Defending American League batting champion (.368) Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City's George Brett (1985 runner-up at .335) have become good friends. The two left-handed hitters talk about their craft any time they get together, Brett being especially interested in the way Boggs gets so much natural topspin on his line drives that they sink before most outfielders can reach them. Even though Wade doesn't have a lot of power, his 78 RBIs last year quieted those critics who had earlier questioned his ability to produce with men on base. Meanwhile, his .383 career batting average at home signifies a style well suited to Fenway Park, which is supposed to be more of a right-handed hitter's paradise.
Of course Ted Williams hit a career .361 in Fenway, even though after a while every visiting team confronted him with a modification of Lou Boudreau's infield shift -- the second baseman stationed in short right field, the shortstop shaded to the right of second, and the third baseman in the hole vacated by the shortstop.
Williams could have ended that shift at any time by bunting down the third base line for freebie hits -- except that Ted felt he was paid to hit the long ball, and that trying to do anything less would be cheating his fans.
Boggs's consistency last season was remarkable. He hit .500 against Minnesota; .447 against both Toronto and Detroit; .423 against Kansas City; .357 against Seattle; .345 against Baltimore; .340 against Milwaukee, Oakland, and California; .339 against Chicago; .326 against Texas; .302 against New York; and .275 against Cleveland. The Indians' pitching staff, which gave up the most runs (861) of any American League team last season, reportedly had success against Boggs by jamming him inside. Boros learns a lesson
When the Oakland A's gave Steve Boros his initial opportunity to manage in the big leagues three years ago, one of the first things he asked his employers was whether he'd have access to a computer.
While most managers keep some sort of little black strategy book (`a la Earl Weaver), noting what certain hitters are apt to do against certain pitchers and vice versa, Boros wanted more. In fact, he planned to base a lot of his game strategy on in-depth computer printouts.
Forty-four games into the 1984 season, with the A's resting uncomfortably in fourth place in the American League West, Steve was dismissed.
Back in the dugout this year as the surprise manager of the San Diego Padres (a surprise because Dick Williams didn't resign until the eve of spring training), Boros is not even thinking about computers anymore.
``People should learn something when they get fired, and one thing I learned is that ballplayers don't like to have anything as impersonal as a computer determining their playing time,'' Boros says. ``Oh, I'll keep a book on my players, on opposing pitchers, and on the league in general. But it will be based on my own observations, not something you take off an electronic screen.''
Boros says he is also glad that the Padres, who won the National League pennant in 1984 but were litle more than a .500 team last year, have been picked for third place in the NL West by most experts. This way, he figures, it will take the opposition longer to realize how good San Diego really is.
``I think most people's biggest mistake is underrating our pitching, which is actually quite strong,'' he said. ``I also like the idea of us being able to lie in the weeds and then sneak up on our opposition.''
Over the weekend, however, the team got entangled in those weeds and never escaped, losing all four games in a series against San Francisco. The Padres are still 7-7 overall, though, and just a couple of games off the pace of the fast-starting Giants and Houston Astros. Elsewhere in the majors
After many meetings and much gnashing of teeth, major league baseball's Rules Committee has arrived at a new and perhaps more equitable compromise concerning the use of the designated hitter at World Series time. Instead of being used for all games in alternating years, the DH rule will now be in effect every year for games played in the American League park, but discarded for those in the National League city. The American League adopted the designated-hitter rule in 1973 primarily as a way to boost attendance, but the National League has consistently resisted the idea.
Most visiting players who come in from the cold to compete in Minnesota's domed stadium are extremely unhappy over the time it takes them to adjust to the building's unusual lighting and spongy artificial turf. They say this gives the Twins, who of course are used to playing there, a tremendous advantage in the first game of every home series.