A Batting Champion

Rise 'n 'Thal

As the race for the American League batting championship drew to a close, comparisons were drawn between the two combatants--Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly--and two former greats from the same teams, Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio.

And why not.

Boggs lacks Williams' power, and Mattingly lacks Dimaggio's speed, but baseball's two best hitters were once again playing in New York and Boston. There was even the semblance of a pennant race going on.

But as the last four weeks turned into the last four days, the pennant race ended. And so did the comparison. For while Mattingly could still be compared to Dimaggio, Boggs could no longer be compared to Williams.

Boggs claims his hamstring injury caused him to sit out the season finale with the hated Yankees. Williams would have played with two broken legs.

As almost every baseball fan knows, Williams went into the last game of the 1941 season hitting .400 and could have warmed the bench for the meaningless game. Instead, he went six-for-eight in a doubleheader and raised his average to .406.

Of course, less was at stake for Boggs. He could afford to ride the pines with his .357 average, and watch Mattingly try to make up seven points.

So Boggs refused to play, DH, or even pinch hit as the Yankees swept the Sox in four.

Shame on you, Wade Boggs.

Boggs' strategy almost backfired. Mattingly gave his all, going 8-for-19 (a .422 clip) over the four games, including a double and home run in Sunday's game.

Had he gone an incredible six-for-six in the series finale, the Yankee first baseman would have beaten Boggs. One can only wonder how fast the pain in Boggs' hamstring would have gone away if Mattingly had been five-for-five going into the ninth inning.

Instead, Mattingly went 2-for-5 and Boggs, after playing a "grueling" 149 games (Mattingly played all 162) was allowed to sit on the bench--and on his undeserved batting title.

Even if he never wins another batting title, Mattingly is already one of the game's greats: a player whom every fan should feel privileged to see play.

Wade Boggs is not. I'd much rather have a guy like Mike Pagliarulo, who goes out and gives his all every day, injury or no injury.

In the record books, the 1986 batting race will always list Boggs five points ahead of Mattingly. But in the guts and class department, Boggs can't even carry Mattingly's bat.