The Boston Red Sox in 2018 are a machine. It seems as if they can do no wrong, even though some may point out there are (few) vulnerabilities in this team. However, there is one thing missing from this team, and has been since David Ortiz’s departure. The Red Sox are missing a true voice of leadership. Who could fill the void – Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, or another candidate?
The Red Sox are running rampant on opposing teams. They are young, athletic, and their talent is proving to be almost unmatched every time they step on the diamond. Their inevitable trip into the postseason is backed by having two of the best players in baseball, and a record that is currently seven wins better than the defending World Series champions. A certain presence has always been absent since David Ortiz left and even though the Sox replaced the power presence with JD Martinez, something is still missing. A clubhouse leader is almost as important as anything else; think of it as a 10th position, at times.
Tek: The Last Captain
The last official captain for the Red Sox was the beloved Jason Varitek, who spent his entire career with the club and won two World Series titles in the process. He proudly donned the “C” over his heart on his jersey from the historic 2004 season until his retirement in 2011. He was one of three captains in baseball at the time of the appointment, along with Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko. This is a tradition that Red Sox nation would love to see continued, and this is the perfect time to do exactly that.
Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi and Christian Vazquez are the faces of the team today. This is a new generation of players that will be around for a long time – an untouched core that has been through nearly everything together, comparable to the “Core Four” the Yankees had years ago. Even then, Derek Jeter was appointed captain and took this extra role about as serious as he did his shortstop post.
The shortstop position is seen as the captain of the infield, even by MLB itself. It is the most athletically demanding position and the most pivotal when it comes to calling plays or defensive shifts. Now, I understand that Jason Varitek was a catcher and the catcher may take the role of calling plays or shifts as well. However, with the platoon of Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and (as of late) Blake Swihart, there is too much inconsistency in appearances. The captain of the team needs to be someone on the field every game, as long as they are healthy.
Why Not Dustin?
This leads us down another rabbit hole: many people will be saying “Well the team has Dustin Pedroia!” Not so fast, buddy. Dustin Pedroia is the longest tenured player on the Red Sox roster currently, true. However, he has downplayed this role multiple times. Dustin has the mentality of the team having more than one voice, and leading together towards success. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this mentality, but it can’t last forever. This team will eventually go through rough patches, being this season or after. Having a multitude of voices without one to settle the clubhouse could be worrisome.
Dustin Pedroia has even pointed to Xander being the one to bring up the clubhouse’s spirits most of the time.
“I was sitting in the [batting] cage by myself and I was hurting, and Bogey comes in — he’s the happiest kid ever — and he said, ‘Hey, what’s wrong?'” Pedroia said. “I’m like, ‘Man, Bogey, I don’t know if I can. I mean, I’m going to be fine to play, but I hope they throw it right down the middle. You know what I mean? And he goes, ‘Oh man, you’re gonna be fine.’ And I go, ‘Bogey, see that’s what I’m talking about. There are some days when I come in and I need you and we all need each other. So it’s OK to be that guy. Let it come out.’
Bogaerts is the Perfect Candidate
Xander Bogaerts came up late in the 2013 regular season before helping the team win a World Series. He was a breath of fresh air for a team that needed some young, refreshing talent. As far as this core goes, he was second only to Jackie Bradley to come up in the same season. Xander has more of a liking in Boston and a “been there, done that” identity with this club. He’s won a championship, lost in the playoffs, made pivotal plays, and has been on the wrong side of success. As quick as Xander has turned into a young veteran of the club, it’s time to reward him. Being that he is still only 25 years old with 5 years of experience under his belt, he is very relatable to his young teammates.
Mookie, Benintendi and the others can learn a lot about what it’s like to play in a World Series game. Xander is the perfect candidate to impart that knowledge.