Picking an All-Time Boston Red Sox Lineup

Bryan Shaffer@Bryan_ShafferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

Picking an All-Time Boston Red Sox Lineup

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    With the Boston Red Sox in such disarray, fans probably wish they could pick a dream team to field in 2013.

    The storied franchise has clothed many great players in a Red Sox uniform­. From Cy Young to Manny Ramirez, Boston has been home to some of baseball's greatest legends.

    The city may have gone nearly a century without witnessing a championship team, but its all-time lineup is fantastic. The problem with the Red Sox was rarely offensive; their franchise has been stockpiled with great hitters over the years. The team has more often faced the issue of having inferior pitching staffs. Also, their great offensive players' careers have not overlapped enough.

    But when all the greats are put in the same lineup, the Boston Red Sox batting order is as good as any team's out there—including the Yankees. (OK, that might be a bit of home-town bias on my part, but I think it's debatable).

    Here is the Red Sox all-time dream lineup.

1. Tris Speaker, CF (1907-1915)

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    Though Tris Speaker spent his best years with the Cleveland Indians, he is still a talent the Red Sox have never been able to match at center.

    Speaker was with the Red Sox from 1907-1915 and was a fantastic player in all facets of the game. During his time in Boston, Speaker compiled a .337 batting average, to go along with a .414 on-base percentage and a .482 slugging percentage.

    Speaker played in the Deadball Era, so the fact that he hit only 39 home runs in Boston means very little. In fact, Speaker would hit 17 home runs in 1923, after the Deadball Era was over, which shows he had some pop in his bat, after all.

    But Speaker was far from a singles hitter. He ranks sixth on the all-time triple list with 222, 106 of which came in Boston. He also hit 241 of his major league record 792 doubles in a Red Sox uniform.

    Before the Red Sox began their 86-year World Series drought, the franchise was a dynasty, and Speaker was a big part of its early stages. He was a vital part of the offense in two of the team's championship years, 1912 and 1915.

    He was not his normal self during those two World Series, batting "only" .298, with a total of five extra base hits. Still, he won the Chalmers Award (the regular-season MVP award in those days) in 1912, so without him, it's a good bet that the Red Sox would have relinquished at least one of those titles.

    Speaker was known as an aggressive defender in the outfield. He could cover a lot of ground with his speed, and he liked to play shallow. He is credited with six unassisted double plays from center field, an unheard of number in any era of the game.

    With him and Dwight Evans in center and right, this all-time team would have a nice defensive outfield (minus the mediocre Ted Williams).

    With the Red Sox, Speaker's 162-game average of steals was 42. Couple that with his tremendous gap-power and you have a brilliant leadoff hitter.

    To have a speedster either already on second, or at least constantly threatening to get there by his own speed, batting ahead of the rest of the greats in this lineup, gives this all-time team a great jolt at the top of the order.

2. Nomar Garciaparra, SS (1996-2004)

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    Though things did not end well for Nomar Garciaparra in Boston, he was a miraculous player while he was there.

    People tend to forget that at the turn of the millennium, there was an legitimate debate as to who the better shortstop was, Garciaparra or Derek Jeter. It was a debate much like the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning one several years ago; Jeter had the rings; Garciaparra put up better numbers.

    Now that debate is extremely lopsided. But Garciaparra is still an excellent shortstop on an all-time Sox team.

    During his nine seasons in Boston, from 1996-2004, Garciaparra lit the baseball world on fire. His great mix of skills at the plate were more the mark of an outfielder than of a shortstop.

    He won back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000, the second of which he won with an astounding .372 batting average. Twice, he put up 30 home runs, and another five times, he topped 20.

    The only seasons in which he didn't bat over .300 were 1996 and 2001; during the former, he played in just 24 games as a late-season call-up, and during the latter, he was injured for most of the season.

    He won AL Rookie of the Year in 1997, when he collected 209 hits, 85 of which were for extra bases, and scored 122 runs. He finished eighth in MVP voting that year, one of six seasons he finished in the top 11 in voting.

    Hitters of that caliber are not often found at shortstop, so to have him there is a wonderful bonus to the all-time Red Sox roster. While he is not known for his defensive skills, he was certainly more than capable of manning the position in his Boston years.

3. Ted Williams, LF (1939-1960)

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    The saddest thing about making this list is choosing a left fielder. And that's not because the Red Sox have had a lack of talent there. On the contrary, they have had a surfeit.

    Carl Yastrzemski. Manny Ramirez. Jim Rice. Any of those legends would have been great representatives for the Red Sox in left field. Unfortunately for them, no one can surpass "the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived."

    Ted Williams spent the entirety of his spectacular 19-year career in Boston. During that time, all he did was win two MVP awards, six batting titles and two triple crowns. And, perhaps by the  sportswriters' malice, he didn't even win the MVP in those triple-crown years!

    For all his accomplishments, the Hall-of-Famer is most universally known as the last man to hit .400 in a season. In the last day of the 1941 season, the Red Sox had a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, and Williams was batting .39955, which would have rounded up to .400.

    But, instead of sitting out and claiming the feat, Williams played both games, went 6-for-8 and raised his average to .406. Now that's the kind of player you want on your team.

    He had remarkable plate discipline, so planting him in your three-hole would give you a guy toward the top of the order who gets on base most of the time. He finished his career with a major league record .482 on-base percentage.

    During the aforementioned 1941 campaign, he had a whopping .553 on-base percentage, a single-season record which would stand until Barry Bonds broke it in 2002.

    Williams was also a fierce power hitter. He ended his career with 521 home runs, which is nothing to be ashamed about. But, he missed nearly five full seasons in the prime of his career due to two military stints. Had he played, and stayed healthy, in each of those seasons, he conceivably could have been close to 700 by the time he finished.

    With Williams anchoring the lineup batting third, the fantasy Red Sox order becomes a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Perhaps, they could try pitching around him, if they wanted to take their chances with the Hall of Famer on deck...

4. Jimmie Foxx, 1B (1936-1942)

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    Jimmie Foxx was the second player in the 500-home-run club, behind only Babe Ruth. He is also the greatest first baseman to ever play in Fenway.

    The Philadelphia Athletics sold the two-time MVP to Boston following the 1935 season, and what a great purchase it was for the Sox.

    Foxx continued his excellence in Boston, where he extended his seven-season streak of hitting 30 or more home run to 12. He set the single-season home run record for the Red Sox, when he hit 50 in 1938. This record would stand until David Ortiz broke it in 2006.

    The great first baseman added a third MVP award to his trophy case when he came to Boston, which was earned in that 1938 season mentioned above. Not only did he hit 50 homers, but he drove in an a jaw-dropping 175 runs and led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

    When Foxx joined Ruth in the exclusive 500-home-run club, he was still just 32 years old. Unfortunately, Foxx's game suffered massive deterioration after the 1941 season; after that year, he would hit only 15 more home runs.

    Foxx is arguably one of the greatest right-handed bats of all time, and that makes him fit perfectly in the cleanup spot, right behind Ted Williams. With Williams, Garciaparra and Speaker batting before him, it's not unreasonable to think Foxx could pop 200 RBI in a single season.

5. David Ortiz, DH (2003-Present)

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    The only player on the list currently on the Red Sox roster, David Ortiz is a living legend.

    Not only is Ortiz the best designated hitter that the Red Sox have ever had, but he is arguably the best there has ever been. Period.

    Since he joined the Red Sox prior to the 2003 season, Ortiz has played on eight All-Star teams, finished in the top-five in MVP voting five times and led the league once in RBI. He also set the Red Sox' single-season home run record with 54 round-trippers in 2006.

    As anyone who has watched Ortiz play can tell you, the stats tell only half the story. He has been an amazing clutch hitter during his Red Sox tenure. Entering the 2010 season, Ortiz had 17 walk-off hits with the team, including the postseason.

    His most enduring walk-offs will be the three he had in the 2004 postseason.

    First, he launched a two-run walk-off shot in Game 3 of the ALDS to complete a Red Sox sweep of the Angels. A couple games later, he ended the legendary Game 4 of the ALCS with another two-run shot to keep the Red Sox alive. The next game, Ortiz hit a walk-off single to send the series into a sixth game, and the rest is history.

    Without Ortiz's clutch hitting, the Red Sox might be closing in on joining the Cubs with a 100-year World Series drought.

    With Ortiz's power and clutch hitting, he would be the perfect guy to bat behind Jimmie Fox. With him in the five-hole, the heart of the all-time Red Sox lineup would send shivers down any pitcher's spine.

6. Carlton Fisk, C (1969-1980)

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    Carlton Fisk is best remembered for his prolific walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. But Red Sox fans remember him as the greatest catcher the team ever had.

    Fisk spent the first, and better, half of his career in Boston. During those years, which spanned 1969-1980, he collected a Gold Glove, a Rookie of the Year award, seven All-Star game appearances and three top-10 finishes in the MVP voting.

    Fisk's numbers were great, especially at the catcher position. In Boston, he averaged 25 home runs, 86 RBI, 98 runs and 32 doubles every 162 games. He even had a little speed (at least for a catcher), averaging 10 steals per 162 games. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were each very solid, .284, .356 and .481, respectively.

    Though he is mainly known for his excellence at the plate, Fisk was a good defensive catcher, too. He won the Gold Glove in 1972, which shows that he was at one point considered the best the league had to offer. More remarkably, Fisk was a fantastic game-caller.

    Max Marchi, of Baseball Prospectus, did a study quantifying how much each catcher, since 1948, handled his pitching staff. Fisk ranks fifth on Marchi's list, preventing 191 runs in his career. A part of that is due to his longevity (he caught the most games of all-time), but a lot of it is just his skill.

    With a quality game-caller and great hitter behind the plate, the all-time Red Sox team is set at catcher. He could be slotted right behind Ortiz in the order, which continues the alternation of left-handers and right-handers in the batting order, as well as the nightmare for opposing pitchers.

7. Bobby Doerr, 2B (1937-1951)

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    A lot of modern fans might imagine that Dustin Pedroia is the paragon of Red-Sox-second-baseman excellence. But back in the days of Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky, Red Sox fans had the pleasure of watching someone even better.

    Bobby Doerr is one of only two players in the all-time Red Sox lineup to never wear a uniform other than the Boston uniform (the other being Williams). Red Sox fans should be proud to boast such a great player as theirs—and theirs alone.

    The Hall of Fame second baseman was a member of nine All-Star teams and finished in the top 20 in MVP voting seven times. His best season came in 1946, fresh off a full season missed, due to military service. During that season Doerr showed no signs of rust, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 116 runs.

    While it was not statistically his best season, he did help the Red Sox en route to their first pennant since 1918. MVP voters agreed, voting him third in the MVP race that season, with runner-up Hal Newhouser of the Detroit Tigers and the winner, his teammate, Williams.

    Doerr had six seasons where he topped the 100-RBI mark, three where he hit over 20 home runs and another three where he batted over .300.

    Overall, Doerr finished his career with 223 home runs, 1,247 RBI, a .288 batting average and a .362 on-base percentage. His 223 home runs ranked him third among second basemen at the time of his retirement, and to this day, ranks him ninth on the list.

    In addition to his great bat, Doerr provided his team with very good defense. Five times, he led American League second basemen in double plays.

    By the time his career was over, he set the record for career double plays at second base with 1,507 (this would later be broken). His .980 fielding percentage also set a new record (which would also later be broken).

    Having a second baseman who can provide good defense and a great bat is a luxury most teams don't have. Doerr gives the all-time Red Sox team just that, and he fits in smoothly behind Fisk in the batting order.

8. Dwight Evans, RF (1972-1990)

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    If Dwight Evans was not the jack-of-all-trades, it's hard to say who is.

    Over his 19-year career in Boston, Evans was one of the best right fielders in the major leagues. Over the decade of the 1980s, Evans hit the fourth-most home runs of any player, behind only Mike Schmidt, Dale Murphy and Eddie Murray. He achieved this with remarkable consistency, hitting double-digit home runs in each of his last 18 seasons in Boston.

    Evans finished his Boston career with four top-10 MVP finishes, 385 home runs, 1,384 RBI and a .272 average. Though his average is a little bit low, he had a great eye, leading the league in walks three times, which gave him a .370 career on-base percentage.

    In addition to the pop he adds to the order, Evans was a great fielder. From 1976-85, Evans took home eight American League Gold Gloves. Only four outfielders have more Gold Glove trophies on their mantles.

    Evans might be the weakest part of this lineup, but he provides the team with a hard worker who can do anything asked of him. If pitchers thought to pitch around Doerr to get to him, Evans would certainly make them regret it very often.

9. Wade Boggs, 3B (1982-1992)

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    Sure, Wade Boggs left the Red Sox for the archrival New York Yankees, a move which diminished his reputation in Boston. But when he wore a Red Sox uniform, there were few better in the game.

    Boggs hit the ground running once he got called up to Boston, putting up a .349 batting average in 1982, his rookie season. He would have won the batting title that year, but he did not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the title.

    No worries. Boggs would go on to win five of the next six AL batting titles, each season hitting at least .357. During each of those seasons (and the season immediately after), he led the league in on-base percentage as well.

    He also collected 200 hits in seven consecutive seasons in Boston, which stood as a modern-era record until Ichiro Suzuki broke it in 2008.

    When Boggs finished his 11-year tenure with the Red Sox in 1992, his .338 batting average was the second highest in team history, behind only Ted Williams.

    Putting Boggs ninth in the order is in no way saying he is the worst hitter of this bunch. The rationale behind his placement was two-fold.

    First, to put him at the top of the order with Tris Speaker and Williams would be simply overloading the top of the order with lefties. Second, the temptation to have him finish the order, and then hand things off to Tris Speaker was just too enticing to turn down. This is certainly a great way to cap off the all-time Red Sox lineup.