The 2012 season was many things for fans of the Boston Red Sox, but one thing that it was not was good. They started the season getting pounded by the Detroit Tigers, and ended it by getting pounded by the New York Yankees. In between, they took severe beatings along the way. Johnny Pesky died. They gave Kevin Youkilis away. Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford were shipped out to LA in the first ever Sox fire sale in my lifetime, and the overall player apathy (with some notable exceptions) made the alleged beer & chicken fiasco look like a proper pennant race.
The one thing that they got 100% right and could be seen as a positive no matter which way you look at it was the 100th anniversary celebration ceremony for Fenway Park. It’s a poor season when you look at your favorite team and the best you can say is “Well, at least they didn’t mess up the 100th anniversary celebration.” Have I mentioned how fun it is to root for a horrible loser? Not content to leave well enough alone, the Red Sox brass decided to commission an All-Fenway Team, ostensibly made up of the greatest players to ever don a Sox uniform.
Now, if the thing was done properly, it could have been a great reason to celebrate. According to NESN.com, it was a joint effort between fans, historians, front office staff, and the club’s historical and archival consultants. I call b.s. on that, and as we go position by position, we’ll get more in to that, but right off the bat who are these ‘fans’ that voted for this team? I was only made aware of this list last night when my friend Mike brought it to my attention. I’ll grant, this was the most horrific Red Sox season I have ever lived through, so it is quite possible that my brain has blocked out large swathes of the season in an attempt to keep me sane, I don’t know.
What I do know is that if you go around the diamond by positional number, you don’t get past “1″ before there’s already a problem. Pedro Martinez gets the nod as the 1st team RHP. No problems from me there at all. I would take Pedro Martinez over every single pitcher I have ever watched in my lifetime, and over all but maybe a handful of pitchers who have ever played the game. We move on to the 1st team LHP: Lefty Grove. Lefty Grove!! Now this is in no way to diminish Lefty Grove’s accomplishments, he spent the last 8 years of his career with the Sox and notched a 20 win season while playing for some squads that were at best middling. However, there’s a guy named Babe Ruth who might like to step up and take the ball from the left side (and oh, he can hit a little, too.)
Babe Ruth, the consensus, unquestioned #1 player in the history of MLB did not get the call to the first team as a starting pitcher (and I don’t think many would have expected him to, given his prowess with the bat.) However, he didn’t get the starting nod at any outfield spot, either (nor was he on the 2nd or 3rd team as an outfielder, either.) Instead, Sox ‘fans’ in all their brilliance designated him to pitch for the 2nd reserves (3rd stringers.) I can’t tell you how angry and baffled I am by this. If they’re going to overlook the fact that he should have been the starting RF on this team, that can be excused, but for Babe Ruth to not make the starting lineup in any manner is reprehensible. Mike made the joke that the Red Sox so-called ‘historical archivist’ was none other than John Henry’s wife, and she was amused by the thought of picking a game named ‘Lefty’ to be the starting left-handed pitcher. I have absolutely zero doubt that is a true statement.
For their Boston careers, Ruth was 89-46 (.659) with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.142 WHIP in the regular season, with a 3-0 record, a 0.87 ERA, and a 0.935 WHIP in World Series play (1916 and 1918, the Sox also won in 1915, but Ruth only garnered a pinch-hit AB in game 1.) Lefty Grove finished was 105-69 (.629) with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.321 ERA WHIP. He also made 0 post-season appearances. Some nice all-around numbers, but not in the same class as the Babe’s.
If this had been the most egregious error on this list, it might have been forgivable, unfortunately, it is only the literal tip of the iceberg. Carlton Fisk gets the well-deserved nod at catcher, and likewise George Scott gets the call at 1B.
Second base is where we run in to our next problem: the ‘fans’ chose Dustin Pedroia, and I would expect nothing less out of the pink-hat generation. Perhaps if this All-Fenway team was selected in another 10 years, I’d give Pedroia the nod, but as it stands, the Sox already have a HOF second-baseman: Bobby Doerr. There’s nothing wrong with giving some kudos to what Pedroia has done so far in his career, but clearly the starting gig should have gone to the guy who is already in Cooperstown. If Pedroia never played another game after the 2012 season (and who could blame him if he made that choice?), he would not be a HOFer.
Sox fans got third base right, selecting Wade Boggs, but seemed a bit confused when it came to shortstop. I’m picturing a 2000 Florida Presidential ballot, with full hanging chad, because how else can you explain Nomar Garciaparra getting the nod over Johnny Pesky? Especially in the year that Johnny Pesky died? It’s beyond unbelievable to me that this could happen. Again, this is in no way meant to disrespect Nomar’s time in Boston, but by the end of his stay, he had become (and not without reason) a whiny, pouty brat. Plus, the Red Sox immediately won a World Series once they traded him away. Meanwhile, Pesky gave nearly his entire adult life to the Red Sox (WWII took 3 years from him, and he spent the last 2 years of his playing career with the Tigers and Senators), and that’s not good enough to get the starting nod? Terrible.
Left field is not a problem, as Teddy Ballgame gets the start, but centerfield gets a little tricky. The ‘fan’ vote went to Fred Lynn, who had a very productive 6+ years with the Red Sox before moving on to greener pastures. I would have been alright with that selection if not for the fact that the ‘historical archivists’ completely overlooked HOFer Tris Speaker. I was so stunned by this omission that Mike and I looked Speaker up just to make sure I hadn’t imagined him playing for the Red Sox. He had, and won two World Series, to boot. The list for CF should have looked like this: Speaker, Fred Lynn, Dom Dimaggio. Speaker being left off the list makes me question even more the credentials of these supposed archivists, given that we were recalling players off the top of our head, while they had every single piece of Red Sox statistical information to comb through. Everyone involved in the process should be embarrassed.
The starting RF nod went to Dwight Evans, which if you’re going to ignore the fact that Ruth played OF for you is the best selection going. Still, the position is not without controversy, as Trot Nixon landed with the first reserves, ahead of not only Babe Ruth, but Tony Conigliaro, who I would have tabbed as the sentimental favorite amongst the ‘true’ Red Sox fans.
As glaring as the mistakes are above, there are two that are just as huge that are conspicuous by their complete and total absence from the list in any way, shape, or form: Manny Ramirez and Keith Foulke. For those who don’t remember him, Foulke was the Red Sox closer in 2004 and he quite literally sacrificed many productive years from his career in order to help pitch the Sox to that title. No one ever talks about that, and it’s a shame. He was absolutely never the same again after that season, and it’s because he willingly took the ball each and every time the Sox needed him to that season, and he paid the physical price. Curt Schilling gets a lot of credit for his performance in 2004, and the bloody sock will forever be his trademark, but to overlook Foulke’s contribution reeks of pettiness.
The same thing could be said of leaving Ramirez completely off the list, and again, it seems by design. While pitchers were only slotted in to specific roles for the starting lineup, the position players each had three full lineups, and I don’t think that was by accident. Manny Ramirez played left field, as did Ted Williams, Carl Yazstrzemski, and Jim Rice. There is no way in the world that Manny would be chosen over Teddy Ballgame or Yaz, and no one who wants to remain physically fit would cross Rice and leave him off the list, either. So Manny gets squeezed out of a spot that way. I mentioned that there were 3 lineups for all position players, and that’s true. However, if the Sox were interested in having the best players who took the field for them at Fenway, wouldn’t they have simply thrown the OF spots open, and taken the 9 best guys? I’m sorry, but Trot Nixon is not a better player than Manny Ramirez, and neither is Dom Dimaggio, Dwight Evans, or even Fred Lynn. In fact, the only two guys who I would select ahead of Manny are Williams and Yaz. The man was hugely responsible for two World Series championships coming to Boston, and was one of the 3 most popular players in the last 25 years, and yet he doesn’t make the cut?
It’s time for this ownership group to either get behind the scenes and only write checks, or to get out of baseball, period. The team’s performance on-field aside (these things happen), it is their brazen, ridiculous off-field antics that are most offensive. This group of owners seems to think that the fans care about them as people, rather than as the check-writing machines they should be. Let the baseball people handle baseball matters, fire your ‘historical archivists’, and go watch your Euro league soccer team. This all-time team compilation proves that these owners care about one thing and one thing only: keeping pink hat fans engaged and happy, so that the mythical ‘consecutive games streak’ is kept alive.
*when initially published, I had written that Schilling’s bloody sock performance occurred in 2007. Huge, glaring mistake (and it wasn’t even the first time I’d made that same mistake that week.) For whatever reason, I can’t keep the World Series seasons straight. Corrected with the help of @mvpellegrino1.
Who would make your team’s all-time roster?
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