This past weekend Wade Boggs launched a mission. He wants his number retired in Boston. His bust is wearing a Red Sox hat in the Hall of Fame, so naturally he thinks his number should be retired also.
Nick Cafardo wrote that Boggs should no doubt have his number retired. His numbers add up, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he was the Moneyball poster boy before it even existed. The guy was a phenomenal, smart player.
However there are some things that make me disagree with Boggs and Cafardo. Boggs' number should not be up on that right field balcony in Fenway. My reasoning for this is not based on stats or performance; it's based on something deeper. It’s based on the other players who have had their numbers retired, and it's also based on the fact retiring Boggs' number would give other former Red Sox players the right to make the same request.
First, let's talk about the Boston players who have had their numbers retired: Bobby Doer, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk. If you look at the careers of these players they are all Red Sox lifers for the most part, with a lot of years dedicated to the Sox and to the city of Boston. Fisk is the only one that did not retire a Red Sox (neither did Boggs). However, he also owns perhaps the franchise’s seminal moment of the latter half of the 20th century when when he waived his home run fair in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. These players dedicated their lives not just to baseball, but to the Red Sox.
Boggs played 11 years with the Sox. His time was spent at third base, hitting at a .338 clip, walking an obscene amount of times, and always playing hard. He was an eight time All-Star, won the Rookie of the Year, and five Silver Sluggers (even though he only hit double digit home runs once in his entire career). Simply put, he was a superb baseball player. That cannot be argued.
But in 1993, Boggs jumped ship and went to the worst place any Boston player could go: New York.
This is where Boggs' narrative takes a turn for the worse. Boggs claimed that Jean Yawkey, former owner, promised him a seven-year, $51 million deal. She died a few months later and Boggs never had that contract offered to him. It's hard to tell if that conversation really happened or if Boggs was exaggerating. However, Boggs taking the word of an elderly owner, even as powerful as Yawkey, seems like a bit of a tall tale and an easy story to help him explain his exit from Boston.
Instead, Boggs signed with the Yankees for 3-years and $11 million dollars, a considerable pay cut from what Mrs. Yawkey had promised in their brief and mysterious conversation. Signing with the Yankees seems like immediate grounds for shunning in Boston; just ask Johnny Damon.
Boggs went on to play five years with the Yankees, earning four All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger awards, and rode a NYPD horse around the House that Ruth Built after the 1996 World Series Championship.
When you compare Boggs' career with the other players on the retired list he adds up in a lot of ways. However, he doesn't add up as a Red Sox. He doesn't add up as someone who gave his life to the franchise.
The Hall of Fame rates players strictly on their ability to play the game, no matter the uniform. Teams can be more exclusive when retiring numbers. Boggs is on the cusp, but his decision to leave and win a World Series with the Yankees when Boston was desperate for any success was beyond damaging.
If the Sox put Boggs' number on the wall, it also opens the floodgates for other players to make the same request in the near future.
Signing with the Yankees seems like immediate grounds for shunning in Boston; just ask Johnny Damon.
Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens (drug testing might hinder the last two names) could join Boggs in the Hall of Fame soon. These three players were all huge pieces of Red Sox history. None of them finished their careers in Red Sox uniforms; Clemens went to the Yankees and also won a World Series, just like Boggs.
Do these players deserve to have their numbers retired by the Sox too? Maybe, but at what point do the Sox — and other teams — draw the line?
Is A-Rod deserving of a place in Yankees lore next to Jeter, Ruth, Gehrig, and Maris?
Should the Sox think about retiring Dwight Evans' number? He is one of the most loved former Sox ever.
What about Fred Lynn? He bolted Boston too, but was a great player with them for seven years before leaving for the Angels.
One could argue that Boggs was a man before his time. He jumped ship, won a World Series, and distanced himself from the team he started his career with. He had no major moment with the Red Sox, and the image of him following his World Series win is etched in the minds of many Red Sox fans
Boggs will no doubt continue to push for his number to sit next to the all-time Red Sox greats, but ask yourself this. When you think back and remember the best Red Sox players of all time, when does Boggs come into the conversation? For me, he's too far down the line. Maybe that's a product of my age, maybe it's a product of his choices, maybe it's a combination.
His number doesn't belong up there, not because of stats, but because of the arc of his career. You can't leave for the Yankees, win a World Series, and expect to be lauded in Fenway. It just doesn't work that way.
Fan Hub Action
Marcy Kelly June 12th
Wow! I must have listened to a completely differnt press conference. Oh, wait- you convinently left off all of the good things they just got…
Nathan Devine June 5th
The dude is nasty. The fastball is REAL heavy at 97-100. Steady improvement every year.
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
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