As the decade draws to a close, we look back on the top Red Sox players at each position.
Catcher: Jason Varitek
Say what you will about the Captain's recent downward trend, but it couldn't be anyone else in this position. A member of the Red Sox since 1997, Tek played 1,208 games this decade, hitting .257 with an average of 15 dingers and 60 RBIs per season. But his influence has been seen even more behind the plate, where he's positively affected 10-plus years of Boston pitchers. But to be fair, he's been a leader all over the field: Anyone remember a well-timed shove of A-Rod?
First base: Kevin Youkilis
It feels odd to put the 30-year-old Youk on an all-decade list given that his best years should still be ahead of him, but he's been a consistent presence in the middle of the Red Sox' lineup since 2006. Averaging .296, 21 homers, 91 RBIs and an .891 OPS over the past four seasons and getting better with age, the home-grown "Greek God of Walks" should be a big part of this franchise in the next decade as well.
Honorable mention: Kevin Millar
Second base: Dustin Pedroia
Like Youkilis, the 26-year-old Pedie seems way too young to be part of a list like this, but as a three-year starter, he's been Boston's most consistent second-sacker of the decade. And as a Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glover, a Silver Slugger, a two-time All-Star and the 2008 AL MVP, Pedroia's career has gotten off to an impressive start.
Honorable mention: Mark Bellhorn, Jose Offerman Third base: Mike Lowell
Bill Mueller won a batting title back in 2003 and won a World Series the following year, but Lowell's been a mainstay at third since coming over from the Marlins prior to the 2006 campaign. The Red Sox have tried to jettison him multiple times, but with season averages of .295, 19 home runs and 87 ribbies in Boston, the former All-Star has been nothing but a consummate professional.
Honorable mention: Bill Mueller, Shea Hillenbrand Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra
With a revolving door at the shortstop position (Orlando Cabrera, Pokey Reese, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Nick Green) since he was dealt away at the 2004 trade deadline, there could be no other choice but Nomahhhhhhhhhhhh, the face of the franchise during the early part of the decade.
Left field: Manny Ramirez
Sure, there were clubhouse problems, eventual PED issues and innumerable instances of "Manny being Manny," but c'mon! The guy's arguably the best pure right-handed hitter in the game since Hank Aaron. From 2001-06, his average numbers are ridiculous: .316, .610 slugging, 1.026 OPS, 39 homers and 119 RBIs.
Honorable mention: Troy O'Leary
Center field: Johnny Damon
As the saying goes, he looks like Jesus, throws like Mary and acts like Judas … which explains the hatred for Damon around the greater Boston area since he signed with the Yankees. But he was a consistent four-year starter for the Red Sox and, with Millar, was the leader of a certain group of "idiots" who broke a certain 86-year-old "curse" in these parts. And his grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees has to be one of the top plays in Red Sox history.
Honorable mention: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Everett, Coco Crisp
Right field: Trot Nixon
His stats never blew your mind, but Trot was a blue-collar, hard-nosed player who was beloved during his nine-plus injury-plagued years in Boston.
Honorable mention: J.D. Drew Designated hitter: David Ortiz
With five All-Star appearances and averages of .288, 37 homers and 119 ribbies from 2003-09, Big Papi is arguably the Red Sox' MVP of the past decade.
Starting pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield and others have all had their moments — not to mention a greater degree of consistency. But Pedro's numbers for the Red Sox this decade are simply out of control: a 75-26 mark (a ridiculous .743 winning percentage), 2.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He's an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young winner and a hilarious personality who will go down as one of Boston's all-time favorites.
Honorable mention: Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield
Relief pitcher: Jonathan Papelbon
Keith Foulke finished off the biggest win for the Red Sox in, oh, about 86 years, but Papelbon's numbers over the longer haul are far superior. With a club-record 151 saves and a 1.84 ERA, along with four All-Star honors and a 2007 World Series title, Paps is the clear-cut reliever of the decade.
Honorable mention: Keith Foulke
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