The All-Time All-Star Boston Red Sox
Okay, Red Sox fans, I know you've had a horrible September and October amidst the turmoil of the BoSox' collapse over the last month and a half of the 2011 season, but this is something to take your minds off that fiasco. This is an article in which I choose the greatest players at each position in Red Sox history. I hope you enjoy it.
Catcher: Carlton Fisk. Although he played longer for the other Sox in Chicago, he was the best catcher in Red Sox history (and White Sox history also, as you will see in a later piece). He was the unanimous selection for the American League Rookie of the Year in 1972 after cups of coffee in 1969 and 1971. He also was injury-prone, breaking his leg early in 1974 season, and missing time in 1975 and 1979, as well. This is ironic, since he ended up catching 2097 major league games.
Fisk is best-known for his thrilling 12th inning home run in game six of the 1975 World Series, a game many say is the best ever played. Who will ever forget his reaction shot, willing the ball to go fair, and it did. That shot made Harry Coyle a big-time director in sports television.
Ultimately, Fisk, a native of New Hampshire, left the Red Sox as a free agent after the 1980 season in a bitter argument over what a 7-time All-Star catcher was worth. Red Sox fans still rue the day the Sox let him go. He became a Hall of Famer in 2000, wearing a Red Sox hat on his plaque.
Other notables: Jason Varitek.
First Base: Jimmie Foxx. Although his best days were spent in Philadelphia, Foxx still wielded a potent bat when he joined the Sox in 1936. He hit 222 home runs for the Sox, ninth best on their career list, and hit 50 in 1938, also knocking in a team-record 175 runs. He slumped horribly in 1942, leading to his departure from the team in midseason. He was a mentor of sorts for a young Ted Williams when Ted joined the team in 1939. "The Beast", as he was known, due to this huge muscles, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.
Other notables: Mo Vaughn, Kevin Youkilis.
Second Base: Bobby Doerr. This native Californian spent his entire major league career with the Red Sox, retiring in 1951. He was a nine-time All-Star and outstanding glove man. Back trouble caused him to retire early, but he is still sixth on the Sox career list with 2042 hits, fifth in runs scored, games played, and doubles. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
Other notables: Dustin Pedroia may take this spot in a few years if he's keeps going the way he is.
Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar was a crowd favorite in Boston for years, but it is ironic that the team's first World Series championship team in 2004 let him go in midseason, winning it all without him.
Nomar was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1997, and was one of the trinity of great shortstops in the American League at the time, along with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. The problem with that is that they all couldn't be on the All-Star team at the same time, so Nomar got left out in 1998 despite hitting 35 home runs and finishing second in the A.L. MVP voting. Still, he wound up winning back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000 with averages of .357 and .372, and was one of the best players in baseball.
Injuries brought him down in 2004, and he was ultimately traded away. His career declined greatly after the trade, and he never was the player he used to be. Still, I think he has Hall of Fame numbers. It will be interesting to see how the voters see it when he becomes eligible in 2015.
Other notables: Joe Cronin, Rico Petrocelli.
Third Base: Wade Boggs. The chicken-eater had more superstitions than you can shake a magic wand at, but his bat was a magic wand, enabling him to win five batting titles for Boston, and retire as a member of the 3,000 hit club.
Wade had difficulty making the Sox in the first place. The Sox, who were run by idiots then, kept Boggs in the minor leagues for six years, despite the fact that the guy could hit. But in 1982, somebody figured he could play in the majors, and after splitting time between first and third base in his rookie season, he took over at third in 1983, and never looked back.
He's fifth on the Sox career list in hits, fourth in doubles, and second in batting average with a .338 mark. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Other notables: Hall of Famer Jimmie Collins.
Left Field: Some teams just have a glut of great players at certain positions, and the Red sox have had outstanding left field play from 1939 to 2008. Even saying that, it's pretty obvious that Ted Williams is by far the best at this position in Red Sox history.
Teddy Ballgame had a .344 lifetime average in a 19-year career with the Sox. He won six batting titles, hit 521 home runs, had a Ruthian .482 on-base percentage, and hit .406 in 1941, the last player to clear the magic .400 in a season.
Despite all this, he incurred the wrath of fans, writers, and other players due to his prickly personality. He feuded with so many writers, notably Mel Webb of the Boston Globe, that he lost MVP awards he should've won. He won the A.L. Triple Crown, twice, in 1942 and 1947, and both times did not win the A.L. MVP award. (How Joe Gordon beat him in 1942 is still a mystery.)
He was the most hated visiting players of his time, much the way Albert Belle or Barry Bonds would be i later years. All three had similar personalities. But all three could hit the baseball.
Williams mellowed after his career somewhat, and became a goodwill ambassador for the game, highilghted by two things: His Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966 when called for the Hall to induct Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson and all the Negro League stars who never got the play in the majors. And secondly, his holding court at the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. Those players gathered around him like he was Santa Claus, and he chatted away amiably before throwing out the first pitch to Carlton Fisk.
Other notables: Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez.
Center Field: Tris Speaker. Many still consider him the finest center fielder in baseball history. His ability to play shallow and run down fly balls was legendary, and he often scooped up ground singles and made them,...oops,...force plays at second. (In the dead ball days, this was possible.)
He could also hit, especially in 1912, when led the Sox to the World Series title in a campaign which he hit .383 with a league-leading 53 doubles. In fact, he hit the most doubles in baseball history with 792, a record which will probably never be broken.
After leading the team to the 1915 pennant, he got into a salary dispute with owner Joe Lannin, and it became so acrimonious that was traded to Cleveland. It didn't affect the team right away, as the Sox won both the 1916 and 1918 World Series, but that may been the start of the decline of the Red Sox for the next 50 years. Speaker was one of the first Baseball Hall of Famers, elected in 1937.
Other notables: Freddie Lynn (for five years he was as good as anybody).
Right Field: Dwight Evans. He was the heart and soul of the Sox teams of the late seventies and early eighties. A magnificent outfielder with a cannon for an arm, his defense kept him in baseball while his hitting was kind of lackluster in the beginning of his career. He won eight Gold Gloves as a right fielder, which is impressive, since Gold Gloves rarely go to right fielders. He eventually learned how to work the strike zone and by 1981 emerged as a top hitter in the American League.
Many people feel that the real reason for the 1978 Red Sox collapse was because Butch Hobson couldn't throw the ball to first base, but others think it was because Evans was severely beaned by Seattle's Mike Parrott in August of that year, Evans suffered from headaches the rest of the year, and his production was next to nothing with the bat or the glove.
"Dewey" was one of the most popular players ever in a Red Sox uniform, and is fourth on the team's career list in home runs, RBI, third in walks, and third in runs scored. He is also one of the true gentleman of the game.
Other notables: J.D. Drew, Harry Hooper.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz. How the Twins messed up with this guy, I'll never know. I guess Tom Kelly just didn't like him. Okay, so he can't play defense. What the man can do it hit. And he became a huge star and folk hero in Beantown. Theo Epstein acquired "Big Papi" as a cheap free agent signing on January 22, 2003. And free of an organization who wanted him to be a singles' hitter, Ortiz flourished, hitting over 40 home runs in a season three times, with a high of 54 in 2006. He has been an inspirational leader to the team, and could well be the best DH in history, although Edgar Martinez and Hal McRae fans will quibble.
Other notables: Carl Yastrzemski.
#1 Starting Pitcher: Cy Young. The man for whom the pitching award is name was thought to be washed up when he joined the Sox in 1901, the A.L.'s maiden season as a major league. He wound up getting 192 of his 511 career wins with the Sox, leading the A.L. in wins three times, and being a major part of the 1903 and 1904 pennant winners. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
#2 Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens. Okay, his name is mud right now because of all the steroid issues and lying to Congress, but before all that, he was the most dominant pitcher in baseball during his tenure in Boston. He is still tied with Cy Young for first in Sox history with 192 wins, is first in strikeouts, and second in starts with the team. He also won three Cy Young Awards with the team, and became one of the few pitchers to win a league Most Valuable Player Award in 1986. He also is the only pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a game, twice! It's a shame that the cloud over the second half of his career will cost him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
#3 Starting Pitcher: Pedro Martinez. The slim Dominican had some eye-popping seasons with the Sox after coming over in a trade with the Montreal Expos in 1997. He won two Cy Young Awards in Boston, and had an incredible 117-37 record with the Sox. He is third on the Sox career strikeout list, and sixth in wins. He will be a Hall of Famer when he is eligible.
#4 Starting Pitcher: Luis Tiant. El Tiante's career was thought to be over when the Sox acquired him as a free agent on May 17, 1971. He was coming off a sore arm, and he was a low-risk gamble to see if he could ever pitch again.
Boy, could he! He won 20 games in a season three times with the Sox, and one of the most popular and colorful players in Sox history. He still ranks fifth in career wins with the team, and is still a Sox favorite today.
Other notables: Ernie Shore, Dutch Leonard, Lefty Grove, Bill Dineen.
Relief Ace: Jonathan Papelbon. Will he stay with the team, or will he go? That remains to be seen, but he is best closer in team history. He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2006, and his 188 saves are by the far the best in team history.
Other notables: Dick Radatz, Bob Stanley, Ellis Kinder.
Manager: Sorry, Sox fans, but the best manager in team history just got fired. Terry Francona is one of two Sox managers (the other being Bill Carrigan) to lead the Sox to two World Series titles, winning his in 2004 and 2007. His outmaneuvering of Joe Torre during the 2004 ALCS was a thing of beauty as the Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the A.L. pennant.
Francona won 744 games in Boston, two World Championships, and led his team to five playoff berths. It's just a shame he will be remembered for his 2011 team, rather than the two World Championships he won.
Other notables: Bill Carrigan, Jimmie Collins.
Those are my choices. What are yours?