Welcome to Volume 2, Edition 6 of Red Sox power rankings, a wide-ranging excuse to write about the best and worst performers of the previous month as a new one begins. The only rule of the power rankings is that there are no rules to the power rankings. Prospects, fill-in NESN analysts, Garry Hancock, beer-punting outfielders, Luis Aparicio, front-office personnel — anyone is fair game. It’s a measure of the exceptional and the unacceptable, with the middle ground unacknowledged. The top five are ranked; the bottom five are not since our pool of candidates is innumerable. Enough ballpark chatter. Let’s get to it …
1. Jon Lester
An ace after all
As the Red Sox built their head of steam toward the postseason, one recurring concern — man, how I’ve grown to hate that word in the context of sports — was how they might fare if they had to play a one-game playoff against a team with a true ace such as Yu Darvish or David Price. The implication was that the Sox didn’t have someone capable of matching up in a winner-take-all scenario. Maybe it was true at the time, though ultimately it didn’t matter since they ended up winning their division going away. Besides, the no-true-ace thing may not be true at all anymore. Since the All-Star break, Lester is 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA. In September, he was 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA, and his first two wins of the month were masterful, meaningful performances against the Tigers and Yankees.
2. Clay Buchholz
All that yowling about his toughness and willingness (or unwillingness) to pitch through pain, all of the weak jokes (guilty as charged) about getting injured holding a toddler, all of the concern and consternation … well, it was for absolutely nothing, wasn’t it? The Red Sox didn’t just survive during the three months Buchholz was on the shelf, they thrived. And when he did come back, he was as good as he was before, which I believe is technically categorized as Pretty Damned Excellent. Buchholz went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA through his first 12 starts, was lost from June 8 until his return September 10, then put up a 3-1 mark and a 1.88 ERA in his four September starts. Maybe a cynic would suggest his late success means he should have come back sooner. To me, it means they handled it just as they should have. It all worked out for the best.
3. David Ortiz
His time of year
Actually, every month this season was pretty much Papi’s time of the year this particular year. He had four months with an OPS of .974 or higher, including September (6 homers, .992 OPS), and his worst month, August, was still respectable, with a .782 OPS, four homers and 14 RBIs. But that season-long consistency and that strong September suggest a hopeful harbinger — that his bat will create more lasting memories for Red Sox fans in October.
4. Pedro Martinez
Back in the spotlight
OK, this is more of an October thing than a September acknowledgment, but I’m going with the changeup anyway because, you know, it’s Pedro. He is a promising work-in-progress on TBS’s baseball studio programming — he cedes too much camera time to the likes of Dirk Hayhurst and Mark DeRosa. But he did have the line of the night Tuesday when asked who he was picking in the Rays-Indians playoff: “I’m picking Cleveland because I feel bad for what I did to them in 1999.” He may not be spot-on with his prognostications, but I don’t think anyone around here who remembers his six no-hit innings of relief in Game 5 of the ’99 ALDS is going to argue with his reasoning. It’s good to have him back in the spotlight. Especially at this time of year.
5. John Farrell and Ben Cherington
That’s how you run the show
Cherington did A-plus work by any standard in reconstructing the foundation of this roster in one offseason. Because of all of the wise player personnel moves, it almost goes under-reported that Farrell was the person he coveted to manage this team long before he got to hire him. It’s a partnership based in a long-term friendship and copacetic philosophies on how to run a team and an organization, and it’s working brilliantly. If suffering a year of Bobby Valentine is the price necessary to end up with this particular management duo calling the shots, there’s no doubt it was worth it.
Actually, let’s explore this space to take quick inventory of the 2013 Red Sox.
They won 28 more games than they did a season ago.
They ran away with the AL East with 97 wins, their most since 2004, a season of some accomplishment.
They had the best record in the American League and tied for the best record in baseball.
They were as fun as they were successful, seemingly averaging two walk-off wins per homestand while giving the impression that they were the world’s most united, affable misfit biker gang.
That’s my way of saying that I have no grievances or gripes about this team. None. It’s been a hell of a memorable season already in so many good ways.
You want concerns and falling skies, you know where to find them. It ain’t here, not right now. If you can’t appreciate and enjoy this, you’re cursed with a special kind of bitter hopelessness.
PREVIOUS 2013 POWER RANKINGS
April: Buchholz, Entire Cast of Veteran Newcomers, Farrell, Nava, Ortiz.
May: Pedroia, Buchholz, Saltalamacchia, Breslow, Bogaerts.
June: Iglesias, Lackey, Ortiz, Uehara, De La Rosa
July: Cherington, Gomes/Napoli, Doubront, Uehara, Pedroia.