Ask any fan not from New England or New York, and they’ll tell you that, yes, without question, the Boston Red Sox are a powerhouse. They have been a powerhouse for the better part of a decade now, and barring some incredible lapse in judgment, will continue to be so.
But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. Speaking as a child of the 90s, I grew up first with the pretty good Sox of the late 80s (led by Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and an aging Dwight Evans), but really hit my stride with the Butch Hobson era of three consecutive losing seasons, culminating in the World Series-killing strike. Luckily, they were nowhere near playoff contention at that time. The Montreal Expos weren’t so fortunate.
I feel like I learned to love baseball first and the Red Sox second over that period, with Greenwell and, later, Tim Naehring firmly entrenched as my favorite players. And they had some good players even when they were bad. Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, and a non-chemically-enhanced Roger Clemens. They were my team, and I loved them unconditionally.
But oh boy, they had some flops. Assembling them by position, here were my favorites:
1b: Carlos Quintana
Quintana wasn’t a complete dud, hitting .287 and .295 as the Sox’ regular first baseman in 1990 and ’91, but he’s best remembered for a car accident that caused him to miss the 1992 season and derailed his career. When he returned in 1993, Vaughn had a vice grip on first base, he suffered from numbness in his hand, and by 1994, he was given his release.
2b: Scott Fletcher
Fletcher led the ’93 Sox in stolen bases… with 16. Otherwise, he spent his time keeping his number 5 jersey warm for some shortstop that came along a few years later.
3b: Scott Cooper
By far, the worst two-time All-Star any sport has ever seen. I know third base was a weak position in the American League at that point, but … two All-Star games? His OPS those two years: .752 and .786. Horrifying. At least he seemed like a nice guy.
SS: Luis Rivera
Home runs in five years with the Red Sox: 21. Number of those that came against the New York Yankees: 6. Ask my boss (a Yankees fan) though, and he’ll swear he hit 25 of his 21 home runs against the Bombers. That has to count for something.
RF: Bob Zupcic
My predominant memory of Zupcic was his home run trot. He only had 6 with the team, and I probably only saw two. But, there he was, rounding second base with his arms sticking straight up in the air. Field goal, Zupcic!
CF: Herm Winningham
Winningham played 868 games over nine years with four different teams, and was never hit by a pitch. Weird.
There’s been a stranglehold on left field for my entire lifetime. Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Troy O’Leary, Manny Ramirez, Jason Bay and now, Jacoby Ellsbury. They range from pretty good to Hall of Fame worthy. I’m sure I could think of some scrub that played here when either Rice, Greenwell or O’Leary were on the mend, but I won’t. I can’t besmirch the keepers of the Monster.
But if I had to… Lee Tinsley. Most notable for wearing four different numbers in parts of three seasons with the Sox: 38, 26, 47 and 10, in chronological order.
C: Dave Valle
Signed away from Seattle to be the Sox’ starting catcher in 1994, he was traded as soon as possible to bring back a personal favorite, outfielder Tom Brunansky. Thanks, Dave!
DH: Andre Dawson
Dawson will enter the Hall of Fame this year, but it won’t be for his time in Boston. After hitting his 400th career home run early in 1993, it was all sore knees and pinch runners for the Hawk. Classy dude, though.
P: Chris Nabholz
It would have been enough if he were just the awkward-looking guy he was. But, no. He also racked up a 6.64 ERA in 42 innings pitched in his only season in Boston. I’ll also never forget reading his summary in one of Bill James’ books at the time: “Two words: He sucks.” Or something to that effect.
With that, Clay Buchholz is currently on the mound, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are in the lineup, and Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon are in the bullpen. Oh, and they’ve won the World Series a couple of times, or something.
Yes, life is better now.