As the Red Sox conclude their three game series with the Yankees this weekend, one thing is clear. This team is loaded with talent. It could be argued that many players on the team have actually underperformed this year. With that said, the Red Sox have two superstars who are leading the way: Chris Sale and Mookie Betts. Sale continues to dominate the American League to the point that he is now close to a lock of the Cy Young Award. There’s also talk of him being an MVP candidate. Betts finished second in the MVP voting last season and, although his numbers have dipped this season, he’s still an elite player. Betts and Sale should be on the Red Sox for multiple years and they have the opportunity to be in the discussion of all-time great Red Sox players. Sale has numbers this year that are being compared to Pedro and Clemens. Betts all around play is compared to Fred Lynn. This brings us to today’s topic…
Who are the top ten Red Sox players in the last 50 years? Let’s get to it! Please keep in mind that this list is from the past 50 years. So, this starts with 1967. Ted Williams is not on this list for that reason. Here’s First Score Boston’s list of the top 10 Red Sox players since 1967!
Honorable Mention – Nomar Garciaparra: It’s pretty amazing that a player who made five All Star Teams, won two batting titles, and was in the Top 10 in the MVP voting five times could not crack the Top 10. Nomar batted .323 with 178 home runs and 690 RBI over a nine-year span with the Red Sox. His peak was in 1999 and 2000 where he his .357 and .372 in consecutive seasons. His numbers should have put him on this list. However, he was never a leader and he went out on a sour note. Sitting on the bench in critical games vs. the Yankees before he was traded in 2003 will never sit well with Red Sox fans.
#10 – Carlton Fisk: “Pudge” is best remembered for his historic walk off home run against the Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. There was a lot more to his legacy than that. Fisk was on seven All Star Teams for the Red Sox from 1972 – 1980. In his rookie season in ’72, he was the Rookie of the Year and won the Gold Glove and he was viewed as the leader in the clubhouse on the 1970’s Red Sox. Fisk went on to play thirteen seasons for the White Sox and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. His #27 resides up above right field at Fenway Park. Steady, tough, clutch… That was Fisk.
#9 – Fred Lynn: Lynn’s tenure with the Red Sox was short. He played just seven years with the team. His average season at the plate from 1975 – 1980 was a .307 batting average, a .898 OPS, 20 homers, and 85 RBI. In his rookie season in 1975, he won the Rookie of the Year, the Gold Glove, and was the MVP of the AL! That wasn’t even his best year. In ’79, he won the batting title hitting .333 with 39 homers and 122 RBI. He also led the league with a whopping 1.059 OPS. Oh yeah, and he won the Gold Glove four times in six years. Great overall player. He left Boston to play for the Angels and later regretted it as most players do.
#8 – Dwight Evans: Here’s a good trivia question: Which player led the American League in extra base hits in the 1980’s? Answer: Dwight “Dewey” Evans. The fact that Evans isn’t in the Hall of Fame is a joke. He was the best defensive right fielder in his generation, winning eight Gold Gloves. In the strike shortened 1981 season, he led league in home runs and was third in the MVP voting. Then from 1982 – 1989, he averaged 27 homers and 96 RBI’s per season with an OPS of .881. He had an OBP over .400 three times. Evans was a very reliable player for the Red Sox for 18 seasons.
#7 – Jim Rice: That’s right! Another player from the late 1970’s Red Sox. How did this team not win a championship?! Rice is a Hall of Famer, eight time All Star, and was the 1978 AL MVP. Rice was the most feared power hitter of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Want to know how good of a hitter Jim Rice was? Over a twelve year period from 1975 – 1986, this was Rice’s average season: .304, 29 HR, 106 RBI. That’s great production over a very long sample size, folks. If you ever want to look at dominant seasons in MLB history, check out Rice’s 1978 season where he led the league in 11 offensive categories!
#6 – Manny Ramirez: So, we just showed you Rice’s numbers. Here are Manny’s over a seven-year stretch with the Red Sox from 2001 – 2007. .313 batting average,, 36 home runs, and 114 RBI. Oh yeah, and how about a 1.006 OPS? Whoa! This guy was the best pure power hitter the Red Sox have had in 50 years. It’s too bad he offered nothing else… He was not a great teammate, he checked out at times, and he was below average defensively. With that said, Manny was a HUGE part of two Red Sox World Series Championships.
#5 – Wade Boggs: Who is the best pure hitter in Red Sox history besides Ted Williams? That’s easy. It’s Wade Boggs. When Boggs was dominating the league in the 1980’s, on base percentage was not a major focus. From 1982 – 1991, Boggs OBP was .435. That’s right. Over ten years, he reached base 43% of the time. In that stretch, he led the league in OBP six times in seven seasons. And how about five batting with his lowest average in those five years was .357. The knock against Boggs? He didn’t hit home runs. That didn’t mean he could hit for power. In fact, he led the AL in doubles in 1988 and 1989. This is probably the only player in the last 30 years in the AL who you would be surprised to see make an out.
#4 – Roger Clemens: Boggs was a great hitter, but the 1980’s Red Sox were not an elite team despite making it the postseason three times in a five year stretch from 1986 – 1990. That all changed when Roger Clemens was on the mound. If you think Chris Sale is good this year, then picture a pitcher as dominant who was at a level above him. That was “The Rocket”. His average season from 1986 -1992 included a 19-9 record, 2.66 ERA, 12 complete games, five shutouts, 257 innings, and 239 K’s. During that stretch he won three Cy Young Awards and an MVP while leading the AL in ERA four times. This guy was a HORSE!
#3 – Carl Yastrzemski: Many Red Sox fans would like to see “Yaz” higher on this list. His longevity stands out with 23 seasons in front of the Fenway Faithful. His career is highlighted by a Triple Crown season in 1967 where he pretty much single handedly took the Sox all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Yaz also won seven gold gloves. He was a great all around player for a long time, but to say he’s the best Sox player of all time besides Williams is going way overboard. He’s a career .285 hitter who hit over 28 HR three times in his career.
#2 – Pedro Martinez: If someone is looking for the definition of the word “dominant”, they should just show a picture of Pedro from the 1998 – 2004 seasons with the Red Sox. Simply put, there has never been a more dominant player in Red Sox history. His average season during this stretch was a 17-5 record with a 2.52 ERA. That’s a .760 winning percentage! In 2000, he had a 1.74 ERA. The next best pitcher had an ERA almost two full runs higher. In an era where offense dominated, Pedro Martinez made an exception. Fenway Park has NEVER been more electric than it was when Pedro Martinez took the mound in his prime.
#1 – David Ortiz: You have read a lot of stats in this post. For this part, there are no stats needed. If the Boston Red Sox didn’t have David Ortiz, we would now be in year 99 of the Red Sox not winning a World Series. “1918” chants would be heard loud and clear every time the Yankees visited Fenway. Ortiz walkoff hits in Games 4 and 5 in the 2004 ALCS vs. the Yankees propelled the Red Sox to a comeback from 3-0 that will never be forgotten. Without his tremendous season from beginning to end, the Red Sox don’t win the World Series in 2007. In 2013, his grand slam in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS to tie the game turned that series around. The icing on the cake was a World Series MVP Award. Three World Series. Changed Boston from a losing baseball culture to a winning one. David Ortiz changed Boston.
Now let’s hope that Sale and Betts make some history in the next few years and move Fisk and Lynn off of this list.