Go ahead, try it. Think of all the organizations that really define Major League Baseball. Seriously. Do this. Do it honestly. List each team, and then after listing, go through it again, to make sure you haven’t included a favorite because they’re a favorite. If you’re being honest with yourself, there are…what? Five, maybe six teams? One could argue really only three teams: the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers. Don't doubt me on this. I'm an Angels fan. And no, they aren't one of the five or six.
When the Dodgers moved out West, it opened the door for an even greater rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. Suddenly, two long standing East Coast power houses were the only “choice”-team left for diehards to hold dearly. And boy have they.
When you’re an ancient team like the Red Sox, you have many players come and go. Being a great city with a great sport sense and pride, makes, I’m sure, an incredible atmosphere. If you’re a star, you’re adored. But imagine being the player who doesn’t do well, who wilts under pressure. It must be a life crushing feeling.
Here are eight players who loved their time with the Red Sox, and seven who didn’t.
15 Loved: Jim Rice
When Carl Yastrzemski was starting to slow in production, Jim Rice came along. Rice had one of the quieter Hall of Fame careers. But like Ted Williams and Yastrzemski, spent all his 16-seasons with the Red Sox.
Over 16 years, Rice hit .298 with 382 home runs. He made eight All-Star teams, won an MVP, and finished top five in MVP voting, four other times.
Injuries slowed Rice’s ability to hit the long ball like he had the first half of his career. Many pundits agree, had he not experienced that slow wear in his strength, his home run numbers would be much higher, therefore increasing his legacy and namesake, in all-time discussions and rankings.
16 years is 16 years. A mighty fine marriage. It’s fair to say Rice loved being in Boston.
14 Hated: J.D. Drew
There was a time when Drew was seen as an up and coming superstar. Believe me when I say, I’m as surprised as you are. But really, he was a heralded player early in his career. Seen as a freakish bat and perennial defender. Think, poor man’s Bryce Harper.
When he signed with the Red Sox, the Winter of 2006, to a five-year $70-million-dollar deal, he had already been in the league for ten years. Those ten years mired with injury, with good but not great play, as predicted. He’d made no All-Star teams, only once been in MVP clamoring, finishing sixth in 2004. He was by all definitions, a semi-star.
His time with Boston wasn’t horrible. He won a World Series and played solid defense in right field. But his bland personality, mixed with more injuries and declining numbers, made the early fascination, ludicrous. He made an All-Star team in 2008. Besides that, it was all just forgettable.
J.D. and Boston have a ‘bleh’ kind of relationship.
13 Loved: Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia is hard to ignore.
The 5’9” 175-pound spark at second base, seems to lack the body for MLB stardom. And if able to find some form of success, too small to stay healthy for 11 seasons and counting, of Hall of Fame play. But I imagine this has always been the case for him. And time and time again, he’s proven his worthy by hitting high average while commanding respect as a hell of a defensive player.
Pedroia is the man who took the helm from Manny Ramirez in 2008. He’d already won a ring in 2007 with the club, but it was post-2008, when Pedroia became THE GUY. The franchise face. The one the team looked to for leadership and results.
It’s been nothing short of brilliant. In 11 seasons with the club, Pedroia’s won an MVP, been to four All-Star games and won four Gold Glove awards. He’s slowly turned into a respect worthy middle order bat, knocking in runs and getting on base. Without Pedroia, you better be sure, there’d be no 2013 World Series title.
Yup…he loves being in Boston, and Boston loves him.
12 Hated: John Lackey
Lackey’s had a solid 15-year career. He’s won 176 games with a sub-four earned run average and finished top five in Cy Young voting twice. He’s been a respect worthy third or fourth rotation guy, eating up innings and taking pressure – normally – off middle relief. But not so, for most of his time in Boston.
It’s interesting. Lackey enjoyed eight seasons as a near ace with the Angels. He won 102 games and was known for impeccable command and poise. Any given night, he was due for a two or three hit effort, locking down an order and carrying the Halos on his back.
Maybe it was the big money that made the wheels come off? When he signed a five-year, $82-million deal with the Sox the Winter of 2009, the team thought they’d signed their needed ace. What followed was ugly.
In 2011, Lackey finished with a 6.41 earned run average. He led the league in runs allowed that season, numerous times getting demoted to a middle relief role.
No…Lackey didn’t love his time in Boston.
11 Loved: Wade Boggs
Boggs was the face in Boston for a long time. He embodied the city’s blue collar grit, playing nearly every night, hitting high average, getting on base and doing it all with hustle. He also loved beer, like a real Bostonian. Once slogging somewhere between 64 and 107 beers in a day.
People don’t realize how incredibly good Boggs was. Over 11-years with the club, he hit .338! Let me repeat myself: .338. Yes. And with a .428 OBP. He went to eight All-Star games, and struck out so low it’s hard to fathom. Over 11 years the man struck out 428 times. That’s literally less than 40 times per season. He finished his 18-year career with over 3,000 hits, and was deservedly inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
When Boggs left for the Yankees in 1992, he was seeking a ring. Nothing else. It had nothing to do with his dislike of the city. He wanted to experience the ultimate level of winning. And he did in 1996.
But Boggs loved being a Bo-Sock.
10 Hated: Bill Campbell
Campbell may not be a name many of you know, but he was instrumental in bringing high salary contracts to relief pitchers.
The Winter of 1976, Campbell – a workhorse – signed a five-year $1-million deal with the Red Sox. Doesn’t sound like big money. But boy was it. Coming off a 17-win, 20-save, 176-inning effort with the Twins, Campbell was hoping for a raise. The raise? $23,000 a year to $35,000. Not joking. I’m serious. When the Twins said no, he sought work elsewhere, and the Sox signed him to what was, at the time, huge, huge money.
But, like expected, his arm ran out of juice. After one season of great play with the Sox, the money man, lost command and would never throw more than 65-innings in a season.
Doesn’t sound like the multi-facet arm they were hoping for. And knowing the fan base in Boston, one with a high bar, I doubt his time with the club was positive.
9 Loved: Manny Ramirez
Pundits and critics can debate all they like. They have that right. And it makes sense. Why? Because Manny Ramirez has always and will always, be a polarizing figure. But one thing, they can’t take away from him, is this: He’s one of the purist hitters of all time. And everywhere he went, he thrived as a middle of the order bat.
I know all the shenanigans. The outspoken behavior, the poor play in the outfield, the long and questionable character and work ethic. But all that almost makes me more impressed. If Ramirez could smack a career 555 home runs, hit. 312, finish 18th all-time in runs batted in, and go to 12 All-Star games not trying, I’m wowed.
I’d argue he spent his greatest years in Boston. Signing a $160-million contract in the Winter of 2000, Ramirez went on to spend eight years with the club, going to eight All-Star games. He hit .312 and smashed an average of 35 home runs. He, and David Ortiz, were hands down the best two middle order bats in the league.
The result having Manny in town…two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. Don’t mistake the trade shipping him out of town the Summer of 2008, as a sign he didn’t like being with Boston. He’s arguably a top five Bo-Sock ever.
8 Hated: Johnny Damon
It’s fair to say Johnny Damon enjoyed a borderline Hall of Fame career. He split his 18 seasons between four teams, making an impact as a lead off guy with a high hit for average, great eye and speed on the base paths.
Right in the middle of those 18 years, Damon spent four with the Red Sox. During that span, he hit .290, averaged 25 stolen bases per season, and racked up an OBP of .370. He became, arguably, the face of the franchise, and was integral in leading the team to a World Series win in 2004 – the first in 86 years.
A free agent after the 2005 season, it made sense Damon would re-sign with the Sox. He was coming off his best season in the majors, had hit his prime, and seemed poised for more All-Star appearances and possible championships.
But then he threw us all a curve, and we all struck out. He did the dirty, by signing with long rival, the New York Yankees to a multi-year, mega contract.
It’s fair to say, he just wasn’t into being in Boston.
7 Loved: Ted Williams
Williams, by all measurements, is the purist hitter ever. In fact, so pure, fans and critics forget how much power the guy possessed. Over 19 years, Williams hit 525 home runs. That feat overshadowed by his impeccable eye at the plate. An eye that rarely saw Williams strike out, and hit a career .344.
Williams' career is just bananas. He made 17 All-Star teams, won two MVP's, hit .406 in 1941, .369 in 1948, and .388 in 1957. His lifetime .482 OBP is bonkers. During his peak, he took a break from baseball, serving three years in the military. There’s nothing Williams could do wrong.
An even more beautiful fact, is he spent all his 19 years with the Red Sox. He played during a time, when player/owner and player/fan, had an invaluable relationship. And he made good on that relationship, honoring his with the city of Boston.
Ted Williams IS the city of Boston.
6 Hated: Babe Ruth
I mean, come on. Baby Ruth. The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. Ruth is, by many pundits’ beliefs, the best to ever play the game of baseball. Not only was his dominance as a hitter AND pitcher unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, but his lore, his legendary mystique, something to behold.
We all imagine Ruth in his infamous Yankees gear. Why? Because he spent his best years in New York. But before he was a Yankee, he was with Boston for six seasons. Six seasons that saw the young hitter, hit .308 with an OPS of .981. He was even better as a pitcher, hurling an 89-46 record with a 2.13 earned run average.
In the Winter of 1919, Ruth demanded more money. He deserved it, as he was blooming into the legendary force. But the Red Sox said no. Wouldn’t finagle things to fit his fancy, and he bolted with little to any remorse. The Yankees bought his contract and the rest is history. He’d go on to hit .349 with 659 home runs, in 15 seasons with the Yankees.
It was long claimed, the curse that overshadowed the city for 86 years, a curse that saw the Red Sox go without a World Series title, until broken in 2004, was caused by their dismissal of Ruth.
I’m positive Ruth didn’t think highly about his time in Boston.
5 Loved: Carl Yastrzemski
Yastrzemski is mega important. After Ted Williams retired, the city was without a superstar. In ushered the “Yaz.”
Like Williams, Yaz played out his whole career with Boston, and it’s impressive. A career spanning 23-years, that saw the left fielder play in 18 all-star games, win an MVP, receive six gold glove awards, smack 452 home runs, and hit a lifetime .285. While his numbers may not wow like Ruth’s or Williams’, it’s important to note, he played during a time when pitchers dominated, and scores were low. A time when a star was equally expected to lay down a bunt or sacrifice to get a guy over.
The Yaz is also important on another level. His swag he brought to the game, alongside Mickey Mantle, helped make the MLB a global brand. The new global brand brought owners a lot more money. The year after Yaz posed for the Boston Globe with a cigar in his mouth, and a cool, side-cocked scowl, Red Sox attendance doubled.
Yes, Yaz and the Red Sox clearly like one another.
4 Hated: Pablo Sandoval
One could argue the Pablo Sandoval signing the Winter of 2014, is arguably the worst in Red Sox history. Sandoval was nowhere worth the money. On his best day, he was a high strike out, out of shape late middle order bat. Yes, he had his moments in the postseason. And was also known as one of the best bad ball hitters in baseball. But if we’re honest with ourselves, his two all-star appearances with the San Francisco Giants were a fluke.
Okay, he wasn’t as bad as I’m painting. Over seven years with the Giants, Sandoval hit .294, won three rings and became a reliable presence at third base. But it’s just hard to fathom, the Red Sox, a team boasting the kind of talent they have, would spend so much money on the guy.
The Winter of 2014, the Red Sox signed him to a 5-year, $95-million deal. And the results so far have been ugly. Two year into the deal, Sandoval’s played in only 129 games and hit .237. Though still with the club, and looking to bounce back, it’s fair to say Sandoval has not felt welcome in Boston.
3 Loved: Hanley Ramirez
Like Sandoval, the Ramirez signing the Winter of 2014, is also in question. Ramirez has performed much, much better than Sandoval. But has he been worth the four-year, $88-million deal? So far: no. But time will tell.
Again, it hasn’t been bad. In fact, last year he was in MVP talks toward the end of the year. Over two years with the club, he’s hit .273 with 49 home runs. He’s become a reliable glove at first base, and added depth to an already bolstered line up, hitting second, sixth or seventh in the order.
One would think Ramirez hasn’t likes his time in Boston, because of the contract and the underperforming. But I’d argue otherwise. After a subpar first year with the team, Ramirez won over fans last season. He brought a fun-loving essence to the team, relishing his role now as a mentor and veteran. His development into a borderline gold glove first baseman is something not to ignore. Having spent most his career at third or short stop, the transition couldn’t have been easy. But Ramirez has taken it on, and done it with pride.
Yes, Hanley likes being in Boston.
2 Hated: Andre Dawson
Andre Dawson made the mistake of signing a two year, $9.3 million deal with the Red Sox the Winter of 1992. The 37-year-old slugger was no longer the superstar he’d once been with the Cubs – though he still commanded prime dollars.
His signing was the aftermath of the Red Sox missing out on young super star slugger, Mark McGwire. They’d med with Big Mac, to discuss a long-term deal that’d bring him in as the new franchise face, but he balked at their three-year contract offer. So, in came Dawson, a guy expected to earn that nice sized contract with big enough play on the field.
But…so was not the case. The 1987 MVP, played in only 196 games. He hit .260 with 29 home runs, 24 less than the previous two years he’d played with the Cubs.
Dawson and the Red Sox really didn’t like each other, clearly. He went on to play another two years with the Florida Marlins.
1 Loved: David Ortiz
I have never, in all my years watching baseball, seen a 40-year old perform, like Ortiz did last year. Had Mike Trout and Ortiz teammate, Mookie Betts, not gone nuts, it’s fair to say Ortiz lands an MVP award.
The argument could be made, Ortiz is the greatest player in Boston Red Sox history. I mean listen to his numbers. Over 14-years with Boston, he hit 483 home runs. That’s nearly 35 a year, for 14 years! He hit .290, despite seasons in which teams could pitch around him, giving him absolutely nothing to hit. He went to ten all-star games. He was the man who brought Boston three World Series titles, after an 86-year drought. A .386 OBP, .958 OPS. Solid defensive first baseman. And the list could continue. I argue the only reason he never won an MVP, is because of the era he played in, an era with more all-stars intermixed than ever before. Ortiz is a lock, first ballot hall of famer, with a career 541 home runs.
Ortiz loved being with Boston.