The Boston Red Sox announced this afternoon that they are retiring Wade Boggs’ number 26 in a ceremony at Fenway Park on May 26, 2016.
It’s kind of crazy that this is only happening now. Boggs’ decade in Boston saw him post some of the best numbers any hitter has posted in baseball history. While there he collected 2,098 hits and posted a line of .338/.428/.462. Which, we should remember, came in a low-offense era, meaning that his .890 OPS worked out to a 142 OPS+. The term “pure hitter” has almost lost meaning — it usually means “hitter who doesn’t hit a lot of homers” — but it’s hard to argue against the idea that Boggs was the the best one of ’em in baseball while he wore 26 in Boston. It’s where his Hall of Fame case was built, even if he didn’t finish his career there.
Why the Sox didn’t retire his number before this is open for debate. There were rumors that, when he played in Tampa Bay, the Devil Rays included a “wear a Tampa Bay cap on your Hall of Fame plaque” provision in his contract. Boggs denied it, but the Hall of Fame felt it necessary to change its rules afterward to take away the choice on the matter from the players. He’s wearing a Boston “B” on his plaque in Cooperstown. Also didn’t help that Boggs rode that horse in the Yankees World Series celebration in 1996. It’s been a good while since the Red Sox, as an organization, have seemed terribly provincial about rivalry matters, but maybe the Yankees associations hurt his number-retirement cause in Boston. It’s worth noting, of course, that no one has wore Roger Clemens’ 21 in Boston since he left despite his Yankees (and steroids) associations, so maybe that’s not it.
But now Boggs is getting his due. Brock Holt, the current wearer of 26, will switch numbers. And all of the guys who wore 26 since Boggs left town can make a joke to their families and coworkers about how their number is being retired next year. Holt, Scott Podsednik, Ramiro Mendoza, Freddy Sanchez, Lou Merloni, Sean Berry, Rob Stanifer, Orlando Merced, Chris Snopek, Aaron Sele, Alejandro Pena, Lee Tinsley, and Wes Chamberlain: you can have that one for free.
But congratulations are really in order for Mr. Boggs.