There was a recent post in this space that listed all the retired numbers around baseball. During that exercise, suggestions were made to each team for other numbers that team hasn't retired but should. While the most egregious omission seemed to be the Toronto Blue Jays who have not officially retired any uniform numbers. that omission was explained by a friend that the Blue Jays honor those players differently out in center field. Fair enough. That leaves the worst omission to the Boston Red Sox and this writer has taken this as his personal crusade. Wade Boggs is in the Hall of Fame. He did most of his playing damage and built nearly two-thirds of his career numbers while playing for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have not retired his number. That's a crime.
There seems to be some thought put into this business by the Red Sox. Apparently, they want their retired numbers to represent players that finished their careers with Red Sox uniform draped around their persons. Yastzremski, of course, played his entire career with the Red Sox as did Jim Rice, Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams and their other retired numbers. While this makes sense on some level, the new reality is that in modern baseball, very few players will play their entire career with one team. Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter will be a couple of the last of a dying breed. Teams have adopted front offices with large groups of analytical employees that now help shape teams and their rosters. Veterans that no longer produce are allowed to "walk" once they hit free agency. The Red Sox are famous for (correctly) jettisoning players who outlive their usefulness. And once upon a time, they did so with one Wade Boggs, who was allowed to walk away and sign with the Yankees.
That isn't the player's fault. That is the new reality. And as such, decision making on how retired numbers are thought about should adapt along with the new reality. If a player played a large part of his career with a certain team and that player makes it to the Hall of Fame, that team should retire his number. Period. Wade Boggs certainly fits that category. Boggs amassed 2,098 of his 3,010 hits while a member of the Boston Red Sox. 422 of his 578 doubles were hit wearing their uniform. While with the Red Sox, Boggs had five seasons where he led the league in batting and more importantly, led the league in on base percentage six times. He led the league twice in OPS, once in OPS+, twice in doubles, twice in runs scored and six times in intentional walks. What else does a player have to do?
Here is a statistic for you. Wade Boggs five times hit over .350 with an on base percentage over.400 with 40 or more doubles. Only Rogers Hornsby and Tris Speaker did that more times with seven apiece. His seven-year run from 1983 to 1989 might be the greatest seven-year stretch for a lead off batter in history. For four straight seasons from 1985 to 1988, his batting average was never lower than .357 and his on base percentage was never lower than .450. And here is the Fan's favorite statistic: For his career (if the Fan has done his math correctly while looking at his splits in baseball-reference.com), Wade Boggs had a line drive percentage of 26 percent. Amazing.
This Fan was in New England during Wade Boggs' career and Channel 38 was one of the few channels we could get back then while living in New Hampshire and southern Maine. So this observer watched Wade Boggs a lot. And during his seven year peak, he seemed impossible to get out. And it was that kind of production that made Dave Righetti's no-hitter even more spectacular because to get it, he had to get Wade Boggs out multiple times including the swinging strikeout that ended the game. That's how good Wade Boggs was to watch. Boggs easily should have won the MVP in 1987. His WAR of 9.1 led the league that season. And a strong case could be made for the years before and after 1987.
Boggs didn't get started as a major league regular until he was 25 years old. He was a seventh round draft pick that took a while to get a chance. And his minor league numbers were wasted until the Red Sox finally let him play. Even starting so late, Fangraphs gives him 98.1 WAR for his career. 75.7 of that WAR was accumulated as a member of the Boston Red Sox. In this writer's mind, there is no way the Red Sox make it to the 1986 World Series without Wade Boggs...a World Series the Red Sox would have won if not for the blundering of manager, John McNamara. Boggs gave the Red Sox one of the most amazing careers as a third baseman that franchise has ever seen. He worked extremely hard to make himself a good fielder too.
Simply put, Wade Boggs was the bomb for the Boston Red Sox. Mr. Henry, retire that uniform number. It was 26 with the Red Sox in case you've forgotten.