The Monday Baseball Column: Ranking the best Red Sox interviewees in the past 15 years

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So, if there wasn't this pandemic going on a typical day at the ballpark would start at 3 p.m., when the clubhouse usually opened to the media. That lasts for about one hour, with players and media milling about before the access ended, sending reporters up to get de-briefed by the manager.

The second wave of opportunity for the media when it came to accessing the players is on the field, just before or just after batting practice. And finally, there is after the game, although that availability and willingness to converse can get a bit dicey considering how just transpired on the diamond or how much of a pull there is from the players' families to get home.

All of that seems like a distant memory, a feeling that could very well stay that way for a while even after we return to baseball. For three days in spring training before everything got shut down the media's access to players was limited to requesting individuals instead of approaching each on their own in the clubhouse setting. The human-to-human, on-and-off-the-record conversations were and will be, dramatically limited.

It's all understood. Changes need to be made. This will simply be our new lot in life.

So with the old way of doing things in the rearview mirror for some time, it seems like a good time to reflect on the 20-best interviewees (with some honorable mentions) I came across in the Red Sox clubhouse over the last 15 years:

2. David Ortiz: There is no one more genuine than Ortiz. He was going to say what was on his mind and how he felt, which sometimes got him in trouble. You knew you were usually going to get strong opinions and often times some colorful explanations. There wasn't much of a filter, and that is always a good thing for us.

3. Jonny Gomes: The outfielder knew the importance of giving a good quote. After a question was asked he would often pause, seemingly gathering up momentum for what was never just a mail-in response. He had a flair for the dramatic in his words, even involving the most mundane of topics.

4. Curt Schilling: Schilling would make you work for it. Whether it was saying he had to get treatment, or I remember having to drive two hours down the Mass Pike to a charity event for an interview we could have done over the phone in five minutes. But when you got him there as virtually nobody better. His insight was truly incredible, with the pitcher never shying away from extolling on a topic.

5. Chris Sale: Even when healthy, he isn't available a bunch. Sale has the art of darting to his locker just long enough not to be pinned by a media member down to a science. But whether it is in a postgame scrum or when there is that opportunity for a one-on-one, there are no run-of-the-mill answers. He is honest, elaborative and passionate about almost every topic asked.

6. Rick Porcello: One of the most intelligent players I have covered, few contemplate all things baseball like Porcello. Like Sale, he is a throwback to when players weren't quite so worried about brands or social media positioning. He loves talking about baseball, which almost always translated into good stories and quotes.

7. Jason Bay: He wasn't in Boston for long but for that 2009 season he was a go-to guy, dropping such nuggets as "He's an (expletive) when he needs to be," when talking about Josh Beckett. Or texting "Car ran good," when asked about his Silver Slugger. He would always make time and that time was almost always a worthwhile allocation.

8. Dustin Pedroia: He could be nightmarishly generic 75 percent of the time. During a season I might interview him less than a handful of times, with his availability changing dramatically over the latter part of his career. But when you get Pedroia going there is nobody more entertaining. You can be cruising through a mundane interview and then out of nowhere he will drop one emotional/pointed sentence that the entire interview is changed.

9. Alex Cora: Cora was obviously one the better managers when it came to dealing with the media, but before that he was a go-to guy as a player. While so many other players might be hiding, Cora was always at his locker ready to address whatever topic was needed. Like Lowell, he also had an ability to know what the reporter needed in terms of quotes when it came to each story.

10. Josh Beckett: I know he would be last on a lot of reporters' lists, but I can only speak for myself. Beckett didn't like giving canned quotes and spoke with an honesty that sometimes did nothing for his public perception. But there were a ton of times the pitcher was the biggest story of the day, and when asked to comment during those times he rarely disappointed.

11. Jonathan Papelbon: The closer would give some of the craziest quotes you would ever find, both in Boston and also when he went to Philadelphia. He was gold in this respect. What also shouldn't be lost was his availability after tough games, particularly following the last loss of the 2011 collapse when he stood in the middle of the Camden Yards visitors clubhouse for an hour until every last question was asked.

12. David Ross: Having insightful quotes from catchers is always key because oftentimes you don't know what you are going to get from that day's pitchers. There were few players more available than Ross, whose genuine friendly demeanor translated to good interviews.

13. Daniel Bard: Right up there with Porcello as one of the most intelligent players in that clubhouse. He was good when he was really, really good, and when things started going south in 2012 that introspective nature didn't change.

14. Joe Kelly: Why have I done so many interviews with Kelly? Because he is entertaining in a new world that simply isn't as entertaining anymore. His willingness to tell stories on the record -- such as the combo 21st birthday/draft part story ("I want to the headline to read, 'Blame it on the Jaegermeister' he said") -- is unmatched. Some don't get his dry sense of humor, but from my perspective, we need more personalities in this game and Kelly is certainly a personality.

15. Jon Lester: He told me while visiting with the Cubs that he figured out in his final few years in Boston to not be so measured and guarded. Honest and open was the path he recommended. And that showed throughout those final seasons with the Red Sox. I would compare him a lot to Sale in the sense that when he talks you never get the feeling there isn't honest emotion behind the words.

16. Clay Buchholz: You could ask Buchholz anything on any topic and you were going get the same honesty that came with breaking down a glove-side slider. Injuries. Bullfrog suntan lotion. How somebody in the Netherlands hacked his phone. I don't think I ever saw Buchholz not answer a question or lose his composure when doing so.

17. J.D. Drew: There would be a lot of generic quotes, but when you got Drew going on something he cared about you better have some time on your hands. The first interview I ever did with J.D. was for one of my favorite stories of all time, talking about his hyperbaric chamber and other such outside-the-box health-related approaches he took. He is a really good guy who had a unique approach to a lot of things.

18. Xander Bogaerts: He has become the voice of this team. Honesty, accountability, and availability. This is Bogaerts.

19. Billy Wagner: He was barely in Boston but I will always remember Wagner being the best quotes you could find in baseball. A lot of that probably stemmed from where he was at in his career at the time, but also just because of anything but run-of-the-mill personality.

20. Manny Ramirez: For about six months, starting out in Arizona in January 2008, Manny was a quote machine after not talking to the media for years. (Remember the whole "I want to play as long as Julio Franco" thing?) Every day until things really went the wrong way in June he carried the entertainment element of that clubhouse.

HONORABLE MENTION

Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Mark Loretta, Tim Wakefield, Nick Punto, Justin Masterson, Nick Green, Rocco Baldelli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rich Hill, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Barnes, Cody Ross, Jake Peavy, Steven Wright, Ryan Dempster, Hanley Ramirez, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brian Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts.