Alex Verdugo’s arrival is a divisive topic among Boston Red Sox fans following the Mookie Betts trade. Verdugo needs to prove himself in more ways than one.
The Boston Red Sox have caught some serious flack for trading away Mookie Betts. Just dealing Betts was enough to anger the fanbase on its own, but the acquisition of Alex Verdugo as part of the return from the Los Angeles Dodgers added another layer to the backlash.
Verdugo’s past is no mystery at this point. He’s been under fire for allegedly videotaping the assault of a 17-year-old girl back in 2015. While Verdugo denies any wrongdoing, that hasn’t exactly moved the needle in his direction.
With the Dodgers, Verdugo also reportedly overslept and showed up late at one point in 2017. Many would say this reflects his work ethic, but I’d argue that basing someone’s work ethic off of one instance of oversleeping is a bit of an overreach. Verdugo is not the first athlete to either miss or be tardy to a practice or a game due to oversleeping, and he won’t be the last.
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Another pressing matter is Verdugo’s back injury. While he is not expected to miss significant time, if any, it certainly isn’t ideal for him to have back problems at just 23 years old. Admittedly, this is a situation where we have to put faith in Chaim Bloom. Would Bloom have really wanted Verdugo if he didn’t believe that a full recovery was certain? Hopefully not.
On the surface, adding all of that up equals potential for disaster. However, that’s conveniently ignoring the fact that Verdugo is a pretty good baseball player, which in the grand scheme of things is the whole reason why the Red Sox pursued him as part of the Betts trade. Should he return to full health, chances are he is going to be a productive asset.
In 106 games at the major league level in 2019, Verdugo posted a slash line of .294/.342/.475. That’s extremely promising for someone of his age. However, it means nothing now that he is in a new city and Verdugo will need to showcase that ability once again for the Red Sox.
Whether or not he actually will remains to be seen, but Verdugo has shown that he is motivated to change the public perception of himself. He grew up a Red Sox fan and has expressed that he’s happy to be in Boston. The Red Sox might honestly be the perfect destination for him given the circumstances.
Ron Roenicke, interim manager for the Red Sox, has had good things to say about Verdugo.
"“Verdugo has tremendous energy and you’re going to see it right off. That’s just who he is. He gets excited, he shows it,” said Roenicke, per Masslive’s Chris Cotillo. “That’s part of the reason I really look forward to him getting out there. I think the fans are going to really like him right away.”"
If Verdugo can continue to be a good clubhouse presence along with being a formidable player, perhaps the narrative will shift. As of now, we have no reason not to believe that he is at least driven to ensure that it happens.
Sometimes a fresh start is all it takes, and Verdugo at least deserves a chance to prove himself to Boston both on and off the field. There will be pressure and he will be watched closely. If he’s up to the task, it could very well ease the sting of the Mookie Betts trade.