Going through the 5 stages of grief over Xander Bogaerts

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 10: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after being introduced as a member of the 2019 All-MLB team during the 2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings on December 10, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 10: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after being introduced as a member of the 2019 All-MLB team during the 2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings on December 10, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

It’s been four days since Red Sox Nation learned that franchise pillar Xander Boagaerts was signing an 11-year, $280M contract with the San Diego Padres.

It’s the end of an era for Bogaerts and the Sox. They signed him when he was 16, he debuted at 20, and in 10 big-league seasons, won two World Series Championships and five Silver Slugger Awards while also playing in four All-Star Games. He was a consummate professional on and off the field.

Unfortunately, Sox management comically miscalculated Bogaerts’ open market value. Since then, fans have run the gamut of emotions, experiencing everything from anger to sadness. In an effort to help everyone heal and move forward, I dusted off one of my old psychology textbooks to review the five stages of grief. Experiencing the various stages will allow fans to process their grief and eventually come to accept losing Bogaerts.

Before we start, here is a disclaimer. An article about grief related to a sports team may seem silly and trivial to some. To those folks, I would argue that the Boston Red Sox and their players are a passion for their fans who spend 162 games a year and countless hours with them. Thus it is natural for fans to experience intense emotions about this team and it is important to process them.

Let us go through the 5 stages of grief together and apply them to the Sox losing Xander Bogaerts:

Stage 1: Denial

Grief is often accompanied by shock. One way to deal with this is to soften the blow with denial where one refuses to believe something is actually happening. When Jeff Passan tweeted at 12:19 AM that Bogaerts had reached an agreement with the Padres, most Red Sox fans were in denial. This author felt numb like I had the wind taken from me. Boston Red Sox fans responded with many denials to soften their shock:

  • Jeff Passan is wrong just like Jon Heyman was about Arson Judge
  • Xander will change his mind before he actually signs
  • Chaim Bloom will increase his offer to match the Padres
  • The San Diego Padres will go bankrupt and the deal will be voided

Fans quickly learned that their denials would not change reality which leads to the next phase.

Stage 2: Anger

Red Sox fans are no strangers to the anger stage. Our lexicon includes phrases like the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ and ‘Buckey Bleeping Dent’. In recent years, we have seen several homegrown stars like Jon Lester and Mookie Betts leave lead other teams to championships. Bogaerts leaving added to this. After years of frustrations, many Red Sox fans spend much of their time in the anger stage. One only needs to turn on the radio and listen to an afternoon of sports talk radio to hear the fan’s anger. Anger allows one to mask some of the other emotions they might be feeling including sadness. Some of the anger that fans felt manifested with statements like:

  • Chaim Bloom is turning us into the Boston Rays and he needs to be fired
  • John Henry only cares about profit and his other teams. He should sell the team.
  • The Padres will regret this contract in 3-years
  • Xander Bogaerts will regret leaving Boston

However, to process our grief fans will eventually have to let go of the anger as difficult as that may be.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Many Red Sox fans feel helpless while they repeatedly watched their favorite players leave. Losing players like Lester, Betts and now Bogaerts makes fans feel powerless. Bargaining is an attempt to regain some control over the situation. During the bargaining stage, a Red Sox fan will create a bunch of hypotheticals to explain how losing Bogaerts could have been averted:

  • If only I had gone to more games and bought more Fenway Franks, we could afford these players
  • If only I had emailed Chaim Bloom to make a better offer to Bogaerts in spring training
  • If only I had emailed Dave Dombroski to not sign Chris Sale to that extension, we would still have Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts
  • If only I cheered more for Bogie while he was here, he might have stayed

It is important for Red Sox Nation to remember that losing Bogaerts was not their fault and there is nothing they could have done to prevent it.

Stage 4: Depression

During the depression stage, Red Sox fans will experience sadness after the loss of Bogaerts. This is the stage that this author currently resides. This stage can be accompanied by hopelessness. A fan will often have thoughts like:

  • Who cares who else they sign as the season is ruined without Xander
  • I’m not even going to watch this season
  • Rafael Devers is as good as gone
  • Why root for Triston Casas as they will never sign him when he becomes a free agent

Stage 5: Acceptance

Eventually, most fans will reach acceptance after processing their grief and come to accept that Bogaerts is gone. It does not mean that they have forgotten the grief of losing him but that they have accepted it knowing that brighter days will return:

  • If we survived Clemens, Vaughn, Lester, and Mookie leaving, we can survive Bogaerts
  • At least Don Orsillo will be able to call Xander Bogaerts games again
  • The Red Sox will apply the money for Bogaerts to other areas of need
  • I’m going to look awesome in my new Masataka Yoshida jersey

Perusing Twitter and Message boards since Bogaerts signed with the Padres, I have seen Red Sox fans in various stages of grief. It’s important to know that these stages are not linear and someone fans might jump between stages. Grief is a personal experience and we must all process it in our own way. I have no doubt that Red Sox Nation will heal and will be out in full force for the 2023 season. However, we should remember how we processed the grief of Bogaerts leaving as it seems likely that we will be dealing with grief again next year when Rafael Devers is gone.