Top 50 Sox Seasons #39: Jim Rice, 1978

.315/.370/.600, .970 OPS, 746 PA, 213 H, 58 BB, 46 HR, 139 RBI, 86 XBH, 406 TB, 157 OPS+
MVP, All-Star starter

Between Hank Aaron and the Steroid Era, only one player compiled more than 400 total bases in a season. It was Jim Rice in 1978. In the 60 years between Joe DiMaggio and Coors Field, Rice was the only player to do so while hitting at least 45 home runs. To cherry pick further, Rice was just the sixth player ever to collect 400 total bases, rap 200 hits and slam 45 home runs in a season (Larry Walker made it seven in 1997), and the first in 41 years. His 1978 season was that historic – an MVP masterpiece that is the beginning argument for those in favor of his Hall of Fame credentials.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox’ epic collapse of 1978 is equally (if not more) historic, and it’s difficult to discuss Rice’s season apart from the context of his club’s collapse. Not that Rice was responsible by any stretch. During Rice’s terrible slump in July, the Sox only lost two games off their division lead. In the 20-game stretch during which the Sox lost 8.5 games off their lead (culminating in the division-tying Boston Massacre), Rice’s OPS was over 1.000.

Key game: Sept. 11. With the Red Sox reeling after the Massacre, Rice carries the team to a 5-4 victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles by hitting two homers — including a game-winner in the eighth inning. According to news reports at the time, Rice just misses hitting four homers – instead flying out deep to right and singling off the Monster in his other two at-bats.

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