Friday, March 21, 2014

The Top Five Red Sox Players to Wear Number Nine

Let's be honest...there's only one name that is going to appear here. Trying to pick four other guys to share this space with the greatest hitter ever is a waste of time. I will only note one interesting thing. The '9' was also worn by Bobby Doerr in his rookie year of 1937, which means two Hall of Famers wore the '9' and both had the numbers they were best known for retired by the Sox. I believe this is the only number to hold that distinction.

5, 4, 3, 2 and 1. Ted Williams (1939-60) - If baseball had given out the Rookie of the Year award in 1939, Williams would've had that honor as well. It's not every player that hits .327 with an OPS of 1.045, 31HRs and 145 RBI at the age of 20. So he just had to settle for fourth-place in the MVP voting (ahead of him were Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx and Bob Feller.) I don't think too many players had more nicknames than Williams. Teddy Ballgame. The Kid. The Splendid Splinter. The Thumper. But maybe a hitter as great as Williams simply can't be summed up with just one moniker.

Greatest. Hitter. Ever.

If I tried to break out every award and Top 10 finish Williams had in his career, this entry would be 10,000 words long. So let's just hit the highlights:

  • 17-time All-Star: And to note something else I didn't know, they actually played two All-Star games in 1959 and 1960. So Williams actually played in 19 All-Star games.

  • Five-time Major League Player of the Year (1941-42, 47, 49, 57): No other player in MLB history has won this award as many times as Williams. Only three players (Barry Bonds, A-Rod and Pujols) have won it three times. And check out that last date; Williams was 38 years old in 1957. He hit .388 with 38 HRs and 87 RBI. That is an amazing performance by a man just shy of 40 years old. And he did it clean.

  • Two-time Triple Crown winner: Williams accomplished the feat in both 1942 and 1947. The only other player to equal that record is Roger Hornsby, who did it in 1922 and 1925.

  • Two-time AL MVP: Williams won it in 1946 and 1949. The truth is that he should've won it in 1941 (the year he hit .406), 1942 and 1947. But his prickly relationship with the press cost him the votes in those years. And if anyone wants to argue the the three guys who won those years (DiMaggio, Joe Gordon and DiMaggio) were actually better than Williams, you're welcome to try. You'll be wrong, but you're welcome to try. All told, Williams was in the Top 10 for MVP a whopping twelve times.

  • Led the AL six times in batting average. The last player to hit over .400. Currently seventh all-time with a career .344 average (tied with Billy Hamilton), he is the only player in the Top 10 to have played after 1937, making Williams the greatest hitter of the modern era.

  • Is the all-time leader in OBP with a lifetime mark of .482. He led the AL twelve times in OBP, including a ridiculous .553 mark in 1941 that should be considered the all-time single-season record, since the only player to exceed that mark is Barry "Big Head" Bonds, who broke it in 2002 and 2004. Since he juiced his way to those totals, I say they don't count.

  • Williams is second all-time in OPS with a career mark of 1.116, trailing only Babe Ruth. Williams led the AL 10 times in this category.
  • Williams has a lifetime WAR of 123.2, which is 14th all-time among all players and 11th all-time among position players
  • His JAWS score of 96.2 is second all-time for left-fielders. Again, he is exceeded only by Barry Williams' score is the highest all-time for left-fielders in my book.

And it goes on and on. Home runs, walks, RBI, total name any category outside of steals and Williams will likely rank amongst the best ever. There was no better hitter to play the game. And let's not also forget that he served his country in two wars, flying for the Marines in both WW2 and the Korean War. He even won the Air Medal after a mission attacking a tank and infantry training school and flying his damaged aircraft home. Those five years in the military were five of his prime playing years. Who knows what numbers Williams could've posted?

Greatest hitter ever, hands-down and no contest.

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