Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Good Guys and Bad Guys of the Last 25 Years

Matt SAnalyst IIIJuly 3, 2011

Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Good Guys and Bad Guys of the Last 25 Years

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    Any franchise that gets as much attention as the Boston Red Sox is bound to have more than its share of fan favorites.  

    Popular players are easy to spot, from the replica jerseys in the stands, from the huddle of microphones at post-game conferences and from the loudest cheers and ovations when they step into the batter's box.

    But at the same time, every team has those guys we just love to hate.  They're equally easy to spot.  

    Booed consistently on the road, booed occasionally at home, they are the targets of water cooler slams and radio show complaints.  They are the guys fans focus on when the team is doing poorly.  Their attitude, legal and mental and emotional problems transcend on-field performance.

    Over the last quarter century, the Red Sox have had characters that fall into both of these categories. Good guys and hometown heroes stand in stark contrast to the bad eggs who whined and grumbled their way through Beantown.

    Let's review the top 10 for both, beginning with Boston's all-time good guys.

Good Guys: No. 10 Trot Nixon

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    The original "Dirtdog," Trot Nixon, came into the big leagues as a hot prospect.  A brief debut in 1996 started things off, and by 1998, he was in the majors for good.  

    He played nine-plus seasons with the Red Sox, and while he never quite materialized as a great player, he was usually solid and always hustling.

    Nixon was an effort guy.  His .278 average and .845 OPS in Boston were decent, but what set him apart and endeared him to the Fenway fans was his willingness to go all-out, all the time.  It's tough to remember a game in which Nixon finished with a clean uniform.

    After 2006, the club let Trot walk and brought in my personal nemesis J.D. Drew.  In many ways, the two were polar opposites.

    The one knock on Nixon was that his religious views led to some bigoted remarks about homosexuals. But for the most part, he kept his beliefs to himself, and while I can't get behind the sentiments, they didn't seem to affect his status with the Fenway faithful. 

Good Guys: No. 9 Kevin Millar

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    Beloved for his fun-loving attitude, his "Cowboy Up" mentality and total disregard for seriousness, Millar joined the Red Sox in 2003 for a brief but memorable three-year run.  

    He was an instant cult hero in the city of Boston, describing himself and his teammates as "idiots" and bringing a new level of enjoyment to the franchise.

    He hit .282 for the Sox, with an .813 OPS.  But it wasn't his production that made him so important. Millar's demeanor seemed to buoy the club's confidence.  

    After a failed 2003 playoff run in which his famous "Cowboy Up" phrase failed to bring results, Millar found himself and his teammates down three games to none to the Yankees in 2004.  

    Prior to Game 4, Millar famously quipped, "Don't let us win tonight. This is a big game. They've got to win because if we win, we've got Pedro coming back today and then Schilling will pitch Game 6 and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don't let the Sox win this game."

    Boston won in seven and went on to win the World Series.  

Good Guys: No. 8 Johnny Damon

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    Millar's fellow "idiot," Damon went from being a clean-cut young Kansas City Royal and Oakland A to being a long-haired caveman-esque idol to the city of Boston.

    Over the course of four seasons, mostly as the team's leadoff hitter, Damon batted .295, stole 98 bases and played a solid centerfield.  He played the game with abandon, finding kindred spirits in Millar and Nixon as the "idiots" led Boston to its first title in nearly a century and broke the curse of the Bambino.

    In 2006, Damon asked for a five-year contract extension.  Boston wouldn't go longer than three, and the dreaded Yankees went four.  Damon walked.

    It was about more than money, among other things, Damon didn't get along with Curt Schilling.  But regardless of the reasons, it was tough to see him go. 

Good Guys: No. 7 Mike Lowell

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    A totally different kind of "good guy," Mike Lowell wasn't brash or boisterous.  He was professional and understated.  He was hard work and class.  Lowell didn't jaw at the cameras, and he wasn't flashy on the field.  He simply got the job done.

    Over his five-year tenure with the Sox he hit .290 with an .814 OPS.  He played a strong third base.  And though he struggled with injuries, he had a knack for the clutch hit and the key RBI.

    Lowell made the right move by retiring after the 2010 season, but he is missed in Boston.  He will always be remembered as the 2007 World Series MVP. 

Good Guys: No. 6 Tim Wakefield

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    The first current Red Sox on this list, Wake has been the epitome of a team player during his run with the team.  

    Want him to start?  He'll start.  Want him to pitch relief?  He'll head to the bullpen.  Need him to eat some innings?  The rubber-armed knuckleballer will take the mound until you drag him off.

    Wakefield has been one of the franchise's most useful and versatile players, an irony when you consider that he's basically a one-trick pony.  The knuckleball, when working, is almost unhittable.  

    And though Wakefield hasn't always had stellar numbers, he's always done what he could to help the team win.

    The club's all-time innings leader needs a handful of victories to become Boston's winningest pitcher in history. 

Good Guys: No. 5 Dwight Evans

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    When you think of the greatest players of the 1980s, how quickly does Dwight Evans come to mind? Probably not very.  

    But the truth is that Evans was one of the game's best outfielder for more than a decade.  From 1980 through 1989 he led the American League in home runs and extra base hits.  He hit 20 or more dingers every year during that span.

    He was also a strong defender who won eight Gold Glove awards and generally kept things under control in right field at Fenway.  

    He was often overshadowed by other stars with bigger personalities, but that's not a reflection on his ability or popularity.  Evans is second all-time in games played for the Red Sox franchise, trailing only Carl Yastrzemski.

    Dewey is in the club's Hall of Fame and will forever have a place in the Red Sox family.

Good Guys: No. 4 Rich Garces

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    The beefy, swarthy Garces looked like anything but a professional athlete.  But when El Guapo took the mound, the cheers were deafening.  

    He got his nickname from Mike Maddux, who found a resemblance between Garces and the villain in The Three Amigos.  But for a time, the Handsome One delivered handsomely on the mound, posting sub-4.00 ERAs for four straight years.

    Garces was celebrated for being a big fat guy.  He was loved because he was an everyman who became a superman when he took the bump.  But ultimately, his build betrayed him and he was out of baseball by age 32.

    Still, he has a lasting place in Red Sox lore. 

Good Guys: No. 3 Dustin Pedroia

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    Dustin Pedroia's life is a cautionary tale.  Never let other people tell you what you can't do.  And if they try to, use it as motivation.  Pedroia was too small to make the majors.  Not athletic enough.  Not fast enough.  Good thing he didn't know that.

    Since coming up with the Sox in 2006, all he's done is win Rookie of the Year, an MVP, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.  All he's done is post a career .301 average and .372 on-base percentage.  All he's done is steal 20 bases in back-to-back seasons, and his 2011 pace will likely result in a career best in that category.

    Pedroia may not be great at any one thing, but he's very good at everything.  And he never gives up.  For that, Boston fans absolutely love him.

Good Guys: No. 2 Jason Varitek

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    The Captain.  Little else needs to be said.  Varitek has earned the admiration of a city and the respect of his peers, and the proof is in the "C" emblazoned on his chest.  

    For 15 seasons he's been making everyone around him better, improving Boston's pitching staffs and serving as a clubhouse leader.

    Varitek has never been the best hitter on the team, and he's not the best defensive catcher around either. But he brings a quiet confidence and an unrelenting work ethic to one of the game's most important positions.

    No one calls a game better than 'Tek, and pitchers have sworn by his skills for years.  When he finally steps away, he'll join Carlton Fisk as the greatest catchers in Red Sox history.    

Good Guys: No. 1 David Ortiz

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    Simply put, there's not a nicer guy in baseball than David Ortiz.  Between his work with the community, his gregarious personality, and the sheer joy he brings to fans, Big Papi is the guy everyone wants on their favorite team.

    It's his combination of skills and attitude that makes Ortiz such a huge hit.  He could be the best guy in the world and still draw ire from the fans if he didn't produce.  But the fact that he is who he is while also slugging like a champ makes him easy to love.

    A couple of years ago, I thought he was done.  I thought his bat speed was gone and that he would just be another husky hanger-on in the AL, drifting around for a few more seasons as a DH before packing it in.  

    But Ortiz proved me wrong and showed the world his drive to succeed.  Here's hoping for another five years just like 2011. 

Good Guys: Honorable Mentions

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    Narrowly missing my top 10 are several current Sox and a former fave as well.

    Ellis Burks: Centerfielder, 1987-1992, 2004

    Burks was a popular player who brought a good mix of offense and defense to Fenway.  After making the rounds with the White Sox, Rockies, Giants and Indians, he found himself back in Boston for the final year of his career.

    Jacoby Ellsbury: Centerfielder, 2007-present

    Ellsbury is working his way back as a fan favorite after injuries stole his 2010 season.  He was one the fast track to Boston stardom with his tremendous speed, and before all is said and done, he will be a difference-maker for the Sox.

    Jon Lester: Pitcher, 2006-present

    Lester, a home-grown hurler, has successfully battled cancer and become one of the AL's best arms. He's taken over as Boston's ace, and the fans truly appreciate his skills.  A few more years and he'll cross the line from great to legendary.

    Adrian Gonzalez: First baseman, 2011-present

    One of the newest Sox, Gonzalez is already a household name and leads the league in several statistical categories.  Inked to a long-term deal, he will be Boston's hero for years to come. 

Bad Guys: Dishonorable Mentions

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    There are a few names that aren't quite bad enough to be in the top 10 but deserve some kind of mention for their status as "bad guys."

    Kevin Youkilis: Third baseman, 2004-present

    Diehard fans love Youk, but around the league, he's regarded as somewhat of a jerk.  Hot-headed and outspoken, Youkilis is the kind of guy who you'll root for when he's hitting home runs for your team, but the second he's gone, it's all booing, all the time.

    Wade Boggs: Third baseman, 1982-1992

    A Hall of Famer and one of the best pure hitters the game has ever seen, Boggs was a superstitious and often cantankerous member of the Sox for more than a decade.  And while fans overlooked his flaws while he was winning five batting titles, he became an arch-villain when he signed with the Yankees in 1993.

    Ugeth Urbina: Pitcher, 2001-2002

    In addition to being a rather snarky jerk during his playing days, Urbina is currently serving a 14-year prison term for a kidnapping and attempted murder scheme in Venezuela.  That's pretty much the textbook definition of bad guy.

     

    With that out of the way, it's on to the top 10. 

Bad Guys: No. 10 Mike Greenwell

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    "Gator" Greenwell is actually one of the more underrated players in Red Sox history.  He was a good all-around left fielder who had some pop and could hit for average.  But he also had a major attitude problem.

    Greenwell was always whining.  He was a "what about me" type of player, looking for credit and more credit.  He was outwardly disgusted with losing the 1988 MVP award to Jose Canseco, and when it was later revealed that Canseco had used steroids, Greenwell was hardly gracious about the whole mess.

    Though he rarely missed time, Greenwell was also routinely hurt, suffering nagging injuries in the style of modern day sourpuss J.D. Drew.  In short, Gator was just flat-out annoying.

Bad Guys: No. 9 Jonathan Papelbon

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    Papelbon has been a very effective closer while with the Red Sox.  He's won and preserved wins time and time again for my favorite team.  But make no mistake; he's also the kind of guy you'd like to punch in the face.

    With an unrestrained arrogance, the juvenile and cocky reliever is hard to like, even when he's finishing off a successful ninth inning.  No matter how much he succeeds, he's still a jerk.

    It will be easier for Sox fans to admit the truth once the team lets him go during or after the 2011 season.

Bad Guys: No. 8 Izzy Alcantara

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    Alcantara appeared in 35 games for the Red Sox in 2000 and 2001.  He accomplished little of note outside of irritating then manager Jimy Williams with his lack of effort.

    Alcantara's 15 minutes of fame came in a minor league game when the Pawtucket Red Sox faced off against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.  After taking a couple of pitches high and inside, Izzy snapped, kicking the catcher square in the chest before charging the mound and attempting to take on the entire opposing team by his lonesome.

    Few players have done something so absurd.

Bad Guys: No. 7 Jose Offerman

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    Offerman just might be the king of combing lousy play with a horrible attitude.  After an All-Star caliber 1998 campaign in Kansas City, Offerman was snapped up by the Red Sox.  The team clearly hoped that his success would continue.

    Instead, he slid into oblivion over the next three-plus seasons.

    After washing out of the majors, Offerman would go on to commit his worst offenses.  In a minor league game against the Bridgeport Bluefish, Offerman charged pitcher Matt Beech with bat in hand, swinging away and starting a melee that ended with his own arrest and two players being sent to the hospital.  

    That marked the end of his U.S.-based baseball life.

    In the Dominican Winter League in 2010, Offerman punched an American umpire, Daniel Rayburn.

Bad Guys: No. 6 Curt Schilling

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    Curt Schilling was a great pitcher.  Curt Schilling was instrumental in helping Boston win a pair of titles. But Curt Schilling is also a self-righteous, pompous ass.

    One of the game's great know-it-alls, he made enemies everywhere he went, clashing with teammates, management and the media.  It's fitting that in his post-baseball life, the man is trying to become a politician.  He has that makeup.  However, his uncanny knack of driving people away could hurt his chances.

    I would strongly consider giving back a World Series win if it meant never having to hear Curt Schilling talk ever again.  

Bad Guys: No. 5 Wil Cordero

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    Cordero, who played for the Sox in 1996 and 1997, would have barely been a blip on the Boston radar if not for his off-the-field antics.  As a player, he was forgettable.  As a wife-beating scumbag, he drew the collective ire of an entire city.

    Domestic violence is unfortunately common.  But Cordero's case was a memorable one that got him a chorus of boos upon his return to the Boston lineup.

    Fortunately, his tenure with the team was short.  The Sox had little need for a replacement-level player who also enjoyed knocking pregnant women around.

Bad Guys: No. 4 Manny Ramirez

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    Before multiple drug busts tarnished his career, Manny was regarded as one of the top three right-handed hitters of his generation.  

    He would have been a Hall of Famer if not the PED use.  But despite his prowess at the plate, or maybe because of it, Manny was a top-notch jerk.

    "Manny being Manny" was the ubiquitous headline in Boston from 2001 through 2008.  There were minor infractions, like pocketing a water bottle and bringing it out to left-field, or disappearing inside the Green Monster during a game, presumably to take a leak.

    And there were major character flaws, like publicly quitting on his teammates toward the end of his tenure.

    Manny crossed the line from just being a clown to being a true headache for Red Sox management.  No matter how well he hit, his skills couldn't outweigh his shoddy behavior.

Bad Guys: No. 3 Jose Canseco

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    Speaking of juicers, who can forget Ozzie Canseco's better-known twin?  Jose Canseco is the poster boy for steroid abuse in baseball, and though he will be remembered as an Oakland A, he did spend a couple of seasons with the Sox.

    Though his power days were largely behind him, Canseco posted good numbers in 1995 and 1996.  But nothing could overrate the stain of his ill deeds.

    Canseco turned his cheating into celebrity by taking on the role of snitch.  He had no qualms about implicating his fellow players in past steroid scandals, making him one of the sport's great pariahs.

Bad Guys: No. 2 Roger Clemens

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    Still on the subject of steroids, we come to Rocket.  Roger Clemens was one of the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history.  In 1986, he became the first hurler to strike out 20 batters in a game, a record that has since been tied but never broken.

    From 1984 through 1996, he anchored the Boston rotation, taking home three Cy Young awards and an MVP before departing for Toronto.  Much was made of the split at the time, and then-GM Dan Duquette, who got plenty of deserved criticism, was taken to task for his comments about Roger being in the twilight of his career.  

    In truth, the whole quote was complimentary of Rocket.

    Michael Silverman quoted Duquette in the Boston Herald in 1996: 

    "The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career," said Duquette, who joined Harrington on a conference call yesterday afternoon.

    "We just want to let the fans know that we worked extremely hard to sign Roger Clemens...We made him a substantial, competitive offer, by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise. 

    "Unfortunately, we just couldn't get together. We were hoping he could finish his career as a Red Sox and we also wanted him to establish a relationship beyond his playing career. We wanted him to have the status of a Ted Williams, but at the end of the day we couldn't get it done."

    Clemens went on to become a world-class jackass and alleged drug abuser.  He also gave his four sons names beginning with "K," a clear connection to his strikeout ability.  He also cheated on his wife multiple times.

    So to call Clemens a bad guy is sort of an understatement. 

Bad Guys: No. 1 Carl Everett

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    Still, Rocket isn't No. 1 on this list.  That dubious distinction belongs to Carl Everett who, in addition to being a jerk, was also crazy.

    Everett had an opinion on everything but more than that, seemed to know everything about everything.  He told the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy that the Moon Landing was a hoax  Perhaps his most memorable moment came when he claimed that dinosaurs didn't exist, citing his own literal interpretation of The Bible.

    Apparently his religious studies excluded all that stuff about kindness and the Golden Rule, because Everett was forever getting into arguments with umpires and generally being a bad dude on the field.  Off the field, his anger issues culminated in aggravated assault charges when he reportedly held a gun to his wife's head.

    At one point, Everett's children were removed from his care.

    From nutjob opinions to criminal behavior, Everett was the complete package of bad.  He's earned his top spot.