This past weekend, I asked the posters of Over The Monster to provide a list of their favorite players to grace a Red Sox uniform.
We received two responses, and they both shared something in common: they listed players that were playing at the same time they were a fan of the team (with a notable exception, but it’s fine, we can’t fault their choice).
This week, it would be difficult to properly recap and discuss both rosters and share my own, so I’ll merely be linking to both Bosoxsince89’s FanPost, and Good_Better_Betts’ FanPost. Please peruse both at your leisure, and leave your own in the comments if you forgot to participate earlier.
When I think about what my personal favorite team of Red Sox stars would be, one thing comes to mind: joy. There have been great players to play for the Red Sox, and there have been entertaining ones. Sometimes, we’ve been fortunate enough that they fill both boxes at the same time.
We’ve had a few players who were great, but were not entertaining (in my opinion) such as Kevin Youkilis. We’ve also had entertaining players who were not great, such as Julio Lugo. Sometimes in the middle, we find a player who can stroke both fires at once. This list of mine hopes to accomplish just that.
Full disclosure, I’ve only really had knowledge of baseball since 2001, when I was 9 years old. I didn’t become a fan of the team - watching every single game - until 2003. As the years go on, I find myself more and more engrossed by the sport, because it has provided a lot of happiness in my spare time (regardless of whether or not the Red Sox win). So this list may be heavily biased in players to play recently.
I decided to go with two catchers for my roster. The first isn’t so much a catcher as a first baseman or designated hitter, especially at this time in his career, but he did play a season’s worth of games behind the plate for the Red Sox. Victor Martinez played in 183 games for the Red Sox, and has easily been the best offensive catcher to play in Boston in my lifetime. Martinez captured my attention so much that he’s one of the few players I own a shirsey for! I was happy for the trade, but at the time I was very sad to lose Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson. How times change.
Backing up Martinez will be Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty was always one of my guilty pleasure rooting interests when he wasn’t with the club. So when the Red Sox finally acquired him for two Quad-A talents and a PTBNL of no consequence, I was overjoyed even though he was a post-hype sleeper at that point. Salty had his warts. He struck out more than any other catcher who had 500 PA in my time as a fan, but he was also the most powerful of them. Defensive numbers are always tricky with catchers, but I always felt he was under appreciated behind the plate too.
I decided to roster six infielders for this team. I think it would be folly to not start the list off with David Ortiz, easily the most legendary offensive player to play in Boston in my life time. Unlike a majority of fans, I never gravitated to Papi as much as I gravitated to his running mates (like Manny Ramirez in my early fanhood). I still appreciated his bat for what it was, and I loved Papi all the same, but he was always more of everyone else’s player. He’s technically a designated hitter, but he’ll be playing first base on this all-star team.
To back up David Ortiz at first, I’ve brought in Adrian Gonzalez. While his exit was not the most graceful, and there are some scars in the hearts of some, Gonzo was one of the better players I ever had the pleasure of watching. Every ball was stroked with confidence, and when the ball landed, you knew it was most likely off the wall, or into the bleachers, especially in his excellent 2011 campaign.
At second base, I have to go with Dustin Pedroia, largely because he’s the only second baseman I truly remember much about (other than Mark Bellhorn or Alex Cora, but I’m not starting either of those guys if I don’t have to). While we’re in the twilight of his career, Pedroia will still go down as one of the greatest Red Sox players of the current era. When he retires (and hopefully it will be soon), it will be a sad day in Boston sports.
Shortstop will be led by Xander Bogaerts. This came as a surprise to me too. I was considering putting Nomar Garciaparra here of course, because Nomar was largely influential in my mannerisms at the plate when I played. He was also the reason I always like to wear number five. But Nomar was hurt a lot when I was starting to really become a fan, and I only was able to root for him for a handful of years. Bogaerts on the other hand, has been the only other constant shortstop of my lifetime. And honestly? Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but after this season, I think he might be the better player of the two.
Third base will feature Adrian Beltre. I wanted to put Rafael Devers here, but Beltre has earned the starting role through a career of excellence. His only year in Boston is one I will never forget, and one I wish never ended. Not bringing back Beltre after 2010 ranks up there as one of the greatest mistakes by our team in the time I’ve been a fan. He’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and he’s earned the starting job here.
Backing him up of course will be Devers, because why wouldn’t he? After this season, he cannot be denied.
Finishing up the offense, I’ve decided to go with four outfielders. Starting will be Manny Ramirez, Mookie Betts, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
I’m choosing Manny Ramirez because I’m of the opinion that he’s the single greatest hitter I’ve ever watched play for the Red Sox. For as great as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and co. are, I’ve never seen any other player be as much of a wizard with the bat as Manny. He also has the honor of being the inspiration behind my original username on Over The Monster (outofleftfield - because all of his antics in left field kept me entertained even in the worst of times).
Mookie Betts and Jacoby Ellsbury are more muted presences, who played superb ball, but were not quite as outspoken as Ramirez. Mookie is the reigning MVP, and Ellsbury was robbed of an MVP. Fight me.
The final outfielder, and backing up the infield as well... is Brock Holt. I know, random, right? But Holt has quietly been a consistent producer in his time in Boston. There are also few super utility players who are actually fun to watch. I owe my wife a tattoo because Holt hit a home run at a game we went to. That’s fun.
I went with six starters (five in the rotation and a long man in the pen) and seven relievers to round out my twenty-five man roster.
The rotation consists of Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, Chris Sale, David Price, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The bullpen adds Jon Lester as a long man, and six more arms in Jonathan Papelbon, Koji Uehara, Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, Hideki Okajima, and Matt Barnes.
Pedro shouldn’t need any introduction, in my opinion he’s potentially the greatest pitcher of all time for what he was able to do in the era he pitched in. Beckett gets a bad reputation because of his down years, but it’s easy to forget just how talented he could be. When he was on, it was something special to watch. Sale and Price have gone through the ringer this year, but they both pretty easily make the list of top five Red Sox starters of my lifetime, for last season alone (although I enjoy every Sale and Price start besides).
Matsuzaka stands out as the lame duck here, and I get he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For me, Daisuke represented something that I cannot quite capture anymore. When we brought in Sale, I was excited. When we brought in Price, I was excited. When we brought in any other pitcher who was great, the feeling was the same, excitement. Somehow, Daisuke was more. Every game he pitched in was must-watch for me, even after his first season showed us he really wasn’t as good as the hype. Still, every night, if he was pitching, I wanted to be right in front of my TV. He was one of the first jerseys I ever bought. I still own it.
The bullpen I feel kind of speaks for itself. I listed what I believe to be the four greatest relievers the Red Sox have had in my lifetime (Papelbon, Uehara, Kimbrel, Tazawa), a fantastic lefty with a devastating yanking curveball that just seemed to kill everybody for the better part of two and a half years, and Matt Barnes, who is always tragically overlooked, despite by the numbers being one of our best relievers for several years now.
All of these names were exciting in different ways. Papelbon and Kimbrel could be tight-rope acts, but I’d largely believe in them to get the job done. Uehara was dominant. When he came in, it was game over. Everyone else was reliable. Lester being the long man out of the pen is a happy accident. I didn’t want him to miss the rotation, but I also didn’t want to go with a pure six man rotation.
That’s all she wrote! Who are your favorites?