Boston Red Sox: All-Time Team Roster
Boston Red Sox All-Time 25-Man Roster
In celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park last year, the Boston Red Sox released their version of the best collective Red Sox roster in team history. The lineup was assembled via fan voting, so the results, of course, had to be taken with a grain of salt.
Any time a list like this is put together, the amount of subjectivity involved means that there will always be critics—a lot of them. My list will be no different in that regard. But I just hate fan voting. I hate it. It turns a “best of” list into a “most popular” list. Look no further than the all-star voting each year (which has gotten much better due to player and manager votes being added).
In general, I liked the results of the “All Fenway Park Team”, but I did think that some adjustments needed to be made. With pitchers and catchers reporting as we speak, I figured this would be the perfect time to assemble my team.
Before I start naming players, I want to lay down some groundwork for my all-time Red Sox 25-man roster. To effectively assemble my squad, a few rules, most of which are common sense-type things, will need to be established.
First and foremost, I’m only going as far back as 1930. I’ve written quite a lot about this in the past. A reasonable comparison simply cannot be made between the players of the pre-Live Ball Era and those that have played since. There were just far too many differences in the game back then—different ball, different rules, etc. Cy Young won 511 games! That’s a debate-ender right there. So, my team will not include Young, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Dutch Leonard, or “Smoky” Joe Wood.
Second, we want the best Red Sox players, not the best players that happened to wear a Red Sox uniform at some point in their great careers. For my team, guys like Juan Marichal, Tom Seaver, and Andre Dawson need not apply.
Last, the players on my team will need some longevity. Tom Gordon had possibly the best season as a closer in Red Sox history (46 saves, 1.008 WHIP in 1998), but he wouldn’t qualify for my team because it was his only great season with the Sox. And as much as people love the guy for what he accomplished in the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967, Jim Lonborg never had another good season with the Red Sox. Likewise, I’m also disqualifying guys like Nick Esasky (30 homers, 108 RBI in 1989) because he only lasted one season in Boston.
That’s it. I’m going strictly by the numbers from here on out. In the following pages, I’ll reveal the starters at every position, the ace of the pitching staff, the closer, the players stuck on the bench and in the bullpen, and the team’s manager. Please feel free to go down to the comments section and let me know where I missed the mark. Without further ado…
Left Fielder: Ted Williams
Not much to debate here. Ted Williams played his entire 19-year career in Boston. He’s the team leader in home runs, walks, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. His career OBP remains the highest in baseball history. Some people think he’s the greatest hitter that ever lived. I’m one of those people. Don’t get me started on the 20 dopes that left him off of their Hall of Fame ballots.
Center Fielder: Dom DiMaggio
Dominic DiMaggio, or the other DiMaggio as some people refer to him, wins the centerfield job, likely starting our first argument. Dom was another Red Sox lifer, playing all of his 11 years in baseball with the club. But forget about the “All Red Sox Team” for a moment. If DiMaggio hadn’t lost three full seasons to World War II, we might be debating his Hall of Fame worth instead. He was that good. Among all Red Sox players, he ranks seventh in runs scored (1,046) and eighth in hits (1,680). He also leads all Red Sox centerfielders in RBI (618) and walks (750). I’m feeling guilty here because the huge signed, framed photo on my wall of Fred Lynn’s diving catch in the ’75 World Series is currently staring down at me in disappointment. Lynn is my all-time favorite player, but DiMaggio is the right choice here.
Right Fielder: Dwight Evans
Well, what name were you expecting to see here? J.D. Drew? No, Dwight Evans is the only choice in right field. He’s second all-time in games played as a member of the Red Sox. He’s third in runs scored, third in walks, and fourth in hits, home runs, and RBI. Oh yeah, and he might just have had the best throwing arm in the history of the game. If you want to talk about his range you can cite the fact that only two right fielders in history caught more balls than Evans, or you can go ask Hall of Famer Joe Morgan about that home run he almost hit in the ’75 World Series.
Catcher: Carlton Fisk
This was a two-horse race, really: Carlton Fisk versus Jason Varitek. ‘Tek, the Sox captain from 2005-’11, played in almost 500 more games in Boston than Fisk. That difference, however, wasn’t enough to separate Varitek statistically from the 1975 World Series hero. Varitek holds a slight advantage in cumulative stats, but Fisk crushes him in ratios with a Red Sox slash line of .284/.356/.481/0.837. Fisk also threw out 36 percent of attempted base stealers. Varitek caught just 23 percent. Please save your arguments about how Varitek calls a great game because frankly, Hideo Nomo, John Burkett, and Josh Beckett aren’t going to be on this team.
First Baseman: Carl Yastrzemski
Yeah, yeah… I can hear the boos and hisses. I know what you’re saying. I’m pulling a fast one here. I’m cheating. “Yaz” was an outfielder, not a first baseman. Well, before you shake your head in disgust and turn off your computer, please allow me a moment to explain.
Carl Yastrzemski did indeed play first base. He played 765 games there. That’s the equivalent of almost five seasons. The popular pick here might be Jimmie Foxx, but “Double X” played only 42 more games at first than Yaz did. Mo Vaughn? He played 928 games at first—still in the same ballpark. Yastrzemski qualifies here, plain and simple. Furthermore, I’m not putting the all-time leader in Red Sox history in games played (3,308), runs scored (1,816), hits (3,419), doubles (646), RBI (1,844), total bases (5,539) and extra base hits (1,157) on my bench. Case closed.
Second Baseman: Dustin Pedroia
The trick here is determining how an active player stacks up against someone that has already completed a full career. If I go by the totals, then Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr is the correct pick here. Doerr ranks sixth in hits and RBI among all Red Sox players, but Dustin Pedroia is gaining ground fast. Pedroia is set to begin his eighth season in Boston. At just 29 years old, he already ranks first in stolen bases, second in home runs, third in runs scored, and fourth in RBI among Red Sox second basemen. He also tops the field in slugging percentage and ranks second in OPS. I’m going with Pedroia here.
Third Baseman: Wade Boggs
The “Chicken Man” is the obvious choice at third. Wade Boggs’ .334 batting average in Boston places him second only to Ted Williams in Sox history. He’s third in OBP and ninth in OPS. Boggs is one of just five players to collect 2,000 hits in a Red Sox uniform, and he’s one of just four to walk 1,000 times. Boggs doesn’t have a lot of competition here, but Frank Malzone and Kevin Youkilis get honorable mentions.
Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra
This was easily the most difficult position to fill because there are actually seven solid candidates to consider at shortstop, and they all have unique value to offer. In alphabetical order, they are Rick Burleson, Joe Cronin, Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Pesky, Rico Petrocelli, Vern Stephens, and John Valentin. Burleson was perhaps the best fielder of the bunch. Cronin is a Hall of Famer. Garciaparra has the highest OPS. Pesky scored the most runs and had the highest OBP. Petrocelli is the home run leader. Stephens had probably the best three seasons of any of them, and Valentin is the guy that started the 1990s trend of power-hitting A.L. shortstops.
Even at the shortstop position I’m a believer in offense over defense, so I’m going to first eliminate Burleson. Among the power hitters, Valentin has the weakest stats, so I’ll cross him off the list as well. Though I’m absolutely in love with Stephens’ three-year run of 98 homers and 440 RBI, the slugger only spent five seasons in Boston. Against my better judgment, I’ll remove him from the conversation. Pesky and Cronin have similar numbers across the board until it comes to homers and RBI. With that, I’m forced get rid of fan-favorite Pesky here. Cronin advances along with Garciaparra and Petrocelli. You’d be fine taking any of these guys. I’m going with Nomar here because I’m an OPS guy, and I’ve seen him play, so I know firsthand just how great he was in Boston.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
The DH has only been in existence for 40 years, and David Ortiz has been a mainstay at the position in Boston for the last 10. In the previous 30 seasons, no one comes anywhere close to Ortiz as far as production goes. His 343 home runs place him fifth on the Red Sox all-time list. Reggie Jefferson is the next highest DH on the list with 50.
Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens
You want Pedro Martinez here, don’t you? I’m not going to put up much a fight because I’m fine with either pitcher. But as it relates to Red Sox history, I just think Roger Clemens was more deserving of the designation of staff ace. You have to get that image of the defiant, stubborn, suit-and-tie wearing Clemens out of your head, and instead, think back to the guy that won three Cy Young Awards (he deserved four) and four ERA crowns in Boston. Remember the guy that led the Sox to three division titles in five years and posted a .679 winning percentage from 1984-‘92. I don’t want to get caught up comparing Clemens’ numbers to Pedro’s because both pitchers are among the best the game has ever seen. Besides, Clemens racked up nearly 1,400 more innings as a member of the Red Sox. Instead, let’s just look at the Rocket’s totals all by themselves—192 wins, 2,590 strikeouts, 100 complete games, and 38 shutouts. Thirty-eight shutouts! That’s flat out crazy.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
The Red Sox don’t really have a rich history when it comes to relief pitchers. There have been flashes of brilliance over the years, but no real consistency until Jonathan Papelbon won the job in 2006. In six season as the team’s closer, Papelbon averaged 36 saves and posted an ERA of 2.30. His 219 saves in Boston are nearly twice as many as the second place total (Bob Stanley, 132). If you look back to the first page, you’ll find that sanity was not one of my prerequisites for inclusion on this team.
Manager: Terry Francona
This one is a no-brainer. In the 83 years being analyzed here, the Red Sox won just two World Series titles. Terry Francona was at helm for both (2004 & 2007). Francona’s 744 wins in Boston is second highest total in team history. Joe Cronin (1,071 wins) will serve as the bench coach, and I’ll also add Don Zimmer (.575 winning percentage) to the coaching staff as long as he promises to wear that army helmet in the dugout.
We already have Roger Clemens on the staff, and obviously Pedro Martinez will be included as well. To fill out the five-man rotation, I’m taking lefty Mel Parnell (123 wins), right-hander Luis Tiant, and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who can also help out in the bullpen (although he never pitched in relief during his seven seasons with the Red Sox).
In the bullpen with Jonathan Papelbon, I want Bob Stanley (115 wins, 132 saves), Dick Radatz (104 saves, 2.64 ERA), and Mike Timlin, who pitched in the fourth most games of any Red Sox player in history and is the team’s all-time leader in holds.
For the final spot, there’s a ton of strong choices including Ellis Kinder, Sparky Lyle, and Tex Hughson. But I’m going to go with versatility here, narrowing my options to either Derek Lowe or Tim Wakefield. My heart says to take Wakefield and his 186 wins here, but my brain says to go with Lowe (70 wins, 107 saves). I want the sinkerball pitcher at Fenway Park. He had 42 saves in 2000 and 21 wins in 2002. That’s versatility. His postseason numbers aren’t bad either. Take away that one rough series against New York, and Lowe was 4-2 in the playoffs, with a 2.06 ERA and one save in 48 innings pitched.
Jason Varitek is my backup catcher, and Hall of Famers Jim Rice (OF) and Jimmie Foxx (1B) are automatics. To fill the other three spots, I want the best players available for the positions that I need. I don’t need Dave Roberts as a pinch runner, and I sure as heck don’t need Bernie Carbo as a pinch-hitter. That’s just plain silly. Who the heck would I ever pinch-hit for? I’m taking Fred Lynn (OF), who was A.L. MVP in ’75 and should have been MVP in ’79 as well. I’m also taking Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr as a reserve infielder.
With one spot left, how can I not take slugger Manny Ramirez, one of the best right-handed bats in history? Easy. Manny can “be Manny” elsewhere. My team doesn’t need the extra headaches. Instead I’ll take another infielder. Give me Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky as my 25th man due to his lifetime commitment to the team.
Hey, if I’m going to take the time to do this, I’m going to do it right. Here’s my lineup card for opening day:
1 - Wade Boggs (3B), 2 – Dustin Pedroia (2B), 3 – Ted Williams (LF), 4 – Carl Yastrzemski (1B), 5 – Nomar Garciaparra (SS), 6 – David Ortiz (DH), 7 – Carlton Fisk (C), 8 – Dwight Evans (RF), 9 – Dom DiMaggio (CF). Roger Clemens on the mound.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)