The tradition-rich Red Sox have been defined by their many superstar players through the decades. Thirty-six of those players have received the ultimate recognition for their greatness with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Yet there are still some other former Boston greats who should be there and likely will be at some point. In that spirit, MLB.com has asked each beat reporter to rank the top five players from the team they cover who are not in the Hall of Fame.
A couple of rules: The player must be retired. And the player must have played a significant portion of his career with that team.
For example, Adrian Beltre won’t be in Boston’s top five, because he played just one season for the Red Sox.
Here is my ranking of the top five Red Sox players who aren't in the Hall of Fame.
1) David Ortiz, 1997-2016, spent final 14 seasons with the Red Sox
Big Papi is the rare player who ended his career with one of his finest seasons. In 2016, at the age of 40, Ortiz led the Majors in doubles (48), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021). Ortiz will be on the ballot for the first time next year.
Ortiz’s hitting numbers are obviously Cooperstown-worthy. In fact, as the Red Sox were pushing toward a World Series championship in 2013, teammates starting calling Ortiz “Cooperstown.” That ring in ’13 was the third Ortiz secured in his time with the Red Sox, and he hit .688 against the Cardinals in that Fall Classic.
After a modest start to his career with the Twins from 1997-2002, Ortiz turned into a superstar in Boston. In his career, he hammered 541 home runs and had a .931 OPS in 2,408 games. The only player with more homers in a Red Sox uniform than Ortiz? Ted Williams.
Making his Hall of Fame candidacy even stronger is his legendary reputation in October, which includes three walk-off hits in 2004 and also that game-tying grand slam against the Tigers, which entirely changed the momentum of the ’13 American League Championship Series.
One thing Ortiz has going against him is that he spent most of his career as a designated hitter. Edgar Martinez became the first primary DH to get into the Hall of Fame, and he wasn’t elected until his 10th and final year on the ballot. However, Ortiz’s power numbers will likely get him to Cooperstown much quicker than Martinez. It will also be interesting to see if Ortiz’s Hall of Fame pursuit is slowed at all by reports that he failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs during what was supposed to be anonymous survey testing in 2003.
2) Roger Clemens, 1984-2007, spent first 13 seasons with the Red Sox
Here is what we know. Clemens won a record-setting seven Cy Young Awards, the first three of which came when he was with the Red Sox. He also became the first pitcher in history to strike out 20 in a game and then he tied his own record 10 years later. The Rocket had 354 wins -- including 192 with the Red Sox, tying Cy Young for the club’s all-time record. Clemens led the Majors in ERA-plus eight times. His 4,672 strikeouts is third in history behind Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.
Here is what we don’t know. How much did performance-enhancing drugs help Clemens reach some of those gaudy numbers, particularly during the latter half of his career? Clemens never failed a PED test, but he was cited numerous times in the 2007 Mitchell Report.
Clemens, according to many who played with him, had a tireless work ethic. He also studied his craft like few others, even having a book on the strike zone for all the umpires. If you go by the statistics, Clemens is the best pitcher currently not in the Hall of Fame. The only pitchers in history with a better career WAR than the 138.7 for Clemens as calculated by Baseball-Reference? Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
3) Curt Schilling, 1988-2007, pitched his final four seasons with the Red Sox
In the last two years, Schilling received the most votes for any candidate who didn’t get elected into the Hall of Fame. In other words, this could be Schilling’s year. With no obvious new candidates on this year’s ballot, Schilling figures to get a long look from voters in what will be his ninth year of eligibility.
Perhaps the most clutch starting pitcher of his era, Schilling participated in the World Series four times for three franchises (Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox) and was on the winning side three times, twice with Boston.
While Schilling’s regular-season accomplishments were impressive enough (216-146, 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts), it was his utter brilliance in the postseason that truly sets him apart. In that ultra-pressurized environment of the playoffs, Schilling made 19 starts, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.
4) Dwight Evans, 1972-91, spent all but the last season of his career with the Red Sox
While it is often said that a player can’t get any better after he retires, Evans is unique in that his offensive strength (getting on base at a high volume) is something that is weighted far more in player evaluations today than when he had his short run on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot from 1997-99. The only player who walked more than Evans in the '80s? Rickey Henderson.
But Evans didn’t just walk. He also mashed. Evans led MLB with 605 extra-base hits in the 1980s. The only players with more homers in that decade than Evans? Mike Schmidt, Dale Murphy and Eddie Murray.
Oh, we haven’t talked about his defense yet. Evans won eight Gold Glove Awards for his excellence in the outfield. One year ago, Evans was one of 10 candidates on the Modern Era ballot and received votes from eight of the 16 members on the committee, leaving him four votes shy of election.
Evans played alongside Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley and Wade Boggs in his career and hoped to one day join them with a plaque of his own.
5) Manny Ramirez, 1993-2011, spent eight seasons with the Red Sox
If it was just about numbers, Ramirez would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His consistent excellence ranks him with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the best pure right-handed hitters of this generation. But there’s a problem. Ramirez wasn’t merely associated with performance-enhancing drugs, he was suspended twice for failing tests. That is something that can’t be said of Clemens, Barry Bonds and some others who haven’t been voted into the Hall of Fame due to their association with PEDs.
Ramirez was an entertaining, enigmatic hitting machine during his career. The outfielder with a sweet and fluid swing crushed the ball to all fields for many years for the Indians and Red Sox. He also stood out during his brief stint with the Dodgers. Ramirez had a career slash line of .312/.411/.585 while belting 555 homers to go with 1,831 RBIs. A big-game player, Ramirez played on two AL pennant-winners with the Indians and two World Series championship teams with the Red Sox.
The shame about Ramirez’s choice to use PEDs is that it overshadows his legendary work ethic and obsession with his craft. Ramirez would often get to the ballpark at 10 a.m. on the day of a night game to study video, take extra swings and lift weights.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.