two runs in the seventh, chasing Terrell with Lance McCullers allowing Terrell’s runners to score.
It was still 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth, and Clemens was still in there. After an out, Mel Hall and Barfield singled. Bob Geren popped up into foul territory. Rick Cerone caught it, but Barfield somehow advanced to second on the play.
So with runners on second and third, with one out, Espinoza stepped to the plate against Clemens.
Joe Morgan, the manager of the Sox, did the unthinkable.
He asked Roger Clemens. The Roger Clemens. Already a super star pitcher Roger Clemens. He asked that Roger Clemens to walk, intentionally, Alvaro Espinoza.
Clemens complied, meekly.
Cerone held out his arm, and Clemens threw four wide ones to load the bases. He did this to Alvaro Espinoza to bring up Wayne Tolleson knowing that the Yanks would pinch hit.
They did. Ken Phelps strode to the plate.
Clemens and the Red Sox traded Espinoza for Phelps + an extra baserunner.
Karma happened, and Clemens walked Phelps. That was it. Clemens was removed for Lee Smith. The Red Sox lost 6-4.
That was the only intentional walk in Espinoza’s career, and Roger Clemens was the one who gave it to him.
Clemens is more cowardly than we thought, right?