Today’s team is one that had its official start at the turn of the century – 1901. A professional baseball team already existed in Boston (the eventual Boston Braves), but the competing American League started their own team in 1901, though they didn’t have a good name for them. The “Red Stockings” and the actual red stockings and trim on their uniform, were still a part of the Braves’ legacy, so from 1901-1907, the American League team in Boston had no official nickname. They were most often referred to as the Americans, though they also were commonly called the Bostonians. Their jerseys for those seasons simply read “Boston,” or had a large letter “B” or “A” on the front. But, in 1907, the National League team switched to an all white uniform, and the American League team seized their opportunity. In December of 1907, owner John I. Taylor announced that his club had officially adopted the color red as their primary color, and they soon had a new logo for their jerseys (left). While the NL team began wearing red trim again in 1908, the American League team finally had their official nickname – the Boston Red Sox.
The American League team from Boston won the first ever World Series in 1903, and won 4 more championships leading up to 1918. And, as many of you know, they went through a terrible 86-year drought between championships. But, they are currently the only team to have won 3 championships in the 21st century (’04, ’07, & ’13). In spite of not winning championships, however, the Red Sox were frequently a very talented team. There are numerous HOFers that have worn the Red Sox jersey, which makes choosing the 5 greatest of All-Time a challenging task. But, here’s my best effort…
5. Carl Yastrzemski (’61-’83) – a case could be made for David Ortiz in this spot – especially since he’s near the top of many of Boston’s all-time offensive categories, in spite of having significantly fewer AB’s than those ahead of him. And, by the time he retires, he may overtake Yaz in some of the categories he currently trails. But, for now, I still would give the spot to Yaz because he leads Ortiz in several categories, and he won 6 Gold Gloves while playing in possibly the most difficult left field in the game. In addition to the Gold Gloves, Yastrzemski also appeared in an incredible 18 All-Star games, won the Triple Crown and MVP in 1967, and also had 4 more top-10 MVP finishes. He’s at the top of Boston’s all time runs scored list (1816), hits list (3419), doubles list (646), and RBI list (1844). He also ranks 2nd in HR (452), 2nd in runs created (2145), and 4th in stolen bases (168).
4. Roger Clemens (’84-’96) – the portion of Clemens’ career that everyone is most certain is legitimate is the time he spent in Boston. The questions start swirling after the Red Sox let him go (because they thought his skills were declining), and he suddenly became one of the most dominant pitchers in the game again at the age of 34. But, enough about that. Let’s focus on his dominance in Boston. In 13 seasons, he appeared in 5 All-Star games, won 3 Cy Youngs, and won the MVP in ’86. He led the league in ERA 4 times, wins twice, strikeouts twice, and WHIP twice. On Boston’s all-time lists, among pitchers that pitched at least 1,000 innings, he ranks 11th in ERA (3.06), 1st in wins (192), 6th in win pct. (.634), 9th in WHIP (1.16), 2nd in K/9 (8.4), 1st in K’s (2590), 1st in shutouts (38), and 4th in K/BB (3.03).
3. Pedro Martinez (’98-’04) – Pedro owns the 7th best ERA in Red Sox history (among pitchers to have pitched at least 1,000 innings), but he’s the only one ranked in the top ten that didn’t pitch in the deadball era. His seven years in Boston are arguably seven of the most superb consecutive years of pitching in baseball history. Two Cy Young awards, two runner-ups, and a 3rd & 4th place finish. He tops Boston’s all-time win pct. list at .760! He’s 6th on their all-time wins list (117), in spite of pitching at least 400 innings less than everyone ahead of him. His 0.978 WHIP in Boston is second only to Cy Young (0.970), which includes the best single-season WHIP in the history of baseball (0.7373 in 2000). He also tops Boston’s all-time K/9 list (10.95), K/BB list (5.45), and is 3rd all-time in K’s (1683) – in spite of pitching well over 1,000 innings less than anyone ahead of him!!
2. Jimmie Foxx (’36-’42) – if everyone hadn’t been paying so much attention to that guy in New York (some guy named Ruth?), more would probably consider Foxx one of the greatest hitters of all-time. A career .325 hitter, with a 1.038 OPS, 534 HR, and 3 MVP’s – that’s quite the resume. And, in spite of only spending a little over 6 seasons in Boston, he still is the second best player to have ever worn their jersey. He ranks 5th on Boston’s all-time batting list (.320), 2nd in OBP (.429), 2nd in SLG (.605), 2nd in OPS (1.034), 9th in HR (222), 8th in RBI (788), 3rd in adjusted OPS+ (156), and 10th in runs created (852 – and he’s the only one in the top 20 on this list with less than 4,000 PA). He won the MVP in ’38, was runner-up the next season, and appeared in the All-Star game every full season he played in Boston.
1. Ted Williams (’39-’60) – every time I look at Williams’ stats, I’m struck by just how amazing of a hitter he was. Ruth may have been the best power hitter in history, but for my money, Ted Williams is the greatest pure hitter in the history of baseball. But, what impresses me most is that it wasn’t all natural talent. Ruth admitted to playing some games while still hung over – and he would still be the best batter on the team. Williams had some amazing talent, but he also took the game – especially hitting – very seriously. Just click on the picture to the right, and read what Williams wrote in his book “The Science of Hitting.” His attention to detail is impressive. If more batters today would take their play that seriously, we would see some guys go from being really good hitters to great hitters (attn: Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce, Paul Goldschmidt, etc.). But, I digress. Let’s focus on Williams’ numbers. Where do I begin? Let’s start with OBP. Williams has the highest OBP . . . in the history of baseball – .482! He was on base nearly half of his career plate appearances! Add to that the fact that he has the second best SLG in baseball history (.634), and you come out with an amazing 1.116 career OPS. It’s been more than a decade since anyone in baseball not suspected of juicing has accumulated a 1.116 OPS for a season – and Williams accomplished such an incredible average over 19 seasons! Williams won 2 MVP’s (’46 & ’49), and was robbed of 3 more thanks to some obvious media bias, and Ted’s cantankerous dealings with them. He should have won in ’41 when he hit .406, in ’42 when he won the Triple Crown, and in ’47 when he also won the Triple Crown – but, each time, he came in 2nd to a Yankee, despite having better offensive numbers across the board. He has a career .344 batting average (7th All-Time), 521 HR (12th All-Time, once you eliminate PED users), and 1839 RBI (12th All-Time). All this, in spite of losing 3 full seasons during the prime of his career, to fighting in WWII. Williams belongs on baseball’s “Mount Rushmore.” And certainly belongs at the top of the greatest Red Sox in history.
There are numerous great players that didn’t even make this list (Wade Boggs, Cy Young, Jim Rice, Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr, Smokey Joe Wood, etc.). But, that’s what makes this debate so much fun! Do you think I missed someone? Is someone ranked too high? Too low? Your comments are welcome!