Jody Reed was a scrappy middle infielder known for his defensive prowess and a solid bat that contributed to Boston’s pennant winning clubs in 1988 and 1990.
Selected by the Red Sox in the 8th round of the 1984 draft out of Florida State, Reed hit .289 in four minor league seasons and arrived in Boston for good on September 12, 1987, when he pinch ran for Pat Dodson in the 9th inning of a 4-3 Red Sox victory over the Orioles at Fenway.
Jody Reed wore # 52 in 1987 and # 3 from 1988-92.
The baby-faced Reed was impressive in the limited action he saw in his late-season 1987 call-up, highlighted by a 3-for-6 performance in his first start, when Reed batted leadoff in the second game of a September 18th doubleheader at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Reed made the Opening Day roster in 1988, but served as veteran Spike Owen’s back up at shortstop until Joe Morgan replaced John McNamara as manager during the All-Star break. Walpole Joe worked his magic on the ’88 squad, which wound up winning the AL East, and one of his first decisions was to replace Owen at short with the 25-year old kid from Tampa.
Reed, all 5'9" and 165 pounds of him, didn’t waste the opportunity and rewarded Boston’s new skipper with solid defense and a .293 average. Furthermore, Reed excelled at making contact, striking out just 21 times in 338 at-bats.
Reed finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1988 and his best years as a Red Sox lay directly ahead.
Reed excelled in Boston from 1989-1991, when he appeared in an average of 151 games and hit in the .280s all three seasons. He mastered the art of the “Wall Ball” double at Fenway Park, and his 45 doubles led the AL in 1990, when Reed had the best year of his career (finishing 18th in MVP balloting) while pacing the Red Sox to another AL East title.
Reed also made history in 1990, albeit in an infamous manner, in a game against the Twins on July 17 when he grounded into a triple play in the 8th inning. Four innings earlier, Tom Brunansky had also grounded into a triple play, making the notoriously slow-footed Red Sox the only team in Major League history to hit into two triple plays in one game.
Because of his below average arm, Reed was moved from short to second base during the ’90 season, and his last two years in Boston were spent as the team’s every day second basemen. His final season in Boston was the only subpar one of his tenure with the Red Sox, who decided to leave him exposed in the expansion draft.
In reality, Reed was left unprotected by the Red Sox for two reasons: his declining offensive production – he hit just .247 in 1992 – and his salary, which was $1.6 million in his final year in a Red Sox uniform.
And so on November 17, 1992 Reed was selected by the Colorado Rockies with the 13th pick in the expansion draft, and thus his time in Boston was over after appearing in 715 games in six seasons, during which he hit .280 and got on base at a .357 clip.
Reed never got a chance to play in Denver, as the Rockies shipped him to Los Angeles immediately after they drafted him. Reed performed well in his one season in Dodger Blue, hitting .276 and making only 5 errors.
Dodger second basemen had made 32 errors the year before Reed’s arrival, and his ability to stabilize the position for LA had earned him a hefty $2.5 million salary, the fifth highest paid to a second basemen in the Major Leagues in 1993, trailing only perennial All-Stars Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Lou Whitaker and Craig Biggio.
Reed, who never made an All-Star team during his 11-year career, was offered a 3-year, $7.8 million contract to stay with the Dodgers. On the advice of his agent/brother-in-law, Reed turned Los Angles down, assuming there would be larger offers on the free agent market.
Rumors also persisted that Reed had concerns for his safety as the pivot man on double plays if he stayed in LA. Jose Offerman, the Dodgers shortstop at the time, was notorious for his late feeds and made a whopping 37 errors in 1993.
But Reed simply explained to the Los Angeles Times that "there were personal issues…with the Dodgers. I had no problem with the offer if it wasn’t for those issues."
Reed never explained with those “issues” were, and Dodgers GM Fred Claire summed up the negotiations as “what we were offering and they were asking was never close.”
The end result was bad for both the player and his team.
Having given up on signing Reed, Claire dealt a young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez to Montreal in exchange for their second basemen, Delino DeShields.
That trade is now regarded as one of the worst in baseball history, although it had a sliver lining for Red Sox fans. Four years later, when the small-market Expos couldn’t afford a Pedro in his prime, Montreal traded Martinez to Boston, where he put up numbers that will likely land him in Cooperstown.
As for the player, it turned out not another team in the Major Leagues was interested in Jody Reed, and he was forced to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers for the league minimum at the start of Spring Training. With incentives Reed wound up making $750,00 for the Brewers, or about $2 million less than the Dodgers offered.
Even more than a decade after it happened, "Jody Reed turning down a three-year, $7.8-million contract offer from the Dodgers after the 1993 season is regarded in baseball circles as the ultimate blunder in player negotiations,” Art Martone of the Providence Journal wrote in 2005.
After a good season in Milwaukee (.271 batting average, career-high fielding percentage of .995), Reed spent a pair of years in San Diego and closed out his career in 1997 with a season spent mostly on the bench for Detroit, where he hit just .196.
In his final four seasons as a Major Leaguer, Reed made a total of $2,875,000. That means his contract blunder cost him nearly 5 million dollars. But Reed’s gaffes were generally limited to off the field contract decisions – he also was a 1st round pick of the Giants in 1982 and choose not to sign – and he finished up a solid Major League career with 1,231 hits (60% of them with the Red Sox) and a .270 batting average.
So what is Jody Reed up to these days?
A decade after he last played, Reed still makes his living in baseball, “teaching young players how to play baseball the right way” through a series of video clips on his website, JodyReedBaseball.com. For an annual fee of $29.95, he promises to show youth players “how to do everything the same way Major League ballplayers do it.”
Reed is also the President of the The Hitting Zone, a baseball and softball training center in Tampa, where he was born and currently lives with his wife and four daughters.
So Reed’s life continues where it began, doing what he has always loved. Forty-five years after he was born, Reed is still living in his birthplace and involved in the sport he has always cherished.
Posted on February 4, 2007