Selecting the Boston Red Sox All-21st Century Team, Position by Position
The Boston Red Sox have won three World Series titles since the turn of the millennium, more than any other club in Major League Baseball. Over that 14-year span, which Red Sox players have stood out beyond the rest at their respective positions?
In choosing Boston's all-21st century team, a variety of factors must be considered.
Stats are obviously a primary focus, as is the length of time a player spent with the organization (beginning with the 2000 season). All-Star appearances and other accolades come into play, and the number of championships won is quite significant too.
And finally, the level to which someone was a "fan favorite" is part of the equation as well.
Without further ado, here is the Red Sox's all-21st century team.
*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
Catcher: Jason Varitek
Jason Varitek played in 1,315 games for Boston from 2000 to 2011. In 4,394 at-bats, he pounded 166 home runs and 648 RBI while batting .255. Varitek represented the American League in three MLB All-Star Games (2003, 2005, 2008) and also won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in '05.
The Red Sox made Varitek their captain in 2005. He was just the third player in team history to receive the honor, along with Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice.
Varitek earned two World Series rings with Boston in 2004 and 2007, and he is the only catcher in major league history to be behind the plate for four no-hitters: thrown by Hideo Nomo on April 4, 2001; Derek Lowe on April 27, 2002; Clay Buchholz on September 1, 2007; and Jon Lester on May 19, 2008.
Varitek's 1,488 career games caught in a Red Sox uniform is also an all-time franchise record.
Next in line: Doug Mirabelli. Varitek is so clearly the choice at catcher that the next-best option is actually his longtime backup. Mirabelli played with Boston from 2001 to 2007 (although he was briefly traded to the San Diego Padres in 2006) and won a pair of championships as well.
First Base: Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis was a member of the Red Sox from 2004 until 2012, appearing in 953 games. He amassed 133 home runs and 564 RBI to go along with a .287 batting average. Youkilis made the All-Star Game in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and he also finished third in the American League MVP voting in '08.
In 2007, Youkilis won a Gold Glove at first base, and from 2006 to 2008, he put together a major league-record 238 consecutive games at the position without an error.
Although he did not appear in the World Series as a rookie in 2004, Youkilis played for both the '04 and '07 title winners.
Next in line: Kevin Millar. Millar spent just three seasons in Boston between 2003 and 2005. But in that time, he became a team leader and a mascot of sorts for both the 2003 club that advanced to the ALCS under the "Cowboy Up" mantra and the 2004 "Idiots" who won Boston's first World Series in 86 years.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
During his first full season in 2007, Dustin Pedroia hit .317 on the way to winning American League Rookie of the Year. He followed that up by batting .326 with 118 runs, 213 hits, 54 doubles, 17 home runs and 83 RBI, which earned him AL MVP honors in 2008. The runs, hits and doubles all led the league. In 2009, he again scored an AL-best 115 times.
Pedroia is a four-time All-Star (2008-2010, 2013), a Silver Slugger winner in '08 and a three-time Gold Glove winner at second base in 2008, 2011 and 2013.
The career .301 hitter helped lead the Red Sox to titles in both 2007 and 2013, and he should have a number of bright years remaining in Boston.
Next in line: Mark Bellhorn. With no serious competition for Pedroia, Bellhorn gets the nod by playing second base for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2005. He hit 17 home runs with 82 RBI on the way to a championship in '04.
Third Base: Mike Lowell
The Red Sox acquired Mike Lowell in 2006, primarily because the then-Florida Marlins wanted to shed themselves of his salary if they were also going to part with ace pitcher Josh Beckett.
But in 2007, Lowell made the All-Star team at third base, hit .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBI and finished fifth in the race for AL MVP. He cemented his place in the hearts of Boston fans as an integral piece of the city's second World Series-winning team in four years.
In total, Lowell played in 612 games for the Red Sox between 2006 and 2010, batting .290 with 80 home runs and 374 RBI.
Next in line: Bill Mueller. Mueller was Boston's third baseman from 2003 to 2005, capturing a World Series championship in 2004. He provided the game-tying RBI after Dave Roberts' stolen base in the ninth inning of ALCS Game 4, which helped bring the Red Sox back from a 3-0 series deficit against the New York Yankees. Meuller also won a Silver Slugger and the AL batting title in 2003, hitting .326.
Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra was dealt to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline in 2004, and to the dismay of many Boston fans, he wasn't a part of the team that won the Red Sox's first World Series since 1918.
The numbers he put up in four-and-a-half seasons from 2000 to 2004 are still impressive enough to make him the starting shortstop for Boston's all-21st century team, though. In that span, he totaled 84 home runs, 350 RBI and a .323 batting average.
Garciaparra was an All-Star in 2000, 2002 and 2003, and he won the AL batting title in 2000 by hitting .372. He also led the league in doubles in 2002 with 56.
Next in line: Orlando Cabrera. The competition is so thin at shortstop that Garciaparra's replacement on the '04 squad is the second-best option. Cabrera played less than half a season for the Red Sox, but he batted .294 in that time and gelled perfectly with the club on its way to becoming world champions.
Left Field: Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez was an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers as the Red Sox's left fielder from 2001 until 2008. He won six consecutive Silver Sluggers between 2001 and 2006 and was selected for the American League All-Star team in all eight seasons he played with Boston.
Ramirez hit .349 in 2002 to win a batting title and led the league in home runs in 2004 with 43. He also knocked in 130 runs in '04 and finished third in the AL MVP voting. In 2005, he put up even better numbers, blasting 45 home runs to go along with 144 RBI.
With 274 home runs, Ramirez is sixth on the Red Sox's all-time list, and his 868 RBI rank seventh in franchise history. He was a key component of both the 2004 and 2007 title-winning squads and took home the World Series MVP trophy after the '04 victory.
Next in line: Jason Bay. The man Ramirez was traded for put up some impressive numbers in his brief year-and-a-half-long stint in Boston. Bay was an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger in 2009, clubbing 36 home runs and 119 RBI.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury played center field for Boston from late 2007 through 2013. He was third in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year in 2008 and led the league in stolen bases three times (2008, 2009, 2013). Ellsbury's 241 steals ranks third on the Red Sox's all-time list.
In 2011, he belted 32 home runs and 105 RBI, swiped 39 bases and finished second in the MVP race. Ellsbury also won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award in 2011, and he was named to the American League All-Star team.
Despite winning two World Series with Boston, Ellsbury is likely an unpopular choice for this list due to his decision to join the New York Yankees as a free agent following the 2013 season. Unfortunately, the runner-up pulled a similar maneuver.
Next in line: Johnny Damon. Damon spent four years with the Red Sox between 2002 and 2005. He made the All-Star Game in '02 and '05 and hit a crucial grand slam to put away the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. A revered member of the '04 championship team, Damon bolted for New York after 2005.
Right Field: Trot Nixon
Trot Nixon was never a star, but he played hard every day and earned the respect and admiration of Fenway Park fans as Boston's regular right fielder from 2000 to 2006.
Nixon's best years were 2001 to 2003, when he averaged 26 home runs and 90 RBI per season.
In the 2004 World Series, he batted .357, including a two-run double in the third inning of Game 4 to give Boston a 3-0 lead, the eventual final score of the championship-clincher.
Next in line: J.D. Drew. For the most part, Drew was viewed as a disappointment during his five seasons with the Red Sox (2007 to 2011). But he did make an All-Star appearance in 2008, and he hit a grand slam in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS that helped propel Boston on to its eventual title.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
There are several no-brainers on this list, but none is more obvious than David Ortiz. He's not just Boston's designated hitter of this century—or even the franchise's all-time best DH. Ortiz is quite possibly the greatest DH in baseball history.
From 2003 to 2007, Ortiz finished among the top five MVP candidates every year. He's a nine-time All-Star and the recipient of six Silver Slugger awards. In 11 seasons with the Red Sox between 2003 and 2013, his average statistics are as follows: .292 BA, 34 HR, 108 RBI, .390 OBP and .572 SLG.
Ortiz is also the only Red Sox player to win all three championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013.
During the 2013 World Series, he batted an absurd .688 and reached base in 19 of 25 plate appearances—a runaway choice for series MVP.
Next in line: None. Ortiz is in a class all by himself.
Starters: P. Martinez, C. Schilling, J. Lester, J. Beckett, T. Wakefield
No. 1: Pedro Martinez. In 2000, Martinez won the AL Cy Young Award after striking out 284 batters and posting an ERA of 1.74. He signed with the New York Mets following the Red Sox's 2004 World Series win, but in the five previous seasons, he was chosen for two All-Star teams and led the league in ERA on three occasions.
No. 2: Curt Schilling. Schilling spent the final four years of his career in Boston, capturing two championships in the process. In 2004, he went 21-6, made an All-Star appearance and finished second in the Cy Young voting. His "bloody sock" performance in Game 6 of the ALCS that season is one of the most iconic images in Red Sox history.
No. 3: Jon Lester. Now in his ninth year in Boston, Lester has won 15 or more games in five of the past six seasons. He played for two titles-winning teams (2007 and 2013), was selected for a pair of All-Star Games in 2010 and 2011 and threw a no-hitter in 2008.
No. 4: Josh Beckett. Beckett pitched for the Red Sox from 2006 to 2012. In 2007, he won 20 games and finished second in the Cy Young race, also taking home a championship. Beckett was a three-time All-Star in Boston and ended his Red Sox career with an 89-58 record.
No. 5: Tim Wakefield. For Wakefield, this honor is all about longevity. He won 121 games for Boston from 2000 to 2011, the most of any Red Sox pitcher in the 21st century. Wakefield played for two World Series winners, '04 and '07, and was chosen for the All-Star Game in 2009.
Next in line: Derek Lowe. Lowe saved a league-leading 42 games as a closer in 2000, but he also won 21 as a starter in 2002. He made the MLB All-Star Game on both occasions and hurled a no-hitter in '02 as well. During the Red Sox's title run of 2004, Lowe earned the deciding victory in all three rounds of the playoffs.
Relief Pitcher: Jonathan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon first pitched for Boston in 2005, and he was the Red Sox's primary closer from 2006 until 2011. He recorded 219 saves during that time, far and away the most in team history (Bob Stanley is second with 132).
Papelbon made four consecutive All-Star teams from 2006 to 2009 and finished his time in Boston with a 2.33 ERA and 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.
In 2007, Papelbon struck out the last batter to complete a four-game World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
Next in line: Keith Foulke. Foulke spent three seasons in Boston's bullpen from 2004 to 2006. He saved 32 games in '04 and famously made the final play on an infield ground ball to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.