Sunday, October 21, 2012

Signature Sundays - Wily Mo Pena

This week's Signature Sundays post is a baseball player that Red Sox and Reds fans should remember, though maybe not all that fondly...

Yes, that's right, I actually spent my hard-earned money on a Wily Mo Pena autograph.  For whatever reason I liked the guy during his brief time with the Red Sox.  When he came to the team just prior to the 2006 season in the trade that sent Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati, his reputation preceded him as a guy who could crush the ball but had an extremely high strikeout rate.  I guess that really turned out to be true overall, and it's probably the reason he's playing ball in Japan now. 

In that 2006 season with Boston though, he was everything you could ask for out of a fill-in fourth outfielder.  Pena averaged just about a hit per game when he appeared (83 hits in 84 games), clubbing 11 home runs, 15 doubles and 42 RBI.  The rumors were true as well, Holy Lord could he demolish a baseball when he got a hold of one!  I remember more than once that year just watching one sail in flat out awe.  The best part was that while he did strike out 90 times, he somehow, just for that one season, was able to shake the "two results only - home run or whiff" curse.  He hit a career high .301, an astounding 42 points higher than his next best MLB season.  Wily found ways to get on base, as is evidenced by his career best .349 OBP, 30 points higher than any other season of his career.  His OPS was a respectable .838, second by just a hair to his 2004 season with the Reds (.843).  Had batting in a better Boston lineup resulted in Pena seeing more pitches to hit?  Had the Red Sox hitting staff unlocked the secret to unleashing his full talent?  Had Wily Mo finally proved that he belonged in the Bigs?

The answer to all three of those questions is a resounding 'No'.  As the 2007 season progressed Pena struggled.  Although he was striking out less often than in 2006, it seemed he had forgotten how to hit.  After 73 games, batting just .218 and with an on-base percentage that was lower than his previous season's batting average, Pena was dealt to the Washington Nationals where he actually had a very nice finish to the 2007 season.  He didn't last there either and didn't play in the Majors at all in 2009 or 2010.  After very brief stints with both the D-Backs and Mariners in 2011, he now plays overseas.

I placed the one and only bid on this auction at $5.99, but in my mind this was still a reasonable price to pay for this card.  First of all, 2006 Allen & Ginter autos just aren't that easy to come by.  The checklist is short and the print run for many of them is extremely limited.  At the time of this post there are just 50 2006 A&G Autos listed on eBay, compared to over 250 from the 2010 set, or more than 400 from the 2012 set.  Secondly, this is probably the only 2006 A&G Red Sox auto that I'll ever own.  Carl Yastrzemski is also in the set, but he was a Group A auto, the hardest to pull aside from a Barry Bonds.  Supposedly there are 50 in existence, although I can only find a single one for sale on the internet, with a price tag north of $400.

I'll always remember Wily Mo Pena's time with the Red Sox, and I'm happy to give this card a home in my Red Sox collection.


Nachos Grande said...

And Reds fans are happy to have Bronson Arroyo!

Pro Set Cards said...

I think Wily Mo has one of the best names I have ever heard.

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