A sixth installment mirroring Boston Red Sox players of the present with one from my memories of the past. This is the third basemen – Rafael Devers to Joe Foy.
Initially, this was to be a comparison of Red Sox third basemen Rafael Devers and Butch Hobson since I wished to avoid a comparison to the tragic circumstances of Joe Foy. I changed my mind when it was recently announced that Devers now has a personal trainer to aid with his conditioning – an issue that eventually contributed to short-circuiting Foy’s career and results in his early death.
Devers we know about since the upside for the 22-year-old lefty slugger is significant – big things are expected of Devers and big becomes an optimum word production wise and physically. Devers is often mentioned with the added phrase “baby fat” in regards to his appearance. Devers realizes this and so do the Red Sox since corrective measures are being implemented to address conditioning.
Devers’ defensive liabilities raised the issue of a comparison to Hobson who was simply a disaster with the glove. In 1978 Hobson had 1159.1 innings at third base and a mind-boggling 43 errors. Last season Devers had just a pittance of errors (24) compared to Hobson. And Foy? Foy had 21 errors his first Boston season (1966) and 27 in the championship 1967 season. Three players who rang up the negative numbers defensively.
More from Red Sox History
- Two notable Red Sox anniversaries highlight current organizational failures
- Contemporary Era Committee doesn’t elect any former Red Sox to Hall of Fame
- Johnny Damon calls Red Sox out, reveals hilarious way he skirted Yankees’ grooming policy
- Remembering the best Red Sox Thanksgiving ever
- Red Sox World Series legends headline 2023 Hall of Fame ballot
Players can improve defensively and Wade Boggs is a prime example as he went from an iron glove to eventually win a Gold Glove, but Devers has a long way to go. Metrics are not promising, either. Last season Devers had a -13 Defensive Runs Saved and a -5.2 UZR/150. From my vantage point, I see a first baseman/designated hitter.
In their first two seasons, Devers and right-hand hitting Foy are quite similar at the plate with Foy’s .257/31/112 matching up with Devers’ .266/31/96 although Devers had only half a season in 2017. Where Foy had an edge on Devers is speed and Devers is surprisingly quick on the base paths., but Foy – at least the slimmer version – could motor. In his last season in Boston (1968) Foy swiped 26 bases in 34 attempts. The next two seasons Foy had a combined 59 steals before fading from MLB in 1971 after only six seasons.
Another aspect of Foy’s game that is superior to Devers is patience at the plate. In his three Boston seasons, Foy hit .244 but had a .344 OBP – the result of 221 walks. In Foy’s rookie season he was second in the American League in walks with 91.
What happened to Foy in Boston? They actually exposed Foy to the expansion draft and he was grabbed by the Royals. With the Red Sox, his years are best described as tumultuous and the epicenter was his relationship with manager Dick Williams. Williams could make Bill Belichick look like a cross between Gandhi and Mother Theresa and was notorious for hounding players no matter what the pecking order – star or scrub – they’d face the wrath of Williams.
Racial issues were also part of the subtext with the Red Sox as young black players like Foy, George Scott, and Reggie Smith raised that either directly or indirectly. All three eventually were traded.
With Foy, his career soon became tattered and then collapsed with drug use surfacing while with the Mets. Conditioning and injuries are added to the mix and the slide to oblivion came quick for Foy and at 28-years-old, Foy was gone. At 46-years-old Foy died in his hometown of the Bronx in New York City. But what about Hobson?
Hobson had that one quality that would allow management and fans to overlook his defensive flaws – right-handed home run power. In 1977 Hobson hit 30 bombs and had 112 RBI, but also led the American League with 162 strikeouts. The next two seasons saw a combined 45 home runs before the slide began.
The first issue was injuries – most notably Hobson’s elbow – and that was followed by deteriorating skills that finally ended Hobson’s playing career while with the Yankees. Hobson went on to manage and eventually managed the Red Sox (207-232) and then to the Phillies organization where he was fired as a minor league manager over a cocaine bust. Since then Hobson has managed mostly in the independent leagues.
Devers’ future can take two paths with the one being to just run up routine seasons such as 2018, or take it to the next level. Devers works hard and that has been noted by all. Devers also has a personality that leaves a bad play on the field or a bad at-bat as just a memory. The kid is centered.
Devers’ hitting potential is clear and he should be able to hit for power and average as he gets older and wiser. The glovework is another issue that could see Devers move elsewhere, but sometimes hard work can take below average and create at least average defensively. I can see Devers assuming a more significant role both in leadership and offensively.