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

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Oct 12, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former player

Nomar Garciaparra

is introduced prior to throwing out the first pitch in game one of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

1997 – Nomar Garciaparra
Team record: 78-84 (fourth in AL East)

Jimy Williams‘ first year as Red Sox manager could be summed up by an extreme lack of pitching. And the antics of Wil Cordero.

The rotation was Tom Gordon, Tim Wakefield, Aaron Sele, Jeff Suppan and Steve Avery. The staff reads like an encyclopedia entry of Sox punch lines and punching bags: eight starts went to Chris Hammond, seven to “Way Back” Wasdin, six to the immortal Vaughn Eshelman, six to a damaged Bret Saberhagen, five to a damaged Butch Henry, two to “Dominican Mystery Man” Robinson Checo and one to Brian Rose.

Staff ERA: 4.85, good for twelfth in the American League.

The trade of Healthcliff Slocumb for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe stands as one of the game’s all-time heists. The move also allowed Gordon to transition to closer, where he saved 11 games in August and September and then 42 the following year.

The ’97 Sox could certainly hit, finishing first in the league in batting average and second in total bases. Former MVP Mo Vaughn delivered his standard output, but the sensational rookie season of Nomar Garciaparra was the talk of the town. His .306 average with 30 homers, 98 RBI, 22 steals, 44 doubles and 11 triples ignited the debate between Boston, New York and Seattle over who had the best young shortstop in the game, a debate that would rage for the better part of the next decade.