Ranking David Ortiz Among the Boston Red Sox's 15 All-Time Greats
With a renewed contract, David Ortiz will remain a mainstay of the Boston Red Sox franchise moving forward.
He is arguably the greatest clutch performer of all time given his postseason performances, particularly in 2004. Sometimes it seems like Ortiz is still being paid for that alone, but he is a fan favorite and has continued to produce despite his age.
But how does he stack up against the best in Red Sox history?
There are players with retired numbers at Fenway Park, like Joe Cronin, who are quintessential Hall of Famers, but earned much of their fame with teams other than Boston.
There are even some players, like Jimmie Foxx, who turned in Hall of Fame careers with multiple teams, but have not been recognized by any of them.
The list of the greatest Red Sox players of all time looks back at well over a century now.
Does David Ortiz have a place on it?
1. Ted Williams
Ted Williams is hands-down the greatest Red Sox of all time and arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived.
Despite missing playing time for tours of duty in both World War II and the Korean War, Williams was a career .344 hitter with 1839 RBI and another 1798 runs.
“Teddy Ballgame” was an All-Star in 17 of 18 seasons as a Boston Red Sox, winning two MVP awards and two Triple Crowns. He did not hit below .300 until 1959, his penultimate season in the major leagues, and ended his final season with a .316 average.
Defensively, he wasn't much to speak of, likely because of the focus he put on hitting. It is fun to look at Williams in terms of modern sabermetrics. Calculated now, Williams’ defensive wins-above-replacement would be -13.3, while his offensive wins-above-replacement would be 122.9.
2. Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski was a more rounded player than Williams, but his hitting was only a strong second-best in comparison.
Still, Williams is a pretty good person to come second to. Particularly when you manage more than 1800 runs and RBI over a career, the way Yaz did. Until Miguel Cabrera won it in 2012, Yaz—a .285 hitter—had been the last player to hit for the Triple Crown.
Unlike Williams, however, Yaz thrived defensively. In 23 seasons, Yastrzemski played five of the seven non-specialty positions and won seven Gold Gloves.
3. Tris Speaker
Despite playing in the dead-ball era, Tris Speaker had a dominant offensive career with Boston.
Speaker was a career .337 hitter who accumulated 3514 hits and 792 doubles, with only 395 strikeouts in his entire 22-year career. In fact, Speaker hit the 50-strikeout mark in only one season, and in 1914 struck out just 25 times while playing a career-high number of games.
It is not something that Williams or Yastrzemski can boast, but Speaker won three World Series with Boston, including one in 1912, when he won the MVP award.
In addition to his offense, Speaker led the league in putouts five times during his career with Boston.
4. Jim Rice
Although it took a while for him to reach Cooperstown, Jim Rice was a dominatingly consistent player for 16 seasons, all of which were with the Red Sox.
In 1975, Rice lost the Rookie of the Year award to fellow Boston outfielder Fred Lynn. Three years later, however, Rice won the MVP with a .315 average. Over his career, Rice was a .298 hitter with 382 home runs and two Silver Slugger awards.
Rice missed the 1975 World Series with a broken wrist suffered in September, but helped lead the Sox to the World Series in 1986 with a clutch performance in the ALCS against the California Angels.
5. Pedro Martinez
Pedro Martinez spent just seven seasons with the Red Sox, and was also dominant elsewhere.
But if he reaches the Hall of Fame, it will undoubtedly be as a Boston Red Sox.
Until 2004, his last season with Boston, Pedro's ERA never exceeded 3.00. His 1.74 ERA in 2000 was the staple of his Cy Young-worthy season. This was in addition to a 23-win Cy Young performance the year before.
Thanks to his dominance every fifth day for the Red Sox over the better part of a decade, Pedro is the stuff of lore in Boston. His heroics in the 1999 ALCS against the Cleveland Indians and his contributions to the 2004 World Series team will keep a seat always open for him at Fenway.
6. Cy Young
Cy Young joined the Boston squad in 1901 and posted a sub-2.00 ERA in five of his seven seasons with the club. The anomaly was 1906 when he had 21 losses with a 3.16 ERA, a benchmark many pitchers wish could be their off year.
Of his 2803 strikeouts, 1341 came with Boston. In 1903, that dominance earned Young and Boston the first World Series title.
As most people know, Cy Young has an award named after him. Although he did spend time with other clubs, that award is due primarily to the performances he recorded with Boston.
7. Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens is now Hall of Fame eligible, and rightfully so.
Despite alleged PED usage, Clemens’ numbers with the Red Sox prior to the early nineties—when those allegations get particularly muddled—are impressive. During that period, Clemens won two Cy Young awards and went to a World Series.
Those Cy Young awards were for back-to-back 20-win seasons, including 1986 when he had a 2.48 ERA—one of four times he led the league in ERA during his time with the Red Sox.
Perhaps the most impressive part about Clemens’ career with Boston was that he tied Cy Young for 192 wins—the most in franchise history. Boston fans may not like Roger, but those are statistics worthy of recognition.
8. Carlton Fisk
Carlton Fisk is one of the two greatest catchers in Red Sox history.
Admittedly Fisk made as much of a name for himself with Chicago as with Boston. But his sole Gold Glove came with Boston in 1972, when he was also Rookie of the Year.
Fisk was a .284 hitter with the Red Sox and made eight All-Star Game appearances. He will forever be a part of the Red Sox history highlight reel after his walk-off home run in the 1975 World Series.
Fisk was a mainstay both at and behind the plate in Boston for 11 seasons.
9. Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs may have won a World Series with the New York Yankees, but the Boston emblem on his Hall of Fame bust is well deserved.
His hitting is not just consistent, but also far-and-away impressive.
Boggs is a career .328 hitter, and led the league five times while with the Red Sox: 1983 (.361), 1985 (.368), 1986 (.357), 1987 (.363) and 1988 (.366).
It was not until 1992, ten years into his career, that Boggs hit below .300 in a season.
10. Dwight Evans
Although just a .272 hitter, Dwight Evans hit 1384 RBI and 385 home runs in his 19 seasons with the Red Sox.
However, it was Evans’ defense that has been irreplaceable since he left.
With just 42 career errors in right field, Evans’ .987 fielding percentage earned him eight Gold Gloves.
Evans holds this spot in the Red Sox rankings partly because he has yet to be replaced at his position, unlike other players on the list. There are players here who may have been more dominant offensively, but they couldn't threaten defensively like Evans did.
11. Bobby Doerr
Bobby Doerr also played 14 seasons, interrupted by military service, and all with the Red Sox.
A career .288 hitter, the Hall of Fame second baseman hit over 100 RBI in six of those seasons, towards a career total of 1247 RBI.
Doerr amassed a .980 fielding percentage, with 5710 putouts in his career. He actually improved on his error totals after returning from the break for military service.
His No. 1 is rightfully retired.
12. Manny Ramirez
Certain players will always be revered in Boston for their contribution to bringing a championship back home. Manny Ramirez—the MVP of the 2004 World Series—was instrumental in this process.
Ramirez was part of a tag-team middle of the order with David Ortiz in the mid-2000s that reached the playoffs five times and won two championships.
In his second year with the Red Sox, Manny led the league with a .349 average. He is also a 500 home run hitter, with 274 of those during his time with the Red Sox.
Recently, Ramirez has faced a number of suspensions for PED usage. One can wonder whether that also affected his offensive numbers in Boston. However, let's also consider his defense. Few players have played the Green Monster the way Manny did, with 17 outfield assists in 2005 alone.
13. David Ortiz
Lots of deserving players fall outside of this list. But David Ortiz definitely belongs in it.
Ortiz is arguably the greatest clutch hitter of all time, and certainly the greatest of his generation. Sox fans will never forget Ortiz’ walk-off hits in the 2004 playoffs, in both Game 3 of the ALDS and the comeback victory over the Yankees in the ALCS.
In 2006 Ortiz did it again, but in the regular season. Ortiz hit a career-high 54 home runs, five of which were walk-offs.
In his career, Ortiz has hit 401 home runs, 343 of which have come in a Red Sox uniform. If he reaches the Hall of Fame—potentially tricky given that he is a DH—it will unquestionably be because of his contributions to the Red Sox.
14. Nomar Garciaparra
For Red Sox fans too young to have seen the first half of this list play, Nomar was the face of the Boston Red Sox in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Boston’s 1999 playoff run was due in no small part to Nomar’s league-leading .357 batting average. He surpassed this in 2000 by hitting .372.
Nomar demonstrated excellent range, but was error-prone with a .968 fielding percentage. Still, he has yet to be replaced at shortstop.
Compared to a player like David Ortiz, his lack of championships is noticeable and results in him being slightly lower on this list. Nomar was traded by Boston at the 2004 deadline, missing out on their 2004 World Series win.
15. Jason Varitek
Guys like Luis Tiant and Lefty Grove will miss out because of this pick, but Jason Varitek is arguably the best catcher in Red Sox history.
Tek possesses intangibles that could arguably lead him to the Hall of Fame someday.
Varitek was the captain of two World Series teams and the anchor for an All-Star pitching staff. In his career, Varitek caught four no-hitters, and might have been on the receiving end of a fifth had Curt Schilling not shaken him off.
His offensive numbers are not overwhelming, but he did earn both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in 2005, hitting .281 with 22 home runs.
Still, it is the immeasurable that Red Sox fans will remember from Varitek when all is said and done.
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