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Is it over between Xander and the Red Sox?

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Xander has been a solid, steady performer since breaking in with the Red Sox back in 2013. He shows up on time, plays hard and very well, and otherwise does not draw attention to himself. ... He’s a very dependable ballplayer, something that is undervalued these days.

Dick
Flavin

Last month, we witnessed Xander Bogaerts break a century-old record for games played at shortstop for the Red Sox. Could it be that now we are witnessing the last games he will play for the Red Sox? Could be.
Bogaerts signed a contract with the Red Sox back in 2019 that guarantees him $20 million per year through the 2025 season. However, it includes a clause that allows him to opt out of it after this season and become a free agent. The deal seemed to be a team-friendly one even when first agreed to, and now it is viewed as even more so. The team and the player were not able to agree on terms on an extension last offseason, and it appears that Bogaerts is ready to declare free agency once this year is over. His agent is Scott Boras, renowned for wringing the most out of ball clubs for his clients' services.
It looks very much like Bogaerts, a steady part of the Red Sox lineup for the better part of a decade, could be on his way out the door this fall. But it could be even sooner than that. The trading deadline this year is Aug. 2, just a few short weeks away. It gives the Red Sox an opportunity to get something of value for him rather than lose him as a free agent for essentially nothing.
It remains to be seen if the Red Sox can find a trading partner willing to take on Bogaerts as a short-term rental or is willing to deal with him (and Boras) for the long term.

He has plenty to recommend him. He has won, prior to this year, four silver slugger awards, been chosen an all-star three times, and has two world series titles under his belt. Though not a spectacular fielder, he is nonetheless a steady presence. Above all, he is durable. Playing a difficult, dangerous position, he seldom gets hurt, and when he does, he is quickly back in the lineup.
Xander has been a solid, steady performer since breaking in with the Red Sox back in 2013. He shows up on time, plays hard and very well, and otherwise does not draw attention to himself. You never hear about him throwing tantrums or having any off-field issues. He's a very dependable ballplayer, something that is undervalued these days.
We tend to forget how hard it is to find players of Bogaerts's caliber. It took the Red Sox a decade after Nomar Garciaparra left to find an adequate replacement at shortstop. The team went through, to name a few, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, and Stephen Drew before a teenage Bogaerts arrived on the scene in 2013.
Is he the best shortstop the team has ever had? No, but he's been a very, very good one. Garciaparra, in his early years, played at a Hall of Fame level. His fielding range and buggy-whip arm were unsurpassed. In 1999 and 2000, he became the first right-handed batter in the American League since Joe DiMaggio, in 1939 and 1940, to win back-to-back batting titles (Garciaparra hit .357 and .372, DiMaggio, .381 and .352); but a wrist injury that offseason slowed down his bat, and he was never the same again. A series of lower body injuries hampered his mobility, and his tenure with the team ended unhappily. He was traded away and finished his career as a very good player but nowhere near being a Hall of Fame one.
Joe Cronin was before my time, but he put up excellent numbers with the Red Sox and, before then, with the Washington Senators. His baseball acumen was such that the Senators named him player/manager at the age of 26, a role he continued to fill with the Red Sox. He was a consensus choice for the Hall of Fame.
Johnny Pesky was a 200-hit-a-year man and played an excellent shortstop until 1948 when he was moved to third to make room for Vern Stephens, who was acquired from the St. Louis Browns. Pesky had far greater range than Stephens, and Bobby Doerr, for one, could never understand why the team never put Stephens at third and left Pesky at short.
Rick Burleson, who handled the job in the 70s, was a player much like Bogaerts in that he left it to Lynn, Rice, Yastrzemski, and Fisk to make headlines while he played a first-rate shortstop.
And what of Everett Scott, the man whose record for games at shortstop for the Red Sox, 1,093, was broken last month by Bogaerts? His record would have been for many more games had he not been dealt away from the team as part of Sox owner Harry Frazee's scandalous "sell-off" to the New York Yankees. In 1922, he was shipped off to New York with starting pitchers Joe Bush and Sam Jones while his streak was still intact. In fact, he set the then all-time record for consecutive games played at 1,307, which he held until broken by Lou Gehrig (2,130) and has since been re-broken by Cal Ripken, Jr. (2,632). Scott is still credited with the third longest streak in baseball history. A below average hitter but a terrific fielder, he led the American League in fielding percentage for seven years in a row. Last year, he was enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, where he will one day be joined by Xander Bogaerts.
Does all this mean that the days of Bogaerts and the Red Sox are all but over? No. Things change. The team or the player could change its stated position. The market could change. It's never over until it's over; but until then, it's wise to prepare ourselves to lament, "Xander, we hardly knew ye."

- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.



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