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All-Time Team – Boston Red Sox
Certainly among baseball’s most historic franchises, the Boston Red Sox have featured many of the game’s greatest players through the years. With Hall of Famers such as Tris Speaker, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Wade Boggs, having worn the Red Sox colors, along with other Cooperstown-bound stars such as Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, Boston’s roll call is perhaps as impressive as that of any other team. Therefore, selecting an all-time Red Sox squad presents a difficult and daunting challenge. We have done our best to name such a team, and, although the selections contained herein are very much open to debate, the feeling here is that it would be difficult to find too much fault with any of them. That decision is yours to make.
This team broke an 86-year tradition of choking in the most critical of situations. The 2004 squad helped sweep away the memories of 2003, 1986, 1978, 1975, 1967, 1946, and all the other near misses that happened in between. They did it in style by sweeping the Angels on a walk-off home run by David Ortiz in the bottom of the 10th inning of the final contest of the ALDS. Boston then spotted the Yankees a 0-3 ALCS advantage, before roaring back in unprecedented fashion to win the series in seven games. Games Four and Five at Fenway Park featured long extra-inning battles after the sport’s greatest postseason pitcher of all time, Mariano Rivera, surrendered the lead on consecutive nights. The Red Sox then went on to sweep the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series, causing tears of joy to fall throughout all of New England.
Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker, and Manny Ramirez were all legitimate contenders, but this honor clearly belongs to Ted Williams – arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived. Losing five peak seasons to time spent in the military during World War II and the Korean War, Williams still managed to hit 521 home runs and compile a lifetime batting average of .344. The last man to hit .400, Williams likely would have mounted a serious challenge to Babe Ruth’s then all-time home run record had he not missed those five years.
This really was a toss-up between Cy Young, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. Young had some remarkable seasons for Boston during the first decade of the 20th century, surpassing 30 victories twice, posting more than 20 wins another four times, and compiling an ERA below 2.00 on five separate occasions. He led the A.L. in wins three times while with the Red Sox. Young’s overall record in his eight years in Boston was 192-112. Consider, though, that the American League was in its infancy when Young joined the Red Sox in 1901. Therefore, the level of competition he faced must be considered somewhat suspect. The sport’s most prolific winner had the additional advantage of pitching during the Dead-ball Era when teams struggled to score runs. In fact, despite the outstanding ERAs Young posted for the Red Sox, he led the American League in that department just once.
Meanwhile, Roger Clemens excelled for the Red Sox during a far more offensive-minded era. Pitching for Boston from 1984 to 1996, Clemens compiled an almost identical record to the one Young posted for the team at the turn of the century – a mark of 192-111. The flame-throwing right-hander won more than 20 games three times for the Red Sox and compiled an ERA below 3.00 a total of seven times. However, Clemens led all A.L. starters in earned run average four times while with Boston. He also topped the circuit in wins twice.
Pedro Martinez didn’t win nearly as many games as either Young or Clemens in his seven years in Boston. Yet, his overall record of 117-37 gave him a much higher winning percentage than either of the other two men (.760 to .634). Martinez surpassed 20 victories twice with Boston, leading the A.L. in that department only once. However, he topped the circuit in ERA four times, compiling a mark below 3.00 in six of his seven years with the team despite pitching in one of the most prolific offensive eras in baseball history. In addition, Martinez’s 1999 (23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 SO) and 2000 (18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 SO) seasons are both considered to be among the very best in baseball history. Therefore, taking quality over quantity, the choice here for greatest Red Sox pitcher is Pedro Martinez.
First Base – Jimmie Foxx
Thought briefly about putting Yaz here since he did play several seasons at first base. Mo Vaughn also received some consideration. But, in the end, Jimmie Foxx’s tremendous slugging made him the clear-cut choice. Legend has it that Double X lost more home runs to Fenway’s Green Monster than any other Boston player. Nevertheless, he still managed to hit 50 homers for the Red Sox in his MVP season of 1938. Foxx also knocked in a league-leading 175 runs (a Red Sox record) and topped the circuit with a .349 batting average that year. Although Foxx spent only six full years in Boston, he hit 217 home runs during that time, knocked in 774 runs, and batted over .330 three times.
Second Base – Bobby Doerr
Bobby Doerr was a Hall of Fame player who had several outstanding seasons as captain of the Red Sox. The only long-term standout at second base for Boston, Doerr actually out-homered Ted Williams in 1948. The slick-fielding second baseman also knocked in more than 100 runs six times for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia has an outside chance of eventually claiming this spot for himself, but he needs to put together several more outstanding years before he can be favorably compared to Doerr.
Third Base – Wade Boggs
One of the finest hitters ever to play the game, Boggs won five batting titles during his time in Boston, posting batting averages of .361, .368, .357, .363, and .366 in the process. He also accumulated more than 200 hits seven times and compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 on nine separate occasions for the Red Sox. A defensive liability when he first arrived in Boston, Boggs gradually developed into one of baseball’s top fielding third basemen. Frank Malzone was an outstanding glove man and a solid line-drive hitter, and Mike Lowell’s 2007 campaign was among the best ever compiled by a Red Sox third baseman. But Boggs gets the decision here in a landslide.
Shortstop – Nomar Garciaparra
Joe Cronin and Vern Stephens both had some tremendous years in Boston, but they had many of their finest seasons playing for other teams. Johnny Pesky is a Red Sox legend, but he wasn’t a true force on offense. Meanwhile, Garciaparra provided the Red Sox with historic numbers at shortstop during his seven years in Boston. He ranks among the team’s all-time top 10 in most of the major offensive categories. It is unfortunate he wasn’t around to take part in the Johnny2004 World Series celebration; being there might have changed him a little.
Left Field – Carl Yastrzemski
I know, I know…you’re probably thinking, “But what about Ted Williams?” Don’t forget, though, that there’s a DH spot that still needs to be filled…and who better to fill that spot than the man considered by many to be the greatest hitter in baseball history. That being the case, we are still left with an outstanding crop of left fielders. Carl Yastrzemski inherited the position from Williams when he arrived in Boston in 1961. Yaz was followed by Jim Rice, who, in turn, was followed by Mike Greenwell. The latter was a fine hitter, but he didn’t have the longevity of either of his two predecessors. Rice was a more dangerous hitter than Yastrzemski (aside from Yaz’s two monster seasons of 1967 and 1970). But Yaz was a far more complete player, surpassing Rice both as a fielder and as a base runner. That leaves Manny Ramirez as Yaz’s final challenger for the spot in left field. Ramirez’s offensive production was truly amazing during his time in Boston. Aside from Williams, he was the greatest hitting outfielder in team history. But Ramirez was a liability in the field, on the bases, and in the clubhouse. He often fielded his position in a manner that left observers scratching their heads. Furthermore, he frequently displayed a lack of hustle and chose not to play in critical games if the mood so hit him. On the other hand, Yaz was a consummate pro, and he was also a superior all-around player. In addition, he spent his entire career in Boston, while Ramirez had many of his finest seasons in Cleveland. All things considered, Yastrzemski is the player most deserving of the left field job.
Center Field – Tris Speaker
Dom DiMaggio, Jackie Jensen, Reggie Smith, and Fred Lynn all merited consideration as well. But, in the end, Speaker was the obvious choice. Although most people tend to associate him more with the Cleveland Indians, Speaker had some of his greatest years in Boston. His exceptional 1912 campaign earned him league MVP honors, and he also helped the Red Sox win two world championships. Baseball’s all-time leader in doubles, Speaker also ranks in the top 10 in batting average and hits, and many historians still consider him to be among the top two or three defensive center fielders in the history of the game.
Right Field – Dwight Evans
I considered putting Jim Rice here to get his big bat in the lineup. After all, Rice played some right field his first few years in Boston, before settling in at left. But Evans spent his entire time with the Red Sox playing right field, and he did a masterful job of covering its vast expanse. Blessed with outstanding instincts, good speed, and a powerful throwing arm, Evans won eight Gold Gloves for his exceptional defense. He also was a pretty fair hitter, hitting 379 home runs, driving in 1,346 runs, scoring 1,435 times, and compiling 2,373 hits during his 19 years in Boston. Most players don’t improve their performance after age 27, but Evans did so, becoming far more proficient as a hitter during the second half of his career.
Catcher - Carlton Fisk
Fisk surpassed 20 home runs four times during his time in Boston, and his 1977 season (26 HR, 102 RBIs, 106 runs scored, .315 AVG) is the best ever turned in by a Red Sox catcher. A fine defensive receiver as well, Fisk threw out 39% of attempted base-stealers, winning a Gold Glove in 1972 – his first full year in Boston. He also hit one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history, leading off the bottom of the 12th inning of Game Six of the 1975 World Series with a game-winning blast against the Cincinnati Reds. Jason Varitek was a true team leader, a solid defensive receiver in his prime, and a superb signal-caller. But Fisk was much more of an offensive force than Varitek, who must settle for an honorable mention.
Designated Hitter – Ted Williams
David Ortiz is one of the very best hitters to ever assume the role of DH. He has demonstrated a flair for the dramatic during his time in Boston second to none, and his 54 home runs in 2006 stand as the team record. However, once the decision was made here to put Yastrzemski in left field, it became a foregone conclusion that the DH spot belonged to Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter the game has ever seen.
Starting Pitcher – Cy Young
The most prolific winner in baseball history with 511 victories, Young led A.L. pitchers in a major statistical category a total of 12 times in his eight years with the Red Sox.
Starting Pitcher – Pedro Martinez
The American League’s most dominant hurler during his time in Boston, Martinez routinely posted earned run averages more than two runs per-game below the league norm while pitching for the Red Sox. He captured the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown in 1999, then followed that up with another brilliant year in which he compiled an ERA almost three runs lower than the league average. A truly great pitcher whose career ended a bit too soon.
Starting Pitcher – Lefty Grove
Although Grove had most of his greatest years for Connie Mack’s Athletics in Philadelphia, he had enough left by the time he reached Boston to win four of his record nine ERA titles. Arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history.
Starting Pitcher – Roger Clemens
One of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game, Clemens won three of his record seven Cy Young Awards while pitching for the Red Sox. He earned both Cy Young and league MVP honors in 1986, when he led Boston to the A.L. pennant by posting a record of 24-4, with a league-leading 2.48 ERA during the regular season. Appeared in five All-Star Games during his time in Boston.
Starting Pitcher – Smoky Joe Wood
Had he not hurt his arm, Wood may have gone down as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. His 1912 campaign was one of the greatest ever turned in by a pitcher (34-5, 1.91 ERA, 258 SO, 344 IP, 35 CG, 10 Shutouts), and he posted a career ERA of 2.03.
Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
The best relief pitcher the Red Sox have ever developed, Papelbon dominated opposing batters in his first four seasons as Boston closer. He surpassed 35 saves in each of those years, while compiling an ERA below 2.00 on three separate occasions, including a remarkable figure of 0.92 in 2006. He faltered a bit, though, in 2010, finishing the year with a 3.90 ERA despite compiling 37 saves.
Manager - Terry Francona
Dick Williams managed the Red Sox to the A.L. pennant in The Impossible Dream season of 1967. But Terry Francona has piloted the team to five postseason berths and two world championships in his seven seasons as Red Sox skipper. Boston has averaged better than 90 victories during that time, and the team overcame an 0-3 deficit against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, en route to winning its first World Series in 86 years.
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