Red Sox Xander Bogaerts Should Start ASG, Not Escobar


With the Boston Red Sox having a 39-45 record, losing ugly in the earlier months of the season, it’s not surprising that many people would look elsewhere for their All-Star votes to be cast. To be a starter on the American League roster, you should excite the crowd as well as produce every night. The Red Sox fell short of that as a team on many nights. Individual Boston players, on the other hand, maybe got the wrong end of that stigma when the starting roster was announced last night.

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The Kansas City Royals sit with almost the exact opposite record, posting 44 wins and 38 losses. So, it’s no wonder that multiple Royals were announced to be on the A.L. roster. However, one name in particular upset many of Red Sox Nation. Alcides Escobar was named the starting shortstop.

Some fans on Twitter expressed their anger. “We’d better have X and Pedey on that roster or I will riot!!” was one response. Numerous others were not for public consumption, as young minds could be offended by the language that was used.

Many Red Sox fans felt that Xander Bogaerts should have started at shortstop, instead of Escobar. The outcry, once you get past the vulgarity, expressed that their desire for Bogaerts was more than just fan loyalty; they believed that Bogaerts was genuinely the better choice based on talent and merit.

Let’s look at numbers: Escobar is hitting .276, with an on-base percentage of .314 and slugs the ball at .357. Bogaerts is hitting .302, with a .339 OBP and a .414 SLG. Escobar has two home runs and 28 RBIs. Bogaerts has three home runs and 37 RBIs. Escobar has earned 12 walks and 35 strikeouts. Bogaerts has 16 walks and 45 strikeouts.

There it is! That must be the magic number that kept Bogaerts off of the A.L.’s starting lineup. Strikeouts are bad for you, didn’t you know?

Jul 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) tags out Toronto Blue Jays right fielder

Jose Bautista

(19) during the eighth inning in a game at Rogers Centre. The Boston Red Sox won 12-6. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In all seriousness, judging by those numbers, there does not seem to be much weight in Escobar starting over Bogaerts. We’ll look at some more numbers, but it must first be said that the fans are largely responsible for picking who starts the All-Star Game. They are the ones going online and casting their votes multiple times to see their favorite players be selected.

Wait, what? Does anyone else not see the gigantic flaw in that plan?

The MLB executives must not. This article will not be the first, and certainly will not be the last, to cast a vote of doubt over how the All-Star Game rosters should be selected.

The previous MLB commissioner Bud Selig changed the purpose of the All-Star Game when the event ended in a tie in 2002. The managers of both the American and National Leagues kept using their pitchers to get them all a chance in the spotlight, costing their teams a chance to win as the score remained the same in the final frames. As the game’s original purpose was to just simply showcase the talent, neither manager was comfortable stretching out another team’s pitcher for more innings for a winner to be decided.

Selig changed the purpose of the event to allow the winner to have home-field advantage in the World Series, a highly-coveted advantage to say the least. Regardless of what the elder statesmen of baseball’s writing or playing communities say, the game is now vitally important. Have fun at the Home Run Derby, boys, but the All-Star Game’s consequence demands the men’s attention.

With Escobar and Bogaerts, if you were the American League manager, wouldn’t you want control over who gets to start the game? The starter will likely play a fair amount of innings. It’s not like Escobar can just play the first and be replaced by Bogaerts or another shortstop. The move would be seen as an embarrassing insult to Escobar and the Royals, sparking a bigger problem.

Apr 6, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; MLB former commissioner Bud Selig prior to the Arizona Diamondbacks game against the San Francisco Giants during opening day at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s look at even more numbers: Escobar has hit .276 in night games. Bogaerts has hit .303. Escobar has hit just .211 in the last five games, while Bogaerts has been on fire hitting .455. Escobar hit .357 with runners in scoring position, while Bogaerts hit .379. In late or close games, Escobar hit a measly .107 in 28 at-bats, with no RBIs to his credit. Bogaerts heard the call in his 35 at-bats, hitting a home run and four RBIs. His .429 batting average kept Red Sox manager John Farrell quite comfortable leaving Xander in the game in clutch moments.

One final comparative statistic for you to chew on, if you haven’t been convinced yet: the top five National League pitchers for win totals and ERA are all right-handed. Escobar hit more successfully against righty pitching, earning a .284 batting average. Bogaerts hit better against lefty pitchers, yet batted .293 against righty pitching. That stat says it all: Bogaerts is still quantitatively better than Escobar this season, even when looking at Bogaerts’ weakness. If you were the A.L. manager, wouldn’t you want the player who gives you the best opportunity to win the game being the starter? You might find yourself in the World Series playing the majority of games in the opposing team’s park, with your pitcher batting instead of your designated hitter.

How does Bogaerts not get the starting gig? Simple. The Red Sox were losing most of the season, which didn’t go over well with Red Sox fans. They were likely not as inclined to turn their desktop computers on or rush to the MLB site on their phones to cast their All-Star ballots. Especially not repeatedly, where it would take them a number of minutes to actually fill out the form and hit send. You were able to cast another ballot if you filled in the tiny area where you were asked to confirm that you are a human being, typing in the changing code each time. Who would want to do that if your team kept losing?

Kansas City Royals fans would because they weren’t losing. So the American League roster starts the game with a weaker player because a set of fans didn’t mind continuously sending in their ballots because they were happy that their team was winning. Is this American Idol? The statisticians at MLB continue to have their vote totals broadcasted on every major media platform; however, the numbers don’t even represent the true number of people voting. For all we know, some die-hard Royals fan sat in his parents’ basement for two months and did nothing but send his ballot 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The pizza delivery guy just kept coming, as the ballot marathon continued until last night, when all of the fan’s hopes and dreams were finally realized and Escobar made the starting lineup.

Nobody is saying Escobar shouldn’t be on the roster (well, not the impartial fans, anyways), but how can a game that represents so much to the playoffs be governed by fans who may or may not be taking any of this seriously? Don’t blame those fans, though. Red Sox fans may have done the same thing if they were winning more games. Blame Major League Baseball for wanting fan involvement but not thinking the plan through, leaving players like Xander Bogaerts out in the cold.

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