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Who should be first?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 5, 2011 11:22 AM

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When that question is applied to the American League East standings, I'm pretty sure I know your voting tendencies. But let's admit it, barring catastrophe, they're both playoff-bound. This series might provide some foreshadowing, but the real plot won't be revealed until October. I'd rather react to what happens this weekend than try to predict it.

So leading off this lovely Friday, I'm instead going to take a couple of late swings at something I pulled together the other day in the always-popular gallery form: a ranking of the Red Sox roster from the 25th most important player to No. 1.

Now, obviously, this 25-to-1 thing is an entirely subjective exercise, one I've been doing for a couple of years now, with periodic in-season revisions. The ground rules are admittedly a bit vague. The general point is to rank the Red Sox in order of relative importance to the team's success from this point of publication forward. The underlying point is . . . well, to generate juicy page views. For me, however, it is to generate fun conversation and debate with you guys about what is a remarkably deep roster.

Which is why I bring this up here: Never have I had a harder time pulling this thing together than I did this time around. The way I saw it, five players have a legitimate claim to the No. 1 spot: Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, as well as three of the major leagues' top six leaders in offensive fWAR -- Dustin Pedroia (2d), Jacoby Ellsbury (3d), and Adrian Gonzalez (6th).

There were several other players who were difficult to rate, many of whom could be classified in other categories: The unsung heroes (Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves), the mysteries (Josh Reddick, Erik Bedard), the aggravations (John Lackey, Carl Crawford), the waiting room regulars (J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie), and the last cuts (neither Franklin Morales nor Mike Aviles made the cut to 25, though today I'd drop the exasperating Andrew Miller for either/or.) And then there's Clay Buchholz, who has to be ranked somewhere simply based on what he could do even though it seems probably that he's thrown his final pitch of the season.

The whole thing is ridiculously fluid. When I finished pecking it out Wednesday, Jon Lester was No. 1 on my list, and he has a chance to justify that ranking tonight in the opener against the Yankees. But I'll conclude here with a confession: Had I waited later Wednesday night to finish it, walk-off-hero-squared Ellsbury probably would have taken the top spot. I suspect he might get the majority of your votes too, but with all of this still rattling around in my head, I'm curious for your take. Bring me your knowledge in the comments.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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