X Marks The Spot For The Rising Shortstop

2013 saw a special player come to the Red Sox organization. The Red Sox shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, came to the big leagues looking to be the next big rising shortstop star.

For baseball fans who grew up in the 1990’s, there were three shortstops that were wellrising shortstop known in the baseball world. The names Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez would be mentioned countless times, and many considered them to be the Big Three of shortstops.

Each one’s career went in a different path. For Derek Jeter, he spent his whole career with the New York Yankees. He also had his number 2 retired by the team. Alex Rodriguez started out playing for the Seattle Mariners. From there, he went to the Texas Rangers, and to the New York Yankees as a third baseman. Finally, Nomar Garciaparra, the Red Sox Nation fan favorite, was traded at the 2004 trade deadline to the Chicago Cubs. From there, he also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics.

Before Bogaerts

After the trade of Garciaparra, the Red Sox went through a revolving door of shortstops. Many in Red Sox Nation were looking for the one who could ultimately fill the void at the position for a long time. Maybe a player who can spend his whole career in a Red Sox uniform. Well, look no further than the man we know as X-Man, or Bogey – Xander Bogaerts.

The Shortstop Of The Future

Since the 2004 trade of Nomar Garciaparra, the Red Sox didn’t really have much for homegrown shortstops. The acquisition of Orlando Cabrera in 2004, then the signings of Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo made for tough times at Fenway Park. Jose Iglesias, who arrived on scene in 2011, was a bright spot for the organization. However, the Red Sox traded him to the Tigers at the trade deadline in a three team deal that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. About a month later, another name came on scene – Xander Bogaerts.

The young infielder started off at third base, making his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants on August 20th, 2013. From there, Bogaerts went onto leading the Red Sox to their third World Series Championship since 2004.

In 2014, Xander went from wearing #72, to the #2. Bogaerts also was the starting shortstop on Opening Day. He had a great first full season for the Red Sox, playing in 144 games, batting .240 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. He was also on hand when the Red Sox honored his hero, Derek Jeter in his final game at Fenway.

2015 for the X-Man saw him play in 156 games. He also led the Red Sox in batting average, batting .320 with seven home runs and 81 RBI’s. He also finished in second place in the American League batting title to Miguel Cabrera. Bogaerts did however win his first Silver Slugger Award. The last Red Sox shortstop to win a Silver Slugger Award? Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

In the season that saw David Ortiz play his final season, Bogaerts had another stellar year. Not only did he win his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award, but he also made his first All Star Team in San Diego. He also had a 26 game hit streak that went from May 6th to June 2nd.

The last two seasons for the rising star saw him win another World Series Championship. Although 2017 wasn’t great for Bogaerts, as he was injured due to a hit by pitch to his wrist, 2018 saw his numbers jump. Manager Alex Cora had Bogaerts batting behind JD Martinez, which allowed him to hit a career high 23 home runs. Many of those home runs were grand slams, one of which was the game winner against the Blue Jays.

Rising Shortstop’s New Deal

Prior to his seventh season in a Red Sox uniform, the Red Sox awarded Xander with a six year contract extension worth $120 million. This contract, will see Bogaerts in a Red Sox uniform through at least the 2025 season.

In his press conference, Bogaerts stated that the first person he called after signing the extension was Dustin Pedroia. He also stated that “It’s a very special place to play”, and he wants to keep playing and winning in Boston.

Looking Forward

So far in the 2019 season, Xander has played in 18 games, batting .297 with two home runs. The 26 year old from Aruba is set to be the face of the franchise following his extension. If he keeps having career seasons, we might one day see the #2 in right field next to David Ortiz’s #34.

Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?

Red Sox fans are a spoiled bunch in 2016. Not only is their team in first place, but they get to watch one of the greatest starting pitchers of his generation (David Price) and one of the best closers ever (Craig Kimbrel), not to mention the greatest designated hitter and clutch hitter of all-time (David Ortiz). They’re also likely seeing the best second baseman their franchise has ever had (Dustin Pedroia), as well as someone with the potential to be the best shortstop in team history (Xander Bogaerts). It wasn’t too long ago, however, that Nomar Garciaparra was making his case as one of the best shortstops to ever wear a Sox jersey. Which begs the question: is Bogaerts the next Nomar?

Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?

From 1996-2004, Boston was blessed with one of the most talented shortstops to ever play the game Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?. A two-batting champion, Garciaparra also owned 30-homer power, 20-steal speed and Gold Glove-caliber defense to boot. Garciaparra could do it all, playing at a Hall of Fame level for nearly a decade before injuries derailed his career.

Now, 20 years after Garciaparra’s debut, the Red Sox have another shortstop with similar physical gifts. Bogaerts currently leads the American League in average at .351, is on pace to go 20-20 and has emerged as one of the better defensive shortstops in the game. He’s only 23, the same age Garciaparra was when he made his Major League debut two decades ago.

Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? It’s certainly possible. They’re alike in so many ways, starting with their elite contact skills. Both are exceptional at getting the bat on the ball and, when they do, hitting it hard. Garciaparra was the rare batting champion with power, topping 70 extra-base hits in both years he won the crown. If Bogaerts keeps his average up and continues his current 20-homer, 50-double pace, so will he.

They also have wheels to go with their impressive power. Garciaparra stole 22 bases in 1997, the same number that Bogaerts is on track to swipe this year. The speed that helped Garciaparra get doubles on wall-balls and triples into the gaps is also evident in Bogaerts, who had a better base running score than Mike Trout last year according to FanGraphs.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, they’re both great defenders, making them complete ballplayers. Garciaparra never won a Gold Glove, but he had great range and was widely regarded as a good defensive shortstop before injuring his Achilles. Bogaerts, most Red Sox observers agree, has dramatically improved his defense since arriving in the Major Leagues three years ago, to the point where he’s now a clear positive at the position.

Much of the attention focused on the Red Sox lately has been centered around Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hit streak, which came to an end last Thursday. With his pursuit of history over (for now), it’s time to start paying attention to Bogaerts, who’s riding a 22-game hit streak of his own. The last Sox shortstop to have such a hitting streak? Nomar Garciaparra, who ran off a 30-gamer in 1997.

Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? Only time will tell.

Similarity of Xander Bogaerts and Nomar Garciaparra

It took more than a decade, but in Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox finally have their replacement for Nomar Garciaparra. A beloved icon throughout New England, Nomar was a cornerstone at shortstop for nine years, only to be traded by Theo Epstein in 2004. A revolving door policy ensued, with the Red Sox using numerous players at the position without finding a suitable long-term fix. Yet, after initial growing pains, Bogaerts looks to be that marquee star capable of inheriting Nomar’s legacy. And for Red Sox fans, that’s a tremendous relief.

Xander Bogaerts

There are unavoidable similarities between the two players. Nomar was a first round pick who debuted in 1996, aged 22. Xander was signed through the international market and made his debut in 2013, aged just 20. Both men were burdened with incredible expectations, as Red Sox Nation demanded instant performance and success from a glamorous position on the diamond. By and large, both delivered, exciting the city and creating a buzz.

Sure, Bogaerts has suffered a pretty poor start to 2016, and his average currently lingers near the Mendoza Line, but it’s only early. Last year, in a much greater sample size, he proved his worth, hitting at a .320/.355/.421 clip with 7 home runs and 81 RBI. Aside from a slight lack of power, it was a Nomar-esque campaign, as Xander resembled a line drive machine and showed marked improvement defensively. He finally delivered on the hype and illustrated his true potential. He became an integral cog to the Red Sox’ future.

Shortstop Wars: Xander Bogaerts vs Nomar Gaciaparra

This team hasn’t had such continuity at shortstop since Nomar left for Chicago. Of course, Garciaparra never performed greatly for the Cubs or Dodgers, but the Red Sox still suffered in his absence. Between 2004 and 2013, they had eight different Opening Day shortstops. From Pokey Reese, Edgar Renteria and Alex Gonzalez to Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro, nobody could stake a claim to the spot for more than two years, as frustration mounted. Other guys, such as Mike Aviles, Stephen Drew, Jose Iglesias and Nick Punto, showed flashes of productivity, but lacked the dynamism required to play shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. As a cultural icon, Nomar left an inedible impression and big boots to fill. Nobody succeeded following his footsteps, until Xander Bogaerts came along.

Xander will play this entire season as a 23-year old. He already has 347 hits, 69 doubles, 21 home runs and 139 RBI in his career, to compliment a .278 average and .324 on-base percentage in 331 games. By comparison, Garciaparra had 117 less hits, 23 less doubles and 25 less RBI in 153 less games through his age-23 season. Nomar was better defensively, and his WAR of 6.8 before turning 24 is superior to the 5.5 mark of Bogaerts so far, but the comparison is real, to the Red Sox’ joy.

Despite a slow start this year, Xander Bogaerts has the potential to rewrite Red Sox history. He is already in the class of Rico Petrocelli, Everett Scott and Garciaparra when comparing other Boston shortstops at a similar age, and the man from Aruba figures to continue growing into his role as a team leader.

Just like Nomar, Xander is part of an elite group of young shortstops entering the game together. Bogaerts is competing with Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, just as Garciaparra was challenged by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Nomar eventually wanted to be paid his true worth, which was a constant bone of contention during his time in Boston, and Xander will be pushing for a new contract soon, too.

Perhaps the Red Sox should learn from history and sign their prized asset to a long-term extension. That way, we can watch history unfold comfortably, and avoid another period of shortstop instability should a superstar slip away.

Red Sox Hall of Fame: Nomar Garciaparra

Red Sox hall of fame

On Thursday August 14, the Boston Red Sox enshrined a talented group of stars into their hall of fame. Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and longtime radio play-by-play voice Joe Castiglione were inducted into what may be the most talented Red Sox Hall of Fame class ever.

When I first began watching the Sox in 2000, Nomar Garciaparra was instantly my favorite player. As kids growing up, Nomah’s antics and dominant hitting were things we tried to emulate in the backyard. The toe taps, the batting glove adjustments, the jump throws from deep in the hole at shortstop. Nomar was a fan favorite during his time in Boston despite the way his career with the Sox ended.

In a time when the home run was dominating the game, Nomar was perhaps the best hitter for average. A .372 average in 2000 was the best in the American League since George Brett’s .390 average in 1980. Nomar was flirting with .400 until mid-August of that year when his average dipped at the end of the season. His .323 career average with the Red Sox is the 4th best in club history behind three hall of famers—Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Tris Speaker.

Nomar had a different approach though. A free swinging, first pitch hitter, Nomar was able to translate an aggressive plate approach into success, which has been seldom done. His .365 career average on first pitches proved that a hitter doesn’t need to take a traditional approach to be one of the best.

After winning the Rookie of the Year unanimously in 1997, Nomar hit 35 home runs and drove in 122 runs to finish second in the MVP voting in 1998. His batting titles in 1999 and 2000 further solidified him as one of the game’s elite hitters. It is a shame that Nomar was sent out of town in 2004, but he was evidently unhappy in Boston at that point and the Red Sox ended up being able to win without him.

Did Nomar do steroids? It’s very possible in this writer’s opinion. The Sports Illustrated cover of him looking jacked doesn’t help his case looking back on the matter. His series of muscle related injuries doesn’t help either, but essentially everyone playing at that time can be looked at and argued over whether they took steroids or not.

The fact of the matter is that Nomar helped turn the Red Sox from a mediocre team in the mid-90’s into the powerhouse team they became in the 2000’s. Like Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and others, Nomar’s departure from Boston wasn’t pretty, but his years in town helped shape the Red Sox culture of this generation.