This article is the second in a series that sets out to create the Red Sox all-time 26 man roster. There were 14 players who just missed the cut, the first seven were yesterday, the second seven are below. Those 14 players round out the Red Sox all-time 40 man roster. For an explanation of my rankings process check out the intro to the series.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, 2013-Present
Honors: 2x World Series Champ, 2x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger
Red Sox Numbers: .288/.350/.451, 107 HR, 542 R, 503 RBI, 53 SB, 113 wRC+, 24.6 fWAR
Signature Season: 2019 .309/.384/.555, 33 HR, 110 R, 117 RBI, 4 SB, 141 wRC+, 6.8 fWAR
If you’ve listened to my podcasts or read my writing, you know how I feel about Bogaerts. Now that Mookie Betts is gone, this is Bogaerts’s team to lead and he is certainly up to the task. On and off the field Bogey is the model baseball player and he is rapidly improving having posted his best season last year. We’ve seen Bogaerts improve on his offensive approach every season living up to his blue chip prospect status. I don’t think we’ve seen the best he has to offer and if I was to do this list again in a few years I’d fully expect him to have his own article. His signature season is superior to everyone above him on this list aside from Jim Rice and Vern Stephens. The sky’s the limit with this special player and special person.
Tony Conigliaro, RF: 1964-1970, 1975
Honors: 1x All-Star
Red Sox Numbers: .267/.331/.488, 162 HR, 441 R, 501 RBI, 17 SB, 122 wRC+, 11.6 fWAR
Signature Season: 1967 (95 GP).287/.341/.519, 20 HR, 59 R, 67 RBI, 4 SB, 144 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR
The story of Tony C is part of the collective cannon in New England sports lore. His story is both tragic and inspiring about a local kid who made it big only to see it all come crumbling down with one devastating injury. Everything about his early career was legendary. Conigliaro grew up in Revere and went to high school in Lynn and was signed by his hometown team in 1962. By 19 he had made the big league club and his first hit at Fenway Park was a home run. New Englanders loved this guy. On July 23, 1967 he became the youngest American League player to reach 100 career home runs and Red Sox fans were dreaming of what would come in his potential Hall of Fame career. Tragically on August 18th of the same season Tony C, who was infamous for crowding the plate and who had already missed time with injuries sustained from doing so, was struck in the face by Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. His vision was never the same. He, against all odds, posted his best statistical season with the team in 1970 after missing the entire 1968 season recovering from injury, though his vision continued to worsen pushing him out of baseball. His inclusion on this list is out of respect for what he could have been as much as it is for what he was.
Rico Petrocelli, SS/3B, 1963-1976
Honors: 2x All-Star
Red Sox Numbers: .251/.332/.420, 210 HR, 653 R, 773 RBI, 10 SB, 108 wRC+, 39.4 fWAR
Signature Season: 1969 .297/.403/.589, 40 HR, 92 R, 97 RBI, 3 SB, 163 wRC+, 9.6 fWAR
Looking at Petrocelli’s career numbers alone make him seem misplaced in the company of this list. All you need to do is look down at his signature 1969 season to understand why not including him would be a crime against Red Sox history. His 40-homer season was a career outlier in every way, especially in his ability to get on base. The only American League shortstop ever to exceed his 40 was Alex Rodriguez, who did it six times with Seattle and Texas. Petrocelli dealt with elbow problems throughout his career and was probably a better fit at third base where he finished out his career. Despite the underwhelming rate stats he was and remains a fan favorite and a player who defines older Red Sox fans memories of the left side of the infield at Fenway Park.
Jon Lester, LHP, 2006-2014
Honors: 3x World Series Champ, 5x All-Star
Red Sox Numbers: 3.64 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 110 W, 1386 K, 83 ERA-, 27.8 fWAR
Signature Season: 2010 208 IP, 225 K, 19 W, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.9 fWAR
Throw the regular season out. Did Lester have some good ones? Of course. Do I remember those? Not really. What is crystalized in my mind is his postseason dominance. Over Lester’s entire career, including his time with the Cubs, he’s thrown 154 postseason innings while posting a 2.51 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP. Pure dominance. During the 2007 playoffs his ERA was 1.93, in 2008 it was 2.36, and in 2009 in just one start he gave up three runs. His masterpiece was really the World Series run of 2013. Lester was an absolute horse, making five starts and throwing 34.2 innings of 1.56 ERA baseball. Without Lester there is absolutely no chance the Red Sox win that World Series. This omission killed me.
Frank Sullivan, RHP, 1953-1960
Honors: 2x All-Star
Red Sox Numbers: 3.47 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 90 W, 821 K, 84 ERA-, 30.4 fWAR
Signature Season: 1957 240.2 IP, 127 K, 14 W, 2.73 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 6.4 fWAR
Frank Sullivan’s SABR bio was one of the more interesting and surprising pieces that I have read during my research. Here are some highlights:
- He served in the Korean War, he earned the rank of Staff Sergeant.
- He was 6’7” and turned down a basketball scholarship at Stanford to play basketball
- He regularly practiced with the Boston Celtics during the time of Bill Russell and Red Auerbach.
- He moved to Kauai, Hawaii with his catcher, Sam White, after he finished playing.
- He appears in the Norman Rockwell painting “The Rookie” as the only player whose number is visible.
- That painting sold in 2014 for 22.5 million dollars.
On top of all these things he was a really good pitcher.
Dutch Leonard, LHP, 1913-1918
Honors: 2x World Series Champ, ERA Title
Red Sox Numbers: 2.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 90 W, 771 K, 78 ERA-, 20.3 fWAR
Signature Season: 1914 224.2 IP, 176 K, 19 W, 0.96 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 4.7 fWAR
As fascinating as Sullivan was to read about, Dutch Leonard was nearly as interesting. When you look at those numbers for the 1914 season they stand out as otherworldly even when comparing them to other spectacular seasons in the Deadball Era. He seems to have been nearly universally disliked by competitors, umpires, and owners and he infamously accused Ty Cobb, Joe Wood, and Tris Speaker of throwing a baseball game in 1919. It seems that in summation he had great stuff, he threw a fastball, curve, and spitball, but was a miserable person. His page which was written by David Jones is worth a read.
Mel Parnell, LHP, 1947-1956
Honors: 2x All-Star, ERA Title
Red Sox Numbers: 3.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 123 W, 732 K, 80 ERA-, 31.4 fWAR
Signature Season: 1949 295.1 IP, 122 K, 25 W, 2.77 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.9 fWAR
Mel Parnell was rock solid for a six-year stretch between 1948 and 1953. Over that time he won 109 games, averaged nearly 240 IP per year, and had an ERA of 3.22. Parnell’s 25-win season in 1949 is also the Red Sox record for left-handed pitchers and is the team record if you don’t include the Deadball Era, where pitchers routinely eclipsed 300 IP per year. The Red Sox are a historically strong hitting franchise with fewer standouts on the mound, but even still Parnell doesn’t make the cut. He did everything well, just nothing outstanding. It was a different game when Parnell pitched and strikeouts weren’t nearly as prevalent. Even if we contextualize his 1949 season when the league averaged just 3.61 strikeouts per game compared to 8.81 in 2019, his numbers still don’t pop off the page. Taking all that into account he falls into the very good category and is certainly worth remembering.