The Yankees have 23 uniform numbers retired, compared to the Red Sox’s 11. And while there have been a few more New York legends compared to Boston legends, these numbers should not be so drastic. The reason for this is simple: the Red Sox organization has been overly stingy in this regard. Here’s a list of players that deserve to have their numbers retired by the Boston Red Sox.
One seemingly obvious option for a jersey retirement is Babe Ruth. Yes, the drawback is he spent most of his career with the Yankees, and unsurprisingly has his number retired there. But he still remains a crucial piece in Red Sox history. He was a top three player in the league for most of his stay in Boston, and was instrumental to their World Series win in 1918.
But due to the fact that he was on the Yankees for almost three times longer than he was in Boston, and he had no jersey number since it wasn’t a thing yet, it is at least a bit less likely of a choice compared to some of the other options here.
Another player who has a decent shot and certainly deserves it as well is Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar was inarguably one of the best hitters in the game, in addition to being underrated on defense as well. When he left the Red Sox his career took a nosedive. But while he was in Boston he was the most valuable player on the team not named Pedro Martinez.
The next option here will very much be controversial, as I am still a bit unsure of it myself. But Mookie Betts should definitely be within the top 10 in consideration for a jersey number retirement. In my opinion no player has been more valuable to the Red Sox since Roger Clemens. This is because for the last five years Mookie has been their best player every single year.
And obviously its not like there aren’t other stars on the roster, as the team was good enough to win a World Series title in 2018. In just six short years he accomplished things that not many other Sox players have done in quite some time. In the past four years he had four All-Star selections, four Golden Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and the 2018 AL MVP award. While the way the relationship ended was disappointing, there is no question that he was truly an impactful player, which is why he at least has a small chance that one day getting his number retired.
The last of the “fringe” options that I will mention is Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove. I was honestly shocked to find out his number 10 wasn’t already retired by the Red Sox OR the Athletics. Grove spent roughly half of his career with the Red Sox, which happened to be when he entered his prime despite being 34 years old when he first debuted with the team.
He earned five All-Star nods, four ERA titles, and was in four MVP races in those eight years, before retiring at the age of 41. Easily a top five pitcher is Red Sox history, it would not really be surprising to see the number 10 eventually retired.
Oldies But Goodies
There are two players with far greater odds at getting their numbers retired than the prior four players mentioned, but played long ago in an age without jersey numbers. A possible substitute could be to retire their initials, as simply recognizing their greatness is enough.
The first of these two is centerfielder Tris Speaker. Tris was the first Red Sox superstar, at least as a positional player. Like Lefty Grove, Speaker does not have his number retired by either of his two main teams, Boston and Cleveland. He began his career with the Red Sox in 1907 at the age of 19, and just two years later he became one of the best hitters in the league.
Tris would continue to improve on his hitting, becoming the best in the league in that regard after only a couple of years. He won a World Series with the Red Sox, as well as one MVP award (though he probably deserved at least two). While there are some questions about his personal life, there is no question that he very much deserves to be on this list.
Another early 1900’s player without a number that easily deserves his name or a number retired for him is Cy Young. Young is a top two pitcher in Red Sox history, and possibly could even argue for him being the greatest, as well as a top five player regardless of position in the organizations history. Young played his first nine years of his career on the Cleveland Spiders, and then joined the St. Louis Perfecto’s, now Cardianls, after the owner merged both teams.
But after just two years with the new franchise Cy moved to Boston for a very large paycheck. In his first year in Boston he won the AL Triple Crown and pitching title as he set the tone for how the next seven years would look. Young is one of the best pitchers of all time, with the seasonal award for best pitcher even named after him. It is criminal for him not to have a retired number or anything along those lines to honor his impact on the game while in Boston.
The three players in this final section 100% should already have or will have their jersey numbers retired by Boston. The first is also the only player in this entire article to still be on the roster at this current moment. Dustin Pedroia, the greatest second baseman in Red Sox history, has been vitally important to the teams recent success. He did not contribute to the most recent 2018 World Series run, as he was fighting his injuries, but he was important to both the 2007 and 2013 teams.
Dustin may not have that powerful of a bat, but he can get on base better than most. He has always been able to draw walks, and finds himself with one of the leagues best batting averages seemingly every year that he’s healthy. And he can even hit a homer on occasion, though it was always hard to ask for more than 15 homers in a season from Pedroia.
His defense has also always been on point, receiving four Golden Gloves, three Wilson Defensive Player awards as a 2nd Baseman, and the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013. He probably would’ve won a couple more of each too, as the Wilson awards only began in 2012. And, of course, its hard to forget the fact that Pedroia won the 2008 AL MVP in his second season in the league, after winning the AL Rookie Of The Year in 2007. I would put my money on the fact that his number 15 gets retired not long after he finally leaves the league, though its hard to tell when that will happen.
The number 24 of Dwight Evans should also have been retired by now. I mean, he’s already in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and is well-respected by the entire city. Dewey was underrated throughout his entire career, only getting selected to three All-Star games. He was a top ten batter in the league for half of his career, thanks to his rare combination of talents.
Dwight was a hard-hitter who had his fair share of homers (66th all time in AL), yet also was one of the best at drawing walks (29th all time in AL). Evans also was masterful on defense, having earned eight Golden Gloves, tied fifth all time among AL outfielders. Evans surely deserves his number retired, even if his Red Sox teams never won a World Series.
Last but surely not least, the player most deserving of getting their jersey retired is Roger Clemens. Many hate him for the use of PEDs, but the fact of the matter was he used them late in his career while on the Yankees and Astros. He was clean for most if not all of his time in Boston, which is why it probably should not affect whether his number is retired here.
Clemens was the best pitcher in baseball during the 13 year span he played for the Sox. He is one of only 10 pitchers ever to win the MVP and Cy Young in the same year. Speaking of Cy Young’s, he won three while on the Red Sox, and another four thereafter for a MLB record seven wins. The Rocket, being the best pitcher in Red Sox history, has definitely earned the right for his number to sit alongside Pedro Martinez.
Hopefully at least a few of these nine candidates get their numbers retired in the net decade. While its good to keep a high standard, some of the players the Red Sox are keeping out are actually better than those already in the exclusive group. To many fans, a few of these options are obvious additions, and it’s only a matter of time until the organization comes to the same conclusion.