Baseball Reference is a dangerous tool if you have a lot of time to kill. The other night, prompted by Alek Manoah being sent down, I tried to think of pitchers who were Cy Young finalists one season, who then completely imploded the next season. This simple enough thought then sent me down a rabbit hole that ended with me reviewing the career stats of 1982 Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich.
It is the baseball equivalent of clicking through Wikipedia links that ends up leading you to an entirely different topic, an experience so prevalent that entire websites have been dedicated to being able to click from one topic to another in the shortest amount of time (big shout-out to The Wiki Game for helping me kill time in college).
Besides being a baseball fan's largest enabler of being sucked into the wormhole of baseball knowledge, Baseball Reference also serves as the best database of baseball statistics possible, which makes tasks like completing the research for this article go so much quicker than it could have (and makes the conclusions a lot more objective). Almost a spiritual successor to my all-time forgotten Red Sox team, this article will show, based on the statistic of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the best possible Red Sox lineup from all players in the storied history of the franchise.
The players in the lineup are all placed in their primary position, i.e. the position they played most often while serving as a member of the Red Sox (this led to a massive omission that I'll mention when it comes up later on). I also tried to make a lineup that would make sense in an actual game scenario, so the placement on the lineup is not an actual ranking of the player but is just me getting to masquerade as Red Sox manager for a brief moment in time. Without further ado, let's jump into the all-time Boston Red Sox lineup.
All-time best Red Sox lineup: 1. Tris Speaker, CF
Leading things off for the Red Sox will be the record holder for career doubles in all of the major leagues in Tris Speaker. He held down center field for the Red Sox at both the Huntington Avenue Grounds and Fenway Park, playing from 1907 to 1915, winning two World Series with the Sox before heading out to Cleveland before the 1916 season.
In his time in Boston, the Hall of Famer totaled 55.8 career WAR, good enough for fifth in the Red Sox all-time WAR rankings for position players, which tells me one of two things: 1) Tris Speaker was one unbelievable player back in the day, and 2) I can't believe the Red Sox haven't had a better center fielder in the past 108 years. The next highest center fielder is member of the Impossible Dream team of 1967 Reggie Smith, who totaled 34.2 WAR in his years with the Red Sox (and may genuinely be one of the most underrated players in Red Sox history).
I want Speaker batting leadoff because, much like the Moneyball A's, he gets on base. In his full seasons with the Red Sox, he only had one season where his on-base percentage was below .400. He also liked to steal bases, racking up 267 stolen bases during his time in Boston. Speaker is a guy that is going to get on base, take the extra base, and set up the rest of the lineup for success.