Red Sox

Not many reasons to keep up with the Red Sox, but Xander Bogaerts is one of them

Thoughts on Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox' future, and home run history.

Maddie Meyer
The best reason to keep watching the Red Sox is Xander Bogaerts and his quest for the American League batting title. Maddie Meyer/Getty


Playing nine innings while figuring it’s always good when someone named Aaron owns a home run record . . .

1. Poor roster construction and lousy luck with injuries have rendered the Red Sox an afterthought for a while now on the American League landscape. They’ve been irrelevant to the playoffs long enough now that we’re at the point where you look at the schedule and say, “Wait, how can there still be 20-something games left?” But there have been a few reasons to still pay attention, none better than the recent performance of Xander Bogaerts. His batting average has been over .300 virtually all season. It dipped to .298 Aug. 23. In the 16 games since, Bogaerts is hitting .448 (30 for 67) with a 1.203 OPS. His superb performance and unwavering effort in a lost season marked by team and individual frustrations has made me appreciate his professionalism even more, and I didn’t know I could. Reporters root for the story, but I’ll admit, I’d love to see him take the batting title. He deserves a win.

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2. My stance hasn’t changed. I understand why the Red Sox brain trust — go ahead and make air quotes if you wish — would have legitimate concerns about how Bogaerts will age into his 30s. I also think they were underestimating the importance of a player who thrives in an intense market and is a figure of immense respect and integrity in the clubhouse. They would be making a mistake for myriad reasons if they let him depart this offseason. But I must admit to some curiosity regarding what his market would look like if he opts out of his contract. Colleague Peter Abraham suggested in his Sunday notes that the Phillies would have interest, which makes all the sense in the world given how well president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski knows Bogaerts. The Cardinals would make sense. And seeing Bogaerts reunite with Mookie Betts in Los Angeles would be enough for Dodgers hats to start popping up at Fenway next year.

3. It would not shock me to discover that the Red Sox’ plan is to pursue Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson, both free agents at the end of the season, to play shortstop, should Bogaerts not accept whatever their best offer happens to be. Chaim Bloom is constantly looking to improve the roster at the margins. I suspect he would regard Turner, who is nine months younger than Bogaerts with more speed and versatility, and the 28-year old Swanson, as incremental upgrades over Bogaerts at the team’s core. I do not agree, but the Red Sox are indicating that they will make significant moves in the offseason, and both Turner and Swanson would qualify.

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4. To reiterate: Trevor Story should be a second baseman going forward. He’s superb defensively at the position, reminiscent of Dustin Pedroia in the scrappiest days of his youth, and he just doesn’t look like he has the arm for shortstop anymore. That was kind of evident even in his last season with the Rockies. Not sure about you, but I’m glad the Sox signed Story, provided he doesn’t end up as Bogaerts’s successor. His season has been so snake-bitten that the snakes probably got bored of biting him. But when healthy, he’s been a productive, clutch hitter — he has a .933 OPS with runners in scoring position, and an .851 mark with runners in scoring position and two outs.

5. Bogaerts has been one of the fun players to watch for the Red Sox in recent weeks. Here’s another: Brayan Bello. After some understandable hiccups in his first few big-league appearances, the 23-year-old righthander has made encouraging progress. Over his last four starts, he has a 3.53 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20⅓ innings. His changeup looks a lot like Pedro Martinez’s, and Pedro’s changeup is one of the most unfair pitches ever concocted.

6. Question: Are Red Sox fans actually rooting for Aaron Judge to surpass Roger Maris’s American League record of 61 home runs that was set a nicely symmetrical 61 years ago? Judge has 57 homers with 20 Yankees games remaining, so it would take a historically epic hot streak for him to approach the like-it-or-not all-time record of 73 set by Barry Bonds in 2001. But Maris’s mark, which, of course, also doubles as the Yankees’ mark, is within reach. I think I’d like to see Judge get it. You?

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7. Speaking of home runs and history, Albert Pujols is three shy of becoming the fourth player in baseball history to reach 700. Out of curiosity, and some quasi-quest for context on just how long he has been doing this, I looked up what was going on with the Red Sox on the day Pujols hit his first MLB home run: April 6, 2001. Turns out the Red Sox beat the Devil Rays — yup, still had the Devil then — that night, 11-4, and it was the occasion of Manny Ramirez’s first home run as a member of the Red Sox. Pretty good day for two of the greatest righthanded hitters we’ll ever see.

8. Re-signing Kiké Hernández to a one-year, $10 million extension made tons of sense for both sides. The Red Sox retain a player who has endured a lost season but one who is worthy of a mulligan, particularly because he brings so much defensive value. And Hernández gets a slight bump in salary and a chance to reestablish his value in a place where he is comfortable next season. Win-win.

9. If you were concerned about Triston Casas’s 2-for-21 start through Monday, then Tuesday probably brought some relief. Casas hit a bomb off Yankees alleged ace Gerrit Cole for his second big-league home run. It usually takes time for even the finest prospects to adjust, and Casas, as Cole discovered, is adjusting. Frankly, after the Franchy Cordero experiment, I’m just grateful the Red Sox have a first baseman who can catch the ball.

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