Red Sox: Top-5 left fielders in franchise history
By Sean Penney
Rice broke into the big leagues with a stellar first full season in 1975 that would have garnered much more attention if not for being overshadowed by Fred Lynn, his fellow Red Sox outfielder who captured the Rookie of the Year and MVP award that season. Rice would finish as the runner-up to his teammate in the Rookie voting and took third place in the MVP race.
The promising start foreshadowed a prolific career that stretched 16 seasons, all of which were with the Red Sox. Rice made eight All-Star teams and finished in the top five in MVP voting six times. His best season would come in 1978, when he won the MVP by batting .315 with a league-leading .970 OPS, 46 home runs and 139 RBI.
Among Red Sox left fielders, Rice ranks third all-time with 50.8 fWAR, 382 home runs and 1451 RBI. He finished his career with a .298/.352/.502 slash line.
Rice was inducted in the the baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, a somewhat controversial decision that irked a small percentage of the baseball community that felt his numbers were borderline at best. Critics point to his relatively low WAR total – the result of below-average defense and spending about a quarter of his career as a DH. Some also feel that his peak wasn’t long enough, which seems crazy when you consider he finished as high as third in MVP voting over a decade apart.
Rice’s production fell off a cliff after his age 33 season, but he was a dominant force in the lineup for a dozen years and worthy of being considered among the best at his position.