Best of the 2010s: Who's on the Red Sox team of the decade?
There have really been three distinct version of the Red Sox over the last decade.
We started with the 2007 holdovers and that painful transition from Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Co. in the early part of the 2010s to the 2013 champs of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Jonny Gomes, to the homegrown champions of 2018 that included Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers.
Choosing an all-decade team actually means selecting from all three groups, because we're not as heavily weighted to 2018 as one might think. In any event, here's one man's pick for the best Red Sox players at each position since 2010.
Catcher: Victor Martinez
I know, I know. He only played one season behind the dish before shifting to first base/DH, where he'd spend the rest of his excellent career in Detroit.
But in 2010, V-Mart hit over .300 while making the All-Star team. His only competition at the spot — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Christian Vazquez — have surrounded one good season with a bunch of below-average ones.
Give me the best player, even if only for a year.
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
Don't hold your nose.
For all of the problems that Gonzalez came to represent — overpaid, entitled, high-maintenance — there's no questioning his production. During his lone full season in Boston (2011), he led the league in hits, finished seventh in the MVP voting, and won a Gold Glove.
A year later, he was on his way to another 100-RBI season when the Red Sox dumped him on the Dodgers and the rest is history. Honorable mention goes to Kevin Youkilis, Mitch Moreland, and Napoli.
2B: Dustin Pedroia
There's no arguing this selection.
Though the decade didn't end the way Pedroia would've liked, what he accomplished through 2016 makes him a lock for his second straight all-decade team. He made a pair of All-Star teams, played a central role in the 2013 championship, and claimed three more Gold Gloves.
His career appears over for the most Pedroia of reasons — he ran his body into the ground — but his place in franchise history is secure.
3B: Rafael Devers
This spot also comes down to a matter of one great season.
We choose Devers' 2019 over Adrian Beltre's 2010 in large part because Devers also played a role in the 2018 title and the 2017 run to the playoffs, where he just happened to be the toughest out in the lineup.
Boston ended up only being a pitstop during Beltre's Hall of Fame career, but he made his one season count by hitting .321 and playing flawless defense. Still, Devers was historically good last year while posting .311-32-115 numbers with 54 doubles.
SS: Xander Bogaerts
It's astonishing to think that Bogaerts is already entering his eighth season, even though he only just turned 27.
Watching him grow from surprise World Series contributor in 2013 to franchise linchpin who just signed a long-term extension has been especially rewarding. It's how the player development arc is supposed to progress, but rarely does.
And the best part from a Red Sox perspective is that there's every reason to believe Bogaerts will make the next list in 2029.
LF: Andrew Benintendi
Though it feels like Benintendi hasn't even scratched the surface of his talent, he has still done more than any other Red Sox left fielder of the last decade, a list that includes the overpaid Carl Crawford and the overachieving Daniel Nava, as well as Jonny Gomes.
Benintendi delivered one of the signature moments of 2018 when he dove to rob Alex Bregman in the ALCS, and he's talented enough to make a bigger impact than his .277 average thus far.
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
With all due respect to Jackie Bradley Jr., who has played the best center field since Fred Lynn, we can't ignore what Ellsbury delivered before bolting to New York and giving the Red Sox the ultimate gift of stealing money from the Yankees.
He finished second in the 2011 MVP voting while smashing 32 homers and winning a Gold Glove, and his 2013 (league-leading 52 steals in 56 chances) wasn't too shabby, either. Bradley simply hasn't hit enough to displace him.
RF: Mookie Betts
Taking nothing away from Victorino or J.D. Drew, this might be the easiest call on the list.
Betts didn't just win an MVP in 2018. He delivered one of the most all-around dominant seasons by anyone on any team this century. He closed the decade with four straight All-Star teams, four straight Gold Gloves, and four straight top-eight MVP finishes.
He's one of the most complete players in baseball, and a year from now he is going to get paid.
DH: David Ortiz
A case can be made that the Red Sox have featured the two best DHs of the last 10 years in Ortiz and J.D. Martinez.
With all due respect to Martinez's near Triple Crown in 2018 and underrated All-Star 2019, there's only one Big Papi. The larger-than-life star belongs only one rung below the Bird-Russell-Brady-Orr-Williams quintet on Boston's sporting Olympus, thanks to his World Series heroics, gregarious personality, and ability to speak for an entire grieving region when he declared, "This is our bleeping city."
SP: Chris Sale
From a pure stuff standpoint, only two Red Sox pitchers of the last 50 years compare to Sale — Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez.
Sale at his best might as well be a Cylon, mowing down opponents with relentless precision. Though injuries have slowed him since July of 2018, it hasn't stopped him from closing out a World Series, recording a 17-strikeout game (in only 7 innings!), or starting a pair of All-Star Games.
With a new contract kicking in, he has a chance to establish himself as an all-time Red Sox great.
SP: Jon Lester
Give me one start during this entire run, and I'm handing the ball to Lester, the left-hander who ownership still wishes hadn't gotten away.
Lester took his early-career cues from Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, and it's easy to see that old-school bulldog in him even to this day with the Cubs. Lester hasn't thrown a pitch in Boston since July of 2014, but he still casts a long shadow over the organization, which has committed more than $350 million to Sale and David Price as penance.
SP: Clay Buchholz
That's right, deal with it.
Buchholz became one of those unfortunate souls that fans love to hate, but he was a lot better than people remember. Over the first seven years of the decade, he went 69-47 with a 3.78 ERA, made two All-Star teams, finished sixth in a Cy Young race, and sprinted to an 11-0 start.
Injuries pretty much always had a way of derailing things, but the skinny right-hander is about to enter his 14th season, and he owns two World Series rings.
SP: Rick Porcello
David Price may possess the better overall body of work, but Porcello takes this spot for his brilliant 2016, when he came out of nowhere to go 22-4 and win a Cy Young Award, and for the reliability and durability that were his hallmarks.
Only Buchholz threw more innings in a Red Sox uniform this decade, and no one topped Porcello's 159 starts. GM Ben Cherington was mocked for signing him to an $82.5 million extension in 2015, but Porcello ended up meeting his end of the bargain.
SP: Eduardo Rodriguez
Again, no Price. He's a tough omission, particularly because of his 2018 postseason, but as the decade comes to a close, E-Rod looks like a man on the ascent.
He just won 19 games, reaching double-digits for the third time since 2015. He's also coming off a 34-start, 203.1-inning campaign.
You know what also makes Rodriguez a better choice? None of the distracting extracurriculars that have dogged Price.
RP: Koji Uehara
By rights, this should be All-Star Craig Kimbrel, or maybe even former All-Star Jonathan Papelbon.
But so transcendent was Uehara's magical 2013, it simply demands inclusion. Of all the many things to go right that year, Uehara assuming closing responsibilities after injuries dropped Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey may have been the most essential.
Relying on a high spin rate and devasting changeup that accompanied a 90-mph fastball, Koji high-fived his way through that entire season until clinching a championship in Fenway Park that October.