Editor’s note: North of Boston Media Group sportswriters will be taking a stab at the best of the best during an unprecedented run of greatness over the past decade for Boston professional sports. Our writers will be selecting their Top 10 players of the last decade and analysis with their picks. There are several factors considered including longevity, accomplishment and importance to any successes, not in that order. Up first: the Red Sox, by Bill Burt.
For most of the last decade the Boston Red Sox were either decent or bad. Two years they were good. And two other years they were, well, great.
The Red Sox “only” made the postseason four times and twice were eliminated almost as soon as their opening series started.
But the other two postseason runs were epic. They really were special.
In looking over over the last decade of Red Sox players, only one played for the entire decade, albeit sparingly at the end of it ... Dustin Pedroia.
Most of the rest, at most, played five year or so seasons. So there is some work to do here, with longevity not really an issue.
Anyway, here are my 10 selections, in order for Red Sox baseball from 2010 through 2019:
1. David Ortiz
If you want to get technical, he deserves the last decade, too. David Ortiz had arguably the greatest World Series “evah” in 2013, in the Year of the Beard. He not only hit .688 (11 for 25), but his grand slam in the ALCS in late innings against Detroit changed the series and led to the Sox even going to the World Series. He averaged 32 homers and 100 RBI for the seven years he played this decade. He is special to the franchise in so many ways, including his undying love for the team. Mentally, he’s the best Red Sox player there ever was. Fearless.
2. Mookie Betts
If Mookie makes the Hall of Fame, the start to his career this decade will be a big reason. While Mookie isn’t the biggest run producer, averaging 91 RBI the last four years, he impacts the game in so many areas. He basically is the definition of five-tool player. His ability to move from infield to outfield, and do it with ease shows his ability to adapt. He has finished in the top 10 MVP voting the last four years, including in 2018 when he won the award. While he hasn’t been special in the postseason just yet, give it some time.
3. Dustin Pedroia
Dustin who? How soon we forget that for most of eight years, the heart and soul of this franchise was this Dirt Dog, Pedroia. Injuries took a toll after the mid-part of this past decade, but Pedroia was not only productive at the plate — batting .288, with three years of 74-plus RBI — but he also won three Gold Gloves as the best defensive second basemen in the game. In 2011, he averaged .307 with 21 HRs and 91 RBI and in 2013, the World Series season, hit .301 with 84 RBI while leading all of baseball with 724 plate appearances. His career is probably over, but his production here should never be forgotten.
4. Xander Bogaerts
The only player other than an injured Dustin Pedroia to be part of the two World Series titles this decade, Bogaerts is becoming a superstar before our very eyes. Only 27, he committed to the franchise through 2025 as a relatively cheap sum of $20 million per year. Like Mookie, he is not only a great teammate but a two-way threat at plate and in the field at shortstop. A career .288 hitter, he exploded for 33 home runs in 2019, 10 more than his previous high. But more than that, his consistency and steady play is what separates him from the good ones. If there is a captain named in the next year, it will be Bogaerts. He has accepted the leadership role (unlike Betts) and his pleasant, positive outlook radiates.
5. Jon Lester
Lester could’ve and should’ve been higher on this list. He was 69-49 over his 4.5 seasons here but he had two all-star efforts (19-9 in 2010; 15-9 in 2011) and a postseason run that has been forgotten from the 2013 World Series title. Lester went 4-1 and allowed only six earned runs over 35-plus innings as the go-to guy at the top of the rotation. He arguably had the two best seasons of his career after his time here, going 19-5 in 2016 and 18-6 in 2018 with the Chicago Cubs. But his time here in the first part of the decade bordered on special. He had two spectacular showings against the Cardinals, going 7 2/3 shutout innings in his first effort and 7 2/3 in allowing one run in Game 5, a 3-1 win, only to be outdone by Ortiz’s .688 average.
6. David Price
Price has the ability to be 2nd or 3rd on this list, but injuries and inconsistency keep him at a respectable spot. Price had a 46-24 record over his four seasons, which is very good. But he has only hit 200 innings once, in his first season. His 3.86 ERA here has been more than acceptable. His shining moment came in the 2018 postseason, really his last three starts — 3-0 record, 19 innings, 3 earned runs, 19 strikeouts. The gorilla is off his back in postseason play and, if healthy, could change the course of his career. That’s a big “if.” But Price has basically won two out of every three games he has pitched and has some postseason pedigree now.
7. Rick Porcello
Quietly, one of the most underappreciated Red Sox players of the last decade. Unlike others more talented, Porcello was by the far the most durable, averaging 32 starts and 193 innings. He was 73-55 with a so-so 4.40 ERA, but included a 22-4 season in 2016, copping the A.L. Cy Young Award. During the World Series run he had two huge performances out of the bullpen, arguably changing the course of the postseason with a big, two-out relief effort in Game 1 against the Yankees followed by a 5-inning, 1-run effort in the Game 4 clincher over the Yankees. He had another, memorable one-inning relief performance against the Astros in Game 4, helping put the Red Sox ahead, 3-1 in the series. The bottom line is Porcello was there when the Red Sox needed him.
8. Chris Sale
Sale might be the most dominating starter to never win the Cy Young Award. He finished in the top six for Cy Young Award voting seven straight years, including two with the Red Sox in 2017 and 2018. Remember, it was Sale who closed out the World Series by striking out Manny Machado. In 2017, his first in Boston, he finished 17-8 and was first in the majors in innings pitched (217) and strikeouts (308). He was even more dominant the next year at 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA, before injuring his elbow. When he’s on and healthy, nobody is better. Nobody. That was not the case in 2019 at 5-11 and on the injured list for one-third of the season. Stay tuned on the next decade and Sale.
9. Brock Holt
The Swiss Army knife, who could play nearly every position on the field outside of pitcher and catcher, made a big impact on this franchise’s winning ways the last decade. A streaky hitter, he averaged about 100 games over his last six seasons here as a “regular” utility player. You need players — happy, productive while accepting their role — like Holt to win. He averaged .270 as a hitter including four seasons over .275. He had some memorable, clutch hits, including his hitting for the cycle in the blowout postseason win over the Yankees in Game 4. True to form, he didn’t play the next game. Such is the life of a role player. Called the “glue” by his teammates, Holt made a big impression on his teammates and fans.
10. Koji Uehara
There might not be a player more beloved, outside of Ortiz, by the average fan this Koji. The Red Sox closer for three years was as steady and consistent as any the Red Sox have ever had. His changeup was, when on, unhittable. It looked like a fastball and then dropped to the ground. Amazingly, Koji walked only 37 batters in 226 innings. He was named MVP of the ALCS in 2013 for his five outings without allowing a run. In fact, for the ALCS and World Series he didn’t allow a run in 10-plus innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks. He was fun to watch.