Wade Boggs on Boston’s refusal to retire his number: ‘It’s disappointing’

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It's been almost seven years since Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were enshrined into the Hall of Fame on the same day.

But while Sandberg returned to Chicago to have his number retired by the Cubs just a few weeks after the ceremony in Cooperstown, Boggs still waits for the same honor from the Red Sox. The team's continued slight became a topic during Boggs' visit to Tropicana Field for Saturday's Red Sox-Rays game with the third baseman calling the team's continued inaction "disappointing."

"Absolutely," Boggs said when asked by reporters if he'd like to have his number retired by the Red Sox. "It would mean a lot."

As Boggs points out, every other player who has entered the Hall wearing a Red Sox cap has seen his number retired by the club. And it really should be a no-doubter. Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected in 2005 with 91.9 percent of the vote. His name was synonymous with the Red Sox franchise for much of the 1980s and the number of former teammate Jim Rice was retired just a few days after he was inducted into Cooperstown in 2009.

So what gives? Why isn't Boggs' No. 26 hanging with the others at Fenway?

What's more, why do the Red Sox keep handing it out from everyone to Lou Merloni to Ramiro Mendoza to Scott Podsednik? There are plenty of theories. Some blame his infamous and very public affair with Margo Adams in late '80s while others cite the incongruity of his most iconic moment — riding around Yankee Stadium on a police horse after winning the 1996 World Series for Boston's biggest rival. There's also the fact that he ended his career in the uniform of his hometown Tampa Bay Rays, securing his 3,000th hit with a memorable homer.

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If the Red Sox have wanted Boggs to only have eyes for them in retirement, he hasn't been willing to play along. He has appeared at Old Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium and ruffled some feathers among Red Sox fans when he wore a Yankees cap for a celebrity softball game during the 2008 All-Star festivities at old Yankee Stadium.

There was also some speculation that he was considering wearing a Rays cap on his Hall of Fame plaque because former Rays owner Vince Naimoli was willing to pay him $1 million if he did. Boggs claims that such an offer was untrue. But during Saturday's broadcast on NESN, he referred to the Rays as "we" and the Red Sox as "you guys" during a rambling third-inning guest appearance in the booth.

As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the Red Sox have maintained an official stance that is rather hypocritical when considering Carlton Fisk's retired No. 27:

Over the years, Boggs has returned to Fenway for various events. He has been told by the Red Sox that his career does not meet the team's criteria for having a number retired: a player must have spent at least 10 years with the Red Sox and finished his career in Boston.

Yet the Red Sox made an exception for Carlton Fisk, who spent his first 11 years with the Red Sox and then his final 13 with the White Sox. Through some gimmick of employing him as a special assistant to the GM, the team rationalized that he met the criteria and now his No. 27 is affixed with the other retired numbers on the facade in right field.

But no matter Boggs' continued affiliation with two AL East rivals, Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald says the debate should be a non-existent one:

His credentials are so strong that it's not only an embarrassment that the Red Sox have not retired his number, but that they have continued to keep it in circulation. While nobody has worn Roger Clemens' unretired No. 21 since the Rocket left Boston, Boggs' number keeps getting handed out. Outfielder Scott Podsednik is the latest to wear it.

Boggs played 11 of his 18 seasons with the Sox. He won five American League batting titles, led the AL in on-base percentage six times and had seven seasons with 200 or more hits. Of his 3,010 hits, 2,098 were with the Sox. He was an All-Star in eight of 11 Sox seasons.

Indeed. While Boggs hasn't made any effort to stay, uh, monogamous with the Red Sox in his post-retirement years, it also shouldn't be necessary. The story of his career expanded past one team once the Red Sox decided not to re-sign him in the early '90s and there's no reason he should magically forget his only World Series championship or the hometown team that gave him an opportunity to achieve his biggest personal milestone.

And who knows? Perhaps part of the reason that Boggs keeps hanging around the Yankees and Rays (who did retire the No. 12 he wore with them) is because he feels miffed that the Red Sox haven't given him the honor he deserves.

It's time for the team to right that wrong. It's time to find a new number for Scott Podsednik.

What do you think? Should the Red Sox retire Wade Boggs' No. 26?

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