As the decade came to a close last night, I couldn’t help but think back to what was one of the best 10 years in Red Sox history. The Sox finished the 10 year span with a record of 920-699 and made an appearance in the playoffs 6 of those seasons. The most memorable moments of the 2000s are, of course, the 2 World Championships in 2004 and 2007. Over the next few days, I am going to look back at some of the greatest players to play each position during these past 10 seasons beginning with the corner infielders.
Kevin Youkilis, First Base
Despite being a natural third baseman, Youk has spent the vast majority of his career in the majors at first base. His raw emotions have created a spark when the team and fans needed it most. Characterized by his patience at the plate, Youk forced pitchers to work hard each time he stepped up to bat and made them pay when they missed. His grind-it-out, 100% effort all the time attitude was admired and copied by his teammates and created the energy needed to fuel a comeback, or add to a slim lead late in a game down the stretch.
Since his debut in the majors in 2004, he has a career average of .292 with 93 HR’s and has compiled 354 BB’s and an OBP of .391. Defensively, Youk is one of the best first baseman in baseball, with a career .997 fielding percentage and the MLB record for first baseman with 238 consecutive errorless games and 2,002 consecutive errorless fielding attempts in the regular season, which began in 2006 and was snapped during the 2008 season. Besides his offensive and defensive stats, Youk’s versatility has been one of the biggest assets for the Sox, because when they were in deperate need, he stepped up and played 5 positions (first base, second base, third base, right field, and left field) in his tenure with the organization.
Honorable Mention: Brian Daubach, Kevin Millar
Mike Lowell, Third Base
This has been a rocky off-season for Mike Lowell with the trade to Texas that fell throught and and having to undergo thumb surgery, but when looking back at the past decade, there is no other third baseman who has had the same impact on the Sox organization. Lowell was a ‘throw-in’ to the Josh Beckett deal that sent Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez (among others) to the Marlins. The Florida organization was attempting to dump salary and felt that Lowell was past his prime and on the decline offensively. It turns out Lowell had a few strong years left in the tank.
After having an excellent first year with the Sox in 2006 in which he hit .284 with 20 HR’s and 80 RBI, Mike had his best year as a professional in 2007 when he hit .324 with 21 HR’s and 120 RBI and ended the season as the World Series MVP. Lowell’s numbers were great this decade, but it is his ability to be a leader and mentor in the clubhouse that puts him over the top. His ability to guide and nurture young players has been well documented and is an invaluable quality rarely seen in professional sports. The future for Lowell is uncertain, but he has forever left his mark as a member of the Sox organization.
Honorable Mention: Bill Mueller
Stay tuned for the Sox All-Decade Team: Middle Infield tomorrow.