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

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Aug 3, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter

David Ortiz

(34) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

2006 – David Ortiz
Team record: 86-76 (third in AL East)

’06 belonged to Big Papi. As the Red Sox plummeted from contention in the second half, Ortiz’s pursuit of Jimmie Foxx’s single-season team home run record kept fans coming out to the ballpark. He eventually crowned 54 on the season, towing the team in his wake to multiple dramatic walk-off wins.

This was the year team captain Jason Varitek and sensational new closer Jonathan Papelbon went on the shelf. Jon Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and shut down after starting 6-0. Josh Beckett didn’t live up to the hype. Coco Crisp wasn’t even a reasonable facsimile of Johnny Damon. And Javy Lopez, a former 40-home run catcher, looked absolutely lost in a short, brutal stint.

But on a warm September night seated in the Fenway bleachers, when Ortiz launched his record-breaking 51st homer over my head, I forgot about what a mess the season had been and was just thankful. For over a decade now, Big Papi alone has been reason enough to come out to Fenway.