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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Xander Bogaerts: slumping, but not fragile

Bogaerts+at+the+dish+against+the+Cubs+last+week
Bogaerts at the dish against the Cubs last week

Xander Bogaerts went 2 for 5 in yesterday’s loss to the Orioles. That’s not bad, considering he matched the amount of hits he tallied in his previous 81 at-bats.
Undoubtably you’ve heard people try to convince you that Bogaerts, already a world champion at 21, was somehow “damaged” or “bent out of shape” by the Stephen Drew signing and his subsequent move from shortstop to third base. People probably have told you that he’s “uncomfortable” with the new position and that he’s a “natural” shortstop so it would be better for his development as a ballplayer to remain there.
Newsflash: That’s not why he’s been so lost at the plate, that is a very feeble excuse, and one that has evolved from stances that were taken by columnists and radio hosts across the city when a 27-29 Red Sox club signed Drew in late May. Nick Cafardo suggested that moving Bogaerts to third was a good thing. On May 21, he wrote, “(Moving to third) will take him away from the glare of the spotlight that’s always on a player at short.”
“That mental stress has to be tough on a young player.” Added Cafardo.
Eric Wilbur from Boston.com wrote, “Sorry, kid. Off to third.” After a win over the Rays on June 1, referencing the impending call up of Stephen Drew. He also quoted Bogaerts as saying, “My heart is always at shortstop (…) they felt that we’re a better team with him so that’s why they went out and got him. I was just feeling so good over there.”
It feels like the excuses were being written before the slump even started.
But here’s where that stance loses traction: Bogaerts has been a top level baseball player for his entire life. He’s worked to make it to the Major Leagues since he was a little kid in Aruba. He does not come from the specialized, baseball summer camp, AAU environment that the elite American ballplayer is coming from. He’s had to endure a-lot in his journey to the majors. It’s hard to believe that moving 45 feet to the left has bothered him to the point that he’s not hitting. Frankly, I’m not sure why he can’t move back and forth to play at short against lefties and third against righties, but now that Jonathan Herrera has been optioned, you may see that more often.
If Bogaerts is really fragile to the point that he’d be messed up by a change of position for a few months, then how will he shoulder the load of being the next great Red Sox for the next 10 years?
There’s a very simple explanation for this slump: no protection in the lineup coupled with a classic “rookie downturn” that almost every player experiences. Pitchers study copious amounts of film between starts nowadays and with every at bat, Bogaerts is putting more footage to tape, which clubs (with designated film staff) pour over frame by frame.
As far as protection in the lineup, when you’re hitting in front of a scuffling Dustin Pedroia or a futile Stephen Drew, you just won’t have as much success as your average phenom. Bogaerts will be fine, but we shouldn’t minimize the man by saying that he was shaken by a move 45 feet down the base path or (god forbid) maybe having to play two different positions. Brock Holt is a rookie as well and he’s played first, third, and all three outfield positions, and did I mention that he is a natural shortstop? If Bogaerts is fragile about moving between the left side of the infield, is Holt an android for being able to play all over the ballpark?
Let’s just say this. The object of the game of baseball as to catch a batted leather ball in a leather glove with a pocket and to be able to throw it to another man with a glove, with the ball landing in said pocket. If you can do that, you should be just fine, it doesn’t matter where you stand, and Bogaerts will be able to figure it all out.