While there are probably "greater" members of the Red Sox universal collective of players, managers, executives, and fans, there is no one quite as I-don't-know-what as one David Américo Ortiz Arias. A majestic mountain of sentient baseball smashing power, he has brought us joie de vivre, runs batted in, and three titles to us in his 13 seasons as Boston's Designated
Because of his very specific kind of "rising tides raises all ships" greatness, there's any number of navel-gazy things that can and have been written about the man we all know and love as Big Papi. But how many of them are an entirely exhaustive/comprehensive list of the members of Red Sox Nation herded together by their Papi-ness on a one to ten Papi scale? Like, two, at most.
So, without further ado, Over the Monster and Yours Truly present the first (and last) annual Red Sox Nation Papi Rankings:
One Papi: Skipper, you're no Grady Little
Captain: Bobby Valentine
There's been no single person in my lifetime who has been less Papi than Bobby V. After haunting the greater New York Metropolitan area for what felt like the worst part of two decades, the once-and-current AD of Sacred Heart University put together a Sherman-esque scorched earth campaign in an attempt to create the kind of disciplined, winning atmosphere that two-time World Series champion Tito Francona was apparently incapable of implementing. Then came the New York sport radio spots -- which gave me acid flashbacks to the horrors of post-2003 ALCS -- the calling out of Youkilis and the absolute disaster of a season that eventually saw him fired the day after it ended.
In fairness to him, however, the team took another (1) year before they were able to win their next championship, so it's unlikely much of the problem was his fault.
Rest of the rest: The cast and crew of Fever Pitch, Thomas Yawkey
Two Papis: BISCUITS & GRAVY Beer and Chicken
Captain: John Lackey
He was already my personal least favorite player in the league -- I have special hate in my heart for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that goes far beyond their stupid ass name -- before he came to my favorite team and almost ruined them with his fairly terrible contract, awful attitude, and exceedingly punchable face. Not that I'm condoning violence against ball players, especially ones roughly twice my size, but I mean, c'mon. C'mon.
Rest of the rest: The Beer and Chicken All-Stars
Three Papis: An ashen horse and he who sat upon it had the name Wade
Captain: Wade Boggs
This will likely be the most controversial pick on the list, but while many of you may have fond memories of one of the truly great hitters in the history of the game, all I have to remember him by is that stupid video of him riding that dumb horse all the way around Yankee Stadium. If Gloria Steinem is right, and there is a special place in Hell for women who don't help other women, there definitely has to be a place there for people who leave the Red Sox to win a title with the Yankees.
Rest of the rest: Johnny Damon, other people that it'll make me sad to think about. That stupid horse.
Four Papis: I don't like the sound of them apples, Will
Captain: Ben Affleck
Let's preface this by saying that Ben Afleck was the bomb in Phantoms. But, outside of that, he's also been the poster child for Red Sox fans, and not in a great way. And while his performance is marginally better than Jimmy Fallon's, having a guy who might be too smug to play Bruce Wayne as your avatar seems like dangerous territory for a fanbase. Why can't we have someone cool, like Jack Nicholson or Casey Affleck? Please don't get me started on all the Red Sox losses on his birthday, either.
Rest of the rest: Simmons, Damon, Taylor, et al.
Five Papis: Thanks for the Memories
Captain: Keith Foulke
There are any number of slightly-above-replacement-to-borderline-All-Star-but-definitely-not-Great players who helped contribute to the last 15 years of relative greatness for the Red Sox, but there's no one quite like Keith Foulke in my heart. Thanks, Keith. We owe you one.
Rest of the rest: Trot Nixon, J.D. Drew, essentially any Red Sox player on a playoff roster since they traded the Babe
Six Papis: The Laser Show
Captain: Dustin Pedroia
Eschewing the "gritty" trope, Pedroia manages to play hard every pitch of every game without ever feeling like he's being too "on the nose" about it. That he also has one of the great nicknames of my life time -- The Laser Show -- should have him higher on the list, but without being a part of that 2004 team, it's really hard for Dustin to ever reach peak-Papiness until he starts spitting in his hands before each pitch, even on defense.
Rest of the rest: YOUK, any Red Sox All-Star/MVP vote getter.
Seven Papis: You say Mueller, I say Millar, let's call the whole thing off
Co-Captains: Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar
There are players who are heroes on the field, bringing their teams to the promised land on the sheer force fo their will and talent. Then there are people like Kevin Millar, who manage -- like so much Jonny Gomes -- to help bring their teams to the promised land by doing all the little things that help a team's train run on time, or you know know, not realize they're down 3-0 to their most hated rivals. I added Bill because he won a batting title, and I used to confuse these two all the time.
Rest of the rest: Dave Roberts
Eight Papis: What Splendid Splinters
Captain: Ted Williams
Perhaps he was kind of a curmudgeon and maybe not the best fielder. But that dude could rake. He's also, like Yaz and a number of others, kept generation upon generation of fans attached to the team, even through things like Bucky Dent, '86 and whatever other terrible, heartbreaking collapse I'll eventually be ready to talk about in therapy.
Rest of the rest: Yaz, Rice, every Red Sox Hall of Famer and near Hall of Famer. Except Clemens. He can suck it.
Nine Papis: Just Tito being Manny
Co-Captains: Tito Francona and Manny Ramirez
The two most important non-Papi members of two of the best teams in the history of the franchise, they both brought the same very specific thing to the team that helped propel them past their postseason demons: confidence forged from intentional ignorance. Happy-go-lucky to some, and shockingly aloof to others, they were able to infuse a can-do attitude into a fanbase on a genetic level that has left (most of us, at least) no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now we can just relax and enjoy the show. Until the playoffs. Then, you know, there's a lot of crying and night sweats. But 162 games of peace ain't bad!
Rest of the rest: Maybe Curt Schilling? I'd rather not think about that one too hard.
Ten Papis: Big Papi and P. Diddy
Co-Captains: Big Papi and Pedro Martinez
The best of the best, the most Papi Red Sox in the history of the franchise. Along with the joie de vivre, and in the case of Pedro, the feeling that anything was possible on any given night, these two are the cornerstones of a new century for the Red Sox. While there always be a place for Ted Williams on baseball's Mt. Rushmore, there is just no better duo to exemplify what makes not just the Red Sox, but baseball in general, great.
And while Papi may have some trouble getting into the Hall in his first go-round, when he gets there, he'll be joining a fraternity to which he has always belonged: the immortals.
Rest of the rest: Nelson de la Rosa