Monday, March 30, 2009

The Top 100 Red Sox: 19-21

Isn't there some insurance broker that calls itself "The Company You Keep"? Anyway, here's the company our next three all-time greatest Red Sox are keeping:

31. Johnny Pesky, SS
30. Bill Lee, P
29. Dom DiMaggio, CF
28. Harry Hooper, RF
27. Fred Lynn, CF
26. Dick Radatz, P
25. Tim Wakefield, P
24. Dutch Leonard, P
23. Bob Stanley, P
22. Mo Vaughn, 1B

You have spoken -- and for the first time, your votes are determining the order. (All, you know, eight or nine of you who voted on the first "Who's higher on the list?" poll.) Here's what you decided:

21. Nomar Garciaparra
It's incredible, now, to look back on the Nomar we knew in 2000, before that fateful Al Reyes pitch, and the track he was on. His career numbers at age 26 -- an age when he should have been just entering the prime of his career:
* .333 batting, .382 on-base, .573 slugging
* 117 home runs
* 436 RBI
* 140 OPS+

Check out his career comparables list from
* Mike Piazza (151 OPS+), who had played one fewer season and thus had fewer home runs (92) and RBI but a slugging percentage of .557;
* Ernie Banks (131 OPS+), who had more home runs (136) but fewer RBI and a batting average almost 50 points lower;
* Chipper Jones (129 OPS+), who had almost as many home runs (108) and RBI and the exact same on-base percentage but a lower slugging percentage;
* Yogi Berra (125 OPS+), who had fewer home runs (102) and more RBI but, again, lower percentage numbers across the board;
* And, of course, Derek Jeter (122 OPS+), who had a better on-base percentage but a far lower slugging percentage thanks to his 39 fewer home runs in 700 more at-bats.

All five are or soon will be in the Hall of Fame.

That's what Nomar was. He wasn't quite A-Rod (144 OPS+ at age 26), but he was awfully close. He was one of the best hitters in the game. He was a Rookie of the Year, an MVP runner-up, a two-time batting champ. He was a future Hall of Famer, certainly. He was Nomah!

And check out his career comparables list now, as a 34-year-old trying to resurrect his career with the Oakland Athletics:
* Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett and Mickey Cochrane, three Hall of Fame catchers;
* Jeff Kent, a future Hall of Fame second baseman thanks in part to the fact that he hit at least 20 homers four more times after he turned 34;
* Bret Boone;
* Fred Lynn;
* Javy Lopez.

He hit seven home runs in 431 at-bats at first base two years ago; an assortment of injuries landed him on the disabled list three times last season as he hit .264 and slugged .466 in 163 at-bats with the Dodgers. He's got a shot to get at-bats as a first baseman and third baseman with the A's this season.

That's it. That's Nomar -- once Chipper Jones; now Bret Boone. He's the one guy on this list who should have been so much higher than he is.

20. Dwight Evans
Only Carl Yastrzemski played in more games and had more at-bats in a Red Sox uniform than Evans -- the perennial Gold Glove winner played with Yaz and Luis Tiant, with Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice, with Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens.

He played for four division winners and went to the World Series twice, a feat bested only by fellow right fielder Harry Hooper between 1912 and 1918. When it comes to memorable moments in Red Sox history, in fact, Evans is a little bit like Forrest Gump -- always there, and not necessarily just in the background:

1975: Made some kind of catch, or something.
(As an aside: I was eight or nine years old when I met Joe Morgan at an autograph show; the event was fairly sparsely attended, which gave my family and I a chance to chat with him a little bit. I'd shown up wearing all my Red Sox gear, which meant the conversation naturally turned to Game 6. "You know, if it wasn't for Dwight Evans," he said with a gracious smile, "it would be me everyone remembers from that game and not Carlton Fisk." I wish I could like Joe Morgan more as a broadcaster. I really do.)

1978: The Red Sox were cruising toward a division title when Evans was hit in the head with a pitch on Aug. 28 against Seattle. The dizziness cost him a shot at 30 home runs and probably cost the Red Sox the division; it was just two days later that the Red Sox kicked off a stretch in which they'd lose 14 of 17 to go from 7 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees to 3 1/2 games behind. He hit .164 in the month of September -- and probably shouldn't have even been playing in his condition -- and couldn't do anything more than pinch-hit in the ninth inning of the one-game playoff on Oct. 2.

1986: Hit a three-run home run to provide Roger Clemens with all the run support he'd get -- and need -- in the 20-strikeout game on April 29.

Oh, and he hit .308 with two doubles and two home runs in the World Series -- including an RBI double in the first inning of Game 6 and a solo home run in the second inning of Game 7 -- and was out in right field when that ground ball rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner.

1988: Drove in 111 runs and finished ninth in MVP voting -- his fourth top-10 finish of his career -- as the Red Sox won their second division title in three years.

1990: On his way out as a full-time player, still hit 13 home runs and 18 doubles as the Red Sox won their third division title in five years.

19. Bobby Doerr
Eighteen players have hit for the cycle in Red Sox history. Luminaries such as Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Tris Speaker all have done it; also-rans like Scott Cooper and Leon Culberson have done it, too. But no one has done it twice -- except for Bobby Doerr.

But that shouldn't be surprising: Doerr ranks among the Red Sox career leaders in singles (6th), doubles (5th), triples (4th) and home runs (8th). He's one of only four players to rank among the top 10 in franchise history in all four categories; Ted Williams, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans are the others. (Rice never hit for the cycle. Go figure.)

But Doerr wasn't just a hitting-for-the-cycle machine. The second baseman made nine All-Star teams in his 14 seasons in Boston; he hit 20 home runs three times and drove in 100 runs six times. And in the 1946 World Series, while an injured Ted Williams was hitting .200, Doerr hit a team-best .409 with a double and a home run.

(Here's one more interesting stat for you: Between 1979 and 1996, the Red Sox hit for the cycle seven times. Since 1996, the Red Sox have hit for the cycle zero times.)

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