Bob Ojeda

Boasting a large repertoire of pitches that included the “dead fish,” a changeup that acted something like a screwball, Ojeda was an occasionally brilliant but inconsistent starter when he first came up with the Boston Red Sox. Though he led the American League with five shutouts in 1984, he finished at 12-12 with a 3.99 ERA.

Finesse pitchers are always on dangerous ground in the confines of Boston’s Fenway Park, and even Ojeda’s better seasons were somewhat scarred. Though he compiled consecutive double-digit win seasons with the Sox in 1983-84, he allowed a large number of baserunners and posted a 4.01 ERA over those two years. After a 9-11 record with an even 4.00 ERA in 1985, Ojeda was finally traded to the New York Mets in an eight-player deal after the 1985 season that garnered Boston Calvin Schiraldi and Wes Gardner.

Arguably the Mets’ ace in 1986, Ojeda sparkled out of the shadow of Fenway’s Green Monster, and led the staff in victories during the team’s championship run. He went 18-5 to lead the National League in winning percentage in 1986, and his 2.57 ERA was second in the league. He won Game Two of the NLCS 5-1, and although he gave up three runs in the first five innings of Game Six, the Mets went on to win the dramatic contest in 16 innings. In the World Series, he beat his old team at Fenway in Game Three after the Red Sox had taken the first two games from the Mets. It started New York’s turnaround; they became the first team ever to win the Series after losing the first two games at home. He got a no-decision in the Mets’ memorable comeback in Game Six, yielding two runs in six innings.

Ojeda missed most of 1987 after a May elbow operation in which his pinched ulnar nerve was moved and chips were removed. He came back strong in 1988, but pitched with poor support and finished 10-13 despite a 2.88 ERA. In a well-documented freak accident, he missed the last three weeks of the season after severing his left middle finger while trimming the hedge at his home. The tip of the finger was deliberately re-attached crookedly; he lost feeling and strength in it, but the different angle was designed to help him continue to throw his curveball. In 1989 he dispelled fears that his career was over, and posted a 13-11 record with a respectable 3.47 ERA.

Nonetheless, Ojeda was demoted to the bullpen after starting 1990 poorly, and then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December 1990 for outfielder Hubie Brooks. Landing a spot in the starting rotation, he fared better in 1991 with LA, going 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA. The following year, Ojeda thrived on the deep dimensions of Dodger Stadium, going 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA, but on the road notched just two wins and a 4.84 ERA. In September 1992, as Ojeda stumbled through the final month of the season, he was asked to skip his final start so that a young rookie named Pedro Martinez could make his major-league debut. That December, Ojeda signed with the Cleveland Indians, with whom he would easily have a shot at cracking the starting rotation.

Disaster cut the pitcher’s season short on March 22, 1993. On an off-day during spring training, Ojeda and fellow Tribe pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin were fishing on a rented boat just south of the Indians’ spring home in Winter Haven, Florida, when the vessel struck a dock, killing Olin and Crews. Ojeda was scalped and badly shaken up, but alive. He took a leave of absence from the Indians and baseball, internally dealing with the pain by taking a spontaneous solo trip to Sweden and checking himself into a psychiatric institution in Maryland. Somehow, he came back to the Indians that August, but was still affected by the tragedy, and posted a 4.40 ERA over 43 innings, the worst performance of his career.

Ojeda signed with the New York Yankees in January 1994, hoping to put the bad memories behind him and start fresh, but after two disastrous outings in April, he was released.

After a hiatus from baseball, Ojeda came back in 2001 as the pitching coach for the Mets’ Single-A team Brooklyn Cyclones, who had also hired former teammate Howard Johnson as the hitting coach.