Wade Boggs’ performance is more than good enough to be judged on its own merits. Judging Boggs by the company he keeps flatters him, too.
Boggs can be linked to some of baseball’s greatest performers, including Ted Williams, Brooks Robinson, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Ichiro Suzuki and Rod Carew.
Here are 10 events or accomplishments from Boggs’ career that demonstrate his value as a pure hitter:
1. Crown him
With five career batting titles, Boggs broke Bill Madlock’s record of four by a third baseman. Boggs, Gwynn, Cobb, Hornsby and Carew are the only players who have won as many as four consecutive batting championships.
2. First at Fenway
Boggs’ career batting average of .369 at Boston’s Fenway Park is the best in history. The great Williams ranks second at .361.
3. More than a singular hitter
Boggs is the only player in history to have recorded four consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits and 100 walks. He also twice compiled at least 150 singles, 50 extra-base hits and 100 walks (1986: 150, 57, 105; 1988: 158, 56, 125). No other player assembled this statistical combination even once.
4. Beginners' (bad) luck
With 381 plate appearances, Boggs came 121 short of qualifying for the AL batting title as a Red Sox rookie. His .349 average would have been more than enough to outdo Kansas City’s Willie Wilson, the official leader at .332.
5. Helpful homers
Boggs, Gwynn, Carew and Lou Brock are the only players to amass at least 3,000 hits and fewer than 160 homers while finishing their careers after World War II. Yet Boggs delivered a couple of well-timed long balls. He was the first player to record a homer as his 3,000th career hit, doing so on Aug. 7, 1999. Boggs became the 23rd player to reach that coveted plateau. He also hit the Tampa Bay franchise’s first home run in its history, connecting in the sixth inning of its inaugural game on March 31 that season. That was fitting, since Boggs was the first native of the Tampa Bay area to play for the club.
6. Midsummer regular
Only Robinson (15 years) and Brett (13 years) have more consecutive All-Star appearances at third base than Boggs’ 12 (1985-96). Boggs hit safely in eight of those games, compiling a .321 batting average (9-for-28).
7. Very superstitious
To say that Boggs was a creature of habit is an understatement. He reportedly awoke at the same time each day and devoured chicken for every pregame meal. Before night games, time permitting, he ran sprints at 7:17 p.m. He used his bat to scrawl the Hebrew word "Chai" (meaning "life") in the batter's box before each at-bat, though he is not Jewish.
8. MVP mystery
Boggs was at his best during this five-year stretch. His WAR exceeded 8.0 each season, and he led the AL in at least one significant offensive category annually. Yet he never ranked higher than fourth in Most Valuable Player balloting. Voters likely downgraded Boggs due to his modest production numbers. He averaged 10 homers and 70 RBIs in this span, which may have tarnished his averages of .357 (batting), 213 hits, 113 runs and 45 doubles.
9. The Boggs-Gwynn connection
Remarkably, Boggs and Gwynn each appeared in 2,440 Major League games (Boggs logged an outing in which he pitched but did not bat). With a .338 career average and eight batting titles, Gwynn had a clear edge on Boggs (.328, five batting championships). However, Boggs bested Gwynn in runs scored (1,513-1,383) and on-base percentage (.415-.388). Gwynn recorded a career 132 OPS+; Boggs’ was 131.
10. Collect 200 hits; rinse and repeat
Boggs found a groove in this span by totaling 200 hits or more annually. He became the first player to achieve this for seven years in a row since Willie “Hit ‘em where they ain’t” Keeler did it for eight consecutive years (1894-1901). Between Keeler and Boggs, the only player with as many as five such seasons in a row was Detroit’s Charlie “The Mechanical Man” Gehringer (1933-1937). Ichiro left everybody in his wake by recording 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons (2001-10).