Year Inducted: 2005 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 474/516)
The intentional walk, as an option for pitchers, is usually used to avoid giving a great hitter a mistake pitch, and just let him have first base rather than a hit. Most famously, Barry Bonds in his steroid-enhanced seasons would routinely get walked intentionally seemingly every game at least once. In 2004, Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times and he led the NL in intentional passes 12 times in his career, including in his last two seasons when he was limping around on really bad knees. Before him though, who was the major bat that was intentionally walked a lot? It wasn’t Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. It wasn’t even really a classic power hitter like Dale Murphy or Dave Kingman. No, the player most associated with the intentional pass before Bonds must be Wade Boggs, who led the AL in the stat for six consecutive years despite hitting a total of 53 homers (with 24 coming in one season).
The reason why Boggs got the intentional pass a lot was because he was a hitting machine that could work counts really well and line the ball all over the yard for a hit. In 18 years with the Red Sox, Yanks and Rays, Boggs walked more than he struck out every season save for when he was 40 years old. In those 18 seasons, The Chicken Man hit a whopping .328/.415/.443 with a wRC+ of 132. Boggs’ line drive style of hitting helped him collect 3010 hits, including 578 doubles, 61 triples and 118 homers. With the ability to draw walks and work counts, Boggs was a perfect fit atop the batting order for most of his career. As such, he only drove in 1014 runs, a very respectable total for a guy that didn’t hit for power. However, Boggs’ ability to get on base frequently helped him score 1513 runs despite being a poor baserunner (-12 runs above average, only 24 steals). Boggs was a very under appreciated offensive player during his career, disparaged for his lack of power and RBIs by the media quite often. However, most saw value in Boggs’ bat for what he was: an excellent hitter who rarely makes poor contact.
Boggs was also a fine defender at third base. Boggs was a tall guy, standing 6’2″, so he could cover quite a bit of ground at the hot corner. He ended his career with 105.8 fielding runs above average, a total that ranked 20th all-time at his retirement. He may not have been Brooks Robinson with the glove, but he was definitely a solid defender.
After 18 seasons, Boggs ranked among the immortals at third base. He ranked 3rd in fWAR, 3rd in runs, 3rd in doubles and 3rd in hits. He may not have had the power that a player like Mike Schmidt or Eddie Mathews, but he was still a legend at the position. Boggs coasted in on his first ballot, further proving that the BBWAA is moving beyond whatever weird aversion they initially had to third basemen. Boggs was probably the greatest non-power hitter in history, and will always be known for his great batting eye and patience at the plate as he waited for the right pitch to line to the outfield for a double.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 12/8/16:
#25- The Commerce Comet
#24- The lone inductee from the Kansas City Royals