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The Mount Rushmore of Red Sox

Throughout the long, glorious history of the Boston Red Sox, there have been hundreds of players who’ve left a lasting impact on the city of Boston and the fans of the Red Sox. Of those players, there’s only a select few who stand out as true icons. Men who reflected the mentality of the town they played in while contributing both on and off the field. The first three names anyone should consider when compiling a Red Sox Mount Rushmore are obvious: Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz. Those three all have their spots in Red Sox lore locked up, and in my opinion, are undoubtedly the three most influential athletes in Boston Red Sox history. After Teddy Ballgame, Pedro and Big Papi, the fourth name is a little less clear. There’s a handful of candidates, each worthy for different reasons. First, let’s give the big three the credit they deserve.

Photo: Clipper61/Pixabay

The last man to hit over .400 in a season. The man who put his athletic career on hold to go serve for his country. A man who can be argued as the greatest hitter and player to ever lace ‘em up. Ted Williams has one of the greatest résumés in baseball history. He was an all-star 19 times, the AL batting champ six times, accumulated over 2500 hits and 500 home runs along with achieving the triple crown twice. He finished with an OPS under 1.000 just once his entire career. However, his greatest statistic is his career on-base percentage. Williams’ career OBP sits at .482. That is the best mark in the history of the MLB. 48.2% of the time Ted Williams stepped into the batter’s box, he reached base. Think about that. Over an entire CAREER, this man basically got on-base every other plate appearance. Ted Williams is arguably the greatest player of all time and is unequivocally the best hitter of all-time. Although the fans and media didn’t always have the best relationship with Ted Williams, he is still one of the most beloved athletes in Boston history. The impact that Ted had on baseball, on this city and on this country, is one that is unmatched by any other. He was an easy choice for the Red Sox Mt. Rushmore.

Photo: Wright Langley/Flickr

Maybe the pitcher with the greatest peak in the history of baseball. Some would even argue, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball. Regardless of your opinion on Pedro Martinez, his dominance was undeniable. Of pitchers from the modern day, only Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver have a higher WAR7 than Pedro. This means that Martinez has one of the most dominant seven-year stretches of all-time. Between ’97 and ’03, not only was he able to post an ERA of 2.20 and a WHIP of 0.94, he was able to dominate hitters in the toughest of times: the steroid era. Pedro faced countless Hall of Fame quality hitters, a number of whom were the beneficiary of performance-enhancing drugs. His Baseball Reference profile will never say anything about the circumstance of the hitters around him, but to me, it makes his dominance that much more special. To me, he’s the greatest pitcher of all time.

Nobody was more dominant than Pedro, and nobody could have done what he did in the time he did it. Watching Martinez was always a pleasure as he was one of the most likeable athletes in Red Sox history. He was always quick with a joke and also very personable and relatable in interviews, which brought those in Boston closer to him. The city will forever adore Pedro for everything he contributed both on and off the field, and for embodying the city perfectly with his gritty mentality.

Photo: David Gandy/Flickr

After we just discussed the best hitter and best pitcher in Boston history, we turn to the most clutch player, and in my opinion the most important player, in Red Sox history. David “Big Papi” Ortiz. A minor move for a 27-year-old in 2003 ended up being the greatest transaction in club history. Ortiz joined the club from Minnesota and made an instant impact as an all-star caliber player. In just his second year with the team, he led the club to their first World Series in 86 years. This was something Ted Williams could never do, and that even peak Pedro couldn’t lead them too. Not only did he lead the club to the World Series title, he carried them on the back of his 230-pound frame. He hit the walk-off home run in the ALDS against the Angels. He then went on to hit the game winning home run in game 4 of the ALCS, and the game winning hit in game 5. He went on to hit over .300 in the World Series and finished off the most dominant postseason performance in Red Sox history.

Photo: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr

He then hit .370 and three home runs to help the Red Sox win their second title in four years, in 2007. However, his primary reasoning for being on this list has yet to be discussed. It wasn’t his MVP caliber seasons or his countless clutch moments in 2004. It was how he carried a city through an unthinkable time, that had nothing to do with the sport he plays. When the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, an entire city and country was shaken. Sports no longer took precedence, all that mattered was getting a city back on their feet.

So, when April 20th, 2013 came around, the leader in David Ortiz came out once again. It was the first game back at Fenway Park since the bombings, and he led the pre-game with one of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever seen. He reminded the fans, this city and this country, that nobody was going to “dictate our freedom” and to stay strong. And most importantly, that it wasn’t the terrorist’s city. “This is OUR f**king city.” Those words will ring throughout Boston history forever, and nobody will ever forget the chills they got on that day, when Ortiz’ speech picked up a whole city. Oh yeah, to finish that season, he carried the Sox to another World Series title. From his iconic game 2 grand slam against the Tigers in the ALCS, to hitting .688 in the World Series and winning MVP, 2013 was the year that solidified David as the most clutch and most important athlete in Red Sox history.

The Other Candidates:

When it comes to the final member of the hallowed class of four, there a few options that come to mind.

Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

As much as no Red Sox fan would love to admit, Babe Ruth was a large part of this team’s historic past. However, the Great Bambino’s numbers on the hill for Boston are immaculate. Ruth had a 2.28 ERA over six seasons while also hitting 49 home runs and having an OPS over .980 at the plate. In three career starts with the Red Sox in the playoffs? 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA, allowing just 13 hits over 17 innings and of course, a ring in both 1916 and 1918.

Cy Young pitched in Boston early in the 1900s and was dominant. The all-time leader in team wins with 192, he posted an ERA of exactly two to go along with a WHIP of 0.97. Not hard to wonder why they named an award after this guy. His overall body of work includes stints in Cleveland and St. Louis as well, and he is the all-time leader amongst all pitchers in wins, losses, starts, complete games (749!), and obviously, innings pitched. The impact he had on baseball was widespread, but he was a key member of a championship team in Boston.

Photo: Society for American Baseball Research

Manny. How could you not love Manny being Manny? Before Manny Machado, it was Manny Ramirez. From his infamous cut-off of Johnny Damon’s throw, to delaying games at Fenway because he was using the washroom inside the Green Monster, Manny never failed to entertain. Due to all of this, people forgot how great Manny was. He had various clutch moments in the playoffs, was the MVP of the World Series in ’04 and is baseball’s all-time leader in postseason home runs. He’s not the fourth most important player in Red Sox history, but a lot of people still overlook his importance.

Roger Clemens experienced various points of controversy throughout his career and will forever be tied to Performance Enhancing Drugs. With all that aside, the numbers are straight dominant from the Rocket. He won a Cy Young three different times with Boston, including a 1986 season that was off the charts. Whether or not he’ll make the Hall of Fame is yet to be determined, but Roger is one of the three best players to ever pitch in Boston and for that reason simply, he had to be in the running.

Photo: Over the Monster

The Fourth Member of our Mount Rushmore:

Yaz. The man with the hardest name to spell, but the easiest swing to watch. Carl Yastrzemski is one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, and Red Sox fans were fortunate enough to have him on their team for his entire 23-year career. A four-time league leader in OPS, Yaz did whatever it took to get on base and to help his team win. A multi-dimensional player, he won seven gold gloves in the outfield and consistently had one of the strongest arms in the league. The reason Yaz deserves to be on this list, despite never getting the Red Sox to a championship, is his 1967. Before Miguel Cabrera, he was the last man to hit for the Triple Crown.

Now, I understand that in today’s day and age, we have better metrics to measure a player’s skill than batting average, home runs and RBIs. However, it is still a pretty cool stat and a very impressive feat to accomplish. 44 homers, 121 runs driven in while hitting .326, leading the league in hits (189), OBP (.418) and OPS (1.040) as well.

The knock of him not getting a ring is invalid also, as the man hit .370 in the playoffs with an OPS of 1.047 in 65 at-bats. It was never his fault they couldn’t get over the hump and that shouldn’t take away from his place in Boston’s history. The fourth member of the Mount Rushmore, Carl Yastrezemski.

Agree with my four? Disagree? Let me know on twitter, at @JohnMPrincipe

John Principe

Writer, Editor and Social Media Director at Diamond Digest

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