Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favorite Red Sox

My favorite Sox players through the years, going back to 1998 when I became a die-hard fan at the age of six.

Mo Vaughn
I have memories of him lumbering down to first base after grounding out, followed by my confusion as to why he wasn't sprinting down the line.  I was devastated when Dan Duquette didn't resign him following the '98 season.  Like Fred Lynn two decades before him, Vaughn wasn't the same player after splitting for California.  Baseball-wise, he was the 90's version of Ortiz, but off the field he was a tad more mischievious.

Nomar Garciaparra
A man crush explained here.  I idolized him the same way the Baby Boomers worshipped Mickey Mantle, and I wanted to be him when I grew up.  I was crushed when Theo traded him, but at the same time understood that he had to go.
The two-time batting champ will always be my favorite Red Sox player

Jason Varitek
Few handled a pitching staff better than 'Tek (Beckett refused to pitch to Victor Martinez), and the team captain was a pretty good switch-hitter back in the day, too.  Varitek is a throwback player who's so old school that he (and his buzz cut) looks like he just arrived from 1955 in Dr. Brown's DeLorean.  The photograph of him stuffing his mitt into Alex Rodriguez's grill during a midseason showdown is the defining image of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.

Brian Daubach
I remember him tearing the cover off the ball when he was promoted during the '99 season, and a September swoon adversely affected his still great .294/.360/.562.  The 27 year-old bargain finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting despite competing with a stacked freshman class that included winner Carlos Beltran, Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Carlos Lee, and teammate Trot Nixon.  He was a solid, consistent first baseman in the same mold as Trot who could be counted on for 20 homers and decent on-base figures, but after Epstein got Ortiz and Jeremy Giambi there just wasn't any room for him.  I could have sworn he had some killer sideburns, but can't find any photographic evidence to prove it.  I must be thinking of his doppleganger Nick Swisher.

Trot Nixon
A tough, gritty player who loved pine tar more than George Brett and always seemed to save his best for the Yankees, especially Roger Clemens.  The stats (.246/.350/.406 against New York) don't back this up, so I guess I have a selective memory.  Trot, the epitome of a classic Red Sox player in that he could mash but was too slow to do anything else, broke down after he turned 30 and was never the same.

Tim Wakefield
Popular player, great teammate and one of the rare starting pitchers who make their livings off the fluttering knuckleball.  Not even Aaron Boone belting a series-ending homer into the bleachers at the Stadium in '03 could turn the fans against Wake.  He's always done the dirty work of a back end rotation filler/innings eater, so it was great to see him get his 200th career win with the Red Sox, who gave him a chance in 1995 after the Pirates gave up on him. 

Ortiz is always smiling
David Ortiz
The only thing bigger than his hits is his grin, which stretches from Beantown to the Dominican Republic.  I will always have a special place in my heart for the Big Papi, the lovable teddy bear of a slugger who dismantled the Evil Empire with his walk-off hits and flair for the dramatic.  It's easy to forget now, but he was widely considered to be one of the best hitters in baseball along with Albert Pujols and A-Rod in the mid-aughts.  With the game on the line, this burly slugger is the man I want up at the plate.

Mike Lowell
Classy guy and consummate professional who resurrected his careerin Boston after everyone thought he was washed up.  He thrived in Fenway, and I'm sure taking aim the Green Monster helped extend his career.  I was in the grandstand for Mike Lowell appreciation day on the penultimate day of the 2010 season, and the farewell ceremony was a fitting tribute to the team's best third baseman since Wade Boggs.

Jon Lester
The guy came back from cancer to finish off a sweep of the Rockies in the 2007 Fall Classic, and now he's one of the best pitchers in baseball.  How many players can say that?  Forget Josh Beckett; Lester is the ace and workhorse of this team, a la Curt Schilling surpassing Pedro Martinez in 2004.  He's a bulldog who wants to finish what he starts.

Kevin Youkilis
I can see why Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta wanted this guy on their team so badly.  Love his attitude; he treats an afternoon game in May like it's Game 7 of the World Series, and every at-bat is life-or-death to him.  He's a gamer who wears his heart on his sleeve, and I think he dies a little inside every time he strikes out with runners on base, and it's nice to see some emotion before J.D. Drew passively takes a called third strike to end the inning (Drew, a borderline zombie, is the antithesis of Youkilis; he spent five years in this city and I can't remember a single smile or grimace).  I admire Youk's passion and competitive fire almost as much as I admire his uncanny ability to rise to the occasion with runners in scoring position; the Greek God of Walks is a career .289/.391/.492 hitter, but bats .328/.436/.554 with RISP.  In other terms, he transforms from Andre Ethier into Todd Helton circa 2005.  Lastly, it took a lot of guts to stand up to an established superstar like Manny Ramirez
Pedroia and Youkilis play the game with an unmatched intensity
Dustin Pedroia
How can you not root for a pint-sized second baseman nicknamed "The Laser Show" who swings from his heels and ropes line drives to all fields?  The diminuitive second baseman swings a big stick, knows when to grab a bag and plays outstanding defense at the keystone position.  He's a lot like Youkilis in that he's very gritty, hard-nosed, emotional, and driven.  While they lack in raw athleticism, they make up for that deficiency with their heart.

Daniel Bard
"Bard-On" can bring the heat, and you gotta love a flamethrower who comes out of the 'pen and mows guys down.  He's no Aroldis Chapman, but in my 15 years as a fan I've never seen a Bosox pitcher throw harder than this man.

Adrian Gonzalez
The dude rakes, and I'm glad he's finally getting the attention he deserves now that he's escaped from PETCO.  I've never been there, but I hear tourists mistake it for the Grand Canyon.

No comments:

Post a Comment