Few sports franchises can claim as rich a history as the one possessed by the Boston Red Sox. Along with baseball’s oldest stadium in Fenway Park -- a Boston landmark revered on the level of Faneuil Hall or Bunker Hill -- the Sox can look back at a history that places it among the founding members of the American League and includes more than its fair share of the game’s greatest players: Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez -- among countless others -- all wear a Red Sox cap on their respective Hall of Fame plaques in Cooperstown, New York.
While Boston’s beloved baseball club has won eight World Series in its history and has spent the last decade and a half as one of the game’s most formidable franchises, many of its greatest heroes played on teams victimized by the infamous Curse of the Bambino. The 86-year championship drought -- and, presumably, the Curse -- was ended by a 2004 Red Sox team responsible for one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history, a highly symbolic victory over the New York Yankees, the very team that benefited from the sale of Ruth while Boston suffered for so many years.
Over the course of its lengthy history, the Red Sox, just like any other franchise, have employed a number of players of relatively questionable talent and ability. Whether it was a highly touted young player who simply fell flat, a great player still trying to hang on at the tail end of their career, or a highly paid player in their prime who did not live up to expectations, the memory of certain players wearing a Red Sox uniform inspires emotions among Boston fans that range from acrimony to ambivalence.
To call a professional baseball player “the worst” is still a compliment, however backhanded. Each of the MLBers to rank among the 15 worst to ever play for the Red Sox were capable enough to earn a place on a big-league roster with a historic franchise, but their performance in Boston -- with a famously demanding and passionate fan base known for its incredible and equal capacity for adoration and scorn -- left plenty to be desired. Some of these players remained in Boston for quite some time, while others were cut loose on an almost immediate basis due to their poor performance.
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15 Jose Canseco
Canseco’s two-year stint with the Red Sox wasn’t exactly terrible and, at first glance, he did put up solid numbers in Boston: .298/.389/.571 with 52 homers and 163 RBI while working primarily as a designated hitter. Though Canseco's batting line looks decent, he went hitless during the 1995 ALDS and missed a great deal of time due to a host of injuries. The frequent injuries, along with Canseco’s defensive inflexibility, offset any offensive contribution he made during his time in Boston, and it certainly doesn’t help matters that his bat was notably absent during the postseason.
14 Glenn Hoffman
Hoffman is currently in his fifth decade in professional baseball, as the former Boston infielder began his minor league career in the 1970s, played for the Red Sox, Dodgers and Angels during the 1980s, and has been managing in some capacity ever since the early 1990s. While the whole of his professional baseball career is absolutely worthy of high praise, his time as a player with the Red Sox was far from remarkable.
After a somewhat promising 1980 rookie season in which he hit .285 with 15 doubles and 42 RBI while playing third base, Hoffman struggled after a move to shortstop in the seasons that followed and was ultimately relegated to a bench role by 1984. During his career in Boston, Hoffman posted an OPS+ of 71 (100 is league-average) and accumulated a total of just 0.6 WAR across parts of eight seasons, a total that was exceeded by 12 Red Sox position players in 2015 alone.
13 Jose Offerman
Offerman, formerly a shortstop before joining the Red Sox, replaced Mike Benjamin at second base, a move that generally traded Benjamin’s outstanding defense for Offerman’s offensive potential. While Offerman (fans of the Red Sox may recall the unfortunate nickname he carried: Jose "Awfulman") was brought in to bat leadoff and play second, the fact that Mo Vaughn departed the same offseason that Offerman arrived via free agency brought about some unfair comparisons and expectations.
An All-Star in his first season in Boston, Offerman’s bat quickly began to fade over the next three seasons, making his unremarkable defense even more difficult to accept. Before being shipped off to Seattle in 2002, Offerman hit just .232, posted an OPS+ of 72 and was so woeful on defense that the Sox kept him out of the middle infield altogether, playing him at first base and in the outfield for the last 72 games of his Red Sox career.
12 Mike Torrez
Torrez had some decent seasons as a member of the Red Sox rotation from 1978 to 1982, pitching over 1,000 innings and winning a total of 60 games in Boston. His first year pitching with the Sox offered some promise, as the former Yankees right-hander went 16-13 and posted a 3.96 ERA during the 1978 regular season.
Of course, Torrez could have won 30 games, struck out 300 batters and posted a 1.11 ERA while winning the Cy Young during 1978 and he would still be forever defined by one opposing batter: Bucky F---ing Dent.
It was Torrez's great misfortune that he gave up the go-ahead -- and soul-crushing -- home run to the Yankees shortstop during the 1978 AL East tiebreaker, sending New York to the ALCS and ending Boston's season.
11 Larry Andersen
Andersen was actually quite good during his brief tenure in Boston, posting a 1.23 ERA during 15 relief appearances after being acquired in exchange for a prospect at midseason to bolster the club’s bullpen as the Red Sox made a run to the 1990 postseason. While Andersen was excellent with the Sox during the regular season, he faltered in the postseason, taking the loss in relief in Game 1 of the ALCS as the Red Sox were swept by the Oakland A's.
Andersen’s production with Boston, however, fell well short of the prospect the Sox surrendered to get him: Jeff Bagwell, who won the Rookie of the Year Award the following season and was the 1994 NL MVP. In his half-season in Boston, Andersen was worth 1.2 WAR while Bagwell went on to put up 79.6 WAR in 15 seasons with Houston, making it one of the most frequently cited examples for exercising caution when trading prospects at the deadline.
10 Rich Gedman
From 1984 to 1986, Rich Gedman was one of the better catchers in the American League, making two All-Star appearances while slashing .275/.331/.471 and averaging 19 home runs and 72 RBI across those three seasons. The three seasons that followed, however, were marred by inconsistent production and injury, as Gedman put up an average OPS+ of 61 while hitting .218 and offering subpar defense behind the plate.
Of course, it was Gedman who was catching during the 1986 World Series when Kevin Mitchell scored on a Bob Stanley wild pitch, a play that could have just as easily been ruled a passed ball. Gedman’s role in the heartbreaking 1986 World Series loss -- not to mention the simple fact that he was Red Sox legend Carlton Fisk’s replacement at catcher -- cements Gedman’s place on this list.
9 John Wasdin
The right-handed reliever’s penchant for giving up home runs earned him the derisive moniker John “Way Back” Wasdin, an unfortunately accurate nickname by virtue of the fact that he gave up 54 homers in 340 innings during his four seasons in Boston. Wasdin’s reputation for giving up the long ball was especially solidified during his two postseasons with the Red Sox, as he gave up two home runs in two relief appearances spanning a total of 3.1 innings, giving him an embarrassingly high postseason ERA of 18.90.
8 Mike Lansing
Lansing came to Boston following a midseason trade with the Rockies and he is probably best remembered for making the ninth-inning catch that kept Hideo Nomo’s 2001 no-hitter intact. While Lansing’s defense on that day was exceptional, his middle-infield play was subpar on the whole and he didn’t exactly make up for his declining defensive skills with his bat: During parts of two seasons with the Sox, Lansing slashed .234/.276/.338 with eight home runs and 47 RBI, posting an OPS+ of 58.
7 Carl Crawford
A four-time All-Star and a dynamic, game-changing athlete while playing for Tampa Bay, Crawford came to the Red Sox on a massive free-agent deal worth $142 million over seven years. After struggling during his first season in Boston, Crawford played in just 31 games for the Red Sox in 2012 before he suffered a season-ending injury and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Crawford never even came close to matching his production with Tampa Bay (just the season before coming to Boston he won a Glove Glove, Silver Slugger and earned serious MVP consideration), posting a slash line of .260/.292/.419 during parts of two injury-marred seasons with Boston.
6 Eric Gagne
Eric Gagne, acquired by the Red Sox during the 2007 season, looked to have regained the form that had once made him one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Pitching for the Texas Rangers to start the season, Gagne had struck out 29 batters in 33.1 innings and carried a 2.16 ERA across 34 appearances, motivating the Sox to give up three prospects to get him.
Instead of adding a dominant reliever to their bullpen, however, Boston watched as Gagne unraveled and posted a 6.75 ERA while blowing three save opportunities during the second half. Gagne’s poor performance continued in the playoffs, giving up three earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work. In spite of his struggles, Gagne was nonetheless part of the 2007 World Series championship team and has the ring to show for it.
5 Jeremy Giambi
Giambi’s monumental struggles at the plate ultimately opened the door for David Ortiz to get a greater opportunity in Boston, so there is at least one positive to take from the 50 games the designated hitter spent with the Red Sox. Beyond forcing Ortiz into an expanded role in the Boston lineup, Giambi didn’t do much else, hitting just .197 while striking out 42 times in just 156 plate appearances. Even though he was just 28 at the time, Giambi was out of the majors for good following his stint with the Red Sox.
4 John Smoltz
One of the greatest pitchers of his generation, Smoltz joined the Red Sox at the age of 42 after 20 standout years as both a starter and closer with the Atlanta Braves. Though he had been named to the All-Star team and even earned some Cy Young consideration as recently as 2007, Smoltz’s time in Boston did not go well at all. The Hall of Famer went 2-5 in eight starts and posted an 8.33 ERA over 40 innings of work with Boston, forcing the club to release the right-hander in August of 2009.
3 Jerry Stephenson
Like Hoffman, Stephenson contributed far more to the game of baseball after his playing days were over, spending a lifetime in professional baseball after playing for the Red Sox, Pilots and Dodgers. The right-hander spent several decades working as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and later rejoined the Boston Red Sox while working in the same capacity.
While Stephenson’s decades-long devotion to the game is certainly laudable, his time in Boston was marked by frequent struggles on the mound. During five seasons pitching for the Red Sox, Stephenson struggled mightily, going 8-19 with an ERA of 5.54, all while posting a total of -4.4 WAR for Boston in the 1960s.
2 Pablo Sandoval
Signed to a five-year deal worth $95 million that began in 2015, Sandoval did not exactly allay the concerns of Boston fans when he slashed .245/.292/.366 after showing up to Spring Training looking noticeably overweight. Sandoval’s deal runs through 2019 and the fact that he produced negative value (-0.9 WAR) during his first season in Boston does not exactly bode well for his future production.
Entering his age-29 season in 2016, Sandoval’s range at third is already in serious decline and his offensive production has been trending downward since his last All-Star appearance in 2012, making his free-agent deal one of the very worst in recent memory. The fact that Sandoval’s first season was not nearly as much of a spectacular failure as Hanley Ramirez’s has spared him at least to some slight degree.
1 Hanley Ramirez
When the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez to a free-agent deal with a plan to play him in left field (4 years, $88 million), the popular logic was that, at the very least, Hanley would be able to play left field as well as Manny Ramirez ever did. With visions of Manny cutting off Johnny Damon or taking a bathroom break inside the Green Monster still fresh in everyone’s mind, the logic appeared to be sound in theory. In practice, however, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Hanley turned out to be a far worse defender in left field than he ever was at shortstop or third base (where he was frequently well below average), and his bat hardly reminded anyone of the first Ramirez to roam left field in Boston. In 105 games, Ramirez was worth -1.3 WAR while hitting .249 and being such a defensive liability that the Sox are now forced to experiment with moving a former three-time All-Star at shortstop to first base.
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