Thanks to Dave Studeman's excellent "Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week" column at The Hardball Times I remembered something interesting that popped into my head back when Rob Neyer released his "Big Book of Baseball Lineups". The Red Sox are stacked in left field, and are even more so with a few Manny Ramirez seasons under their belts. Back when that book was written by Neyer, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski were #1 and #2 in the Red Sox history for left fielders. Neyer did his book by position rather than simply using the three best outfielders, which caused Yaz to appear at DH, 1B and LF for the Red Sox on various teams in the Red Sox section. Now that Manny Ramirez is in his 5th season as the Red Sox leftfielder, and with a fabulous Indians career already well behind him, Yaz may eventually have to shift to #3 on the depth chart of excellence, especially with Manny staying in Boston til at least 2008 (with options for 2009 and 2010 that I am absolutely sure Boston will void and renegotiate if he is still a capable player by then). Let's take a look at where the three stand as of now, using some Davenport Translated Statistics. Time for JAWS, which has been on the shelf for a month or so here at BtB.
Ted Williams is far and away the best (but we already knew that, especially considering that his war years cost him the shot at better career numbers than Ruth) and Yaz remains in second for now. Ramirez is only 33 years old though, and if he averages 6.5 WARP3 per season for the next 7 years, he will pass Yaz in career value and JAWS, while remaining only 1.2 points of peak value behind. Manny would most likely be ahead of Yaz, if not for his fielding. Or lack of fielding. -29 Fielding Runs Above Average, and he has not even entered the decline phase of his career where he slows down (although watching Manny daily, I'm not sure if you can go slower...I hope the Red Sox don't trot a jar of molasses out to left field with cornrows someday). There is a very good chance Manny will pass Yaz in career value before he retires, and be the second greatest left fielder the Red Sox have in their history. An argument could be made that Ramirez did not spend his whole career with the Sox, but the argument could also be made that Yaz spent hundreds upon hundreds of games hitting as the DH and playing as the first basemen, so I'll just let both slide.
The real question in my mind, and the one presented in Dave Studeman's column, is if Yaz will end up as the greatest player who is only the third best at his position in history. I cannot answer that question with the resources available to me during a schoolday, but when I am at home with all of my spreadsheets (that I should definitely upload onto the school network now that I am thinking) I will be able to answer the question in about 10 minutes. Looks like a Saturday article to me.
One other thing I want to bring up. Where do B.J. Upton and Delmon Young get off starting trouble within their organization? I understand they are impatient and want to go to the majors and prove they can play now, but Upton still cannot play defense in any sort of tangible form, although his agent seems to think he deserves to be rewarded, and Delmon Young did not adjust to Triple-A that quickly at all, making me weary of an automatic promotion to the big league club. Upton is thinking about demanding a trade, which is laughable. Kind of like when Ryan Howard did the same exact thing without major league playing experience to back up his wants. Upton's responses are in regards to Chuck LaMar's view of Upton as a failed experiment at short who needs to learn how to play third base. I usually do not use errors to gauge defensive performance, but Upton has 153 errors in three professional seasons, with 53 this year at shortstop. It gets even harder to do as you move up as well. I do agree with Upton though that something has to be done to help him. If you want to move him, then do it. Stop wasting his time in the minors at a position you are not going to be able to keep him at. Note to LaMar: Baldelli = overrated, and Upton will be better than Gathright. Centerfield is calling his name. Do what the Yankees should have done with Jeter or Soriano, and plug a hole with an athletic player who could produce positively there.