Did anyone fall asleep after last week’s edition? I don’t blame you, I did too. The Mountain range was as flat as could be for the Red Sox. We get back into it with the Southwest, which brings back the heat with some phenomenal selections:
Batter: Bob Johnson
Our winner and runner-up happen to be brothers! Bob was certainly the more star-studded brother, being a 7-time All-Star, including his last two seasons, which were his full tenure with the Red Sox. Despite that, he put up AL highs in OBP, OPS, and OPS+ in his first season in Boston in 1944. 1945 was his final season as a Major Leaguer, but still put up a good showing, though certainly not his best. In fact, his final season cost him the chance to finish with a career batting average of over .300! He was released knowing the Red Sox legends who went to fight in WWII—Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio—were returning to the field.
RUNNER-UP: ROY JOHNSON
Pitcher: Joe Dobson
Massive credit goes to Dobson, and especially an honor to write this on July 4th, when Dobson spent 1944-45 fighting in WWII. Winning 106 games in Boston, his best seasons came in 1947-48, where he went a combined 34-18 with 203 Ks, and ERAs of 2.95 and 3.56, respectively. His lone All-Star nod was in 1948. Dobson ended up back with the Red Sox as a pitching coach and a minor-league GM and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. He certainly has the most games as a Red Sox pitcher from the Sooner State, and an ERA+ of 115 isn’t too bad coming out of that.
RUNNER-UP: RUBE FOSTER
Batter: Tris Speaker
Remember for the Midwest, when I wasn’t convinced Smoky Joe Wood was real with his statistics? Tris Speaker might blow me away more. With a career WAR of 134.9, an OPS+ of 166 in Boston alone, a career .345 batting average, and the most doubles in MLB history of any player, it’s amazing to see what Speaker did over the course of his career. While never a home run hitter (thanks that whole Deadball thing), Speaker’s OBP was astonishing, leading the Majors four separate times in OBP, once in OBP, slugging, and OPS all in the same season. 1912 was his crowing glory for the Red Sox, finishing an MVP winner, an MLB-leading 53 doubles and OBP of .464, his career-high ten dingers, and a World Series champion. It took him 19 full seasons of playing at least 120 games a year before finally calling it quits after 64 games in 1928 as a member of the Philadephia Athletics. While he spent most of his career with Cleveland, his nine seasons in Boston were some of the most incredible baseball to go alongside guys like Ty Cobb, and made the Deadball era a thing to behold. The Grey Eagle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937, rightfully earned for the Hubbard native.
RUNNER-UP: PETE RUNNELS
Pitcher: Mike Timlin/Josh Beckett
Fine, I’m calling a tie here. These guys both overlapped at the end of Timlin’s career and the beginning of Beckett’s tenure in Boston, but these guys were both immensely talented. Mike Timlin’s 18-year career wasn’t filled with many personal accolades stats-wise, but his final six seasons in Boston ended up in two World Series titles, an enigmatic walk-up song with Black Betty, and the reputation of being a supremely steady reliever. Heck, 2005 was one of the best seasons of his career, with 81 games appearing, an ERA+ of 203, a record of 7-3, and 59 Ks. He became the first MLB pitcher to appear in and win four World Series without one of them having been with the Yankees. Despite battling injuries, he was rock solid as a member of the Red Sox.
Beckett was acquired in a massive deal along with Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota, for Hanley Ramirez and multiple pitchers. Despite his later association with the chicken and beer scandal, Beckett’s career in Boston was stellar, with 1108 K’s, a record of 89-50, and a 2007 World Series title where he was really the ace of the roster. In ‘07, Beckett went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA, 194 K’s, an All-Star nod, and finishing second in Cy Young voting to CC Sabathia. With their backs against the wall in the ALCS Game 5, the Indians brought out a rumored ex in Danielle Peck to sing the National Anthem. That didn’t fluster Beckett one bit, tossing eight frames of one-run ball and notching 11 strikeouts. Absolute nails. More All-Star nods came in 2009 and 2011, the latter finishing the season with his lowest ERA in Boston at 2.89. For the first time, both between legacy and sheer skill, I had to put two guys in a tie.
RUNNER-UP: JOSH BECKETT
Batter: Vern Stephens
Stephens absolutely lit up the basepaths as a member of the Red Sox, namely in 1949 and 1950, where he consecutively led the Majors in RBIs, 159 and 144, respectively. Even in 1948, his 137 RBIs were only second to Joe DiMaggio. Understandably an All-Star in all but his final of five seasons in Boston, Stephens didn’t last much longer in the Major Leagues after his time with the Red Sox, though it’s notable his numbers declined sharply with the Red Sox following a switch from shortstop to third base. Even still, an OPS+ of 118 is excellent and worthy of the top spot from the Land of Enchantment.
RUNNER-UP: CODY ROSS
Pitcher: Kyle Weiland
There were legitimately only two New Mexican pitchers for the Red Sox in their franchise history, and Weiland takes the cake, but barely. He was also the first Red Sox to wear the no. 70 and the first to get ejected in his debut, thanks in part to multiple HBPS against the Orioles. He was the second piece in a trade to Houston—alongside Jed Lowrie—for Mark Melancon. He battled some heavy health issues early in 2012 and never played in the big leagues again. His ERA+ of 57 and 13 Ks are underwhelming as a whole but enough to put the Alburquerque native on top.
RUNNER-UP: STEVE ONTIVEROS
Batter: Alex Verdugo
It’s amazing because he’s still writing his legacy both as a Red Sox and in baseball, but as far as the statistics go, Verdugo is clearly the best Copper State batter. Aside from two players who suited up in fewer than 30 games in Boston, Verdugo leads in games played, OPA+, runs, hits, and RBI. It’s a damn shame he isn’t a 2023 All-Star because his sheer consistency to get on base should have him as a reserve. I was a little sad not to have the winner be Mirabelli here so that I could opine about the best player escort in history, but Verdugo being a sparkplug and having the stats just pips the Wakefield-catching specialist.
RUNNER-UP: DOUG MIRABELLI
Pitcher: Josh Taylor
Even with only three choices, Taylor takes the nod here. An ERA+ of 130 in Boston, Taylor was the strongest Southpaw to come out of the bullpen all three seasons as a Red Sox. It’s so hard to choose between his 2019 and 2021 seasons as his best. 2019 showed his best strikeout (62), ERA (3.04), and ERA+ (160) numbers, things so many fans could get excited about. 2021 showed just how well he could recover. 2020, we skip for being the COVID season both for sheer numbers and the fact he both tested positive and had left-shoulder tendinitis that forced Taylor to play in just eight games. It’s frustrating to see him injured once again, a herniated disc basically getting rid of his 2023 campaign so far, aside from a handful of outings. Even still, Taylor was phenomenal as a Red Sox.
RUNNER-UP: AUSTIN DAVIS
Well, back to some exciting players and great memories! Our first current player, our first tie, the Southwest did not disappoint! We take the last three states on the mainland 48 next week in the Pacific.