As noted in the introduction to last Friday’s conversation with Chris Chambliss, three years ago I did a series of short interviews that were never published and will appear in this space over the coming weeks. They focus on baseball during the decades of the 1980s, and today’s subject is Wade Boggs, who played for the Red Sox, Yankees and Devil Rays from 1982-1999.
Boggs, on OBP in the ‘80s: “That was my game. It was how I thrived, but at the point in time that I played, I was criticized for doing something that is now fashionable – Moneyball, or whatever you want to call it. Today, everybody is looking for a guy who can get on base 250 times a year, and at the time I was doing it I was getting 200 hits and 100 walks. Then I would go to arbitration and be criticized for doing something that [front offices] now love.
“Billy Beane, the guy in Oakland, is the one who really put it on the map and it’s been fashionable for close to 10 years by now. Like I said, it wasn’t that way when I played, especially earlier in my career. I led off, so I always felt that it was my job to get on base and set the table for Jim Rice, Tony Armas, Dwight Evans, and all the big guys coming up to drive me in. That was a part of the game that I excelled at, but quite frankly, it was a part of the game that I was criticized for.”
On how he developed his approach: “It was something that I was always good at — hitting line drives, working counts, and being satisfied with a walk. A lot of guys weren’t satisfied with walking; they would rather swing and eventually try to get a hit. My approach was that if a pitcher wants to pitch around you and give you a free pass, you should take it. Getting on base is a big part of the game.”
On why he was a great hitter: “It was probably a combination of good eyesight and good eye-hand coordination. With those two things I could recognize a pitch on the way and make an adjustment with my swing to hit various pitches. That’s probably one of the things that set me aside from other hitters.
“I had the same swing in Little League that I did at 41, when I retired. I never really tinkered with my swing, stance, or anything like that. I stood in the same place all the time and never really changed.”
On what he considers his best season: “It’s hard to say, but maybe the year I had 240 hits. I think I hit .368 that year. The year that I hit 24 home runs and drove in 89 was probably the best production year I had.”
On hitting 24 home runs in 1987: “I think that it was an El Nino year where the wind was blowing out a little more. I went back and tried to analyze it and the only thing I did a lot more of that year was hit a lot more fly balls. Consequently, they went out of the ballpark. The next year I tried to duplicate that swing and just couldn’t do it.”
On the best pitchers in the American League in the 1980s: “Oh gosh, I could go on and on. Toronto had Dave Stieb, and Jack Morris was around. Ron Guidry was at the end of his career in the ‘80s, but he was still doing well. Mark Langston is another. I went through a whole era of pitchers and got to face the same guys over and over, and there were a lot of good pitchers. I had success against a lot of them.”
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