Major League Baseball's latest promotion involves selecting the four most significant players for each franchise, but unlike the Face of MLB campaign that is just meant to kill some offseason time, this one appears to be going somewhere. At this summer's All-Star Game in at Great American Ballpark, MLB will honor the players selected as the "Franchise Four" for each of the 30 teams. It's not All-Century Team unveiling at Fenway Park, but it still sounds promising.
The Red Sox, being well over 100 years old and all, have a rich history to choose from. You can argue with some of their selections -- what is Jim Rice doing here over Wade Boggs, for instance -- but at the same time, they recognized the greatness of Dwight Evans, something the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to do when Dewey was on the Hall of Fame ballot. So, let's take it upon ourselves to select the four greatest, most important players in Red Sox history. And no, we will not be just going by wins above replacement. That is boring.
Let's do this.
Okay, fine, that is too far in the other direction. Focus!
We've already eliminated Jim Rice by asking why he's here instead of another, more valuable player, so we're down to seven. Sorry, Jim, you were great, but this is about the greatest, and you're the fourth-best outfielder on this tremendous list, never mind overall player.
Ted Williams seems like an easy in, given he's the Red Sox hitter who stands out the most historically for non-Red Sox reasons: he won multiple MVP awards, finished in the top-five for the award on nine occasions, received votes in all but one of his campaigns -- the one he only played six games in -- and is the all-time leader in on-base percentage. He's in the top-20 all-time for homers with 521, posted a 199 OPS+ from his age-22 season through his age-39 season -- this dude was carving out a Barry Bonds path in a time before Bobby Bonds was even born. He is in.
Pedro Martinez gets our vote for the same reason. He's Pedro. He's the greatest pitcher of all-time. No, he didn't throw as many innings as Roger Clemens or strike out as many batters as Randy Johnson or look as funny in a sweater on Twitter as Greg Maddux, but there is no one in history who can compete with Pedro at his peak. Cy Young was pitching when baseballs were made out of rolled up socks and glue, whereas Pedro put together the most brilliant run of pitching performances in the history of the game at a time when offenses were never more powerful. Advantage: Pedro, and we are at two of four.
We can kind of figure out the next slot easily enough: Carl Yastrzemski doesn't get as much love as he deserves, likely because he was the replacement to Ted Williams. From 1962 through 1970, though, he was the heart of the Red Sox offense, putting together a .300/.397/.508 line with 231 homers in the midst of one of the most pitcher-friendly eras in Baseball history. Before Miguel Cabrera pulled it off in 2013, Yaz was also the last player to manage the Triple Crown, and while RBI remain kind of dumb, it's still an impressive feat that you have to be Miguel Cabrera to manage these days.
So, that leaves us with one slot and essentially two choices: Carlton Fisk or David Ortiz. We could get cranky and say that fourth slot actually belongs to Roger Clemens, but since there are still a number of Red Sox fans who wouldn't vote for him if their life depended on it, let's just roll our eyes at their collective grudge-holding and choose between Pudge and Papi.
Carlton Fisk is a Hall of Fame catcher. He's responsible for this great moment in baseball history in the 1975 World Series...
...and is up there with Mike Piazza and Johnny Bench as one of the greatest backstops at the plate. Unlike Piazza, Fisk was also amazing behind the plate.
Fisk should be a sure-fire win given those credentials, except he's coming up against the embodiment of the most successful period of Red Sox history. David Ortiz is the Red Sox, and has been their soul for over a decade now. How much should that count for in a competition like this one? Maybe if it were the only thing going for him, Fisk would be the obvious answer, but Big Papi also has a career .285/.379/.546 line with 466 homers, a career 962 OPS over 82 postseason games, an American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player award, a World Series MVP, and he's still destroying pitching now, as in 2014 he put up one of the most successful seasons ever for a 38-year-old hitter.
Is Fisk the better player? Probably! Does he mean to the Red Sox and their history what David Ortiz does?
You knew where this was going from the start.
Who are your picks for Boston's Franchise Four? Same as us, or would you make a change or two or four?