Now that David Ortiz has become the most-decorated Red Sox player of the 21st century, and now that his transcendent World Series performance has enhanced his Hall of Fame résumé, a question arises: Where does Big Papi rank in the pantheon of all-time Red Sox greats?
Here’s what I’m thinking:
25. Smoky Joe Wood, RHP (1908-15)
A must, if only because of 1912, when he went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA with 10 shutouts, before winning three games in the World Series. He was 117-56 with the Sox, before his arm went dead and he reinvented himself as a Cleveland outfielder. I’ve always thought if I could be any 20th century athlete at any point in time it would be the 22-year-old Smoky Joe Wood in 1912.
24. Mel Parnell, LHP (1947-56)
123-75 (.621) with a pair of 20-win seasons, including a dazzling 25-7, 2.77 showing in 1949. A Sox lifer and later a Sox broadcaster. Threw a no-no on July 14, 1956.
23. Dwight Evans, RF (1972-90)
Owned right field, as everyone knows (eight Gold Gloves), but he also banged out 2,446 hits and finished with a career OPS of .840, four times posting an OPS over .900. A rarity in that the second half of his long career was more productive offensively than the first.
22. Harry Hooper, RF (1909-20), Hall of Fame
Solid hitter with .281 career average and 2,466 hits. Fame rests on a Gold Glove before there were any. Led league in right-field putouts four times and finished 1-2-3 in putouts nine times. Led league in assists twice. Had 46 career double plays. Chew on that one.
21. Jimmy Collins, 3B and manager (1901-07), Hall of Fame
Renowned fielder said to be death on bunts. Solid .294 career hitter, “Captain,” actually the player-manager of 1903 world champs and ’04 pennant winner, was denied a chance to repeat as world champs because Giants skipper John McGraw, an American League hater, refused to play. First third baseman elected to the Hall.
20. Nomar Garciaparra, SS (1996-2004)
Would that it had ended better. Sox career totals of .323 with a .923 OPS. Huge back-to-back batting crowns in 1999-2000 (.357, .372) with back-to-back OPS totals over 1.000. Phenomenal fan favorite, even today.
19. Dom DiMaggio, CF (1940-42, 1946-53)
Seven-time All-Star. Superb leadoff man and brilliant fielder. Led league in assists four times. Perhaps not “better than his brother Joe,” as the song says, but pretty damn good. Ted and Pesky swore he belonged in the Hall.
18. Dustin Pedroia, 2B (2006-)
Absolutely. 2008 MVP always transcends his numbers. Tough out with a live bat and now a three-time Gold Glover. Career OPS of .823. Not bad for a 5-foot-6-inch guy. Would have fit in perfectly with the 1903 champs.
17. Luis Tiant, RHP (1971-78)
El Tiante. 122-81 as Red Sox hurler with three 20-win seasons. 26 Sox shutouts — led league three times overall — and 113 complete games. Big-game pitcher extraordinaire. Complete career with Indians, Twins, Sox, Yankees, Pirates, and Angels merits Cooperstown.
16. Carlton Fisk, C (1969-80)
Hall of Fame. Best Sawx catchah evah, no ahgument. Memory of Game 6 home run is indelible. Seven-time All-Star here. Did any catcher, anywhere, make more athletic plays? Sox career OPS: .837. My favorite Fisk achievement: led league with nine triples in 1972. Rumor has it he spent 13 additional years in Chicago.
15. Johnny Pesky, SS-3B (1942, 1946-52)
Led league in hits each of his first three years. Sox career totals of .313 batting average with on-base percentage of .401. “Pesky Pole” HRs a quasi-myth but it makes for a good story. Give him his three World War II years and he’s knocking on Cooperstown door. Evolved into Mr. Red Sox before his death in 2012.
14. Joe Cronin, SS and manager (1935-45), Hall of Fame
Player-manager with Sox career numbers of .300 batting average and an .878 OPS. Averaged 103 RBIs from 1937-41. Once had pinch-hit homers in both games of a doubleheader (kiddies, ask grandpa).
13. Bobby Doerr, 2B (1937-51), Hall of Fame
Nine-time All-Star. Primo RBI man with six years over 100, including 120 in 1950. Led league in putouts four times and finished second six other years. Still the best 2B in Sox history.
12. Cy Young, RHP (1901-08), Hall of Fame
Hey, he’s CY YOUNG! Won 192 games (tied for franchise lead with Roger Clemens) with 2.00 ERA. Threw perfect game in 1904. Hey, he’s CY YOUNG.
11. Roger Clemens, RHP (1984-96)
Shares franchise win total (192) with Cy Young. Won three Cy Young Awards (1986, ’87, ’91). Five-time shutout leader with Red Sox. His 1986 (24-4, 2.48, 0.969 WHIP) ranks among Sox’ all-time best.
10. Wade Boggs, 3B (1982-92), Hall of Fame
The ultimate get-on-base machine. Career Red Sox OBP of .428. Led league in OBP six times, to go with five batting titles. Averaged getting on base 318 times a year from 1983-89. No, young’uns, I’m not making that up. Sox career average: .338. Made himself into a very accomplished fielder.
9. Jimmie Foxx, 1B (1936-42), Hall of Fame
Mostly thought of as a Philadelphia A, he averaged 36 HRs and 129 RBIs in his first six years with the Red Sox, highlighted by his 1938 body of work: .349, 50, 175. Has to rank high.
8. Jim Rice, LF (1974-89), Hall of Fame
First-rate masher who had eight 100-RBI seasons and who had a sick 406 total bases in 1978, when he was an MVP. Led league in total bases four times and placed 1-2-3 in extra-base hits five times.
7. Manny Ramirez, LF (2001-08)
Sox career OPS of .999. Need we say more? MVP of 2004 World Series. Led league in OBP and OPS three times each. Smashed 11 of his 29 career postseason homers in Sox uniform. Most improbable combo of batting technician and basic goofball mind-set we’ve ever known.
6. Tris Speaker, CF (1907-15), Hall of Fame
Sox career totals of .337 batting average and .896 OPS. Master fielder who led league in outfield putouts five times and assists three times, and who led the league in center-field double plays four times, including some unassisted jobs.
5. Pedro Martinez, RHP (1998-2004)
117-37 (.760) with 0.978 WHIP as Sox twirler. Led league in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine innings four times each with Sox, and strikeout/walk ratio three times. Cy Youngs? Yup, 1999 and 2000. His best was the best Sox pitching ever.
4. David Ortiz, DH (2003-)
Postseason exploits kinda help his Cooperstown bid. Regular-season Sox career OPS: .962. Postseason career OPS (all with Sox): .962 (swear to God). Joins the Babe as three-time Sox Series winners. Of course, the No. 34 is going up. Competition among sculptors for statue job commences now.
3. Babe Ruth, LHP, OF (1914-19), Hall of Fame
Was 89-46, 2.19 as standout LHP while knocking out .981 OPS. I’m talking with the Sox, yes. Was heading to the Hall as a pitcher when placed in OF. World Series: 3-0, 0.87 with 0.935 WHIP. ’Nuff said.
2. Carl Yastrzemski, LF, 1B (1961-83), Hall of Fame
In case you were wondering, postseason OPS: 1.047. Led league in OBP five times and in OPS four times. Led league in doubles and runs three times each, and hits and walks twice each. 3,419 hits and 452 HRs. Won seven Gold Gloves, including one at age 37. Led league in assists eight times. He did more than just hang around 23 years. Also: 1967.
1. Ted Williams, LF (1939-42, 1946-60), Hall of Fame
We could start and end with this: career OPS, 1.116. Led league in OBP 12 times. Is it necessary to continue? Hit .388 with .526 OBP in 1957 at age 38/39. More than ’nuff said.
Yes, I know. Where’s Fred Lynn? Frank Malzone? Even Jon Lester (100-56, .641)? You have the right to an opinion. But this space belongs to me.