With the retirement of David Ortiz on Tuesday, the last of the 2004 Red Sox is finally gone from the league. We’ve been tracking this number for quite a while now, it seems, with David Ortiz holding on for an unreasonably long time, but now it’s hit zero.
Of course, David Ortiz did not win just one World Series with the Red Sox. We’re still too early to track the players who contributed in 2013, but with the loss of Ortiz, the 2007 team is now down to just eight.
(Bronson Arroyo is technically still not retired from the 2004 team, but there are few players who return at his age after not pitching in the majors for two years.)
Of those eight, just two remain in Boston, enjoying (or not) rather different relationships with the fanbase. At the time, both Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz were set to be the next big thing in Boston. Pedroia was en route to producing a Rookie of the Year campaign, while Buchholz was riding high on his historic introduction.
The years since have certainly been kinder to Pedroia than Buchholz. The former immediately picked up an MVP award and has become the face of the franchise, his de facto captaincy likely kept unofficial as much out of respect for David Ortiz as anything else. Buchholz’ ride has been rocky, but we’ve seen some ace-like years from him amidst all the rubble. We hope he follows his usual schedule and produces one more—or at least half of one—before finally heading elsewhere.
That Brandon Moss, the first of the remaining eight to depart, is even still around is kind of surprising. When the Red Sox sent him to Pittsburgh as part of the Manny Ramirez - Jason Bay trade, Moss was something of an afterthought. Now, he’s proven to be one of the more valuable players exchanged in that deal...just not for the team he went to. Since catching on in Oakland in 2012, Moss has a .803 OPS in 2,371 plate appearances for the A’s, Indians, and Cardinals. There’s even some small support for the Red Sox to bring him back as a left-handed platoon bat at DH.
Second to fall was Coco Crisp, traded over the 2008-2009 offseason for Ramon Ramirez. He was never really what the Sox hoped for in Boston, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s emergence left him without a clear home, though he did manage to pick up 400 plate appearances with the 2008 team. While Crisp put up some solid performances in the first years after his performance, he’s fallen off hard in the last few, and might soon bring this number down to seven if he can’t find a home for 2017. Ultimately, he might not be remembered as the fringe star the Sox thought he could be, but we’ll always have this:
Oh, and this:
Coco doesn’t brawl. Coco Boxes.
The third to depart was Javier Lopez, who has frankly been a guy the Sox would’ve loved to have around at various times over the past decade. As one of the game’s best LOOGYs, Lopez is actually the one guy on this list with more World Series rings than Ortiz, having picked up three with the Giants. Unfortunately, he had one awful season in 2009 while the pre-disaster Daniel Bard was knocking on the door, and the Sox couldn’t see him through it to the other side.
Now we come to the big names, at least among those who have left. Jonathan Papelbon was always clear that he was out to get as much money as he could, going year-to-year with the Red Sox and expecting to hit gold when he left. He did that with the Phillies, and left on a particularly sour note after 2011. We all know what happened there. Still, in 2007 Papelbon was the electric sophomore closer who danced on the infield after clinching the division and closing out the ALCS, then blew away Seth Smith to finish off the Rockies in the world series. It’s all the easier to have that be the lasting image of Papelbon with the Red Sox having declined to bring him back this past season as his results dwindle and his career heads towards its likely close.
Jacoby Ellsbury’s reputation in Boston is probably second only to Buchholz’ in its strangeness. He seemed poised to be the heart-throb version of Pedroia after 2007, but ultimately suffered a few too many growing pains and injuries to fully capitalize on that potential. If the Red Sox had held on, made it to the postseason, and then pushed through to the end in 2011, when Ellsbury was the best player in baseball, who knows what that might have done for his image? But if the stars never perfectly aligned for Ellsbury, he started his career in Boston as a big late boost to a World Series champion, and finished as one too. Yeah, he went to New York, but he never pretended to be a Boston man for life. He did his part, and hell, he’s still doing his part by weighing down the Yankees’ payroll while not really living up to that big contract of his. Good man, Ells!
And then there’s Lester. I won’t get into the post-2013 contract negotiations again. There’s been too much virtual ink spilled on that topic already. Suffice it to say that Lester is one of the best arms the farm system has ever produced, and certainly rose to the occasion when he was needed most in Boston. 2007 saw him pitch the clinching game of the World Series with fewer than 150 MLB innings to his name, and by 2013 he had fully taken over for Josh Beckett as the unbeatable ace. At this point, even though he’s nearly a year older than Clay Buchholz, he’s very likely to wind up the last man standing from the 2007 team.