Who are the ten most underrated players in Boston sports in the past 35 years? This will be the focus of today’s Titletown Ten post. Since 1980, Boston sports teams have won a total of twelve championships. Nine of those have come in the past fifteen years. We’ve had the privilege of watching some of the all-time greats in their respective sports over this time frame. Those players include Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, and Ray Bourque. We’ll always remember these players for their outstanding contributions. This particular list will be for those players who aren’t at the same level, but whose contributions were underrated at the time they played and also in historical context.
The criteria for this list will be for players who have played on Boston sports teams since 1980. To quality for the list, the player had to be on a Boston team for at least three years. There will be no one year wonders here! Please keep in mind that if a player is on this list it does not mean he didn’t get any credit at all. It simply means that his value and contributions were underrated.
Here’s First Score Boston’s list of Most Underrated Boston Players since 1980.
#10. Derek Lowe – Red Sox: Lowe is often remembered as a mediocre pitcher who was unreliable at times. The reality is that, after Pedro Martinez, he was the Red Sox best pitcher from 1998 – 2004. In his eight years in Boston, he won 70 games and had 85 saves while posting a 3.72 ERA. Remember, this was in an era where offense was at its peak. An ERA under four was very good back then. Lowe led the AL in saves in 2000 and finished 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting in 2002 with a 21-8 record. When the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years in 2004, it was Lowe who won all three series clinching games in the postseason. He was the Red Sox best starting pitcher that postseason.
#9. Glen Murray – Bruins: Who averaged 30 goals a season for the Bruins from 2002-2008? Joe Thornton? No. Jason Allison? Try again. It was Glen Murray. Murray scored 180 goals over a six-year span after rejoining the Bruins in 2002. This year, Brad Marchand is on pace to score over 40 goals for the B’s. The last player to accomplish this was Murray in 2002-03 when he had 44 goals. He led the league in even strength goals that year with 32. We don’t think of Murray as an elite guy. Part of it is that this was a very weak stretch for the Bruins. However, there weren’t many players in the league who could put the puck in the net more than Glen Murray did during his second run with the Bruins.
#8. Ty Law – Patriots: Law gets a lot of credit from Patriots fans. However, it’s not at the level he deserves. When we think of the Patriots first three Super Bowls it’s always centered around Brady and even Adam Vinatieri. The reality is that Law had just as much of an impact as any player on those teams. Before Peyton Manning’s recent playoff run against the Patriots, how were the Pats completely dominating the Colts offense? It all started with Law taking out the best receiver in the league, at the time, in Marvin Harrison. When you took out Manning and Harrison, you took down the Colts. That’s exactly what Law did. In terms big plays, his interception for a touchdown in the Patriots first Super Bowl win vs. the Rams was the play of that game. He should have been the MVP. He should be in the Hall of Fame. He was the best player on an all-time great defense.
#7. Mike Lowell – Red Sox: When the Red Sox traded for Lowell during the 2005 offseason, it was thought to just be an added contract that the Marlins were looking to get rid of. Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez were the key pieces in that deal. Lowell was coming off a season in which he hit .236 with 8 home runs and 58 RBI. He was 31 years old and considered to be on a significant decline. Over the next four seasons, Lowell hit .295 with an average of 19 home runs and 87 RBI per season for the Red Sox. That wasn’t even the best part. His defense was elite. In the 2007 World Series Championship season, Lowell finished 5th in the MVP voting while hitting .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBI. Oh, and to top it off, he was the 2007 World Series MVP!
#6. Kevin McHale – Celtics: Do most Boston sports fans really understand just how good Kevin McHale was? The opinion here is that most do not. The 1980’s Celtics teams were loaded with talent. Bird was the leader and the best player in the NBA in his prime. McHale benefitted from playing with Bird, but his skills and talent stood out. Simply put, Kevin McHale is arguably the best low post player who ever played in the NBA. The only players who compare are Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaq. From 1983 – 1990, McHale averaged 21.6 points and 8.5 rebounds with an amazing .571 FG%. He was also an elite defender. In his prime, he was an NBA All Star in seven out of eight seasons. In a league that had Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, it was Kevin McHale who was selected as the power forward on the All NBA Team in 1986-87. This team included Magic, Jordan, Bird, McHale, and Hakeem. That’s quite a group to be included in.
#5. Rick Middleton – Bruins: Who talks about Rick Middleton? Many fans in the younger generation probably have never heard of him. When fans think the 80’s Bruins teams it usually starts and ends with Bourque and Cam Neely towards the end of the decade. Middleton scored 40+ goals in five straight seasons from 1979-80 to 1983-84. He averaged 49 goals a season for 1982-1984. He finished in top Top 10 in the Hart Trophy voting as the league’s best player twice. Middleton scored 402 goals and had 898 points. He’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
#4. Troy Brown – Patriots: If you look at Troy Brown’s career stats, the numbers are not going to stand out. Perhaps, that’s why he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Brown was the perfect Patriot. Offense, special teams, defense…you name it and Brown did whatever was asked. He was never an elite receiver, but in the Patriots first Super Bowl season in 2001 he caught 101 balls for 1,199 yards. He made countless big special teams plays in big games especially on punt returns. Brown was almost thought of in a Matthew Slater type role. However, his contributions far exceeded that of a great special teams player.
#3. Dennis Johnson – Celtics: Everyone remembers “The Big Three” with Bird, McHale, and Robert Parish. The reality is that it really should have been the Big Four. Dennis Johnson was a major contributor to a Celtics team that made it to four straight NBA Finals and won two championships from 1984-1987. Before he joined the team, the Celtics were a stacked team who failed to make it to the Finals in three consecutive seasons. Something was missing. Larry Bird once stated that Johnson is the best player he ever played with. “D.J.” was a team player who also had the ability to score if Bird, McHale, or Parish were off their games. He was also a shut down defender. D.J. guarded Magic Johnson in the 1984 Finals and Magic was never the same in that series once D.J. guarded him one-on-one. He was the perfect fit for this team.
#2. Patrice Bergeron – Bruins: Any Boston sports fan knows that Bergeron is a great player and has made major contributions to the Bruins success. However, just how good is he? For starters, he’s the best two-way player in the NHL. He’s won three Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward. Those awards will likely continue to pile up. He’s had seven seasons with over 20 goals. This year, if the Bruins were a top team, he would likely be a Hart Trophy candidate. In terms of big game play, how about the two goals he scored in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011? In addition, there has not been a tougher player in Boston sports. That includes Tom Brady and Larry Bird. Disagree? This guy reportedly played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals with torn rib cartilage, a broken rib, a separated shoulder, and a punctured lung. Enough said. Bergeron is in his 12th season with the Bruins and he’s just 30 years old. When he’s done, he’ll likely go down as a Top 5 Bruin of all time.
#1. Dwight Evans – Red Sox: When fans think of the 1980’s Red Sox, the players that come to mind are Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Jim Rice. Question: What MLB player had the most extra base hits in the 1980’s? The answer is above in bold. From 1980 – 1989, this was Evans average season: . 280 batting average with 21 home runs and 90 RBI. In four of those seasons, he finished in the Top 10 in the AL MVP voting. In the 80’s, his On Base Percentage was .385. His OPS was .882. He had a cannon for an arm in right field. He won eight Gold Gloves. The player who was the most consistent slugger in the American League along with Gold Gloves year after year for a decade was in the shadow of other players when he played. That remains the case today. Dwight Evans is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If you liked this post, please follow us for the next one and check out some previous posts that may interest you on our site.