BOSTON — The weather is warming. Wade Boggs is cranking up. And talk is heating up whether he will become the first major league player in 45 years to hit .400.
Boggs' battering of opposing pitchers at a .372 clip, tops in the majors, has been a major factor for the Boston Red Sox as they roll along with the best record in the American League.
A two-time batting champion since taking over as Boston's third baseman in 1982, Boggs says he doesn't think he has gotten hot yet.
"I'll get hot when the weather gets hot," he said Tuesday night after his first five-hit game since he was a senior at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. in 1976. "I think my record shows that I hit much better in hot weather."
Boggs was unhappy when he reported to spring training in February. A few days earlier, an arbitrator rejected his bid for a 1986 salary of $1.85 million. Hesettled for $1.35 million. Boggs, who won $1 million in arbitration in 1985, called the proceedings "a very unpleasant experience."
"It's not pleasant to hear the club say you didn't contribute," he said. "All those negative things destroy your confidence."
Asked what he thought the Red Sox would consider an ideal season for him, he quipped: "If I bat .350, hit 50 homers and steal 50 bases."
In a serious tone, he said after a talk with Boston batting instructor Walt Hriniak that he hoped to strike a happier medium with more homers and RBI.
Boggs amazed the baseball world last year when he broke open a close duel with Kansas City's George Brett in August and went on to lead the major leagues with a .368 average. His 240 hits were the most in the majors since 1930.
"He's in a league by himself -- the man can hit," Red Sox veteran Dave Stapleton said. "He's a tough act to follow, but if you hit behind him, you have a chance for a lot of RBI, because he's always on base."