Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Red Sox Mount Rushmore

Williams and Yaz were easy choices for my Red Sox Mount Rushmore
Since Derek Jeter's announcement, there's been some talk about whether or not he belongs on the Yankee version of Mt. Rushmore. Is he one of the four best and most iconic Yankees of all-time? It's close, but I'd say his fifth-best, with Yogi Berra right behind him. Jeter's got nothing on Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, all of whom compiled more bWAR and won at least one MVP award.

But that got me thinking: who would be on the Red Sox Mt. Rushmore? Ted Williams, of course, and Carl Yastrzemski is a no-brainer. What's more, they played their careers back-to-back, with Yaz debuting the year after Williams retired, so together they cover nearly 50 years of Boston baseball (1939-1983).

Figuring out the last two spots was much tougher. After last year, I feel like David Ortiz definitely deserves to be there. He's the only surviving link between Boston's trio of millennial champions, and his dazzling postseason success has helped make him one of the most important Red Sox to ever put on the uniform. In particular, his role in orchestrating Boston's epic comeback versus New York in the 2004 ALCS will never be forgotten.

So who gets the last spot? Part of me wanted to choose a pitcher, but how do you pick between Cy Young, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez? I'm not sure that you can. The fan in me wants Nomar Garciaparra, but six spectacular seasons isn't enough. There's an argument to be made for Johnny Pesky, who gave more to the Red Sox than any other person on this earth, but as a player his accomplishments fall a bit short.I considered a bunch of guys from the 1970s and '80s--Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans and Luis Tiant--but came to the conclusion that they weren't up to snuff (Boggs was closest). I also thought about some of the Depression-Era stars like Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and Joe Cronin, only to decide against them as well.

Besides, I thought it was important to have someone representing Boston's first baseball dynasty, when they won five of the first 15 World Series including four in a seven year stretch from 1912-1918. One would be justified in choosing Babe Ruth, but his Red Sox career can't hold a candle to his Yankees one. Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper were great outfielders, but not quite what we're looking for.

In the end I decided I wanted Tris Speaker to represent the glory years. Until Williams came along, Speaker was without a doubt the best position player in franchise history. He batted a Boggs-ian.337/.414/.482 in his nine seasons with Boston, good for a 165 OPS+ during the heart of the Deadball Era. In addition, the Grey Eagle was a tremendous center fielder and fine baserunner, ranking second in franchise history in stolen bases. He's one of just three Red Sox (Williams and Yastrzemski are the others) to have multiple ten-win seasons with the club, one of which was his 1912 MVP season that coincided with Boston crowning its new park with a World Series championship.

That Speaker was traded just five days after his 28th birthday, when he hadn't even reached the halfway point of his Hall of Fame career, is second only to the infamous sale of Ruth on the scale of Red Sox personnel mistakes.

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