Could Will Middlebrooks Pull a Wade Boggs for Red Sox?
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As Kevin Youkilis heads to the disabled list and Will Middlebrooks comes up to take his place at third base, I can't help recalling a similar incident that happened almost exactly 30 years ago involving a future Hall of Famer.
In April 1982, third baseman Wade Boggs made the Red Sox after six years in the minors. He only got into 10 games through May, because Boston had a defending AL batting champion on third in Carney Lansford. Then, in late June, Lansford suffered a broken ankle and Boggs was given a chance to take his place.
The rookie took advantage of the situation, to put it mildly. Boggs went 10-for-20 in his first five games as a starter, hit .364 in June, .387 in July and .386 in August—stroking the ball with a regularity that fans would get used to over the next decade. When Lansford came back in late July, manager Ralph Houk kept Boggs in the lineup by moving him to first base.
Even though his September average fell off to "only" .314, Boggs finished the year with a .349 overall mark in 338 at-bats. Lansford rebounded well from his injury to bat .301, but that December was traded to the A's in a deal that netted the Red Sox future home run champ Tony Armas.
And while nagging injuries in Oakland kept Lansford from the Hall of Fame career once expected of him, Boggs would go on to win five batting titles in the next six years at Boston and make it to Cooperstown with a .328 lifetime average and 3010 hits.
Could Middlebrooks pull a Wade Boggs and take Youk's job for good? Will he excel enough to prompt the Red Sox to trade their popular, but slumping (and oft-injured) third baseman for some pitching help?
Time will tell, but it will be fun to see how the rookie takes advantage of his opportunity. He hasn't hit for as high an average overall as Boggs did in the minors, but he was batting .333 with nine homers in just 27 games at Pawtucket when called up yesterday. Then, in his first MLB game, he went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base.
Red Sox Nation is watching. The rain is falling in Boston, but Will Middlebrooks is looking to shine.
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at amazon.com and his Red Sox reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com/. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @saulwizz.
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