Editor’s note: This is the first post in a week-long series which will ask fans to determine the face of each pro sports franchise in Boston.
No sports team in Boston has experienced a more drastic shift in public perception in recent years than the Red Sox.
And no, it hasn’t been a positive change.
Dubbed one of the greatest teams in baseball history just two springs ago, the Red Sox have had an embarrassing September collapse, the firing of perhaps the best manager in franchise history, a chicken and beer controversy, half-hearted apologies, Josh Beckett’s golf outing, Bag Guy, a comically tragic season under the direction of the inept Bobby Valentine, the trading away of a prized first baseman who came to Boston with a hefty price tag, the worst record since the mid-’60s and now three straight seasons that ended without a playoff berth.
Other than that, things have been just fine.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they appear to be taking the proper steps toward gaining respectability. They canned Valentine as soon as possible, hired a no-nonsense baseball man in John Farrell to run the team and brought in a bunch of ball players who won’t make it seem impossible to like them. There is, of course, a long, long, long way to go, but still, it is a start.
Many of the longtime favorites are gone, but a handful still remain. So who is the current face of the Red Sox?
As soon as the name is brought up, images of the undersized second baseman diving around the infield and launching bombs immediately come to mind. Since joining the team full-time in 2007, he’s won a World Series, Rookie of the Year, MVP and two Gold Gloves, and he’s been willing to bat anywhere in the lineup without complaint. His No. 15 jersey is among the most popular seen around Fenway Park these days, and his reputation is nearly without blemish.
I say “nearly” because by several accounts, Pedroia was the ring-leader for whatever type of anti-Valentine meeting took place last July. It was the first time Pedroia’s really been made to look bad during his Red Sox tenure, but considering it involved Valentine (who’s already long gone), chances are it won’t be remembered for too long. In fact, it may already be forgotten by most.
He is the longest-tenured Red Sox player and the lone remaining member of the 2004 championship team. He has produced more game-winning walk-off hits than probably all of your favorite players combined. He is a larger than life figure who goes by the nickname of Big Papi.
Ortiz’s resume speaks for itself, but still, in a Red Sox uniform, he’s hit 343 home runs, driven in 1,088 runs, posted a .962 OPS, made eight All-Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers and finished in the top five in MVP voting five times. And he did most of it with that trademark smile plastered on his face.
There are some negatives to be found with Ortiz, though, most notably his referring to Boston as a [bad word]-hole last season. He’s also had several contract conflicts with the team, including one last July when he complained he didn’t get a two-year deal, even though he knew he ended up making more money.
But hey, he’s Big Papi and he’s been around since 2003, so those are considered minor bumps in the road in what has mostly been one of Boston’s best sports relationships in the 21st century.
His story at the end of the 2006 season broke hearts, but his comeback in 2007 provided inspiration.
Since then, Lester’s been pegged as a lot of things, including the ace of the staff. While he dropped off from that career trajectory in the past couple of seasons, he’s still just 29 years old, with plenty of time to recapture his past greatness to have a long, healthy career in Boston.
While the major story line this year leading up through the July 31 trading deadline will be whether or not the Red Sox trade away their star center fielder, it appears as though he’s at least a part of the roster for now, so he makes this list.
Ellsbury first introduced himself to Red Sox fans as a rookie, when he scored from second base on a passed ball and later took Coco Crisp’s spot in the lineup in the World Series, when he batted .438 with four doubles in the four-game sweep of the Rockies. He’s famous for his steal of home plate against the Yankees and countless diving catches in Fenway’s center field, and if the Red Sox do decide to pay him big bucks in a long contract, chances are it would make many fans rather happy.
Winner: Dustin Pedroia – 67 percent
David Ortiz – 24 percent
Jacoby Ellsbury – 8 percent
Jon Lester – 2 percent