Tony Massarotti

Have Red Sox Mishandled Bogaerts?


Xander Bogaerts is reeling. And I’ve decided that the Red Sox and Scott Boras are to blame because they both made the same mistake.

They undermined a supremely talented, respectful and level-headed young who should have been a priority for both.

Sure, the Red Sox hit the universally-acclaimed rock bottom last night in a 16-9, series-sweeping defeat to the woeful Chicago Cubs – is that redundant? – but many people already regard the present to be a lost cause. What is at stake now may be the future. Xander Bogaerts went hitless again in an 0-for-4 performance that featured two more strikeouts, the second of which resulted when, as NESN analyst Jerry Remy wisely remarked, a mentally spinning Bogaerts locked up and took a fastball right down the Pike.

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Here’s the math, folks: when Stephew Drew walked into the clubhouse at Progressive Field on June 2, Bogaerts was batting .296 with an .816 OPS. Those numbers climbed briefly over the next two days – he peaked at .304 and .859 on June 4 – but Bogaerts has since been in the kind of spin that would make an Air Force pilot vomit. Overall, since Drew showed up, Bogaerts is hitting a microscopic .131 with a .422 OPS. In 106 plate appearances, he has 28 strikeouts, 13 hits and just four walks. Some of that is the result of an increasingly passive approach that seemingly has Bogaerts down 0-2 every time he steps into the batter’s box, though far more worrisome is the mindset that may be leading to it.

Bogaerts looks timid. Like he’s lost confidence.

Quite frankly, he’s a mental case right now.

Of course, who could blame him? A year ago, according to a Sunday notebook item by Nick Cafardo, Boras was suggesting to the Red Sox that Bogaerts be moved to second base so that the club could accommodate both Bogaerts and Drew, both of whom are Boras clients. (Shockingly, Dustin Pedroia is not.) This year, after mishandling Drew during the free-agent season, Boras sent Drew back to Boston, partially at the expense of Bogaerts, who got bounced to third.

And people want to say that agents don’t have conflicts of interest? Please.

But if I were Boras on that one, I’d have made the development of Bogaerts as the priority.

Still, most of the burden obviously falls on the Red Sox, whose acquisition of Drew looks dumber and dumber by the day. On the one hand, the Sox committed $10 million to someone whose immediate impact has been a .136 average, .356 OPS and 19 strikeouts (against just nine hits) in 19 games. On the other, they played head games with a 21-year-old phenom who is arguably the best prospect they have had in a nearly generation.

Drew has been impotent offensively, to the point where the Red Sox sat him last night against the Cubs. The Sox have further faded from contention. And now Bogaerts is starting to look like a bat-wielding version of Daniel Bard, whom the Sox turned from a borderline Fireman of the Year candidate into Rick Ankiel.

All of which brings us to this: either some of these Sox prospects have been overhyped – which seems highly unlikely in the case of the bright, gifted, well-mannered Bogaerts – or the Sox have to take a hard look at their player development operation and what they are (or are not) doing for these kids when they reach the major leagues.

Again, my apologies, but Mookie Betts is being rushed. In retrospect, Jackie Bradley probably was last year, too. The same may be true of Will Middlebrooks in 2012. All of three of those players spent less time at Triple-A than Bogaerts did before being summoned to the major leagues for the first time, and one can’t help but wonder if the Red Sox are unwisely trading the long term for the short.

For Bogaerts, the stakes are obviously greater. Entering this season, he was regarded among the bluest of the blue-chip prospects in all of baseball, someone who possesses the strength, size, ability, smarts and makeup to be a superstar. He was as close to a can’t-miss prospect as the red Sox have had in some time. The Red Sox are now halfway through Bogaerts first full season and the youngster is missing far more than he is hitting, and it may be time for everyone from the Sox trip of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino to general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell to start asking a very simple question.

If a can’t-miss kid misses, is it his fault … or yours?

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