MLB 9s: Boston Red Sox—Carlton Fisk, Nomar and Yaz Among Fenway Heroes
Having broken their 86-year drought for a World Series title in 2004, the Boston Red Sox won their second Fall Classic under Terry Francona in 2007.
What about the hundreds of players who never led the Red Sox to a championship at Fenway? Men like Johnny Pesky and Babe Ruth. How should they be remembered in Boston's rich baseball history?
This is one question with hundreds of answers. Which Boston players had the greatest ever offensive season at their positions?
Major League Baseball has been asking fans this question in an effort to choose each team's best ever collection of stars. They are calling it MLB 9s.
Here I separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Red Sox lineup. Have your say by commenting below, or by voting on the MLB site here .
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Carlton Fisk (1977)
Fisk surpasses all other Red Sox catchers in virtually every category, and he did it all in the same season.
Jason Varitek had 25 home runs in 2003, Fisk had 26 in 1977. Mike Stanley scored 73 runs in the ’96 season, Fisk scored 102 in 1977. Rich Ferrell had a .312 batting average in 1936, Fisk batted .315 in…1977.
Fisk, who went to his fifth All-Star Game in six years back in 1977, ranked inside the AL’s top 10 in OBP (.402, fifth); runs scored (102, second); RBI (102, ninth); and walks (75, eighth). Fisk’s 26 home runs are also the most ever by a Red Sox catcher in franchise history, tying his own record from 1973.
Best remembered for his extra-innings home run in Game Six of the 1975 World Series, Fisk’s ’77 campaign was the best of his remarkable 24 years behind the dish at Fenway.
Highlight Game: September 6, 1977 @ Toronto. Fisk launched two home runs and drove in seven runs in am 11-2 victory over the Blue Jays. Not bad production from the number six spot in your lineup.
Competition: Jason Varitek provides Fisk with his strongest competition, but his .273 average and 63 runs scored leave him a long way short.
First Base: Jimmie Foxx (1938)
You have to go back more than six decades to find the greatest offensive season by a Red Sox first baseman, when Foxx won his third MVP award, his first and last in Boston.
Foxx put up incredible numbers, leading the league in no fewer than eight offensive categories. He hit 50 home runs and drove in 175 runs while falling just one point short of a .350 batting average.
“Double X” had an on base percentage of .462 and slugged .704, drawing an AL-high 119 walks and almost 400 total bases. Known for his awesome power, Foxx also recorded seven triples and five stolen bases. Even today, Foxx still holds the Red Sox single-season record for RBI, extra base hits, and home runs by a right-handed hitter.
Highlight Game: August 23, 1938 vs. Cleveland. In the second game of a double-header against the Indians, Fox hit a walk-off home run with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth off of Wills Hudlin. It was Fox’s second home run of the night, following his solo shot in the third inning.
Competition: Walt Dropo deserves a mention for his 34-144 season in 1950, as does Mo Vaughn for the 39 bombs and 126 RBI he recorded in his MVP year of 1995.
Second base: Bobby Doerr (1950)
Doerr’s 1950 season was fantastic, even by today’s standards. His 27 home runs is the most ever by a Red Sox’s second baseman, as is his 120 RBI.
An All-Star for the eighth time in his career, the life-long Red Sox’s batter hit .294 with 67 extra base hits and 103 runs scored.
Highlight Game: June 8, 1950 vs. St Louis Browns. Doerr, batting out of the seven spot, hit three home runs in the same game. He had a two-run shot in the fourth inning, another two-run jack in the seventh, and a solo bomb in the eighth. It was the only three-homer game of his 14-year professional career.
Competition: Dustin Pedroia’s 2008 season gave me a difficult decision to make, because his 118 runs are the most ever by a Boston second baseman. His .326 average and 20 stolen bases made it hard to choose between the two players, but I gave Doerr the benefit of the doubt because of the decade he played in.
His 27 home runs were just one behind Yogi Berra, while his 120 RBI fell just two short of Joe DiMaggio’s 122. In his day, Doerr was one of the best players around.
Third Base: Billy Werber (1934)
Billy Werber left the bath paths blazing in 1934, stealing 40 bases. “That’s not that impressive,” you say. “Guys have had more than 100 in one year.” That’s true, but consider the era.
Werber’s 40 steals were the most of any Red Sox player in his decade, as well as the 1950's and the 1960's. In fact, it wasn’t until 1973 when his record would be broken. It was also the most by any third baseman in baseball between 1934 and 1965. Werber batted .321 with 41 doubles, 10 triples, 129 runs and 77 walks.
Highlight Game: September 3, 1934 @ Washington. Play-by-play records and box scores are tough to come by from 1934, but Werber hit an inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning in the first game of a double-header against the Washington Senators—his third inside-the-park home run of the year.
Competition: I like a few other third basemen here. Mike Lowell had a great year in 2007, driving in 120 with a .324 batting average, and Wade Boggs was equally impressive 20 years earlier hitting .363 with 24 homers and 108 runs in 1987.
Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (2000)
A .372 batting average will make you stand out in almost any crowd and the greatest offensive season by a Red Sox shortstop is no different.
Nomar fell three hits short of 200, but led the league in batting average for the second consecutive year. His 51 doubles ranked second in the AL only to Carlos Delgado’s 57, while his .434 on base percentage was a career high. He also led the league in intentional walks.
In terms of Red Sox history, his .434 OBP and .372 average are the highest totals by any Boston middle-infielder ever.
Highlight Game: July 9, 2000 vs. Atlanta. In an inter league game against the Braves, Nomar went 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs, three RBI, three runs and a walk. It was one of two multi-home run games of the season and one of 20 in his career.
Competition: Vern Stephens hit 39 home runs and drove in 159 batters in 1949, and Rico Petrocelli had 40 with 97 RBI in 1969. More recently, John Valentin hit triple-digits in runs and RBI in 1995 while racking up 20 stolen bases.
Outfield: Ted Williams (1941)
Ted Williams’ .406 batting average is legendary, and his ’41 season was so impressive that it is seen as the greatest season ever by one of the best hitters ever.
Williams was the last player to bat over .400 and his .551 OBP remained the watermark for 61 years until it was bested in 2002. In 1941, Williams led the American League in runs scored (135), home runs (37), and walks (147). His .735 slugging percentage is still a franchise record for a left-handed batter.
Probably the biggest farce of Williams’ 1941 season was that Joe DiMaggio won the MVP, despite fewer runs, home runs, and walks, and a batting average 49 points worse. Just one more reason for the Red Sox to hate the Yankees.
Highlight Game: August 19, 1941 @ St Louis Browns. Williams hit three home runs that day—one in the first game of a double-header, and then two more against Bob Muncrief in the second half of the twin bill.
Jim Rice (1978)
Hall of Famer Jim Rice was a clear-cut winner for the 1978 AL MVP and an easy choice for a spot in the Red Sox all-time outfield.
Rice led the league in 10 offensive categories. For the benefit of completeness they are: games played (163), plate appearances (746), at bats (677), hits (213), triples (15), home runs (46), RBI (139), slugging percentage (.600), on-base plus slugging percentage (.970), and total bases (406). His 406 bases remains a Red Sox single-season franchise record.
Such was Rice’s dominance that no other American League batter got a single first-place MVP vote.
Highlight Game: May 28, 1978 vs. Detroit. One week after hitting his 100th career home run against Detroit, Rice beat them with the bat again, snapping a 3-3 tie with a 10th-inning walk-off home run off John Hiller.
Carl Yastrzemski (1967)
A life-long Boston favorite, Yaz only won one MVP award during his 23-year Red Sox’s career, but boy was it worth it.
In ’67, Yastrzemski hit 44 home runs—more than any two of his previous six seasons combined. He also drove in 121 runs and scored 112, batting a league-leading .326 on the strength of 189 hits.
His 360 total bases were a league and career high, as was his .622 slugging percentage. 1967 was the standout year of an illustrious career that culminated in his induction into Cooperstown in 1989.
Highlight Game: August 30, 1967 @ New York Yankees. Yaz added to the Boston-New York history books with an 11th-inning, two-out, go-ahead home run off of Downing—who pitched all 11 innings in the complete game loss—to give the Red Sox a 2-1 victory at the old Yankee Stadium.
With Detroit and Minnesota both losing, the win helped the Red Sox open up a one-and-a-half game lead at the top of the American League. They would eventually win the division by one game, giving them their first trip back to the postseason since 1946.
Competition: Some greats have certainly donned the Boston outfield over the years. Tony Armas (1984) and Manny Ramirez (2004) both hit 43 home runs for the Red Sox, while Tris Speaker batted .383 with 52 steals back in 1912.The outfield is so stacked, that Babe Ruth can't even make it in there despite his 29-114-103 season of 1919.
If I had to hand out a fourth-place prize, I’d give it to Manny for ‘being Manny’. Not really. It would be for the 43-130-108 stats he put up in 2004, combined with a .308 average.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz (2006)
A professional DH, Ortiz followed up a great 2005 season with an equally-impressive, if not better, 2006.
Big Papi hit a league-leading 54 home runs and 137 RBI, while drawing 119 walks. Pitchers learned from their mistakes the previous year—possibly—walking Ortiz intentionally 23 times. Looking at those 54 home runs, they needed to do it a lot, lot more.
Highlight Game: July 6, 2006 @ Tampa Bay. Two home runs, six RBI, and a walk. A usual day at the office for Ortiz as the Red Sox rolled to a 12-5 win, snapping a three-game losing streak in Florida. You could have also picked one of three walk-off home run games or his 200th career shot, coming against the Mets.
Competition: The only competition was his 2005 season. More hits and a better batting average, but more Ks, fewer walks and fewer bombs. I wouldn’t argue though if you wanted to flip these two years around. Unfortunately for Papi, neither was good enough for an MVP trophy, although hardcore fans may make an argument for both.
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