Xander Bogaerts has started to take on more of a leadership role in a Boston Red Sox clubhouse that has endured significant turnover.
The Boston Red Sox roster underwent some drastic changes this offseason in the wake of free agency and a blockbuster trade. Key veterans have scattered to other organizations, creating a leadership void in the clubhouse. Someone needs to step into that role and Xander Bogaerts is poised to take on that challenge.
Interim manager Ron Roenicke is a part of that culture change, stepping in for the former skipper who was exiled under a cloud of controversy. Alex Cora was highly regarded for his communication skills and ability to relate to players. Now that he’s out of the picture, Roenicke will be counting on veterans like Bogaerts to make their presence felt in the clubhouse.
"“Because of the confidence and probably because of the success that leads to the confidence, he’s starting to be a leader in that clubhouse,” Roenicke said, per Maureen Mullen of The Associated Press. “And he certainly is with the Latin players. He’s been a big influence on them. But I think he is on everybody. His attitude, the way he walks in everyday, for me, makes a big difference.”"
Bogaerts is only 27 but he’s viewed as a veteran entering his eighth major league season. He debuted as a 20-year-old kid in 2013, making a name for himself by contributing to Boston’s championship run. Now he’s among the longest tenured players expected to make the Opening Day roster, trailing only Jackie Bradley Jr. who debuted in the majors only a few months before Bogaerts.
The Red Sox suffered an identity crisis following the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season. Big Papi was a larger than life personality with a strong influence in the clubhouse. An MVP season in 2018 pushed Mookie Betts into that role almost by default. He has a different personality than Ortiz but his undeniable talent made him the new face of the franchise and a superstar that other players could look up to.
Betts has been shipped off to the Dodgers along with David Price, whose looming presence was felt everywhere in the clubhouse. Rick Porcello bolted in free agency. Bradley Jr. may follow that same path when he hits the market next winter. Dustin Pedroia‘s ongoing knee issues might prevent him from ever taking the field again and he’s nowhere to be found in camp this spring.
The Red Sox are in dire need of a leader who not only has the talent to be the next face of the franchise but also is locked in as a pillar of the organization. Bogaerts fits the bill. The extension he signed last winter keeps him in Boston through at least the 2025 season. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
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Bogaerts is coming off a career year in which he hit .309 with a .939 OPS, 33 home runs, and 117 RBI. He was named an Alll-Star, earned a Silver Slugger and finished fifth on the AL MVP ballot. His production checks off the superstar box as well.
The Red Sox will have plenty of new faces this season with more young players coming through the pipeline in the near future. The multi-lingual Bogaerts is the perfect ambassador to greet them. We’ve already seen him take Rafael Devers under his wing and he’ll have more opportunities to make these connections. It’s a vital responsibility that Bogaerts is ready to accept.
"“I guess so because obviously we made so many changes, a lot of young guys,” Bogaerts said. “So, just trying to teach them to do things the right way, play the game the right way.”"
It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. Why not Bogaerts? There are several other veterans who can help carry the load but they aren’t necessarily pillars of the organization. J.D. Martinez is always open to giving hitters advice about their swing but a 32-year-old DH who can opt out of his contract next winter isn’t a player to build around. Chris Sale has a strong voice in the clubhouse but how often will he be able to speak up when he’s sidelined indefinitely?
It may be a team effort but there has to be one player who we can identify as “The Guy.” That’s Bogaerts. It’s clear based on his manager’s comments and from what we’ve seen from him this spring that Bogaerts is ready to welcome that leadership role.