Editor’s note: On Sunday, June 21 at 7 p.m. ET, NESN will air the “Red Sox Fantasy Draft.” Choosing from a pool of the top players at each position in Red Sox history, six of our MLB analysts will participate in a draft to build the best team they possibly can. In the lead up to that, we’ll be looking back at that top players at each position in franchise history. Today, it’s third basemen.
The Boston Red Sox have benefited from having some of the best third basemen in baseball history play at Fenway Park over the (many) years.
From defensive wizards to offensive forces to all-around studs, the hot corner largely has been a source of excellence throughout Red Sox history. Of course, some players were of a higher caliber and separated themselves from the pack.
With that said, here are a few of the top third basemen in Red Sox history:
Wade Boggs (1982-1992)
Let’s start this list with a Hall of Famer, shall we?
Simply put: Boggs is one of the best third basemen of all time. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner, five-time batting champion, eight-time Silver Slugger winner and a World Series champion (with the New York Yankees — boo!). In his 11 seasons with the Red Sox, Boggs compiled a .338 batting average to go along with 85 homers, 687 RBIs and a .428 on-base percentage. He hit over .360 four times during his Red Sox career.
Jimmy Collins (1901-1907)
Collins began his big league career with the Boston Beaneaters, who eventually became the Boston Braves. Oh, and when he actually played for the Red Sox, they were called the Boston Americans. So, obviously, we’re dealing with someone who played a long time ago.
Nevertheless, we’re talking about a Hall of Famer and a player regarded as one of the best third basemen of all time. Collins was named player-manager of the Americans upon joining the franchise in 1901 and served in that role through the 1906 season. He was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics during the 1907 campaign. Collins hit .296 with 25 homers, 385 RBIs and 102 stolen bases while winning one World Series during his time with the Red Sox/Americans. He is considered the pioneer of the modern defensive play of third basemen.
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Scott Cooper (1990-1994)
Yes, Scott Cooper deserves to be here.
Cooper is one of the most underappreciated players from the early 1990s era of the Red Sox. Over five seasons in Boston, Cooper hit .284 with 27 homers and 156 RBIs while playing solid defense at third base. He was named to the American League All-Star team in both 1993 and 1994.
Rafael Devers (2017-pres)
Devers has a chance to be the best player on this list. He’s that good.
Still just 23 years old, Devers has compiled a .284 average with 63 homers and 211 RBIs while winning one World Series over two-plus seasons with the Red Sox. However, his breakout 2019 offered a potential preview of sustained greatness: .311 average, 32 homers and 115 RBIs. Most importantly, Devers dramatically improved his defense last season, offering further reason to believe he is the Red Sox third baseman (note: not first baseman) of the future.
Larry Gardner (1908-1917)
A member of the first Red Sox team actually named the Red Sox, Gardner made sure the transition from Collins was a smooth one.
The Vermont native hit .282 with 16 homers, 481 RBIs and 134 steals — remember: Gardner, like Collins, played before the live-ball era — over 10 seasons with the Red Sox. He also won three World Series in Boston, which made a habit of winning championships until selling something called Babe Ruth in late 1919.
Butch Hobson (1975-1980)
In addition to having an awesome name, Butch Hobson also was a solid third baseman.
After making a cameo with the pennant-winning 1975 Red Sox team, Hobson went on to be a stabilizing presence at third base for the next five years. From 1977 to 1979, Hobson hit .259 while averaging 25 homers and 95 RBIs per season.
Mike Lowell (2006-2010)
Now for the only World Series MVP on this list.
Lowell in 2006 came to the Red Sox with Josh Beckett as part of a blockbuster trade with the Marlins. Initially, many fans viewed Lowell, who was coming off a tough offensive season — he did win a Gold Glove — in Florida, as an aging, glorified throw-in who probably would play great defense. Well, the Red Sox and their fans got much more than that. Lowell hit .295 while averaging 19 homers and 87 RBIs per season over his first four campaigns in Boston before experiencing a significant decline in 2010, his final season. His performance in 2007 remains one of the best ever from a Red Sox third baseman: .324 average, 21 homers, 120 RBIs, World Series MVP and fifth place in American League MVP voting. Of course, he always played sensational defense at the hot corner.
Frank Malzone (1955-1965)
Malzone is one of the best third basemen in Red Sox history and, honestly, doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the more accomplished players ever to play the position.
He hardly played in his first two seasons with the Red Sox, so let’s focus on the next nine: .278 average with 129 homers and 704 RBIs to go along with six All-Star appearances. In his first full season in Boston (1957), Malzone hit .292 with 15 homers and 103 RBIs while earning the first Gold Glove Award for a third baseman in MLB history — the first of three straight Gold Gloves for the Bronx native. Weird fun fact: In 1957, Malzone became the first player to lead the league at his position in games played, putouts, errors, assists, double plays and fielding percentage.
Bill Mueller (2003-2005)
Mueller holds a significant place in Red Sox history despite playing only three seasons in Boston.
He arrived in Boston in 2003 to little fanfare after seven solid seasons in the National League. All he did that year was lead the league in batting (.326) while earning a Silver Slugger and finishing 12th in MVP voting. The next year, he and the Red Sox won the franchise’s first World Series title in 86 years, with Mueller delivering some of the most important hits along the way. Overall, Mueller hit .303 with 41 homers and 204 RBIs during his days with the Red Sox. He retired after spending the next season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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