Wade Boggs: The Greatest Power Hitter of the Early Tampa Bay Rays?

Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff made up the star power of the inaugural Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998. Boggs only hit nine homers in his time with the Rays, but man did he know when to pick his spots.

Wade Boggs was the very first number-three hitter in the Tampa Bay Rays‘ franchise history. He came to the team exactly 200 hits shy of 3,000. He had spent his entire 16-year career in the AL East playing with the Red Sox and the Yankees. He would finish his playing career with the newest team in the division, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Boggs was from Tampa and was happy to return, like a heroic cowboy riding into the sunset. Boggs was the cowboy and Tampa was the sunset… and the Rays were the horse?

Boggs was not known for his power but was known as one of the greatest pure hitters the game had ever seen. He had only reached double-digit homers in a season twice in his 18-year career. His first season with the Rays he would hit just seven homers.

Seeing as how Boggs could step up in such moments of great importance and bring the long-ball, it makes you wonder how many he could have had throughout his career. By all accounts, Boggs could hit the ball out of the park with the best of them in batting practice, but like we always heard about Ichiro, he chose to be a good hitter than one who occasionally ran into a home run.

Boggs was trying to hit line-drives, not fly-balls.

Here’s an interesting quote from Red Sox coach Bill Fischer in a 1987 article from the LA Times.

“There’s no question that Boggs hits the ball farther and harder than Jim Rice or Dwight Evans or Don Baylor,” says the old pitching coach Fischer. “He has titanic power that he hasn’t shown yet. But he will. He regularly hits the ball onto the roof in Chicago and into the waterfalls in Kansas City. He’ll hit 10 home runs in one round of batting practice. He’d win any home-run contest he ever entered.”

Perhaps that explains how the first home run in Rays’ history was delivered in Boggs’ third at-bat of the very first game.

Perhaps it explains how the following season, Boggs’ final season, only his ninth homer as a Ray made him the first player to ever hit a homer on his 3,000th hit.

What impeccable timing the legend had…It makes you wonder.

Boggs knew that line-drives gave him control, and he was all about having control. Line-drives are a sure-fire way to hit for a high average as the league will hit anywhere between .600-.700 on line-drives in any given season.

Boggs’ approach led him to a .328 career average over 18 seasons. He led the league in hitting on five different occasions. He led the league in OBP in five-straight seasons and six overall. Only once did he hit more than 20 homers in a season. He finished his career with only 118 home runs or 6.5 home runs per season, and yet the only question about his Hall of Fame status was “which hat will he wear?”

Next: Three Most Unfortunate Trades in Rays History

Thanks for giving us something to root for in the beginning Mr. Boggs.