The 20 most important Red Sox . . .

. . . well, sort of.

Here’s the deal. Peter Abraham, my friend (all right, my Facebook friend — does that count?) who covers the Yankees for the Journal News in New York, wrote a blog post this morning listing, in order, the 20 most important members of the Yankees’ organization as of today.

It was a fun read, entirely subjective, and thought-provoking. And since I remain in a turkey-induced haze today and completely whiffed on coming up with original ideas, I figured it might be cool to apply the same concept to the Red Sox. So here you go.

I’ll follow Peter’s simple rule: The person must be a member of the Red Sox organization right now. (Sorry, Captain Tek, a.k.a. The Currently Unemployed Omnipotent Gritty Gutty Game-Calling Savant.) Players, scouts, executives, and even Wally the Green Monster are eligible for our list. You can even include inanimate objects (Don Orsillo) if you so desire. But no gastropods. (Sorry, Dale.)

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Again . . . this is subjective, and purposefully vague on guidelines. Feel free to tell me, in your usual gentle way, who I missed or who should be higher or lower. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind. Let’s go . . .

1. John Henry: Because in these economic times, the dude who signs the checks gets top billing, that’s why.

2. Theo Epstein: This is his show, and it’s a runaway hit. His youthful vision of turning the Red Sox into a “$100 million player development machine” has become a delightful reality (though the $100 million part turned out to be something of a conservative estimate). It is ironic that the lifelong Red Sox fan is the franchise’s first GM that we’re aware of who doesn’t allow his judgment to be clouded by sentiment.

3. Dustin Pedroia: Remember when Nomar Garciaparra was young, before the wrist injury and the bitterness? Remember when he played with such intense, absolute passion and seemed to scorch a line drive every time he came to the plate? Remember when he was the face of the franchise and every ball-playing kid in New England had his mannerisms down pat? That’s Pedroia right now. And man, what a joy it is to behold again.

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4. Jon Lester: There’s been a lot of talk this offseason regarding possible contract extensions for Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jonathan Papelbon. Lester, an amalgam of Andy Pettitte, Bruce Hurst, and Chuck Finley, should also be getting such consideration after putting his name on the short list of baseball’s best lefthanders last season.

5. Terry Francona: The ideal manager for this team, in this town, at this time — and in my opinion, the best in the game, even if his loyalty to the Timlins of the universe is sometimes maddening. The Red Sox are fortunate to have him, and the miserable among us who take delight in bashing him will miss him when someone else is occupying the hot seat.

6. Josh Beckett: You tell me if he’s spent more time this offseason working out like a maniac or crushing Bud cans on Mike Timlin’s forehead in a hunting blind somewhere, and I’ll tell you whether he’s more likely to duplicate 2007 (21 wins) or 2008 (12 wins, a string of nagging injuries). My hunch is that he’s coming back with a vengeance.

7. David Ortiz: Papi’s five most similar players through age 32: 1) Jason Giambi. 2) Carlos Delgado. 3) Mo Vaughn. 4) Lance Berkman. 5) Fred McGriff. Honestly, I’m not really sure how to interpret that in terms of how it bodes for his future, so do with it what you will.

8. Daisuke Matsuzaka: Sure, those five-inning, 115-pitch starts can be exhausting to watch, but more often than not he makes it work for him. Two years into that famous $52 million deal, he’s been a bargain on the field (33 wins), and you can’t put a price on the cachet he’s given the Red Sox in Japan.

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9. Kevin Youkilis: Youuuuukkkk made himself into an offensive force through hard work and sheer determination, and his ability to play both first and third is invaluable — I can’t imagine even Billy Beane thought he’d become this good. But I do wonder if he’s as untouchable as some might think. He’ll be 30 by Opening Day, and his value has never been higher. (NOTE TO SI.COM AND ROUGHLY 300 OTHER SEMI-LITERATE NITWITS: I AM NOT SAYING THE RED SOX WILL TRADE KEVIN YOUKILIS!!!! NOR AM I SUGGESTING THEY SHOULD!!! I’M SIMPLY CONSIDERING ALL LOGICAL OPTIONS, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT’S WHAT THEO DOES!!! WHAT’S THAT??? WHY AM I WRITING IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF PUNCTUATION?!?! BECAUSE I AM TRYING TO SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE IN THE HOPES THAT YOU WILL GET THE POINT THIS TIME!!!!!! THAT’S WHY!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! . . . ahem).

10. Jonathan Papelbon: He became such a vital and identifiable member of the ball club so quickly that you almost think of him as a member of the ’04 champions, forgetting that he was Single A then. He owns a career 1.84 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and a natural gift for interpretive dance.


11. Larry Lucchino: Polished, brilliant, articulate, versatile, and I suspect, a very willing and effective Bad Cop behind the scenes. Something tells me he didn’t take George Steinbrenner’s “he’s a chameleon” comment a few years ago entirely as an insult.
12. Tom Werner: You’d think the former producer of “The Cosby Show” and “Rosanne” would make sure NESN had better programming than “Sox Appeal” and “The Ken Macha Comatose Comedy Hour.” Let’s get the Eck a talk show, for starters. And a Butch Hobson “RedSoxography” would definitely be a ratings winner.
13. Jason Bay: He didn’t necessarily make us forget Manny, but he was an extremely productive hitter while also being a swell guy and a conscientious and dependable teammate. The Red Sox couldn’t have asked for more. Now he needs to do it again.
14. Justin Masterson: His versatility gives the Sox tremendous flexibility with their pitching staff, and given that he was touching 96 mph in the postseason, I’m beginning to think he’s actually undersold by the “next Derek Lowe” label.
15. Jacoby Ellsbury: Coco’s a Royal. The job’s yours, kid. Time to justify the faith.
16. Janet Marie Smith: In the final seasons of the Harrington regime, Fenway Park was increasingly dirty and dilapidated, and the sentimentalists among us who resisted the idea of a new ballpark were beginning to realize it was inevitable, perhaps even a necessity. Now here we are, not even a decade later, and thanks in large part to Smith, a miracle has happened: Fenway is getting better with age.
17. Bill James: Though the Big Daddy of Sabermetrics’ contributions to the Red Sox are somewhat clandestine, anyone who is familiar with his work has no doubt his insights are both unique and immensely valuable. Should he ever leave the Sox, he’d damn well better write a book about the experience.
18. Craig Shipley: The former utility infielder is the point man on the Red Sox’ increasingly aggressive — and thus far remarkably successful — forays into Japan.
19. Mike Dee: He gets respect. Your cash and your jewelry is what he expects.
20. Clay Buchholz: Feels like more than a year ago that we thought of him as an ace of the near future, but even after his brutal ’08 season, he remains a tantalizing talent who, at the least, should bring something of considerable value in a trade.
(Edit: Whoops, just realized I overlooked John Farrell, the Sox’ very capable pitching coach. I’m keeping my Beastie Boys joke, so let’s put him at 16 and bump everyone below that number down a spot. Back to the Sea Dogs for you, Clay.)

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