Red Sox Greatest Second Basemen
The keystone position is next on the agenda for my series of Red Sox articles. Unfortunately, the top player has just passed away. At the age of 99, Bobby Doerr passed away on Tuesday. He was the oldest living Hall of Famer. Doerr played against Lou Gehrig, and faced A’s teams managed by Connie Mack, who was born in 1862. RIP to the great Bobby Doerr.
Doerr spent 14 seasons with the Red Sox, which spanned his entire career. He missed the 1945 season, while serving his country in the war. He then was forced into an early retirement at the age of 33, due to a bad back. Even still, Doerr managed to collect over 2000 base hits, and swat 223 home runs. His 1247 runs batted in are far and away the tops at the position. About the only category he doesn’t lead in is stolen bases. He was a career .288 hitter, and posted an .823 OPS.
Doerr was just as good in the field as he was at the plate. In 1948, he set a record for second basemen, by handling 414 consecutive chances without making an error. This record lasted for nearly 60 years, until it was broken in 2007. He also turned more double plays than any second baseman in Major League history, until 1963. His .980 fielding percentage came at a time when gloves were rudimentary. His fielding percentage only dipped below .980 once over the final eight seasons of his career.
Bobby Doerr was also known as a clutch hitter, driving in over 100 runs, in six different seasons. He accomplished this feat in three straight seasons, before his final season. Doerr also batted .409 during the 1946 World Series. It’s unfortunate he had to retire when he did, Doerr was still a very good ballplayer. In fact, he had been improving. Over his final four seasons, Doerr batted .294, while averaging 21 home runs, and 103 RBI per season. Doerr made nine All-Star Games during his career.
Pedroia has been aiming for Doerr’s mantle, but isn’t there yet. If he can put together a couple more good seasons, maybe. Pedroia is a career .300 hitter, banging out 1802 base hits at this point in his career. Over a 162 game schedule, Pedroia has averaged 15 home runs, 15 stolen bases and 42 doubles during his career.
Pedroia, of course, is an excellent fielder as well. He is routinely going all out in the field, making diving stops, and throwing out the runner. This has helped him net four Gold Glove Awards thus far. His .991 fielding percentage shows how steady he is in the field, but you’d have to watch him to know how much he flashes his leather around.
Pedroia started off his career by winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007. He followed that up by leading the league in hits (213), doubles (54) and winning the MVP Award in 2008. He used to be sneaky on the base paths too, stealing 20 bags that year while only being caught once. Pedroia might not steal many bags anymore, but this was the first of four seasons in which he stole 20 bases. Pedroia has made four All-Star Games, in addition to his previously mentioned accolades.
Pete Runnels wasn’t with the Red Sox nearly as long as the guys above him on this list, but he sure made an impact while in Boston. Runnels spent five seasons with the team, and batted over .300 in all five. He had a cumulative batting average of .320, and an on-base percentage of .408. He didn’t hit for power, only totaling 29 home runs over those five seasons. But with a .320 average, who cares? Second basemen were rarely power hitters in those days.
Runnels did play primarily first base his final two years with the Red Sox, but he played more games at second during his tenure with the Sox. According to Baseball Reference, Runnels had a 20.3 WAR over his five seasons in Boston. In his first season with the Red Sox, in 1958, he finished runner up for the batting title, losing to teammate Ted Williams. After finishing third in 1959, Runnels won his first batting title in 1960. He would go on to win his second batting title in his final season with the team in 1962. Runnels also made three all-star teams while with the Red Sox.
Goodman was a valuable utility man for the Red Sox. He had some years he played exclusively at second, some entirely at first, and others where he played all over the diamond. That versatility made him even more valuable than just his numbers. He played second more than anywhere though, and was usually at the keystone position over the final five seasons he was with the team.
Goodman didn’t have power, topping out with a career high of four home runs, but he was a fine hitter. Goodman batted over .300 five times, and never finished below .293 during a full season (he had a combined 27 at-bats between his first and last seasons). His .354 batting average in 1950 led the Major Leagues, and he finished runner-up for the MVP Award. A player mostly forgotten by time, Goodman deserves to be remembered with all of these accomplishments. He could easily be ahead of Runnels for third on this list. Goodman made two All-Star Games.
Standing at a listed height of 5’9″, Jody Reed was well liked for his scrappy, all out style of play. Despite his small stature, Jody Reed was a doubles machine in Boston. He was very adept at using the Green Monster to his advantage, and averaged 41 doubles per 162 games played with the Red Sox. His lifetime average of .280 as a Red Sox is good, but is a little misleading since he only batted below that number once. Reed was a career .288 hitter, before falling off at the plate in 1992.
Reed came up with the Red Sox as a shortstop, replacing Spike Owen at the position when Joe Morgan took the helm in 1988. He was one of the new guys inserted into the lineup by Morgan that led to their magical run in the second half of the season. By the next season, Reed was splitting his time between the middle infield positions, and eventually became the starting second baseman. He was a fine defender at the position too, though he did get better at it after leaving Boston. It was a tough call for the fifth place Second Basemen position, between Reed and Marty Barrett, but I gave Reed the nod due to his better ratios.
Marty Barrett, Jerry Remy, Mike Andrews, Jeff Frye
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