Making the way around the infield, my next installment in the series comes at the hot corner. Making the top five there will be a couple mainstays, a couple players from a century ago, and one I think you all will remember watching play. There were a couple options for the last spot, guys who weren’t with the team a real long time but made a big impact. But that’s what the honorable mention section is for at the end.
Wade Boggs is by far the greatest third baseman in franchise history. He leads the team at the position in almost every offensive category. Wade burst onto the scene in 1982 by batting .349. Over the next six seasons he only batted below .357 once, leading the league in hitting five times. Over his first seven seasons Boggs batted .356 while averaging 220 hits and 103 walks per 162 games played. He was the best hitter in baseball during the 80’s, seemingly able to foul off pitch after pitch until he got the one he wanted.
Boggs set a Major League record while with the Red Sox by collecting 200 hits in seven consecutive seasons. Not only that, they were the first seven full seasons of his career. Even with all the base hits, Boggs managed to walk over 100 times each season from 1986-89. Over the course of his Red Sox career, Boggs walked 1004 times, more than twice as often as he struck out. They just don’t make them like they used to.
Malzone spent almost his whole career with the Red Sox, going to California for his final season in 1966. He batted .276 while picking up 1454 base hits. His 131 home runs and 716 runs batted in are tops at the position for the Red Sox. His heyday lasted eight seasons, from 1957-64. During those years he batted .281 with an average of 16 home runs and 84 RBI. He made eight all-star teams during those seasons, thanks to two All-Star Games in 1959 and 1960.
Malzone was also an excellent fielder, winning the first three Gold Gloves ever awarded to third basemen. In 1957, he led the league in errors made, but also in putouts, assists and double plays turned. He would lead the league in double plays for five consecutive seasons.
After his playing days were over Malzone came back to the organization. He would spend over three decades as a Red Sox scout. After scouting for years he would serve as a player development consultant for the team. Frank Malzone meant a lot to the Boston Red Sox organization.
Collins was already well regarded before joining the Boston Americans in 1901. The franchise was known as the Americans during his entire stint with the team, not becoming named the Red Sox until 1908. Collins’ play remained well above average after switching leagues and he was often regarded as the best third baseman in baseball. On top of that, Collins was also the manager until part way through 1906. He led the team to the first ever World Series Championship in 1903. The following season he led them to a second consecutive pennant, but the Giants refused to play the World Series.
Collins batted .296 while picking up 881 base hits during his time with the organization. He was also a great defender, redefining the position. Before Collins, shortstops were the ones to field bunts. Collins became known for his ability to field bunts and the job eventually shifted to the third baseman. He is still second all-time at the position for putouts recorded. Collins was part of the seventh Hall of Fame class ever with his induction in 1945.
Gardner is the other one on the list who played a century ago. He first appeared with the team in 1908 and was the main third baseman from 1910-1917. During that time he collected 1106 base hits while batting .282. His 30.5 WAR is second only to Wade Boggs at the position.
During his stay in Boston, Gardner won three World Series championships. Despite only hitting 16 home runs over eight seasons, Gardner hit three home runs in 18 World Series games with the Red Sox. Despite a low batting average in series play, he made his presence felt.
Mike Lowell was acquired from the Marlins in a deal where Josh Beckett was the headliner. Lowell made his impact in Boston though, putting up fine offensive numbers, playing a rock solid third base and winning the 2007 World Series. That 2007 season was possibly the best of Lowell’s career, batting a career high .324 with 21 home runs and 120 runs batted in. Then in the postseason he batted .353 and drove in 15 runners. His .400 batting average in the World Series helped to net him the MVP Award for the series.
Before a hip problem slowed him in 2010, Lowell averaged a season of .295 19 87 over his first four seasons with the team. He made the All-Star Game in 2007 and finished fifth in the MVP vote. His .814 OPS with the team is 2nd among the guys included in the top five. In the field, Lowell only made six errors during his first season with the team. He is 2nd all-time at the position in career fielding percentage. A well liked player, it will be nice to have him back in the organization for this coming season.
Bill Mueller, Jim Tabor, Tim Naehring, John Valentin, Johnny Pesky, Rico Petrocelli, Butch Hobson