Red Sox historic trials and tribulations at third base

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 3: Rafael Devers
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 3: Rafael Devers /
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CHICAGO – APRIL 29: Shea Hillenbrand (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO – APRIL 29: Shea Hillenbrand (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /


The first one is Butch Hobson, who was just awful defensively.  Hobson recorded an astounding 43 errors at third in 1978. In 651 games at third, Hobson had 98 errors and there was variety – bad throws, balls under the glove, balls off his chest and just about any combination. Even Sandoval looked better.

Hobson could hit home runs and strike out. In 1977 he hit 30 home runs and had 112 RBI and led the American League in strikeouts. A .252 career hitter with the Red Sox, who briefly managed the team.

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The positive about Shea Hillenbrand is he could field better than Hobson and Sandoval, but the bad news is the phrase “not by much.” Hillenbrand – a right-hand hitter – held down third base from 2001-03 and could hit. In 344 games with the Red Sox Hillenbrand hit .284 with 33 home runs, an All-Star selection, and a ball hit off the catwalks at The Trop. Hillenbrand had another big season with Toronto, but he never lived up to expectations in Boston.

In 1995, Tim Naehring looked like he had finally pulled it together by hitting .307 at age 28.  The right-handed hitter always possessed an excellent defensive skill set, but the hitting seemed to languish. In 1997 the power came as Naehring slammed 17 home runs and hit .288 In 116 games. What happened?  A shoulder injury late in 1997 effectively ended his career.

Before Sandoval and his weight issues, there was Joe Foy – a key in the 1967 team. Foy and manager Dick Williams had considerable friction as Williams was highly critical of Foy – whom he especially singled out.  Was it race as some have suggested? What is known is Foy ate himself out of baseball.

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In three seasons in Boston Foy hit .246 with some respectable power – 41 home runs and 172 RBI Foy also stole 36 bases in 55 attempts. In 1969 with Kansas City Foy swiped 37. Foy arrived in KC via the expansion draft as Boston left him unprotected. After one season with KC, he was traded to the Mets for future star Amos Otis. Foy died of a heart attack at just age 46.