When I visited Fenway Park in 2016, I saw the Red Sox FINALLY had fixed some of the retired number injustices.
Johnny Pesky, the lone non Hall of Famer on the list had joined Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr and Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk. Jim Rice finally had his retired when he got into the Hall of Fame.
Pedro Martinez’s 45 went up there when he made the Hall. But Wade Boggs oddly was given the cold shoulder. Sure he went to the Yankees. But the Red Sox never offered him a contract when it ran out. What was he supposed to do?
Finally 26 got its rightful place among the others (Big Papi joined them later.)
The bitter irony of Jackie Robinson being up there is clear. The Red Sox could have signed him, but he wasn’t their kind of player. Gee, I wonder why.
A classic Boston picture with the Pru and Hancock looming in the background.
It feels strange to say this, but I did not appreciate Wade Boggs when he played for the Red Sox.
Oh, I rooted for Boggs. Oh I cheered for Boggs. But I didn’t realize what I had as a fan when he played for my team.
For that, I want to reach out and apologize to one of the great offensive players in my life time for belittling him for stupid reasons that made sense at the time.
Granted, the majority of Wade Boggs’ time with the Red Sox took place when I was in Middle School and High School, and we ALL do stupid stuff during those years.
But I also thought of myself as a sophisticated and educated baseball fan.
And I was a dunce.
Boggs grew up on a bunch of military bases before settling in Tampa with his family. He was a 7th round pick in 1976, one of the best 7th round picks in history. He was in the minors for 6 years, including 2 entire seasons at AAA Pawtucket, before he got called up the the big leagues
Butch Hobson, my first favorite player as a kid, blocked him in 1980. Carney Lansford, who won a batting title in 1981, blocked him in 1981.
But the 22 year old Boggs batted .306 in Pawtucket in 1980 and in 1981, raised his average to .335 and his OPS to .896. He was ready for the show those two years. Can you imagine what his final hit total would have been with 2 more big league seasons on his docket.
In 1982, he played first while Lansford anchored third. He batted .349 and would have won the batting title as a rookie if he had enough at bats. He also had an OPS of .847 despite only hitting 5 homers.
In 1983, with Lansford dealt off for Tony Armas, Boggs showed what he could do. He had the highest batting average, the only number anyone us looked at back then. He also led the legue in on base and his OPS was above .900 despite only 5 homers.
Boggs was one of the elite players in the game by his second year. Naturally he couldn’t crack the top 10 of the MVP vote. He rattled off 5 batting titles in 6 years. He had the highest on base percentage in 6 out of 7 years. He once led the league in OPS despite having just 5 homers in 1988.
Never did he crack the top 3 in the MVP vote.
And Boston fans never embraced him. Why doesn’t he hit more homers? Why doesn’t he drive in more runs? He is a selfish player! He only gets hits when the team is down!
I believed all that shit!
Boggs hit 24 homers out of the blue in 1987, and we all thought “Finally he will be a complete player.”
The next season he led the league in OPS with 5 homers and led the Red Sox to the Division Title. He finished 6th in the MVP vote.
The Sabermetric crowd would point out that he had the highest WAR in the AL that year, more than Canseco and his 40-40 season, more than Mike Greenwell who was the runner up in the MVP vote.
At the time I didn’t see it. I didn’t realize he was the best leadoff hitter NOT named Rickey Henderson in the game.
All he did was NOT make an out and score runs. And he was killed for it.
Sox fans got on him when the Margot Adams story broke and many, including me for a while, wanted him to be traded, possibly for another pitcher like Mark Langston or Frank Viola.
Even the Red Sox didn’t seem to appreciate him. He had one bad year in 1992 and the Red Sox decided to not bring him back.
Yes he went to the Yankees. But let me tell you one thing I was NOT a dunce about. I NEVER EVER EVER EVER insinuated that Boggs somehow betrayed the Red Sox.
The Sox didn’t sign him and the Yankees did. Was he supposed to be loyal to the employer who didn’t want him?
He found his stroke with the Yankees and won the World Series ring that he should have had in 1986. Even in his final year in Tampa Bay, the 41 year old batted .301.
The best offensive player of his generation? Perhaps. He belongs in the conversation. And he played for MY team.
And how did I react? Like a dumbell!
I fell into group think. I didn’t get what I had right in front of me. Hey Boggs didn’t make an out! Hey Boggs scored a run!
And I kept wanting him to be something he wasn’t.
I saw Eric Clapton in his prime and wondered why he didn’t play the saxophone.
When can I say? I was a dope.
And to top it all off, he made great appearances on Cheers, The Simpsons and It Is Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Great. An All Time Offensive star had great comic timing, played his prime on MY team during MY youth and I gave him crap.
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