Who are the best third basemen in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5
The Red Sox could compile an All-Star lineup of third basemen who excelled at other positions, from Kevin Youkilis to Rico Petrocelli to John Valentin, Johnny Pesky, and Xander Bogaerts.
You could also easily fill a second team with either All-Stars (Shea Hillenbrand, Scott Cooper) or batting champions (Carney Lansford, Bill Mueller). Picking the actual top five isn't easy, especially if we eliminate some of the aforementioned players, who will appear on other lists (we're limiting each player to one appearance overall).
The first two are Hall of Famers and no-brainers. After that comes a long-time standout, a World Series hero, and finally, a budding star who we suspect will finish his career even higher on this list.
5. Rafael Devers
Too soon? Let's call this getting in on the ground floor. Though cases could be made for Mueller, Lansford, or Tim Naehring, we're taking Devers partly for what he has already accomplished, but mostly for what we expect of him moving forward.
The slugging left-handed hitter has total plate coverage and prodigious power. His breakout 2019 included a league-leading 54 doubles, 32 homers, and a .916 OPS. And he did all that without driving in a run for the first two weeks or hitting a homer until May. Just 23 years old, Devers has all the tools to compete for a Triple Crown, especially as he becomes more disciplined and recognizes that even though he can reach just about any pitch, he needn't swing at all of them.
Here's hoping baseball finds a way to play in 2020, because we can't wait to see what Devers gives us next.
4. Mike Lowell
It's easy to forget that Lowell arrived as a throw-in in the deal that brought Josh Beckett from the Marlins for prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. He ended up being every bit as essential to the 2007 World Series as Beckett, delivering not just All-Star performance, but also leadership and stability to a clubhouse easily combusted by the intense scrutiny that accompanies playing in Boston.
A multilingual cancer survivor who had the respect of every corner of the clubhouse, Lowell was at his best in 2007, when he made his lone Red Sox All-Star team by hitting .324 with 21 homers and a career-high 120 RBIs. He finished fifth in the MVP voting and then capped it off with a World Series MVP award after hitting .400 in the sweep of the Rockies.
Injuries took their toll thereafter, but Lowell had already secured his place in franchise history.
3. Frank Malzone
Malzone was one of the standouts in the relative dead zone of Red Sox history from the mid-1950s until the mid-1960s. The team never finished higher than third during his tenure, which bridged the transition from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski, and he suffered through seven straight losing seasons before joining the Angels for his final season, in 1966.
But he was one of the only reasons to watch during that time, making eight All-Star teams (including two each in 1959 and 1960), winning three Gold Gloves, and finishing as high as seventh in the MVP voting in 1957, when he placed second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Tony Kubek of the Yankees. And to think that he did it after overcoming a Gordon Hayward-style ankle break in the minors, which doctors told him would end his career. He instead played 12 years before settling in Needham, where he died in 2015.
2. Jimmy Collins
These lists are always going to be biased against old-timers, but Collins has the distinction of being the first third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame, gaining enshrinement by what was effectively the Veteran's Committee in 1945. A turn-of-the-century star with the Braves, Collins joined the Red Sox as player-manager in 1901. He won the inaugural World Series two years later, stealing three bases vs. the Pirates.
By that point, it was already clear that he'd be a pivotal figure in Red Sox lore, because his arrival helped transform Boston from a Braves town to a Red Sox one. The Royal Rooters, for instance, may be associated with the Red Sox now, but they started as a Braves fan club that followed Collins across town. He hit .332 and then .322 in his first two years with the Red Sox and retired in 1908 with a career average of .294.
1. Wade Boggs
Of all the sweet swings to pass through Fenway Park, Boggs' may have been the purest. Living proof that the Green Monster actually beckons left-handed doubles hitters as much as right-handed sluggers, Boggs was overlooked for most of his minor league career before forcing his way into Boston in 1982, when he hit .349 in 104 games and finished third to Cal Ripken Jr. in the Rookie of the Year race. A year later, Boggs displaced defending AL batting champ Carney Lansford to embark on one of the greatest runs in franchise history.
He won the batting title in 1983 by hitting .361 and took off from there, claiming four straight batting crowns from 1985-88 while hitting between .357 and .368 each year. His 240 hits in 1985 remain far and away a franchise record. He also was no stranger to controversy, from his affair with Margo Adams to willing himself invisible, all part of a package that made him compelling during 11 years here.