Mookie is the perfect player. He excels in every aspect of the game, hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and throwing. In addition, he has great instincts. He gets such joy out of the game that it's contagious; he's almost never without a smile on his face.
Now that the 2018 edition of the Red Sox has established itself as the winningest team in the history of the franchise, let's do an exercise. Whom do you think are the greatest players that you have seen at each position? There are no wrong answers; this is not a quiz, it's your opinion, but you must have seen the players in action, either in person or on television. So, for example, if you are just a teenager, you might never have actually seen Pedro Martinez pitch, thus he wouldn't be eligible for your personal all-time Red Sox team. If, on the other hand, you are as long in the tooth as I am, anyone who played from the mid 1940s on qualifies. But Tris Speaker and Jimmie Foxx do not because I never saw either one of them play.
Let's establish one other ground rule: a player must have spent at least three years in a Red Sox uniform. Under this rule Chris Sale would be ineligible until next year.
That said, this is my own choice for the all-time Red Sox team.
Right-handed pitcher -- Pedro Martinez. He is the best pitcher I have ever seen. Period. The only other name in the conversation is Roger Clemens, who, as great as he was, wasn't Pedro. No one else comes close to those two.
Left-handed pitcher -- Mel Parnell. He's the winningest left-hander in Red Sox history, having led the team in victories every year from 1949 through 1953. Jon Lester, if the Red Sox had kept him, would have been my choice, but they didn't and he isn't. I'd also have considered Babe Ruth in the southpaw category but, believe it or not, I never saw him play even though he retired only eighty-four short seasons ago.
Catcher -- Carlton Fisk. An easy choice. He was great when he played here, and he was great for more than another decade after he played here. Letting him get away was one of the most colossal blunders in Red Sox history. My back-up catcher is Jason Varitek.
First base -- Carl Yastrzemski. Huh?! He's remembered, and rightly so, as a great left-fielder, but people tend to forget that he moved to first base to make room for Jim Rice in 1975 and that he played the position masterfully. He played 765 games at first, the equivalent of five full seasons and more than anyone else in my time other than George Scott. Yaz is my choice for first base, besides, I have someone else in mind for left field.
Second base -- Bobby Doerr. I love Dustin Pedroia, his fielding, his hitting, and his attitude, but I'm a Bobby Doerr guy. Perhaps it's just a matter of me being young and impressionable when Bobby played. Doerr was quiet and never uttered a profanity, while Pedroia is chippy, but both are solid as a rock in the field and at bat. In any case, there is no one other than those two in the discussion.
Third base -- Wade Boggs. A hitting machine who made himself, through constant work, into a Gold Glove defender. He was never appreciated for what he was when he played in Boston, but he's the best third baseman we ever had. Having said that, Mike Lowell was great, and Frank Malzone, underrated because he played for lousy Red Sox teams, was the best third baseman in baseball until Brooks Robinson came along.
Shortstop -- Nomar Garciaparra. What a wonderful player he was. The way he would sling the ball across the diamond was unforgettable. Until his bat slowed down because of a wrist injury, he was perhaps the best hitter in the game. It ended badly for him in Boston but during the good times no player was ever loved more.
Left field -- Ted Williams. Surprise! No one who saw him play will ever forget the beauty of his swing. He was not only the best hitter I ever saw, but he was also the most charismatic character. I'm glad to have found another position for Yaz on my team, but feel bad about leaving Jim Rice off. Think about how lucky Boston fans have been; for half a century, beginning in 1939, when Ted broke in as a rookie, until the late eighties, left field at Fenway Park was manned by a Hall of Fame player, first Williams, then Yaz, then Rice.
Center field -- Dom DiMaggio. The most underrated great player of my lifetime. He retired from the game more than 65 years ago, but still holds the record for most putouts per game by an outfielder over the course of his career. He is one of only three outfielders in American League history to record more that 500 putouts in a season, and he was the only one to have done it before the schedule was expanded from 154 to 162 games per season. In the years he played, 1940-1942 and 1946-1952 (discounting 1953, when he had only three at bats), he had more base hits that anyone else in baseball. He is the only player in the twentieth century who averaged more than 100 runs scored per year who is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fred Lynn played center with grace and style, and he had a perfect Fenway Park stroke, but I give the nod to Dom in a squeaker.
Right field -- Mookie Betts. Mookie is the perfect player. He excels in every aspect of the game, hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and throwing. In addition, he has great instincts. He gets such joy out of the game that it's contagious; he's almost never without a smile on his face. Appreciate him while you can; players like Mookie don't come around very often. Dwight Evans was my choice for this position for three decades until Mookie burst upon the scene.
Designated hitter -- David Ortiz. It's been only 45 years since the American League adopted the dh rule. But it could be much longer than that before anyone tops Ortiz's record. For example, J.D. Martinez had a great year this season, but he'll need about 10 more of them to challenge Big Papi.
Manager -- Terry Francona. He broke the curse of the Bambino. He won two World Series. Alex Cora has put himself into a position where he might challenge that. Let's hope that he does and that Red Sox Nation reaps the benefits of it.
Well, that's my team. What's yours?
Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox “Poet Laureate” and The Pilot’s recently minted Sports’ columnist.
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