Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 30: Wade Boggs

Years in Boston: 1982-1992 (.338/.428/.462, 85 home runs, 687 RBIs, 2,098 hits)
Best Year in Boston: 1987 (.363/.461/.588, 24 home runs, 89 RBIs, 200 hits)
And now we come to one of my all-time favorite players.  Boggs was my first favorite player when I started watching baseball in the early 1990's.  It helped that he was born in Omaha, Nebraska, though he actually grew up in Florida.  Boggs had a rough path to the Majors.  He was drafted in the seventh round and was never considered a top prospect, despite hitting at every stop in the minors.  It took several years before he made it to the big leagues because he was not a power hitter and he struggled defensively at third base.  Boston also had Carney Lansford at third basem, who won a batting title in 1981.

But Boggs made the Majors in 1982.  He rarely played early in the year, but when Lansford went down with an injury, Boggs took over at third and never looked back.  He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote with a very impressive .349/.406/.441 line.  His batting average and on-base percentage were both tops among AL rookies.  He would have won the batting title had he played in more games.  Willie Wilson won it with a .332 mark.

Boggs followed up his impressive rookie season with his first of five batting titles, his first of seven consecutive 200 hit seasons, and his first of six Silver Slugger Awards.  He also led the league in OBP for the first of six times.  He was not an All Star though oddly.  1984 saw him take a back seat to Don Mattingly, but he still had a terrific season.  1985 was the first of 12 consecutive All Star seasons and was one of the best seasons of his career.  He led the Majors in hits with 240, which was the 13th highest single-season hit total in history.  He finished fourth in the MVP vote, which was the highest finish of his career.  He won the batting title for the second time and the first of four consecutive times.

He appeared in the postseason for the first time in 1986 after helping to lead the team to the World Series against the Mets.  Boggs had a great season yet again, winning the batting title once more, and also led the league in OBP and walks.  He struggled in the ALCS, but hit .290 in the World Series.  1987 was the best season of his career.  He was often criticized for not hitting for enough power, but he hit 24 home runs, more than twice as many as his next highest number.  He led the league in average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+.  1988 was the last time that he won the batting title, but he had a career high 125 walks and 128 runs.  He hit a career high 51 doubles in 1989, but missed out on the batting title.

1990 was a tough season as he barely finished over .300 with a .302/.386/.418 line and also failed to get to 200 hits for the first time since his rookie season.  1991 was his last great season with the Red Sox as he hit .332/.421/.460 with eight home runs and 44 doubles.  He struggled greatly in 1992, hitting just .259/.353/.358.

For some reason the organization was never truly enamored of Boggs.  He was always quirky (he ate chicken before every meal), but some of his quirks were a little too strange.  He was viewed as a selfish player who was more concerned with his own stats than the team's.  He also had a number of off-field issues that were distracting to the team and was considered a below-average fielder, which was not true.  So when Boggs struggled in 1992, the team made no effort to bring him back and he went to the Yankees.  He had a few more decent seasons, won a World Series, and eventually got his 3,000th hit with the Devil Rays.

Boggs was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, his first year on the ballot and wears a Red Sox cap on his plaque.  He had all of his best seasons with the Red Sox.  Looking back at his career from a sabermetric stance reveals that Boggs was likely the best player in the league in the mid 1980's.  His number 26 was retired by the Red Sox in 2016.  

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