Aaron Boone drops sarcastic Rafael Devers comparison after defensive plays vs Yankees
Baseball is a team sport, but on any given night, an individual player stepping up is what wins the game.
For the New York Yankees on Saturday, it was Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who drove in all three of the Evil Empire’s runs, including getting Andrew Benintendi to score the go-ahead run, just to really twist the knife.
For the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, it was Rafael Devers, at the plate and on the hot corner.
And, in the bottom of the sixth, his two-run blast off Jameson Taillon gave the Sox some much-needed cushion in a close game that ended up being just the ninth shutout of the Yankees this year.
Aaron Boone compares Rafael Devers to Brooks Robinson after incredible defensive outing
Yankees manager Aaron Boone is no stranger to Devers’ home runs, but according to Sox skipper Alex Cora, he has some semi-sarcastic praise for the young third baseman’s impressive glovework:
"“[Boone] always says that [Devers] plays like Brooks Robinson against the Yankees. He always says that. When [Boone] hears people say [Devers] struggles defensively, he’s like, ‘Not against us.’ He’s really good. He worked hard in the off-season on his pre-pitch and first step. You see the results. It’s always good to see him play defense like that.”"
Legendary third baseman and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson won an eye-popping 16 Gold Gloves over his 23-year career, all of which he spent with the Baltimore Orioles. From 1960-74, he was an All-Star every year, and he won AL MVP in 1964. His greatness propelled the O’s to their first (1966) and second (1970) of three World Series championships in franchise history, an achievement that’s eluded them since 1983.
However, while Boone is correct that Devers turns up the heat when facing the Sox’ biggest rivals, it’s more than that this year. For the second time in his career, Devers is somewhat of a plus-defender; he won’t be replicating Robinson’s Gold Glove total, but it’s worth noting how much he’s improved defensively. After accumulating a career-worst -12 Outs Above Average in 2021, he’s +2 this season. According to Statcast, he was somehow +17 OAA in 2019, which seems outrageous. FanGraphs has him with -3 Defensive Runs Saved, a serious improvement over his -13 DRS last year. He’s also worth 1.5 defensive WAR after a combined -12.2 over the past two seasons.
By the way, fellow third baseman Austin Riley, whom the Atlanta Braves just extended to the tune of 10 years and $212M, is -10 OAA and -2 DRS this season.
Then there’s the eye test. Anyone who watches Devers every game sees him make the most outrageous plays look effortless, but often struggle with the fundamentals. That dates back to his call-up in 2017. When the Sox called him up midseason, it wasn’t because he was necessarily ready (defensively, anyway), but because David Ortiz had retired the year before, and they somehow thought they could win games without him. A bold strategy, indeed.
20 years old that first year, Devers provided bat power but struggled with the most routine plays at third, because he’d missed that fundamental work in the minors. He made 14 errors in just 56 games that first year, and 20+ in the following two seasons. He’s currently holding a career-best 12 errors, but there’s a lot of baseball left this season.
Still, Devers has taken up the mantle of Yankee Killer in a big way since debuting in 2017. Fittingly, his big game on Sunday fell on the five-year anniversary of his first home run against the Yanks, a towering blast off Aroldis Chapman. He now has 19 career homers against the Yankees, and no more than 16 versus any other team. His six home runs off Gerrit Cole (none this weekend, sadly) are the most the Yankees star has allowed to any player in his career.
Boone has every right to be salty, and how sweet it is.