Boston Red Sox: Best players on the worst teams the last 20 years

2 of 7

Oct 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher

Junichi Tazawa

(36) talks with Boston Red Sox catcher

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

(39) after giving up 2 runs to the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning of game three of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

2012 – Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Junichi Tazawa
Team record: 69-93 (last in AL East)

It’s difficult to identify a gem amidst the rubble of 2012. Yet, as bad as we remember it, the team actually hung around despite itself: five games over .500 on July 1st and last clinging to that standard of mediocrity on August 6th. Part of it was due to incumbent star power on the roster and the rest because some of the team’s role players met with success.

Several Red Sox interlopers compiled relatively good campaigns, such as Cody Ross (pressed into action for Carl Crawford), Mike Aviles (used as a Band-Aid at multiple positions), and the immortal Pedro Ciriaco.

Things were so ugly down the stretch that sports radio callers began lobbying on behalf of Ciriaco, a career Minor Leaguer, for a 2013 roster spot.

And then there was Will Middlebrooks, who hit .288 and slammed 15 home runs in a 267 at-bat audition. If only it had been a sign of things to come.

But Saltalamacchia and Tazawa were two standouts of 2012, more so when you consider how their campaigns foreshadowed their contributions to the 2013 world champions. For Saltalamacchia, his 25-homer season was vindication for the Red Sox after coveting the former top prospect for several years, pulling the trigger in 2010 and waiting for the catcher to arrive as a starting Major League talent.

For Tazawa, his strong 2012 represented a comeback from a career-threatening elbow injury. His 1.82 ERA and 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio preceded a 2013 campaign where he became one of the primary setup men for the best team in baseball.