The weekly article series examining the two players who deserve to strut their stuff for the Boston Red Sox. This week — Xander Bogaerts & Steven Wright.
Now to fully understand what the Red Sox Strut is, it means to have reason to walk with a confident, proud air around you. Some people mistake it for vanity, arrogance, or being pompous. This incorrect assumption is not what we mean. The Strut is about knowing that your deeds showed off your amazing skills to the baseball-loving public.
Do you remember the Marvel comic book The X-Men? For those living in the proverbial cave for the past 60 years, the X-Men are a group of students, led by Professor Charles Xavier, who possess great power based upon their evolutionary mutation at birth. They fight injustice wherever they find it, bringing honor and glory to their academy.
If you’ve been watching the Boston Red Sox lately, the young students of their own academy have been doing most of the leading, showing off their powers to the rest of Major League Baseball. Now, they’re not mutants (we think), but honor and glory continues to follow their exploits, as well.
POSITIONAL PLAYER: Xander Bogaerts
The X-Man, himself.
After struggling with his bat a few years ago, some experts thought that Bogaerts was a bust of a prospect, coming out of the minor leagues to help fill a couple holes on the left side of the defense. The 2013 playoff run was one of necessity for Bogaerts, who debuted at the end of the year and forced into the spotlight for 12 postseason games, hitting two RBIs that helped the team win the World Series. Then, 2014 happened. A batting average of .240 now seems generous for how terrible he looked at the plate at times. It looked like the youngster was going to be just one of many common minor leaguers: wasted potential.
What a difference a year makes! In 2015, it was a completely different story. It was like whatever was holding Bogaerts back disappeared, as his body and mind mutated into this all-knowing zen master of the bat.
Well … it was either that or the batting coach helping him find his swing, but why ruin the metaphor?
Now, in 2016, Bogaerts is thriving and leading his team with a .350 batting average. The 23-year-old native of Aruba has come to the halls of Fenway Park and continues to demonstrate just how good a student of the game he is. In the last seven games, Bogaerts is hitting .355 with two home runs and five RBIs. He’s currently riding a 24-game hit streak, and Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe recently argued that he may just be the best hitter in all of professional baseball: “It’s very difficult to exploit his offensive weaknesses, because frankly he doesn’t have many.”
His bat may not be made of adamantium, but his near-indestructibility and tenacity at the plate rivals that of Wolverine, himself.
PITCHER: Steven Wright
The 31-year-old starting pitcher would not be mistaken for a student any time soon, but he’s sure taken the rest of the majors to school, lately. If anything, Wright is starting to look more like the professor, using mindtricks to mess with opposing batters who are trying to hit his knuckleball.
With a 2.45 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 69.2 innings of work, Wright has been dominating his opponents this season. In fact, he is the only Red Sox pitcher to have two wins in the past week, posting a 2.25 ERA with a .193 opposing batting average in his last two starts. His last start, against division rivals the Baltimore Orioles, was a complete game, allowing two runs on four hits in nine innings for the victory.
For a knuckleball pitcher, with a pitch designed to be hit (badly), Wright’s making the lineups around the majors see pitches that are not there, swinging and missing at the air. He was originally brought in to fill the fifth spot in the starting rotation. With his numbers, Wright takes a back seat to nobody.
These two players are leading the Red Sox against the evil forces of the American League East division rivals, refusing to be oppressed by a lack of postseason play. They can’t take it and neither can the rest of Red Sox Nation. Bogaerts and Wright have been like superheros to Red Sox fans everywhere this season, and they don’t look like they are going to slow down any time soon.