By Andy Lindberg
In one of Noonan’s grand schemes to get you, the fair reader, involved, he has initiated a top-10 voting spree. The readers (you) must vote for those who you feel are most worthy of being named Boston’s top-10 athletes of the 21st century, i.e., from 2000 to this very day. My responsibilities to you are the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I will give you a name, followed by a very short reason why. I feel you are all big boys and girls out there, and thus need no more instruction.
Top-10 Boston Red Sox of the 21st Century
Honorable mention: Dustin Pedroia. Pedey will be on this list very, very soon.
10. Dave Roberts. A short stint to be sure, but without The Steal, the Red Sox go home and the Yankees punish St. Louis for the 2004 World Series win.
9. Derek Lowe. Lowe went 21-8 in 2002, threw a no-hitter, saved 42 games for the Sox in 2000, but most importantly, won the clinching games of the 2004 ALDS, ALCS, and World Series. 2004 playoffs: 3-0, 1,06 ERA after being relegated to the bullpen.
8. Nomar Garciaparra.In a very hard decision, Nomar makes this list. In 2000 he batted a ridiculous .372 and hit over .300 in 2002 and 2003. There hasn’t been a fixture at shortstop in Boston since. What might have been if only Garciaparra could have stayed healthy?
7. Trot Nixon. Hall of Famer? By no means, but Nixon brought a grit and “never say die” attitude to the Sox for seven seasons in the 21st century, including whacking 118 homers and knocking in 471 runs during that span.
6. Keith Foulke. He only spent three years in Boston, but he only needed one to make this list. In 2004 he sported a 2.17 ERA and 32 saves during the regular season and wrecked his arm pitching in 11 games that postseason, including finishing all four games of the Word Series (in which he should have arguably been named the MVP). He never pitched the same again, but gave everything he had and then some for a title.
5. Kevin Youkilis. It’s interesting to see Youkilis here but he’s a proven winner with two rings in his time in Boston from a rookie in 2004 to now. He has won a Gold Glove, two titles, and has brought stability to virtually every single spot in the lineup when asked, and has hit well in every single spot in the lineup. Youk is all about the team and it has shown.
4. Manny Ramirez. Manny’s antics get him knocked back to number four, but his impact was undeniable; two Championships, 274 homers, 868 RBI, a 999 OPS and a .312 batting average in eight years with Boston. For a time, he was the best right-handed bat in the game next to Albert Pujols.
3. Curt Schilling. Schilling spent four years in Boston and won two World Series’ with them, retiring after the 2007 Championship. He promised to end “an 86-year old curse” and delivered. In only four years with the Sox, he won 53 games.
2. Pedro Martinez. The only reason Martinez isn’t #1 is because two of his Cy Young’s came before 2000. In 2000 Pedro went 18-6 with an astonishing 1.74 ERA. How he ever lost six games is a testament to how weak the offense was. He went 20-4 in 2002 with a 2.26 ERA (losing the Cy Young to Barry Zito), and went 14-4 in 2003 with a 2.22 ERA. Martinez led the league in strikeouts in 2000 and 2002. In five years with Boston this century, he won 75 games and struck out 1,119…in FIVE years.
1. David Ortiz. I was surprised I gave the top spot to Papi, but it had to happen. In his nine years with Boston he has hit .288 with 308 homers and 980 RBI. He hit 54 bombs in 2006, breaking the Red Sox club record and has twice led the league in RBI. Most importantly, he has accumulated walk-off hit after walk-off hit, none more prevalent than in the 2004 playoffs against the Yankees. In that series alone, he batted .387 with 3 homers and 11 RBI in seven games. Ortiz left Minnesota a castoff in 2002, but will leave Boston one day as a legend.