Game 16 vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Cash

Roland Arrojo represented the first era of the Tampa Bay baseball franchise. Rocco Baldelli could arguably represent the transition to the second era of Tampa Bay baseball, as far as playing for a team that was more respected and much more talented. As the Red Sox and Rays close out their first series of the season, it makes sense to address the current(or next) era of Tampa Bay baseball.

Joe Maddon represents a minor oddity in the rivalry between the Red Sox and Rays. Whereas with the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays, the 'villain' in the rivalry between Boston and Tampa over the last several years wasn't a player, but the manager. Joe Maddon was a king of gamesmanship during his tenure as manager of the Rays, including minutiae like not allowing the Red Sox to play music during batting practice at Tropicana Field. He has since moved on to the challenge of bringing the Chicago Cubs their first World Series title since 1908. 

In his place is Kevin Cash, a former Red Sox and member of the 2007 World Series Champions. Gone are Joe Maddon, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar, Will Myers, David Price, and Matt Joyce. They still have Evan Longoria, but they are projected to finish third in the AL East. The Red Sox haven't lost a season series, yet, though they split a four game set with the Orioles last weekend. 

While the Rays aren't going to lay down like the Arrojo Rays, and they may not dominate like the Maddon Rays, there's some comfort in assuming the Red Sox will overcome the Cash Rays!

Game 14 vs. Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays: Rocco Baldelli

Nomar Garciaparra was supposed to have #5 retired up on the right field facade of Fenway Park, like Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk before him. He was supposed to be his generation's Hall of Famer. The guy who gets 3,000 hits for the home team, outlasts Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. You get the idea. 

Well, that didn't happen. Nomar broke down, and his magical career ended much sooner than anyone expected. Despite the unfulfilled dreams, Nomar will forever have a place in the hearts of Red Sox fans who saw him crushing the American League in his peak. For five years after he was traded away from Boston, no other player wore number five in a Red Sox uniform. 

That changed when the "Woonsocket Rocket", Rocco Baldelli, arrived in Boston in 2009, coming off a World Series appearance with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Baldelli was a member of the Rays going back to their days as the last place stumbling team known as the Devil Rays. In a lot of ways, Baldelli was the face of the transition between the last place laughingstock Devil Rays and upstart Not-Devil Rays. By the time the 2008 post season rolled around, Baldelli's ailments were already catching up with him. That didn't stop him from cranking a postseason home run against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS. Baldelli's ties to New England made it a lot easier to see someone besides Nomar Garciaparra wearing number five. That doesn't mean Allen Craig should be wearing number five, but it does mean that perhaps it's not as big of a deal as it was when no one wore it for five years.

In a twist of pathways, Rocco Baldelli ended up spending just 2009 with the Red Sox(blasting his first and last Red Sox homers versus the Rays), before returning to the Rays in 2010. Though he retired in the 2010 off-season, Baldelli can be found hanging out next to first base at every Rays game. He was named the Rays first base coach prior to this season. 

Rocco Baldelli is one of just three players who have only played for either the Red Sox or Rays. He's clearly best, as the others are Mark Malaska and Ryan Rupe. 

It's unclear if the Rays have high hopes for the 2015 season, with Joe Maddon taking his talents to Chi-Town. It's too early to tell if we can start busting out "Rocco Baldelli Ain't Walking Through That Door" jokes, but hopefully we'll find out early and often that the Red Sox offense can take care of business. 

Game 8 vs Washington Nationals: Matt Stairs

Of the players that have worn the uniform of both the Red Sox and Nationals franchises, Matt Stairs represents a connection between the Red Sox, Nationals, and Expos. The Professional Hitter also wore the uniform of 10 other teams!

The barrel chested definition of a slugger had 265 homers over the course of his 19 year career. Amazingly, Stairs only once spent more than 3 seasons with any club, when he spent 5 with the Oakland Athletics. Matt Stairs's greatest moment came during Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, when he cranked a pinch hit 2 run home run that put the Phillies on top for good. 

The 2015 Nationals, like the 2008 Phillies, had a lot of pre-season hype touting their rotation and the overall chances that they will reach the 2015 World Series. What nobody is saying, and probably should be, is that Matt Stairs isn't walking through that door. Matt Stairs, the MLB all time leader in pinch hit home runs, is not walking through that door to save the day when the Red Sox press their collective foot against the throat of the Nationals Hopes and Dreams tonight. 

That's because Matt Stairs retired years ago, and is now the head coach of a high school hockey team. The Nats have Bryce Harper and all the rest, but they don't have Matt Stairs. They don't have the beer league-style ballplayer who struck fear into many pitchers he faced. They'll probably lose tonight simply because they don't have that kind of talent sitting on the bench, waiting to save the day. Matt Stairs, a super hero with a bat, instead of a cape.

Game 7 vs. Washington Nationals: Bill Lee

If you visit and look at a list of players who have played for both the Red Sox and Washington Nationals, Bill Lee is listed despite never donning a Nationals uniform. The reason for this, of course, is due to the fact that the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington D.C. after the 2004 season.

So, technically, Bill Lee is one of just six players to play only for both the Red Sox and Expos/Nats.  Bill "Spaceman" Lee is, to the best of my knowledge, the only recipient of continued support via graffiti on the wall of the Green Monster.

When Bill Lee was traded to the Montreal Expos for a proverbial bag of balls named Stan Papi, someone responded by spray painting "Who The Hell Is Stan Papi?" on the back of the Green Monster. The Fenway grounds crew cleaned up the graffiti, but the sentence reappeared often during Bill Lee's career until he retired. 

Despite technically playing for only the Red Sox and Expos, Bill Lee has pitched for more than a half dozen semi-pro and celebrity teams since his retirement. In 2010, Lee pitched for the Brockton Rox and picked up the win at the age of 63.

There is no player on the Red Sox or Nationals today that comes close to being the character that is Bill "Spaceman" Lee, but perhaps one of the Red Sox relief pitchers will mix things up and bust out an Eephus pitch! 

Game 6 vs. New York Yankees: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller's career as a New York Yankee is exactly 2 games long, and he's already notched a save against his former club. Miller joins a long list of players to don the uniform from both sides of the rivalry. From Babe Ruth to Johnny Damon to Andrew Miller. I don't think that's necessarily an appropriate sentence to write, but any time you can say Babe Ruth and Andrew Miller in the same breath, you take that opportunity and run with it.

Andrew Miller went from an unmitigated disaster with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins before turning it around in his second season with the Red Sox. Miller, like Babe Ruth and Johnny Damon, joined the Yankees after securing a World Series title with Boston. Miller didn't pitch in the 2013 postseason, but he contributed along the way during the regular season.

So, why Andrew Miller as today's player profile? Miller is signed with the Yankees through 2018, and there's a good chance that he will become the official closer for the Bronx Bombers before long. There will no doubt be highs and lows, and hopefully more lows for Mr. Andrew Miller whenever he faces the team he left behind. 

Game 3 vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon

Last night Jonathan Papelbon earned his 107th save as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He is now five saves from tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record of 112 saves. Once he reaches that milestone, he'll be the all time franchise saves leader for both the Red Sox and Phillies.

Of course, Paps went on the record yesterday to say he doesn't feel like a Phillie. You can't blame Papelbon, considering he spent his first seven years with the Red Sox, racking up 219 saves to go along with his 2007 World Series ring. 

It's interesting to note Papelbon's comments, especially when compared to Hanley Ramirez's comments upon re-signing with the Red Sox after a 10 year hiatus. Ramirez said then that he was happy to go back where he belonged. The obvious difference here is the Red Sox had a mutual desire to join forces with Ramirez. The same may be said with Papelbon. Paps will undoubtedly face trade questions all summer long.

Last night Hanley Ramirez almost had a second consecutive game with a grand slam, but the dreary conditions in Philadelphia and a wind blowing in prevented that. 

Here's hoping Ramirez and the Sox have better luck tonight, perhaps even besting their franchise leader in saves!