Boston's finest: Best Sox debut seasons

February 1st, 2021

Playing for the Red Sox comes with scrutiny that is unrivaled by probably any team but the Yankees. It can be an adjustment to play in Boston, for sure. That makes it all the more exceptional when someone comes in and has instant success, be it a rookie, or trade or free-agent acquisition.

Here is a ranking of the best debut seasons in Red Sox history.

1. , 1939

There was no easing into the Major Leagues for this all-time legend. Williams arrived in Boston for the 1939 season and became a superstar as a rookie. He had a slash line of .327/.436/.609 with 44 doubles, 11 triples and 31 homers while leading the league in RBIs (145) and total bases (344). The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter finished fourth in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting that season.

The Red Sox went a respectable 89-62 that year, but finished 17 games behind a powerhouse Yankees team in the AL. The 6.8 bWAR Williams posted in 1939 is the most ever by a Red Sox position player in his first year as a Major Leaguer. Just two years later, he hit .406. In a career that ended in '60, Williams never stopped hitting. In fact, he hit a home run in his final at-bat in the Majors.

2. , 1975

Though technically not a debut season because Lynn had a 15-game cup of coffee at the end of the 1974 season, this was his rookie season. And Lynn made it one to remember, winning both the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards while sparking one of the most entertaining Red Sox pennant-winning teams of all time.

Lynn was a presence in all facets, leading the league in runs (103), doubles (47), slugging percentage (.566) and OPS (.967). He added seven triples, 21 homers and 105 RBIs. He was also a Gold Glove Award winner that season for his excellence in center field.

Quite frankly, the Red Sox lacked buzz entering the 1997 season. They had just lost Roger Clemens to free agency and had made only one playoff appearance in the previous six seasons. Garciaparra created instant electricity with his extensive highlight reels at the plate and in the field. Teammate Mo Vaughn dubbed him Spider-Man for his acrobatic plays at shortstop.

But it was with the bat that Garciaparra really stood out. Serving as the leadoff hitter for manager Jimy Williams, he led the AL with 209 hits and 11 triples. He slashed .306/.342/.534 with 30 homers and 98 RBIs. He also added 22 stolen bases and easily won the AL Rookie of the Year Award. At the time, Garciaparra was part of the holy trinity of young stud shortstops, along with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He would continue to perform at an elite level from ’98-2000, but injuries started to derail his greatness after that.

4. , 2004

Though Schilling was drafted by the Red Sox in 1986, he was traded to the Orioles along with Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker in ’88 and didn’t debut for his original club until 2004. It wound up being worth the wait. Schilling was acquired from the D-backs over the Thanksgiving holiday and boldly stated in a commercial that he was coming to Boston to break an 86-year curse.

Thanks in large part to Schilling’s excellence (21-6 record, 3.26 ERA, 203 K’s, 1.063 WHIP, 5.8 K/BB), the Red Sox were able to do just that. Schilling took it to another level in October, making two starts after he had torn the tendon sheath in his right ankle. Pitching with that bloody sock, Schilling shut down the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2004 AL Championship Series and the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series.

5. , 2018

Remember the negotiations that dragged on all winter and into Spring Training? Well, the Red Sox finally got their man, signing Martinez to a five-year deal on Feb. 26, 2018. After being unable to properly replace the retired David Ortiz at the designated hitter spot in ’17, the Red Sox got it right a year later with Martinez.

In fact, Martinez proved to be a Manny Ramirez-type in his first year with the Sox, hitting the ball all over the field with authority. Though Mookie Betts was the AL MVP in 2018, Martinez was arguably every bit as valuable to that eventual World Series title team. He changed the culture around the club, constantly working with the other hitters to make them better. And when Martinez stepped into the box, he raked, slashing .330/.402/.629 while adding 43 homers, 130 RBIs and 358 total bases.

Honorable mentions

Manny Ramirez raked the entire time he was with Boston. After signing an eight-year, $160 million contract, the slugger slashed .306/.405/.609 with 41 homers and 125 RBIs for the 2001 Red Sox … Though Pedro Martinez’s 1998 season was middle of the pack when compared to his lofty standards, it was still excellent (19-7 record, 2.89 ERA, 251 K’s) … For one-and-done stints with the Red Sox, Adrián Beltré in 2010 probably had the most successful one, bashing 49 doubles to go with 28 homers, 102 RBIs and a .919 OPS. And as usual, his defense at third base was stellar … Nick Esasky also fell into the one-and-done category, smashing 30 homers to go with 108 RBIs in 1989 -- his only season in Boston … Eventual Hall of Famer Jim Rice was the other half of the Gold Dust Twins along with Lynn in ’75, and he hit .309 with 22 homers and 102 RBIs … Jimmie Foxx was already a legend when he arrived in Boston in 1936, and he added to it with 41 homers and 143 RBIs in his first season with the club.