No. 52: Wade Boggs

I’m always amazed by people who can see beyond convention. Great comedians do this. They find ways to step out from the simple comforts of every day life and see something that should be obvious to everyone (and BECOMES obvious once they say it). There are obviously countless examples of this, but I always loved George Carlin’s small line about getting on a plane. It’s a tiny joke, somewhere around 10,000th on the list of his great thoughts, but it’s instructive.

Flight attendant tells me to get on the plane. I say, “Uh uh lady, I’m getting IN the plane.”

So obvious, right? But until I heard that joke, I never once thought about the absurdity of saying “get on a plane.” Why do we say “get on a plane?” We don’t get on a car or motorhome. We do get on a train or on a bus. We don’t get on a house or room. Getting in a truck and getting on a truck are two different things. It’s the smallest thing, but it make so little sense. And yet, we just keep going, saying it that way because it’s just so much easier to along than to question every little thing. Questioning gets exhausting.

More in our world, Bill James has spent a lifetime challenging convention. Bill is a good friend of mine, and he has given me a lot of insight into how he does this: He simply doesn’t believe almost anything at first blush. If I say to him something that I find obvious in sports, in music, in science, in life, there’s at least a 50-50 chance he will challenge the contention even if the point was something else entirely. He doesn’t do this to be difficult; it is simply how his mind works.

When other people just nodded at the cliche “pitching is 90 percent of baseball,” his mind simply blew up. His takedown of that absurdity is one of the most famous in baseball writing. But he’s like that ALL THE TIME. When people say these days, “every team wins 50 games and loses 50 games, so it’s the other 62 that make all the difference” his mind blows up again. He simply cannot stand lazy things. Wrong thinking — if it’s really thinking — is fine. Lazy thinking: No.

Another of Bill’s most famous takedowns was the Ryne Sandberg-Mark Grace indignation. At the time, Grace seemed every manager’s dream No. 2 hitter — he almost never struck out, he hit for high average, he handled the bat, he was a hit-and-run maestro, and he didn’t hit with a lot of power. This for many people around baseball is the definition of what you want in the No. 2 spot.

Sandberg, meanwhile, seemed every manager’s dream No. 3 hitter. He hit for decent average, hit with good of power, could drive in them runs.

And yet, at their peaks for the Cubs, Sandberg hit second and Grace hit third.

Why? Bill explained it simply: Sandberg was a second baseman. Grace was a first baseman. Second baseman are supposed to be No. 2 hitters. First baseman are supposed to be No. 3 hitters. That simple.

This is the blind circle we so often find ourselves in. It’s part of being human. The world is so complicated (forget the universe) that there are habits and traditions and codes that are easier to hold on to than change. In baseball, teams have long had a sense of what players at every position are supposed to do. This was more true 25 or 30 years ago, before everyone at every position started hitting, but it’s still somewhat true now:

First baseman: Power hitter, fielding optional.
Second baseman: Good fielder, hitting optional.
Shortstop: Good fielder, scrappy, leader, hitting optional.
Third baseman: Strong arm, quick reflexes, low average, moderate-to-good power.
Left fielder: Good hitter, offers great power or great speed, weak arm.
Center fielder: Often best player on team, sometimes good fielder and weak hitter.
Right fielder: Good hitter, great arm.
Catcher: Great arm, lots of leadership, an occasional home run.

Take a look at third baseman again. Think about those traits. When you see the perfect third baseman in your mind, who do you see? Schmidt with his compact swing, as perfect as a short right hook? Brett turning on a Goose Gossage fastball? Brooksie diving to his right and throwing off-balance? Mathews hitting another titanic home run?

And now ask: Where does Wade Boggs fit in that picture?

* * *

Wade Boggs was a singular baseball player. Because of this, almost nobody really got him. He couldn’t run. He had almost no home run power. He lacked the natural grace of a promising defender. From the start, he was destines to be … not so much overlooked as misunderstood. The Red Sox never quite got him. The fans never quite got him. In a way, people still don’t.

It began with being overlooked. Boggs expected to be a first round pick after he hit .455 at his Tampa high school. Instead, he was taken in the seventh round — the same round as Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith, neither who signed because they were taken so low. Boggs did sign for five grand, He had furious determination to prove all those scouts wrong.

His first full year, in Winston Salem, he was hitting around .330 when a Red Sox roving instructor told him: “You’ll never made it to Boston hitting like that.” He ended ht year hitting .332 with a .423 on-base percentage. He spent the next two years in Class AA doing more or less the same. He then spent two more years in Class AAA doing more or less the same thing. As he would say, he might have been the only player in the last 50 years or longer who battled for five consecutive minor league batting titles.

The Red Sox just couldn’t see the major leaguer in him. All he did was slice and chop and poke at the ball. He kept working for walks. If he had been a speedy second baseman like Rod Carew, maybe he would have made sense to somebody. If he had been an athletic outfielder like Tony Gwynn, maybe he would made made sense to somebody. Instead he was this awkward looking third baseman who refused to swing for fences. And it looked like he never would.

So Wade Boggs was left to smolder in the minors for five full seasons even while he posted .400 on-base percentages and developed his mastery of the strike zone.

When he was called up in 1982, he was a finished product. In part-time duty, he was hitting .380 in mid-September when a rough final two weeks dropped his final average to .349. Still, no first-year player in 50 years had hit .340 or better (in 300 or more plate appearances). The next year he had a remarkable season hitting .361/.444/.486 and was probably the second-best player in the American League behind MVP Cal Ripken.

Or, anyway, that’s the way we might look back on it. Was that how he was viewed at the time? No. The Boston Globe ran a story under the headline: “For All his Totals, Wade Boggs Has Yet To Prove Himself In the Clutch.”

Bob Ryan was pretty direct in his column.

“There is no evidence to suggest he is a man you want to send up there in the late innings with men in scoring position,” Ryan wrote. “In fact, some people are suggesting he is naught but a glorified Matty Alou. The immortal Matty was the greatest spacer-out of base hits of all time.”

Whether or not Bob was fair to Alou — who hit .333 from 1967 to 1969 when more or less NOBODY hit for average — he missed the hitting genius of Boggs, who unlike Alou, walked a ton and hit for extra base power even if he didn’t hit home runs. At the time, Boggs’ .444 on-base percentage was the highest ever for a second year player (Frank Thomas has since passed the mark). Boggs also hit .364 with runners in scoring position that year and .373 in high-leverage situations, so as John Updike once wrote of Ted Williams, Boggs was no slouch in the clutch. Such statistics were not easily accessible then so a story built around Boggs, a story he never quite shook, a story that suggested because he didn’t hit for power and didn’t have a lot of RBIs that he was not all that valuable.

Put it this way: Boggs never received a first-place MVP vote. Not one. We often talk about the best players who never won an MVP. Boggs probably has a lock on best player to never even receive one MVP first-place vote.

In 1985, he hit an astonishing .368/.450/.478. He didn’t get a first place vote. Don Mattingly won the MVP award though Boggs might have had a better year.

In 1986, he hit .357/.453/.486 for a pennant-winning Red Sox team … he didn’t get a first place vote. His teammate Jim Rice got FOUR first place votes that year though Boggs almost certainly had the better season.

In 1987, Boggs hit .363 with a .461 on-base percentage and that year, for fun, he added some power. He hit 24 homers and slugged .588. He led all every day players in WAR, though nobody knew that then. He finished ninth in the MVP voting. No first place vote.

In 1988, Boggs hit .366/.476/.490, led the league in doubles and runs and intentional walks, This time he led everyone — pitchers, hitters, everyone — in WAR in both leagues. Jose Canseco won the MVP award unanimously.

He was just a wildly unusual player whose skills often baffled all of us. Then again, Boggs was a baffling player on his own. He was the son of a marine, and discipline was his power. There was his great plate discipline, of course, But he carries his discipline to bizarre extremes. Before every game, he famously ate chicken. Jim Rice dubbed him “Chicken Man.”

He was militant about time. Boggs left home for the ballpark at precisely 3 p.m. He sat down at his locker at precisely 3:30. He walked into the dugout and sat down at precisely 4. He warmed up his arm at 4:10 and went to take 117 ground balls beginning sometime between 4:15 and 4:20 (the precision of the 117 ground balls seemed to mollify his need for an exact starting time).

He wanted to take batting practice at 5:17 p.m. when possible. He always went to run sprints at 7:17. This sprint-time was so well known that Bobby Cox, to mess with his mind, once had the scoreboard operator in Toronto make the clock jump from 7:16 to 7:18. Before every at bat, he would draw a Hebrew “Chai” — meaning life — in the batter’s box.

These kinds of maniacal superstitions made Boggs seem like a creature from outer space — as did the Margo Adams affair, which made a lot of news back in the late 1980s. The other great pure hitter of the time, Tony Gwynn, seemed so much more accessible. Gwynn didn’t get much more MVP love than Boggs, but he got a little more and people generally adored him.

Boggs, meanwhile, led the league in on-base percentage five years in a row, but said that wherever he went people asked him when he would hit more home runs. When he signed a big contract, it was wildly unpopular in many circles — why should a SINGLES hitter get paid that much? (Boggs hit 578 doubles in his career too, though that tended to get overlooked). In a baseball culture that tended to worship at the alter of batting average, Boggs’ high averages were somehow held against him … as if ALL he ever did was hit for average.

It is true that Boggs was, in many ways, a creature of Fenway Park. He never hid from that — rather, he embraced it. He knew Fenway better than anyone, understood its dimensions inch by inch, knew exactly how to hit a pop-fly off the monster and how hard he had to yank a pitch to get it over the short fence down the right field line. He played Fenway the way Clapton played guitar. In a career, he hit .369 at Fenway and slugged .527 there.

After he left Boston, he was older and not often the same great hitter (though he did hit .342/.433/.489 in 92 games for the Yankees in the strike shortened 1994 season). But he suddenly gained some of the respect that was denied him when he was perhaps the best player in the league. He gained some respect for his defense and won his first two Gold Gloves as a 36 and 37 year old. He also won his first and only World Series with the Yankees in 1996.

It’s not exactly right to say Boggs was underrated. He certainly did not lack for attention or fame or money or even respect. Heck, he was elected as the starting third baseman to 11 straight All-Star Games.

It was more like he never quite fit the eye. It took the Red Sox five years to call him up, I think, because they just couldn’t quite fit him into their conventional idea of what a third baseman was supposed to look like. And, in a way, I’m not sure that ever really changed. Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer — 3,000 hits will usually get you here — but I recall when he was elected hearing from a lot of people saying, “Well, he was a good player, but was Wade Boggs really a great player?”

Hell yes, he was a great player. He did perhaps the greatest thing a hitter can do for a team. He refused to make outs. He didn’t get on the plane. He got in the plane.

130 thoughts on “No. 52: Wade Boggs

  1. bl

    from someone who grew up in Boston, the fans loved Boggs. The media didn’t like him, Ryan and Shaughnessy lived to negative stories. Don’t judge the fans by the reporters.

    Reply
    1. Artie

      This.

      I’m the guy a few weeks back who marveled at Joe’s ability to see everyone at their best, to give others the benefit of the doubt. But I have a hard time imagining even Joe being able to say something nice about Dan Shaughnessy. Shank is the worst; on this there can be no debate.

      Reply
    2. Snappy Hooligan

      On the flip side, there was also a one-off story about the fan who charted the details of every Boggs at-bat, back before that information was a click away. The story made it out of Boston and across the country– whether it was a local article that got picked up or a wire service story, I don’t remember. In one of his peak seasons, Boggs never popped up to the infield, or did so once. For the year, he swung and missed at strike three just twice, or four times– it was data like that.

      Reply
      1. Snappy Hooligan

        Ah, I see just a few posts down that someone’s found a link to Jerome Holtzman citing the infield popup stat that came from the fan (though the fan goes unmentioned). The season was 1985. No popups to the infield, one popup caught by the 3B running up the left field line.

        Reply
  2. invitro

    Thanks for mentioning how criminally ignored Boggs was in MVP voting. From 1983 to 1989 he finished 2, 8, 2, 3, 2, 1, and 3 in AL WAR, and 12, none, 4, 7, 9, 6, and 21 in AL MVP voting. I am curious if any player has ever had such a gap between WAR and MVP.

    Although WAR did not exist then, there were plenty of people who recognized this disparity and wrote about it, including of course Bill James.

    Reply
  3. Matt Williams (@Matt1J)

    I’m always surprised when I hear Boggs didn’t get attention he deserved. I grew up a Yankees fan in late 80s. He always seemed mythical to me. I couldn’t believe it when he came to NY. He also has a very cool baseball name.

    Reply
  4. John Leavy

    Bill James’ reflexive contrarian streak makes him valuable sometimes, but just as often, it makes him a jerk.

    Perhaps the traits that lead him to question the conventional wisdom in baseball stats are
    precisely the traits that led him to insist against all evidence that John Dowd was a fraud and Pete Rose was innocent.

    Reply
    1. Not Jennifer Gibbs

      Did he ever say that Pete Rose was innocent? I always thought that he made clear that his point was not that he believed Rose’s denials but rather that he (James) simply did not know whether Rose bet on baseball because the evidence was not as convincing as some people made it out to be. I think that James usually conceded the possibility that Rose bet on baseball. As far as guilty or innocent goes, James readily acknowledged that Rose was guilty of tax evasion for failing to claim money paid in card shows and that Rose had “lost his moral compass.”

      “When people say these days, ‘every team wins 50 games and loses 50 games, so it’s the other 62 that make all the difference’ his mind blows up again.”

      I love reading Bill James’s work, but this seems like an odd thing for which to allow one’s mind to blow up. I know that it’s not literally true, but it seems like it’s true for substantially close enough to “every team” to use the saying to demonstrate whatever point a person is trying to make by using it. Not counting strike years, there’s only been four teams that failed to win at least 50 and lose at least 50 since the 162-game schedule went into effect, so it’s true over 99% of the time.

      Reply
      1. Stephen

        “Pete Rose is innocent unless there is proof that he is guilty. I’ve looked at the evidence as closely as I can. The closer you look, the less there is to see.”

        –The New Bill James Historical Abstract, p. 792.

        No, he doesn’t come out and say definitively that Rose didn’t bet on baseball. But the implication seems pretty clear to me.

        Reply
        1. DM

          I remember reading Bill James’ take on the whole Dowd/Rose topic, which he originally went into great detail on in one of his annual baseball books (I don’t think it was one of the Abstracts…..I think it was one of his later publications). My understanding is that James, in general, is very skeptical of taking things he is told at face value. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think saying that someone is innocent until proven guilty is simply that….it’s a fundamental principle. I’m sure his general point is, just because someone tells you that someone is guilty of something doesn’t mean we all have to immediately believe it. Don’t we often hear reports of something in the news where we all jump to conclusions, only to find out that, once other facts become known, that the conclusion often changes? He doesn’t need me to defend him, but I’m pretty sure that was James’ main point, was that we literally shouldn’t assume his guilt just because a special investigator (or whatever John Dowd’s title was) says so. The fact that, in this particular case, Rose turned out to be a big liar, isn’t really the point. The point is we should remain open-minded and not jump to conclusions just because an “expert” says so. In fact, I remember him saying clearly, that he didn’t know if Rose was innocent. I believe he said something to the effect that “I don’t know if Rose and innocent belong in the same sentence”…or something to that effect. But, rather, that he deserved to be treated as innocent until sufficient proof to the contrary.

          Reply
        2. Pat

          That was, if memory serves, published before a lot of evidence came out, including Rose’s admissions.

          I’d never heard of the Dick Allen hatchet job.

          Reply
          1. buddaley

            As I recall, James wrote of Allen that he was divisive in the clubhouse-a clubhouse lawyer I think he said or intimated-and so some of his on-field value was dissipated by the dissension he sowed.

            “Bill James once wrote that Dick Allen “did more to keep his teams from winning than anyone else who ever played major league baseball.”

            In his “New Baseball Abstract” (2001), he ranks Allen as the 15th greatest first baseman all-time and says this:

            “The second most controversial player in baseball history, behind Rogers Hornsby. Allen had baseball talent equal to that of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Joe DiMaggio, and did have three or four seasons when he was as good a player as anyone in baseball, but lost half of his career or more to immaturity and emotional instability.”

            I know he wrote a longer essay about Allen, but can’t find it.

            I have read many others who say James is dead wrong and has blinders on regarding Allen.

          2. DM

            Buddaley,

            I think the longer essay from Bill James on Dick Allen that you’re thinking about is the one he wrote in his book on the Hall of Fame, “Politics of Glory”. He reviewed the HOF cases of several players, including Allen, in one of the chapters.

            As I recall, he acknowledged that Allen was supremely talented, and that his stats hold up very well, especially in light of the fact that most of them were generated in the low-scoring ’60s and early ’70′s, and that his rookie year performance was likely one of the best ever. However, the bulk of the article stated the perspective that Allen was a very divisive individual, was very destructive to his teams and (I’m paraphrasing) that he did more to keep his teams from winning games than anyone in history (or something like that). He referenced the time that Allen basically “retired” in ’73 (a year after he was MVP), reportedly to force a trade, along with several other incidents (primarily with the Phillies) battling players, managers, and management, and that the constant battling translated into not having any real value as a ballplayer. As I recall, he ended with “if that’s a ballplayer, I’m a lug nut”…..or something like that.

            On stuff like this, I’m not quite sure what to believe. You certainly have people (like Chuck Tanner, among others) that totally support Allen and think James is totally off base. I suspect there’s truth on both sides. Growing up in that era (as the ’70s were when I really started paying attention to baseball), I have very strong memories of Allen as a very controversial player.

  5. buddaley

    Wasn’t there a season when Boggs did something extraordinary, something like never hitting a pop fly for an out?

    One remarkable fact about his career is that this slow-footed player had a BABIP between .340-.396 from 1982-1989. For his career it was .344.

    Reply
    1. Dave

      Yes…mid-80s, I think 1985, maybe 1986….Boggs never hit a pop fly out to the infield. There was a guy who kept amazingly detailed stats on the Sox back then, just an independent fan, I think his name was Chuck Waseleski, who may have been the first to make people aware of this. It got a lot of press.

      Boggs also, as I recall, had a 162- game stretch across the 1985-86 seasons where he hit over .400. This was also a big deal in the Boston papers at the time.

      Reply
      1. invitro

        First, no he didn’t, that’s quite impossible.

        I actually looked this up. This page gives what appears to be the original sources:
        http://legendsrevealed.com/sports/2013/03/22/did-wade-boggs-seriously-drink-over-50-cans-of-miller-light-on-a-cross-country-flight/

        The quotes:
        “Nelson: Oh, I’d say, on a typical road trip, east coast to west coast, say a road game to Seattle……Wade would drink anywhere between 50 and 60 beers.”
        ” Nelson: Yeah, alright Paul, I need you to answer one question for me, truthfully now….How many beers would Wade Boggs drink on an east coast to west coast road trip?
        Sorrento: Oh, jeez, (exhaling like a flat tire) I don’t know, like 70.”

        Now a “road trip” to me means a flight out, and the (at least) three game days, and the flight back. I am not sure how “road trip” is interpreted as “cross-country flight”.

        So I interpret this as meaning 50-60 beers over at least 4 days. That is a lot of beer, especially for an athlete, but very doable.

        Reply
        1. Ty Sellers

          Boggs was once asked about this on PTI. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was similar to your first sentence. Obviously he didn’t drink 54 beers on a cross country flight. I thought including the sentence “according to a sign I once saw on College Gameday” would be a hint that I didn’t take it seriously as I don’t know many people that gather their news through College Gameday signs. Sarcasm is difficult to convey over the interwebs after all.

          As for your last sentence, 50-60 beers in 4 days would have been MUCH easier for me WHILE I was an athlete. Of course, I was a defensive tackle so it was part of my training.

          Reply
          1. invitro

            My apologies, good sir, for not detecting the sarcasm.

            I averaged 50 beers / 4 days for many years of college. The beer was not Miller Lite, though. I do not consider myself much different from other people, but I have never understood how so many millions of people can stomach that swill. (And I was not picky… I started my beer-drinking career with Schaefer and Olympia. They both seemed vastly superior to Miller Lite, as did Milwaukee’s Best and all else of the horrible beers.)

            What was your beer of choice in the 50-60 days?

      2. Gareth Owen

        That could also be a distortion of the story about cricketer a David Boon, who supposedly drank 52 beers on a flight from Sydney to London. But that’s a *much* longer flight.

        They did both have excellent facial hair though

        Reply
  6. otistaylor89

    As someone who watched a lot of his games living in Boston, the big knock on him during the 80′s was being a leadoff hitter with no speed – none. He was considered a station to station player on a team full of station to station players (I think there were few teams that had less speed than the 80′s Red Sox). Then, as a #3 hitter, he probably worked the 2 out walk too many times and had extremely low RBI totals for a guy who spent so much time hitting 3rd.
    Big home and away splits (.354 vs. .302) lead people to believe he was a product of Fenway.

    Looking back at his stats, you see one of the best hitters of all time and maybe one of the all time greats, but while he was paying there was a lot of “meh” because he didn’t seem to be a team player.
    The true answer probably lies somewhere in between.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      This is only tangentially related, but one of my favorite baseball facts ever is that, when the Red Sox acquired Rickey Henderson in 2002, Rickey had actually stolen more bases since 1979 (the year he made his debut) than the entire Red Sox franchise. That speaks to just how fantastic Rickey was, of course, but it also speaks to how little speed those ’80s and ’90s Boston teams had.

      Reply
  7. Jim Devine

    I don’t see how you rated Boggs so much higher than Frank Thomas. I saw both of them, play, and agree that they were both great players. Boggs’ career average (.328) is a lot better than Thomas (.301), but Thomas is slightly higher career OBP, much better OPS (Boggs 858, Thomas 974) and OPS plus (131/156.) In three fewer years Thomas at 500 more total bases. In three fewer years, Thomas hit 83 fewer doubles and 400 more home runs. His WAR is 73.6 compared to Boggs at 90, but if you add three years to Thomas’ career he just about catches Boggs.

    Reply
    1. rpmcsweeney

      Frank Thomas spent close to 60% his career at DH, and the rest at 1B. He was a superior hitter and a deserving HOFer. But at any given point in his career, you could replace his production or nearly so) with Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff, or Travis Hafner.

      Reply
    2. cohnjusack

      “but if you add three years to Thomas’ career he just about catches Boggs”

      Umm…yeah. That’s kind of how longevity and health works. Saying that all a player had to do was come up with 3 more 6 WAR seasons to catch somebody is like saying “he only had to have three more MVP caliber years!”. That’s a lot, you know.

      Reply
    3. Spencer

      @Jim Devine

      You want to add 3 years to Thomas’s career? That total 16.4 WAR? For no reason? Why?!?

      He didn’t goto war or anything, there’s no justification for it.

      Reply
  8. tombando

    A few things:

    *I ‘got’ Wade Boggs. Fans got him, players got him, the writers finally got him. He was one of the best period and we knew that then. Despite the chickenman stuff, Margo Adams, etc that’s all besides the point. He was a great player period.

    *Bill James contrarion streak turned into the ‘Get off my lawn!’ phase years ago. Dick Allen, Rogers Hornsby, the whole debacle involving Showers, etc. It was embarrassing. Love the guys wirting and all that but there are times when you gotta know when to say when. You know James, Neyer and Joe Pos will always circle the wagons for one another whenever one of them screws up in public.

    *No Dave Winfield up in this here top 100? Hmmmm.

    Reply
    1. Patrick Bohn

      Winfield was a compiler. He had a lot of high counting totals because he was 8th all-time in at bats, but really, none of his rate stats merit his inclusion. A .283/.353/.475 slash line from a corner outfielder isn’t jumping out at anyone, and even when you adjust for his era and park, his OPS+ of 130 is something like 166th of all-time

      Winfield had a reputation as being a great defensive player (Seven Gold Gloves) but the advanced metrics say he was actually terrible (-23 WAR).

      Reply
      1. Ian R.

        dWAR isn’t the best stat to make that point because Winfield gets a huge negative positional adjustment for being a corner outfielder. Even great defensive players on the easy side of the defensive spectrum tend to have low or negative WAR totals.

        By Total Zone, he was -91 for his career, which is still bad but not historically bad. I agree with your larger point that he had no business winning those Gold Gloves, though.

        Reply
        1. invitro

          Of the top 50 (or so) RFs, the worst b-r Rfield number by far and away is Sheffield with a rather shocking -195. The next-worst is Winfield’s -91. (Then comes Singleton at -61, Staub at -56, and Heilmann at -44).

          It’s a matter of opinion, but I’d call that “historically bad” at least among good RFs.

          Reply
          1. Ian R.

            To be fair to Winfield, he accumulated nearly half of his negative fielding runs late in his career. Through age 36, he was a still-bad-but-not-horrendous -45. Then he missed an entire season with a back injury, and when he returned, he was worth -21 and -18 runs in back-to-back seasons. That was about it for his days as a full-time outfielder.

            Ken Singleton retired at age 37 (and he was a full-time DH for several years before that). Rusty Staub played into his 40s, but his last year as a full-time right fielder was his age-32 season. Heilmann was basically done at age 35.

            So, basically, Dave Winfield was in the same general category as other great-hitting, bad-fielding right fielders through his mid-30s, and then he hung around long enough to post some truly dreadful numbers at an age when he clearly had no business being in the field at all. It’s a matter of opinion, but I wouldn’t say he was any worse than the other guys you mentioned.

            It’s also worth pointing out that you’re only looking at guys who stuck in right throughout their careers, thereby eliminating bad-fielding outfielders who played in both corners. Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a career -129 (!) fielder, and his career was split pretty evenly between RF and LF.

            (Sheffield’s number, incidentally, is hurt by his truly horrendous fielding at SS [-15 in just 94 games] and 3B [a whopping -55 in 468 games]. If we look at him just as an outfielder, though, he’s still at -111 runs.)

          2. Ian R.

            A minor correction: I said “nearly half,” but Winfield actually managed to scrape together another -6 before his career was over. So:

            Rfield, through age-36 season: -45
            (Misses age-37 season due to injury)
            Rfield, age-38 season on: -46

            For what it’s worth, that’s slightly more than half.

    2. Geoff

      Hmmmm, indeed.

      Just more evidence of the Joe Posnanski-led conspiracy to keep Goose Goslin, Al Simmons, and Dave Winfield out of his own top-100 list.

      Reply
  9. thomas vest

    I remember reading an article on him in SI back in the day, and he used to put on a show in BP every day- spraying hits to all fields and CONSISTENTLY hitting balls over the fence.

    Another quirk of his: he never stepped on the baseline when leaving the field.

    Reply
  10. Anon

    RE: Grace and Sandberg – while the fielding position is probably true, it’s also probably partly because Sandberg had good speed and Grace had none. Of course, assigning batting order on that alone is probably a mistake itself.

    Reply
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        1. John Gale

          In the 80s? 1980-1982 count also (Boggs didn’t play in 1980 or 1981, but if we’re just talking about the 80s…) Rickey: 70.8, Boggs 58.8. You can have Boggs. I’ll take Rickey. He was clearly better during the entire decade known as the 80s (as opposed to cherry picking a seven-year period from 1983-1989 that very conveniently excludes the 22 WAR Rickey put up from 1980-1982 *and* his 9.9 WAR season in 1990) and was a much better player overall.

          Reply
          1. cohnjusack

            Umm, I cherry picked the years *Wade Boggs played*. No, I didn’t count the years he wasn’t in the MLB against him.

            So, in response to the question at hand, which you apparently ignored, I would rather have had Boggs for most of the 80s.

          2. John Gale

            The question was “Who would you rather have in the 80s?” It wasn’t “Who would you rather have in the 80s in the years (except 1982, which we’ll conveniently omit, even though Boggs played 104 games that season) that both guys played?” You absolutely did cherry pick. If you want to argue that for those seven years, Boggs was better, fine. But you implied that he was better in the 80s full stop. And you did it by cherry picking the stats. I do love the irony of you insisting that *I* was the one who ignored the question at hand. No, that was you. Sorry.

          3. Spencer

            @John Gale

            He’s not cherry picking, he’s only taking the years Boggs was in the majors.

            I’ll take Boggs too

          4. invitro

            To answer this, knowing that Boggs didn’t start until 1982, I’d want to know their average WAR per number of seasons played in the 1980s. Calculating:

            Henderson: 70.8 / 10 = 7.08
            Boggs: 58.8 / 8 = 7.35

            Or, if the question was “would you choose a randomly-selected season (where the guy actually played) from the 1980s from Henderson or Boggs?”, the answer should clearly be Boggs.

          5. Nickolai

            @invitro
            The answer is ‘clearly Boggs?’ As DM notes, the fractional difference is far from conclusive. And anyway, you are looking at a dumb metric — why not look at it on a WAR / game or WAR / plate appearance basis instead instead of WAR/season? Comparing WAR/season nicely overlooks the monster season that Rickey was having in 1981 which was shortened by the strike, as well as the 1987 season where he missed time due to a mismanaged leg injury. Just looking at the games they played in the 80s (Rickey, full decade; Boggs, 82-89), Rickey wins out in WAR/150 games with 8.3 vs. Boggs at 8.2. Again, the only conclusion is there is no ‘clear winner.’

            Personally, I would take Rickey any day of the week.

          6. invitro

            “The answer is ‘clearly Boggs?’ As DM notes, the fractional difference is far from conclusive.”

            Ok, remove the “clearly” if it will make you happy.

            “And anyway, you are looking at a dumb metric — why not look at it on a WAR / game or WAR / plate appearance basis instead instead of WAR/season?”

            Because I defined the question that way… please reread my post :). Just saying “who would you have” is too vague for anything interesting.

        2. DM

          Regarding comparing Boggs and Henderson on WAR, it was noted that on an earlier post that, using the decade of the ’80′s as the time frame, Boggs had about a 7.4 avg. WAR vs. 7.1 for Henderson, which, if I understood the context of the reply, was presented a clear cut advantage for Boggs. I can’t quite go along with the “clear cut”

          From the folks at bb-ref, here’s how they explain WAR:

          “We present the WAR values with decimal places because this relates the WAR value back to the runs contributed (as one win is about ten runs), but you should not take any full season difference between two players of less than one to two wins to be definitive (especially when the defensive metrics are included)”

          In other words, if I’m understanding their explanation correctly, a 0.3 or so avg. seasonal difference between two players isn’t much to get excited over.

          I think that’s a common misconception of WAR. It’s handy, it’s useful, and we all love to leverage it, but It really isn’t THAT precise. Unfortunately, when we all get to arguing about things and are looking for “proof”, we often fall into the trap of thinking that it is. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes. But, by their own admission, “WAR is necessarily an approximation and will never be as precise or accurate as one would like.”

          Honestly, if I had choose one player over another, I’d personally choose Henderson. Henderson was generally disadvantaged by his ballpark, and Boggs was clearly aided by his. Boggs excelled at one of the most important skills there is (getting on base / avoiding outs), but Henderson was no slouch either in that regard, and had many more dimensions to his game and skill set. No disrespect to Boggs or anyone who would favor him, but I would have to choose Henderson.

          Reply
          1. invitro

            “In other words, if I’m understanding their explanation correctly, a 0.3 or so avg. seasonal difference between two players isn’t much to get excited over.”

            I think what you say is true if you remove “avg.”. The difference in this Henderson/Boggs example is about 0.3 wins/season * 9 season = 2.7 wins.

            “Unfortunately, when we all get to arguing about things and are looking for “proof”, we often fall into the trap of thinking that it is.”

            I want to very gently suggest that in my numbers I most certainly did reach a conclusion and then go looking for proof… I asked a question and then tried to answer it. :) :)

            “Honestly, if I had choose one player over another, I’d personally choose Henderson. Henderson was generally disadvantaged by his ballpark, and Boggs was clearly aided by his. Boggs excelled at one of the most important skills there is (getting on base / avoiding outs), but Henderson was no slouch either in that regard, and had many more dimensions to his game and skill set. No disrespect to Boggs or anyone who would favor him, but I would have to choose Henderson.”

            As you already know :), WAR includes all the skills you mention, accurately measured and translated into wins.

            Now no one is suggesting Boggs career is > Henderson’s. This little bit is just looking at their 1980s season, of course.

            Henderson happens to be possibly my all-time favorite player, so I am having to stifle some bias here.

          2. DM

            Hey Invitro,

            Are you implying that an advantage of in WAR of 2.7 accumulated over a span of 9 years (or 0.3 per year) is compelling evidence that Boggs was better or had more value?

            Or, when you say “As you already know :), WAR includes all the skills you mention, accurately measured and translated into wins.”…..how are you defining “accurate”? By bb-ref’s own admission on their website when explaining WAR, they say “WAR is necessarily an approximation and will never be as precise or accurate as one would like.” If they throw up disclaimers like that, why would anyone infer a level of precision that isn’t there?

            So, are we really holding up 2.7 wins over 9 years as a compelling advantage for Boggs? WAR is not a precision scale that we throw players onto and get a reading of an exact measurement of value. It’s an approximation. It’s an excellent tool to begin an analysis. It’s generally a poor way to try and end an analysis just by observing that one figure is a little higher than another. We can exactly measure how many runs someone scores or how many home runs someone hits or how many bases he steals. The # of wins he represents above a replacement player? It’s an estimate. The problem is, so many people take it as a definitive measurement, thinking you can just pull it out and rank people by it. But, we can’t will it to be the ultimate, accurate, be-all end-all metric just because we would like it to be.

            To me, the only valid conclusion of a difference that narrow spread out over a 9-year span is to conclude that Boggs and Henderson, when considering the value of all aspects of the game, made similar contributions to their teams, and both performed at MVP-levels at their best. They had very similar overall values.

          3. invitro

            “Are you implying that an advantage of in WAR of 2.7 accumulated over a span of 9 years (or 0.3 per year) is compelling evidence that Boggs was better or had more value?”

            I’m trying to. I don’t see a reason for difference here. I do think that in the 1980s, Boggs had more value per season, and yet…

            “To me, the only valid conclusion of a difference that narrow spread out over a 9-year span is to conclude that Boggs and Henderson, when considering the value of all aspects of the game, made similar contributions to their teams, and both performed at MVP-levels at their best. They had very similar overall values.”

            …I completely agree with this.

          1. otistaylor89

            I’d take Rickey too, even though he had several years of nagging “hamstring” injuries during the 80′s and Boggs was a beast. Rickey ended up scoring a ton of runs during the 80′s (I assume he scored the most by a good margin, but couldn’t find anything). BTW, Boggs hit .241 in his career in OAK – I think he would have had a few more pop ups than 2 or 3 a year if he had more than 3334 AB’s there.

          2. Simon

            You’re right otis, it’s not close:

            Runs scored 1980-1989:
            1122 Rickey Henderson
            957 Robin Yount
            956 Dwight Evans
            938 Dale Murphy
            866 Tim Raines
            858 Eddie Murray
            845 Willie Wilson
            832 Mike Schmidt
            828 Paul Molitor
            823 Wade Boggs

            Runs Scored 1982-1991 (Wade Boggs’ first 10 years):
            1146 Rickey Henderson
            1005 Wade Boggs
            974 Ryne Sandberg
            969 Cal Ripken
            967 Tim Raines

            As best as I can tell, the best 10-consecutive-season totals for runs scored are:
            1417 by Lou Gehrig 1927-1936
            1406 by Lou Gehrig 1928-1937
            1385 by Lou Gehrig 1926-1935
            1382 by Lou Gehrig 1929-1938
            1365 by Babe Ruth 1920-1929
            1357 by Babe Ruth 1921-1930
            1355 by Babe Ruth 1923-1932
            1347 by Babe Ruth 1919-1928
            1333 by Lou Gehrig 1925-1934
            1329 by Babe Ruth 1922-1931
            1301 by Babe Ruth 1924-1933

            Those are the only 10-consecutive-season totals over 1300.

            Since the 30s, the highest total is Ted Williams, 1273 1939-1951, if you skip over his war years. Since then, the highest total is Alex Rodriguez with 1241 1998-2007.

          3. otistaylor89

            Thanks for the lookup.

            All but two of those 10 consecutive years (Both Ruth) over 1300 run involved the year 1930 when 9 guys scored over 140 runs and a 10th (Bill Terry score 139.
            Must be a pretty select list to score over 1,000 runs in 10 years after WWII with Rickey and Boggs (and ARod) on it I assume guys like Jeter, Pujols and Bonds did it, but they had the 90′s-00′s live ball/juiced era to pad. Not nearly as easy in the 60′s-80′s to do it.

  12. EnzoHernandez11

    It is, of course, possible to be both great and overrated.

    Wade Boggs was largely a creature of Fenway. His career road OPS is .781, remarkably low for a player of his caliber. It remains unclear to me why Jim Rice is endlessly bashed by sabermetricians for his non-Fenway stats, while Boggs seemingly gets a free pass.

    (And just to be clear, of course Wade Boggs is a first-ballot hall of famer.)

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      It might be because Boggs’ career road OBP was .387, while Rice’s was .330. Heck, Boggs’ road OBP is higher than Rice’s home OBP.

      OPS undervalues a player like Boggs whose value came more from his on-base skills than his power. Yes, he benefited greatly from Fenway, but he was an exceptional hitter in any park.

      Reply
      1. EnzoHernandez11

        Sorry, I should have made myself clearer. My point was not that Boggs and Rice were comparable. Rice is in the HoF because of Fenway; Boggs is in the HoF because he belongs. Rather, I was wondering why writers rarely point out that Boggs was a very different player outside of Boston, still a good one, but not nearly as good. On the road, Tony Gwynn, for one, was clearly superior.

        Sure, Boggs “embraced” Fenway. Who wouldn’t have? It was the greatest hitters park of its era. And he definitely played his home park like Clapton played the guitar. The difference is that Eric Clapton could have come to your house and picked up your guitar and played every bit as well. Had Boggs been drafted by, say, the Cardinals, he might still be in the Hall of Fame, but I doubt he’d be considered the #52 ballplayer of all time.

        I’m not the guy who’s always making the case for Larry Walker, but he played Coors like Jimi Hendrix and was about as good as Boggs on the road. And he’ll apparently be left out of the Top 100 entirely.

        Reply
        1. Tom Wright

          “Sure, Boggs “embraced” Fenway. Who wouldn’t have? It was the greatest hitters park of its era.”

          I don’t think this is actually true. It was certainly true in the late ’70s when Rice was at his peak, but the park factors numbers on Baseball Reference indicate that Fenway was only a slight hitters’ park by the time the ’80s rolled around. I have no idea why that was – maybe the other parks moved the fences in and caught up? Mounds were lowered in other stadia? Either way, Fenway didn’t give Boggs the same advantage that it gave Rice.

          Reply
          1. EnzoHernandez11

            Interesting point. If I recall, they did refurbish Fenway sometime in the early 1980s, maybe 1981 or 1982. I have no idea if that made it less of a hitters’ park, but maybe some Red Sox fan out there might have an idea.

            Regardless, Boggs’ home/road splits are significant.

    2. SBMcManus

      On base percentage is the single most important factor, I think. Bogg’s “hidden skill” of drawing walks was probably undervalued by contemporaries, the opposite is true for Rice.

      Reply
    3. Randy Hill

      EVERY hitter who spends most of their career in a hitters park will have big splits and poor (relatively) road numbers. Wade Boggs hit in one of the leagues best hitters parks, ergo he hit on the road in a collection of the leagues toughest hitting parks because none of them were Fenway. Players generally hit worse on the road, take the leagues best hitters park out of their career road numbers and see anyone’s splits widen significantly.

      Reply
    4. invitro

      I interpret “gets a free pass” as “ignores home park”. If someone does this, they are not a sabermetrician. No sabermetrician gives Boggs a free pass on Fenway.

      It might be time to start getting a bit more forceful on the use of OPS and OPS+. They are just not worth that much as one-stop offensive stats, because OBP is worth twice as much as SLG. You should use 2OPS = 2 * OBP + SLG. That stat has a lot of value. (And b-r should list 2OBP+ instead of OBP+.) I mention this to copy what Ian R. said about the value of Boggs’ .781 road OPS.

      I would not have guessed that Gwynn’s road SLG was that much superior to Boggs’ road SLG. Well, a general rule of sabermetrics is that we don’t compare hitters by using only their road stats. We are able to adjust for park, and so we should use all stats and adjust them.

      That said, I am sensitive to calculating park factor as one number, instead of separating by 1B/2B/3B/HR and LHB/RHB. I think b-r’s park factor happens as just one number. Maybe it should be several numbers. Maybe Boggs’ home-park 2Bs (362 to 216 on the road) are not being discounted enough. I don’t know and would like to hear some input on this.

      “The difference is that Eric Clapton could have come to your house and picked up your guitar and played every bit as well.”

      You obviously haven’t played my guitar.

      On Walker, I think he is probably quite underrated by everyone, from HoF voters to Joe to Brilliant Readers, and so is not a fair example of a non-top-100 player. Did you know that Walker is #6 in WAA among RFs, at least 10 wins ahead of top 100s Waner, Jackson, and Gwynn (he’s about tied in WAR, but I prefer to rank careers by WAA)? I don’t know how I’d rank them though; Gwynn’s Clutch number is a very high 9.9 and Walker’s is -4.3, for one thing, although I’m starting to be a little suspect of Clutch as it seems that OBPers always have a high Clutch and power hitters are always low.

      Reply
      1. EnzoHernandez11

        You’re right, “free pass” is too strong. And, to be fair, the reason that sabermetricians constantly pointed to Rice’s home/road splits, but not Boggs’s, is that Boggs was not a borderline Hall of Famer. Still, as you point out, we may still be a little primitive in how we handle park effects.

        I don’t know if I’m convinced that OBP = 2*SLG, but has anyone done separate versions of OBP+ and SLG+?

        “’The difference is that Eric Clapton could have come to your house and picked up your guitar and played every bit as well.’

        “You obviously haven’t played my guitar”

        :)

        Reply
        1. invitro

          Perhaps the neutralized versions of OBP and SLG should be essentially OBP+ and SLG+.

          I encourage you (and everyone) to look up some stuff on why OBP and SLG should not be weighted equally. Here is one article:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/sports/baseball/25score.html

          I suppose the 1.8 factor is accepted now? I ran a simple correlation of runs scored vs. OBP and SLG some years ago and remember getting runs = constant( 1.8 OBP + SLG ).

          Someone may suggest wOBA. I would like to know the best single number to measure offense for quick comparisons… that is either found on b-r or easily calculatable from b-r numbers. Perhaps Rbat / (season or PA). Or OWn%. Or neutralized RC. So many numbers…

          Reply
  13. Richard

    Regarding Sandberg and Grace, part of the issue was Sandberg wanted to hit second, period, no iffs, ands or buts. Also since the Cubs were often short on left-handed hitters, Grace was put in the #3 hole to split up Sandberg and whichever cleanup hitter the Cubs would have. Besides, Grace was technically a better hitter than Sandberg anyway so hitting him third wasn’t necessarily a mistake. The issue should be whether Sandberg should’ve hit cleanup more or not.

    Reply
    1. Patrick Bohn

      Except that whole “Sandberg hit 2nd, Grace hit 3rd” thing wasn’t true. This is a pretty uncharacteristically lazy claim for Posnanski to make. According to baseball-reference’s lineups page:

      In 1988, Grace hit 3rd in just 60 of his 134 games
      In 1989, Grace hit 3rd in just 26 of his 142 games
      In 1991, Grace hit 3rd in just 76 of his 160 games
      In 1992, Sandberg hit 2nd in just 77 of his 158 games
      In 1993, Sandberg hit 2nd in just 52 of his 117 games
      In 1994, Sandberg hit 2nd in just 30 of his 57 games
      In 1996, Sandberg hit 2nd in just 77 of his 150 games
      In 1997, Sandberg hit 2nd in just 15 of his 135 game

      The only year in which you had a clear “Sandberg hit 2nd, Grace 3rd” was 1990. And while this only includes starting lineups, it also doesn’t take into account the times when Grace hit 3rd and Sandberg cleanup, or any other similar combination.

      So though Sandberg most commonly hit 2nd, and Grace most commonly hit 3rd, the number of times the lineup went 2. Grace, 3. Sandberg during their time in Chicago was probably well less than 50%

      Reply
  14. Mike b.

    Wait, no mention of Jody Reed or some other Joe Schmo setting up Wade for all those RBI opportunities people are complaining Wade missed on???

    Reply
  15. Dave

    Another interesting Boggs/Rice comparison. Jim Rice in his entire career was intentionally walked 77 times, never more than 10 times in any season. Wade Boggs was intentionally walked 180 times, seven times in double figures, including as many as 25 times in one season (1991). He led the AL in IBB six years in a row, 1987-1992. Who was the more “feared” hitter in his day?

    Reply
    1. dfj79

      To be fair, though, Boggs’s big IBB years came when he frequently had stereotypical punchless #2 hitters like Marty Barrett and Jody Reed batting behind him. Rice, in his peak years, was usually “protected” by a power hitter like Yaz, Tony Perez, Tony Armas, or Don Baylor. In 1984, when Boggs had Dwight Evans batting behind him most of the season, he only got six IBBs. In ’85, when we was backed variously by Evans, Rice, and Bill Buckner (who had at least some pop), he only drew five.

      Meaningless-but-fun bit of trivia: Ozzie Smith actually drew more intentional walks in his career than Jim Rice (79 to 77). (Meaningless, of course, because Ozzie spent a big chunk of his career as a #8 hitter in the National League).

      Reply
  16. mark

    Boggs drew a walk to push in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the 1996 WS. This was the game where the Braves took a 6-0 lead before the Yankees tied it on a 3-run Leyritz homer.
    Anyway, I remember thinking that Ball 4 in the Boggs at bat, on a 3-2 pitch, was outside the strike zone. Probably high but I’m not sure. This was the heyday of low-wide strike zones and Braves pitchers absolutely lived throwing pitches low and several inches off the plate and getting strike calls. Drove me nuts. The pitch to Boggs was like I said probably high by the standards of the day and I remember thinking that Boggs was the only Yankee and maybe the only player in MLB who would have gotten that call. Basically the umpires came to figure that if Boggs took a pitch with 2 strikes it had to be a ball. It drove in the winning run. Yankees got one more on an error and Wetteland closed it out to tie the series at 2-2.

    Reply
  17. Martín

    I grew up watching Sandberg and Grac, and my childish memory could be wrong. As I recall, Sandberg was occasionally slotted at different spots in the lineup (I remember a spell at cleanup) but he felt more comfortable batting second. Meanwhile, I recall Grace spending most of his time hitting fourth.

    Reply
  18. Chip S.

    I never once thought about the absurdity of saying “get on a plane.”

    You get “on” planes and trains and buses because you’re using “on” as shorthand for “on board.” You are one of many passengers on some type of common carrier. Cars are private transit.

    Contrary to the conventions of stand-up comedy, when something doesn’t make sense to you the problem isn’t always–or even usually–with the “something”.

    Reply
      1. Ian R.

        Per Wikipedia:

        The first parkways in the United States were developed during the late 19th century by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Beatrix Farrand as roads segregated for pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and horse carriages, such as the Eastern Parkway, which is credited as the world’s first parkway,[2] and Ocean Parkway in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The terminology “parkway” to define this type of road was coined by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in their proposal to link city and suburban parks with “pleasure roads.”

        In other words, it’s a completely different sense of the word “park.”

        As for driveways, the term originally referred to fairly long paved paths that connected a street to a garage – many residential driveways are still like that. You do a lot more driving than parking on a long driveway.

        Reply
  19. Brent

    I have never driven on a parkway in my life. In fact I don’t even know what one is. Is it some strange road they have in the northeastern part of the U.S.?

    Reply
    1. Stephen

      Well, there’s the Arroyo Seco Parkway in LA, the Natchez Trace Parkway in MS (mostly), and the Blue ridge Parkway in the southern mountains… So not exclusively NE US. Basically, a scenic road, usually a divided highway, with no shoulders to speak of, designed originally for pleasure driving, though many are now commuter roads and very busy.

      Reply
  20. Rick Rodstrom

    The Yankees dynasty teams of the late 90′s were famous for prolonging their at-bats and wearing pitchers out. I believe that trait started when Wade Boggs joined the team. He had so many long, disciplined at-bats that it served as an example for other players.

    Boggs could do this because he had a great eye and he was also one of the greatest 2-strike hitters of all time. He was the only player I ever saw who was just as comfortable with the count 0-2 as the count 2-0. He would not offer at a bad pitch, and he would foul off tough ones, until he either got a good pitch to hit or worked out a walk. A lot of sluggers get walked a lot because pitchers are afraid to throw them strikes. Boggs, who was no slugger, had to earn his walks, and that he did.

    Still, Fenway was the perfect park for him. As a hitter who loved waiting on the ball and going the opposite way, the big short wall in left was tailor made for Boggs to lob doubles off of. I don’t think he replicates that skill in any other park. It’s why his home-road splits are so stark. In another park, Boggs would have gotten his singles, and would have gotten his walks, but those doubles would have gone way way down.

    Like Jeter, another singles hitter with medium power, Boggs 3,000th hit was a home run. Unlike Jeter, he wasn’t happy about that. Reportedly, his first thought when he hit it was “Dammit, I’m never getting the ball back.” I believe he eventually did, but it probably cost him something. A singular guy, that Boggs.

    Reply
    1. Dan Shea

      “The historic ball was caught in the right field stands of Tropicana Field by Mike Hogan, a sports information director at the University of South Florida, who gave it back to Boggs at the conclusion of the game.” (From Wikipedia.) No mention of any payment.

      Reply
  21. Herb Smith

    I loved this article. But no mention of Wade’s unbelievable beer-drinking prowess? That’d be like doing the Babe Ruth post and never mentioning his drinking, womanizing, or general wild lifestyle.

    Still, I enjoyed this piece…Boggs was a very interesting player. The only thing that I didn’t like was him riding around Yankee Stadium on a police horse.

    Reply
  22. Cliff Blau

    The highest OBA by a second year player was, and is, .458 by Tuck Turner in 1894. The second highest during Boggs’ second year was .451 by Roy Thomas in 1900.

    Reply
  23. Eric H.

    I’m curious about the 7:17 thing. I thought night games typically started at 7 p.m., or shortly thereafter. Was it different back in the ’80s?

    Reply
    1. invitro

      My memory says that the most common game time for the games I watched or listened to in the ’80s and ’90s was 7:35, by far.

      Reply
  24. bellweather22

    The 7:17 thing: I can’t really speak for the Red Sox, but in many stadiums that Boggs would have played in, there are 7:05 starts on weeknights and 7:35 starts on weekend nights. And certainly there are businessman specials, Sunday Day Games & the occasional doubleheaders (back then, no longer). So, Joe was oversimplifying this point to start. I can also tell you that the Angels for a long time started games at 8:00. In the 60s and 70s, for sure, and probably into the 80s. But games in those days averaged closer to two hours than three hours. So and 8:00 game would have you home by 11:00 most nights. These days an 8:00 start would have you home after midnight. So, as the games lengthened, the start times were moved up. Otherwise people wouldn’t be home in time to get a decent night sleep.

    Reply
    1. Eric H.

      Thanks, guys. I was watching (more like listening to) games for Boggs’ entire career, but I have absolutely no recollection of when those games started or whether/when it changed.

      Reply
  25. KB

    As I recall at the time Boston went from a hitter’s park to a more neutral park when they added the luxury boxes up behind homeplate and along the lines. The theory (not sure if it was ever scientifically proven) was that it inhibited a natural windflow to the outfield, thus reducing distance on balls hit. If true, that probably would have had little effect on Boggs’ production as he seldom hit balls high enough to have gained such an advantage. OTH, Rice probably would have been significantly impacted by such changes.

    Reply
  26. Pingback: The Meh Shockers | RJ Blogs

  27. Pat

    That Bob Ryan quote serves as a nice reminder that Boston sportswriters didn’t discover their stupid disappreciation of useful players with J.D. Drew.

    Reply
  28. Geoff

    I’ll send out another reminder of this as soon as #51 is announced, but if you’re interested in joining the prediction contest please send me an email at poz100contest(at)gmail(dot)com.

    As soon as we know #51, I’ll send out a spreadsheet for everyone to fill in, along with the rules of the contest, and everyone will have until #50 is announced to submit their picks.

    Reply
  29. Pete

    All I have to say is, I grew up watching Boggs. When he would work a 10-16 pitch at bat, it was something I never forgot. I never knew about OBP. Bogg’s was like Williams to me back then!

    Reply
  30. Juan Grande

    The Sox traded for Carney Lansford prior to the 1981 season. I believe that Boggs was exposed by the Sox in at least one Rule 5 Drafty, possibly even two.

    Lansford hit .336 in the strike season and entrenched himself in at 3B in Boston. Then, in 1982, Lansford hurt a foot or ankle which let Boggs get a shot. They both played that season but Boggs hit .349/.406 OBP in 104 games. After the end of the 1982 season, Boston traded Lansford to Oakland.

    Who knows what might have happened if Lansford were never injured?

    Reply
  31. David Berg

    From 1983-1989, Wade Boggs reached base 2215 times. Second best during that span? Tim Raines… with 1789. So basically, in those 7 years, Boggs was roughly two SEASONS ahead of anyone else in the sport when it came to reaching safely (i.e. it would have taken Raines 9 years).

    I think Boggs is second all time in this (admittedly cherry-picked) stat, behind 1931-1937 Lou Gehrig at 2245 (unless you count Ted Williams’ 3 years before and 4 years after WWII, which add up to 2316).

    Reply

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