Dwight Evans’ Number Should Be Retired Too

I was happy when the Boston Red Sox announced that they would retire Wade Boggs’ jersey number 26 this year. Boggs played in Boston for ten years but departed in 1993 for the  Yankees in New York before finally being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 with 91.9% of the vote on the first ballot. There’s no question as to whether Dwight EvansBoggs’ number should be retired, but it will only be the ninth number ever retired by the Red Sox (excluding Jackie Robinson’s number 42, whose number was universally retired across Major League Baseball in 1997). When you look at the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have retired twelve numbers, and the New York Yankees have retired eighteen, it makes you wonder if the Red Sox are being too conservative in choosing whose numbers to retire, especially Dwight Evans’ number 24.

The Boston Red Sox have three requirements for a player’s number to be retired: be in the Hall of Fame, have played at least ten years in Boston, and finish their career with the Red Sox (though that rule has been relaxed in recent years). Only five of the current players whose numbers are retired meet these requirements; Johnny Pesky isn’t in the Hall of Fame, while Pedro Martinez didn’t play a full ten years in Boston and, along with Carlton Fisk, finished his career elsewhere. These exceptions should pave the way for Dwight Evans.

Dwight Evans By the Numbers

Let’s take a look at his numbers. While Dwight Evans isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, his numbers reflect a career worthy of induction. He was a three-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner, led the league at least once in on-base percentage, runs, total bases, home runs, and walks. He ranks in the top 50 all time in games played (2,606), home runs (385), and walks (1,391). Evans also hit four home runs on opening days in his career, including one on the very first pitch of the season. What Evans might best be remembered for is the unbelievable catch he made in right field during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Evans robbed the Reds’ Joe Morgan of a possible home run, leading the stunned Cincinnati Reds’ manager Sparky Anderson to say, “It was an outstanding catch. The best catch I’ve ever seen.” Given his offensive numbers, his exceptional defensive skills, and his overall dependability, Evans’ number 24 should be retired alongside Boggs’.

The Red Sox should take a closer look at what numbers they are overlooking for retirement, starting with Dwight Evans. He played his heart out every day he wore a Red Sox uniform and the man deserves no less.

Which Numbers Should the Red Sox Retire?

When the Red Sox gave number 24 to David Price, a pang of sadness engulfed me. I came of age as baseball fan in the mid-2000s, and Manny Ramirez was my hero. Though often obscured by flowing dreadlocks, he wore 24, and it therefore held special significance to me, just as it did to older fans who idolized Dwight Evans. Together, those two gave twenty-seven years of excellent service wearing that number, and I yearned to one day see it rightfully removed from circulation.

However, the Red Sox are notoriously careful about whose number they retire. Red Sox retireManagement has a strong preference for Hall of Fame players who spend at least a decade in Boston and also end their career in the city. Accordingly, only eight Red Socks, plus Jackie Robinson, have had their number retired: Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Pedro Martinez.

In May, Wade Boggs will join that elite group at long last, perhaps ushering in a new era for number retirement at Fenway Park. Previously, the Red Sox shied away from honoring Boggs, who infamously enjoyed success with the rival Yankees, but with Gordon Edes hired as a new team historian, perhaps The Olde Towne Team will finally relax its criteria for enshrinement.

Though many will hate the concept, there is now big money to be made from retirement ceremonies, with memorabilia sales and attendance soaring around such events. The Yankees have demonstrated that repeatedly in recent years, and Red Sox ownership may look on enviously and seek to boost their brand by honoring former heroes.

So, who deserves consideration, should the Sox expand their stable of retired numbers? Well, the 24 of Evans and Ramirez would be a terrific place to start. They combined to play 3,588 games, launch 653 home runs and collect 3,605 hits for the Red Sox, in addition to representing the team at 11 All-Star Games. Both were beloved by the fanbase, and both deserve fair recognition for tremendous careers. Just as the Yankees retired number 8 in honor of Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, the Red Sox should hang the 24 of Dewey and Manny, thus giving two generations a chance to say thanks.

Similarly, David Ortiz should definitely have his number 34 retired. Aside from a plethora of accolades, awards and accomplishments, Papi was just a huge part, physically and spiritually, of bringing three World Series championships to a city that could barely dream of just one. Ortiz is the most important Red Sox player since Ted Williams, and he should be honored as part of his final season.

Spreading the net wider, Roger Clemens has a fairly good case for enshrinement, albeit one buried beneath steroid allegations and Yankee defection; Luis Tiant thrilled the masses and pitched remarkably well in Boston; and Fred Lynn is consistently overlooked when discussing the great players in Red Sox history. All three should be seriously considered.

Then, of course, we have those sweetheart players who charmed Beantown and captured the zeitgeist of Red Sox Nation at various times. Tony Conigliaro was a hometown kid done good; Nomar Garciaparra was deified in the late-90s as one of the game’s defining superstars; while Tim Wakefield was the living embodiment of the hope and perseverance that defines Boston baseball. Again, you could make a good argument for each of those guys.

Finally, I would like to propose a few names that may surprise people, and which may test the Red Sox’ rigorous criteria too much to ever gain serious acceptance. However, the 2004 World Series title may not have been secured without the leadership of Terry Francona, the intricate preparedness of Jason Varitek, or the warrior instinct of Curt Schilling. Those three made bold and courageous contributions to Red Sox history, which simply wouldn’t be the same without them. Therefore, they should at least be in the conversation.

Ultimately, the Red Sox may not honor any of the people mentioned above. But the retiring of a number should delve beyond simple longevity and skill, and instead focus on those select few legends who altered the course of team history and changed the texture of team success. If we play by those rules, more people will receive their long overdue moment of acknowledgement, which is what this should really be about.

Mike Napoli Awakes From His Slumber While Hanley Naps

When Hanley Ramirez went on his April tear, Red Sox Nation optimists everywhere thought the next five months would be just like the 10HR, 22RBI performance he debuted with. Little did anyone expect that as we near the end of May, we’d still be waiting for his first home run of the month, and it took 20 games for him to collect his first RBI.

Fortunately for the sub-.500 Red Sox, Mike Napoli has warmed up from his April Mike Napolihibernation and is having a month of May close to what Ramirez did in April. So far, the $16,000,000-a-year first baseman has hit 7HR and 17RBI, after hitting just 1HR and driving in 4RBI in May. He has seen his batting average climb from an anemic .162 in April to .257 this month.

Although Napoli is still halting a paltry .211, he is pacing to hit 24 home runs, which would be his most since donning a Red Sox uniform in 2013. Ramirez, meanwhile, batted .293 in April, but has cooled off to .230 this month (which is a world away from his National League leading .342 of six years ago in Miami.)

The Red Sox need Napoli to stay hot. We haven’t even addressed David Ortiz and his woes yet. Big Papi is off to his worst start in six years. He has 6HR so far, and isn’t even hitting his weight, batting .221. Maybe if Napoli cools off in June, Big Papi will cowboy up and put the team on his back for a month.

Finally, the right field position is clearly the Red Sox Achilles Heel. The position as a whole is only hitting .199. Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig are hitting .255 and .159 and .135 respectively. So far, it doesn’t appear Rusney Castillo will be confused with Dwight Evans. The team needs more than 2HR and 12 RBI from that position.

I guess the point of all this is means that we can’t blame the pitching, at least not for all of the teams woes.