The Boston Red Sox have gone through a very up-and-down history that goes back over one century. The first World Series took place in 1903 when the then-Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in eight games. The “BoSox” proceeded to win four more championships by 1918, three of which were with a young Babe Ruth. Boston became the most successful baseball club for the league’s first 15 years.
Then came the “Curse of the Bambino,” the infamous sale of Ruth to the rival New York Yankees in 1919 that haunted Red Sox fans for decades. The sale sparked an 86-year championship drought for the Sox — one of the longest title droughts in baseball history. The drought also contained two separate periods of 21-plus-straight seasons without a playoff appearance.
Boston has had a resurgence in the past two decades. The Red Sox ended their championship drought by winning the 2004 World Series, and have won three more titles since then. They are the only team to win four World Series titles in the 21st century.
Boston’s 86-year drought was sandwiched between two highly successful, championship-filled eras. They have nine World Series championships, 14 American League pennants, 10 division titles, and 25 postseason appearances in 117 seasons.
Drought or not, the Red Sox have had players put together historic individual seasons all throughout its history. To give you an idea of how unreal these seasons were, we decided to rank the top five individual seasons in Boston Red Sox history.
There were a ton of remarkable seasons left off the board, including Babe Ruth in 1919 and Roger Clemens in 1986 and 1990, but I can assure you that you will be astonished and pleased by this list.
These legendary individual seasons have been driven by individual statistics and accolades, team success, records, and narrative.
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5. Wade Boggs, 1987
Wade Boggs was a quality pure hitter throughout his career. Hitting the ball and getting on base were his strong suits. But something happened to Boggs in 1987 that made him evolve into a slugger.
The third baseman’s anomalous 1987 season included 24 home runs and a slugging percentage of .588. For perspective, his second-highest home run count in a single season was 11 with the Yankees in 1994. Other than that, he never hit more than nine homers in another season.
He also led the Majors in batting average (.363), on-base percentage (.461), and a career-best OPS+ (174). Pitchers became so scared of his strengthened batting repertoire that they intentionally walked him a league-leading 19 times.
His breakout season was great enough for him to finish ninth in MVP voting and to become a Silver Slugger that season.
4. Mookie Betts, 2018
Mookie Betts showcased his diverse skill set at the highest level in 2018, when he had one of the most well-rounded seasons in history, as shown by his collection of awards.
The outfielder is the only player in MLB history to win the MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, the batting title, and World Series in the same season.
He carried the Red Sox to 108 wins in the regular season and to a World Series championship.
His 10.7 WAR is the second-best by a position player in franchise history, behind only fellow Boston great Carl Yastrzemski. He also led the Majors in batting average, runs, and slugging percentage. He smashed 32 homers and stole 30 bases, becoming just the second Red Sox player to join the 30-30 club, while also contributing 80 RBIs.
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3. Ted Williams, 1941
You can throw a dart at Ted Williams’ career, and you will likely hit a season worthy of being one of the best in Red Sox history. But landing on his 1941 season seemed like the right choice, starting with his ridiculous league-leading .406 batting average over 606 plate appearances.
What made his .406 average significant is that it’s the last time a batter has eclipsed the .400 in a season. There have been a few close calls since then, including Willard Brown’s .408 in 1948, but he wasn’t eligible because he had just 197 plate appearances.
Williams, an outfielder, also led the Majors in seven other offensive categories: runs (135), home runs (37), walks (147), OBP (.553), slugging percentage (.735), OPS (1.287), and OPS+ (235). Williams got ‘em all. His .553 on-base percentage stood as an MLB record for 61 years, until Barry Bonds broke it in 2002. However, Williams’ record still stands in the American League.
He finished second to Joe DiMaggio in a close, controversial MVP race, despite beating him in most batting categories — many by a large margin.
2. Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 had one of the most lethal bats in MLB history, dominating opposing defenses and locking up accolades in the process. He showed one of the greatest combinations of hitting with power and getting on base.
Yaz’s 12.5 WAR is the best for a position player in Red Sox history and is the fourth-best in baseball history, behind three Babe Ruth seasons. He is one of 12 players in league history to earn the Triple Crown with a .326-44-121 split. He also led the Majors in hits, runs, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS+, earning himself AL MVP honors. He stood out on defense, too, and even won the Gold Glove.
Yaz’s case for No. 2 on this list was driven not just by his crushing numbers, but also by his contributions to Boston’s playoff berth and postseason run. The Red Sox began the season as longshots to reach the World Series but found themselves neck and neck with the Twins and Tigers until the last several games of the season.
Yaz batted .560 with 13 RBIs over the final seven games of the season, helping Boston to earn the top spot in the American League and ultimately reach the World Series.
1. Pedro Martinez, 2000
Pedro Martinez arguably had the greatest, most impressive season as a pitcher in 2000.
The late 1990s and early 2000s featured some of the most explosive offensive seasons in baseball history, and 2000 might’ve been the era’s peak. The league averaged 5.14 runs per game — the highest average since 1936.
That didn’t phase Martinez, though. He posted a league-leading 1.74 ERA in 217 innings, resulting in an all-time-record 291 ERA+.
Martinez also led the Majors that season in several other statistical categories, including WAR (11.7), shutouts (four), hits allowed per nine innings (5.3), FIP (2.17), and WHIP (0.737), which broke a 118-year-old record.
He became the first pitcher in MLB history to record more than twice as many strikeouts (284) than hits allowed (128) in a season. That is unfathomable. His insane numbers helped him win the Cy Young Award and helped his team win games with an 18-6 record.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer