Wade Boggs and the winter of 1992

Chien-Ming Wang, former Yankee (UPDATE: Not yet)
Link Dump: Joba Rules, J.T. Snow, Damon

Wade Boggs knocks out a base hit against the Orioles in Sept. 1997. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea)

These days, the Yankees don’t struggle to attract top talent. With playoff appearances in 13 of the last 14 seasons and five World Series titles out of their last seven Fall Classic appearances, the Yankees have become one of the top destinations for marquee players looking for a shot at October glory. Adding to the winning is the team’s willingness to spend, spend, spend.

It wasn’t always like this though. The Yankees have always been happy to dole out the dollars, but sometimes, even the dollars aren’t incentive enough. For a look at just when and why the Yankees couldn’t convince players to come to the Bronx and how it all ended, we flashback again to the winter of 1992/1993. A few weeks ago, I explored the Roberto Kelly/Paul O’Neill trade, and today, we look at the circumstances surrounding Wade Boggs’ arrival in the Bronx.

For Yankee fans of a certain age, the thought of Boggs in the Bronx was enough to churn the strongest of stomachs. Boggs was so deeply associated with the hated Red Sox that fans despised him. To make matters worse, he and Don Mattingly had a relationship about as warm as the one Derek Jeter and A-Rod share today.

After the 1992 season, Boggs was a free agent, and the Yankees needed a third baseman. They had recently lost Charlie Hayes in the expansion draft, and although Boggs had put up an anemic .259/.353/.358 line in Boston and had suffered through back spasms, the Tampa faction of the divisive Yankee Front Office had their eyes set on Boggs. Eventually, the team signed him to a three-year, $11 million deal — a contract Jack Curry called “curious” — but the circumstances of the deal reveal much about the way the Yankees used to operate.

The Yankees in 1992 were a team no one wanted to join. They had just finished their fourth straight losing season, and it was just the second time in franchise history and the first since 1912-1915 that the team had suffered through that much futility on the field. Behind the scenes, the Yankees had struggled with the suspension of George Steinbrenner and struggled with his return. The Boss and Joseph Molloy, a managing partner in Tampa, had wrested control of personnel moves from Gene Michael and Buck Showalter, and the strains of that fight over the team power was in full display. That winter, David Cone, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Terry Steinbach and Doug Drabek all rejected the Yankes. The team had to outbid the Dodgers by one year and $5 million just to land Boggs. It was ugly indeed.

Yet, somehow, someway, it worked out for the Yankees. Boggs stuck around for five years and wasn’t terrible. He hit .313/.396/.407 with a 111 OPS+ while in the Bronx, and the image of his horse ride around the stadium in 1996 has come to represent October salvation for a group of Yankee lovers who were formative fans as the Yanks struggled for wins. A sign of the baseball split in the Yankee Front Office early on, Boggs became a symbol of the team’s new-found success by mid-decade.

These days, of course, the Yankees don’t have to bend and break to get the guys they want. They have resolved issues of decentralized baseball power that seem to crop up every ten years and have put a product on the field that 29 other teams envy and strive to beat. Boggs and O’Neill, two guys most analysts were already counting out before they played their first games in pinstripes, were the harbingers of this great new era in Yankee baseball. Who would have believed it then?

Chien-Ming Wang, former Yankee (UPDATE: Not yet)
Link Dump: Joba Rules, J.T. Snow, Damon
  • JSquared

    The Horse Ride still gives me the chills… Yankee Domination.

  • vin

    This is a great series for posts.

    That 92/93 offseason was pretty damn big for the Yanks.

    Hayes -> Boggs
    Kelly -> O’Neill
    Sanderson -> Key
    Leary -> Abbott
    Nokes -> Stanley (already with the team, but became full-time catcher in 93)
    Hall -> Dion James (already with the team, but became full-time LF in 93)

    More AB’s for Leyritz
    Fewer AB’s for Maas

    ’93 was also Bernie’s first full season.

    The team really started to make good baseball decisions around this time. Too bad Maddux snubbed the Yanks. But I guess things worked out OK.

  • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Despite being a 1st ballot HOF, I think Boggs was under-appreciated when he played. Some of his seasons with the Sox were downright ridiculous. Sabermatricians would love him. In 1988, he led the league in OPS despite only hitting 5 HR’s (yet finished 6th in the MVP balloting). He also led the league in OPS in 1987 and finished 8th in the MVP balloting. While he always did, like Tony Gwynn, get credit for his high batting average, his OBP was never talked about like it should have been.

  • ledavidisrael

    Imagine if bonds was a Yankee oh m g.

    • ledavidisrael

      And Maddux

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    The Yankees traded for Paul O’Neill and Jim Abbott; they signed Jimmy Key and Boggs, and they brought back Steve Howe, the seven-time drug loser, which surely would not have happened if baseball still had a commissioner.

    whoa, crazy times. damn man.

  • Rose

    That winter, David Cone, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Terry Steinbach and Doug Drabek all rejected the Yankes.

    So happy Bonds turned it down. Just so he could continue to be the Dan Marino of baseball.

    Note: I think Barry Bonds was an absolute beast and one of the best baseball players of all time…with or without the juice. I just think he’s a racist piece of shit as well and for that reason alone, I take pride in his certain suffering.

    2nd Note: The best was after Barry broke Babe Ruth’s HR record and a baseball writer said in an interview “So Barry, do you think you’re better than Babe Ruth now?” and he replied “I think the numbers speak for themself” in which another baseball writer said from a distance “Well you better get 100 Wins too then…” It was pretty amusing.

  • vin

    One of the many narratives of the mid-late 90s teams was that they were great at taking pitches and making the opposing pitcher work. We saw Bobby Abreu get credit for this last year with the Angels. That 1992-1993 transition showed a pretty big jump in pitches/pa for the Yanks.

    Wade Boggs led the team in pitches/pa every year he was in NY, until he finished 2nd to Cecil in ’98 (by 0.03).

    ’90 – 3.60
    ’91 – 3.57
    ’92 – 3.65
    ’93 – 3.75

    ’94 – 3.82
    ’95 – 3.79
    ’96 – 3.71
    ’97 – 3.77
    ’98 – 3.81

    • vin

      Oops… make that:

      2nd to Cecil in ‘97 (by 0.03).

      • scooter

        vin – you’re absolutely right. You could argue that Stick Michael did “Moneyball” long before Beane became GM in Oakland – and the transformation began as soon as George was suspended.

        Growing up when I did, and being in school in Boston for Boggs’s best years there, I got a chance to appreciate both Boggs and Mattingly in their primes.

        I’m still a baseball nerd, and I loved Ted Williams’ book on hitting, so I remember looking forward to reading this piece in SI:

    • JGS

      Nick Johnson’s pitches/PA

      2009: 4.38
      2008: 4.30
      2006: 4.29
      2005: 4.11
      2004: 4.28
      2003: 4.29
      2002: 4.15

      me: {drools}

      • vin

        We’re all giddy.

  • Chris

    Great post! Being one of the aforementioned formative fans that suffered through the Ken Phelps/Mel Hall/Andy Hawkins era, I can literally still remember seeing news of this signing on Sportscenter before heading off to school.

    When I talk to other Yankee fans, this is always the period I mention being key in the Yankees becoming contenders again. O’Neill, Boggs, and Key all changed the atmosphere and perception around the team (as did Bernie developing into a star).

    I remember reading an interview with Gene Michael where he made the valid point that Maddux was actually the biggest loss of the FA market. His point being that if they sign him, they would have had a great shot to go all the way in ’95, and almost definitely in ’97 too. He feels like the team could have ran off 6 straight titles if they had only been able to convince him to sign.

  • Rose

    I feel bad for Don Mattingly. He’s the face of the Yankees for several years…he’s constantly being compared to Wade Boggs…

    Then Boggs comes over. Don Mattingly retires in 1995, the Yankees win the World Series in 1996…Wade Boggs continues to do well and becomes a first ballot Hall of Famer while Don Mattingly is struggling to make it at all (despite having eerily similar numbers and playing time as Kirby Puckett).

    Not to mention Donny comes back to be a coach and the team goes into a playoff funk…only to win immediately (a year this time) after he leaves again.

    • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      And he married a crazy drunk.

      • Rose

        So maybe Don Mattingly had more in common with Wade Boggs’ wife then instead of Wade Boggs…hmm…

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      despite having eerily similar numbers and playing time as Kirby Puckett).

      Neither should be in.

      • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Just one man’s opinion… But I wish people would stop talking about HOF induction standards as if there’s some sort of clear distinction between who should get in and who shouldn’t, like there’s an obvious answer or only one right way to make the determination.

        The whole thing is arbitrary. None of us have the answer, we just have an answer.

      • Don W

        Eerily similar numbers when comparing a GG CF’er & a GG 1B does not bode well for the 1B.

  • Once and Future Lurker

    This is the first offseason that I’ve been a RABbi, having discovered the site over a boring summer doing science, and I must say that I’m really enjoying these articles. I’m too young to remember anything about Wade Boggs or, really, the Yankees before 2001 (in hindsight, this was a bad time to become a fan). You guys do a great job of contextualizing the past, keep it up. Also, the first line of paragraph 4 has a typo (“basemen” instead of “baseman”–unless Wade Boggs was good enough to be his own sub).

    • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I agree about liking this series of posts… But just two nitpicks with what you wrote:

      1 – Please don’t say becoming a Yankees fan and then watching them make the playoffs every season of the decade means you, in hindsight, became a fan at a bad time. One thing these posts do well is put what the Yankees are currently doing into historical context, and I think you need to become a bit more aware of that historical context as it relates to the Yankees teams you’ve been rooting for. You have to go back to the 50s… Again… The freaking 1950s… To find a team that made the playoffs as often as the 2000s Yankees did (they made the postseason 8 times in the 50s and 9 times in the 2000s). People who grew up/became fans in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s didn’t see a team as successful, over the course of a decade, as what you saw in the 2000s (well the late 90s dynasty is obviously an outlier, but I’m talking about success over the course of a full decade). You became a Yankees fan at a VERY good time. Those of us born in the 70s or early 80s (which I think is a decent portion of the RAB commentariat) watched the Yankees play for a decade and a half before we saw them make the playoffs, just to put things into perspective for you. Saying you became a fan at a bad time is utterly ridiculous.

      2 – You’re not a RABbi, the RABbis are the guys who run the site.

      • Don W

        Dittos to what Mondesi said. I started following the Yankees in 1982. I waited 13 years before seeing a Yankee playoff game. (*) Your timing was excellent not poor.

        * – I have a distinct recollection of listening to a 1981 Yankee Dodger WS game on the radio after Cub Scouts but I had no idea what was going on and didn’t really care.

        • Once and Future Lurker

          Maybe so, but until last October the entirety of my Yankees experience consisted of getting my hopes up and losing in increasingly frustrating ways (’03 WS, ’04 ALCS, ’05 ’06 and ’07 ALDSs, ’08 sitting-at-home). Now that it’s all come together I feel great, but I can’t help but feel like a year or two of the fabled Yankee dynasty would have helped me out.

      • Once and Future Lurker

        1) I’m sorry I wasn’t around for the 70s, but it’s really not my fault. I feel your response was a little too aggressive, given my initial comment. I understand that you feel strongly about the issue, and appreciate the depth of your response, but there are gentler ways to phrase your message than calling my post “utterly ridiculous.” I know there’s no crying in baseball, but still.

        I was just trying to make the point that being born four or five years earlier would have made my early Yankee-loving days a little easier. As it is, my first Yankee memory is the end of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, which still stings. Last year was my first WS win, and while my frustration with the preceding decade may not have been as complete as yours, it was still real. I was around for ’03, ’04, and ’08, as well as the three years of high hopes and first-round exits in between. The Royals they were not, but neither were they the evil win-buying juggernaut I’d been told by my parents (both Mets fans, of course) they were.

        That said, you’re exactly right. Perhaps it would have been more apt to say that my Yankee formative years came during a local minimum of success, rather than a global one. Still, though, a bad time’s a bad time. I’m sure I’ll be around for another WS drought, and when the time comes I’ll be the one yelling at the kids to get off my lawn and remember the ’00s, when they couldn’t even make the playoffs with A-Rod that one time.

        2) Please? Pretty please?

        (PS. I don’t know how this comment is going to come out, but regardless of your impression of it, I really do appreciate the feedback. Sorry for the essay, it kind of got out of control.)

        (PPS. Congressman who? Just kidding.)

        • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Look, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or anything, but I do think saying that you became a fan at a bad time, because you became a fan in 2001, is utterly ridiculous, and I explained why. Yes, it would have been better for you if you’d become a fan 5 years earlier, but complaining about becoming a fan of a team that reeled off 8 playoff appearances, 7 division titles, 3 American League pennants and 1 World Series championship in the span of your first 9 years of fandom portrays a lack of perspective and understanding of context.

          This isn’t about, and I didn’t knock you for, you not being around for the late 60s or the 70s or the 80s or the early 90s. I didn’t knock you for being young. I knocked your statement that you became a fan at a bad time. You became a fan at a really good time. Was it as good as becoming a fan in, say, 1995 or 1996? Maybe not. But that’s like complaining that you’re not banging Brooklyn Decker while you’re banging Marissa Miller. (… And, now that I said that, I’m really hoping you’re not like 13 years old. lol)

          “I was just trying to make the point that being born four or five years earlier would have made my early Yankee-loving days a little easier.”

          This, I agree with. But that’s not what you said and what I responded to. It’s perfectly fine to say ‘damn, wish I was around for the late 90s, that must have been sweet.’ It’s quite another thing to say ‘I became a fan at a bad time because the Yankees didn’t win the World Series for my first 8 years of fandom’ – when they were winning division titles and playing in the postseason and winning pennants during those 8 years and then winning a World Series in the 9th year.

          “Still, though, a bad time’s a bad time.”

          Again… You really need to learn to look at these things in the proper context. The 2000s were not a bad time to be a Yankees fan, the Yankees were the team of the decade. I think if you try to reconcile the two statements I quoted here, you’ll see the difference and why one is perfectly rational and the other portrays a lack of perspective.

          “I’m sure I’ll be around for another WS drought, and when the time comes I’ll be the one yelling at the kids to get off my lawn and remember the ’00s, when they couldn’t even make the playoffs with A-Rod that one time.”

          Dude… Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never complain about being a fan during a decade when the team missed the playoffs ONE TIME.

          And look… I really think it’s cool of you to have responded and to have made an effort to think about what I said about your comment; being able to think critically about ourselves and our own opinions is a really cool and mature trait. I hope you don’t feel like I’m killing you here because you’re young or anything like that, I really don’t think I’m the type, and I try not to be the type, to tell someone who’s younger than me that they don’t have intelligent or well-reasoned opinions just because they’re young and maybe haven’t been a fan as long (and, in my own defense, I’m not that old, I’m from the Mattingly generation). I just think you’re not looking at this issue, and what you said, in the proper context. I also think, after reading your response, that you totally get that point, or at least that you will get it when you give it a little thought.

          Really, this little exchange makes me think you’re good and I hope you’ll feel like commenting around here whenever you feel like joining the conversation. I really hope you don’t feel shouted down or anything… I was just disagreeing and explaining why, I wasn’t trying to bully you or anything. Actually, if you read my original comment again I think you’ll see that I wasn’t exactly attacking you or anything.

          Do not, however, denigrate the good name of Raul Mondesi. Actually… Feel free, everyone else does it. Raul’s 5 tools were bad-ass once upon a time, though. (Kidding, the whole Mondesi thing is tongue-in-cheek. I mean, just look at the guy, he’s hysterical.)

  • Chris

    the image of his horse ride around the stadium in 1996 has come to represent October salvation for a group of Yankee lovers who were formative fans as the Yanks struggled for wins.

    What I find interesting is that Charlie Hayes caught the last out of that World Series.

    • Don W

      MLB officials breathed a sigh of relief when Hayes squeezed that pop-up. Shortly before that the hitter had hit one in nearly the same location and a Brave in the dugout interfered with Hayes but the umpire didn’t call the batter out.

      Imagine what uproar if that had allowed the Braves to come back and win the game and then the series. It would’ve gone down with the 1985 & 1987 series’ in infamy…poor Cardinal fans.

  • Brian

    Don’t forget, Boggs’ time with the Yanks also gave ride to one of the funniest road trip stories of all-time (as told by Jeff Nelson)- 70+ beers on a cross-country flight. Unreal.

    • Brian

      Gave rise- not ride.

  • A.D.

    How the man didn’t get bored of eating chicken everyday, I’ll never know.

  • Lucas

    To make matters worse, he and Don Mattingly had a relationship about as warm as the one Derek Jeter and A-Rod share today.

    Is this true? Anyone have any info/links that comment more on this?

    Thanks, much appreciated!

    • Jimmie Foxx

      Yeah I’m wondering about this too. I tried searching this topic online but didn’t really get any results that would support a “non-friendly” relationship between the two.

      Any help?

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