Though it was a lost season in the standings, 2019 was an important year for Xander Bogaerts on the field and in the clubhouse.
The shortstop returned to the All-Star Game, and armed with a six-year deal that’ll keep him in Boston through 2026, Bogaerts took on a more vocal role behind the scenes, too. He represented the best case scenario in giving a ballplayer an early extension.
So what’d Bogaerts learn about himself as a leader in a season that fell well short of expectations?
“Man, tough times are tough,” Bogaerts told the Eagle-Tribune. “There was always hope for us this year. We saw a light at the tunnel a lot of times and just came up short so many times. Guys, we could have divided, we could have gone separate ways, but the success we had in ‘18, I think this group was so special that it seems like nothing breaks us. It’s just that we couldn’t get the job done.
“But everybody stayed in tact. The coaching staff down to the players, it was unbelievable, man. It was rough, but at the same time we learned a lot.”
It’s always curious to see which players will speak to the media after losses. In 2019, it was Bogaerts more than anybody — even if his play often didn’t make it necessary.
And though Alex Cora repeatedly cited Bogaerts as a go-to guy for young players, especially Rafael Devers, the 27-year-old is still reluctant to call the Red Sox his team.
“I don’t know about that, man,” he said. “I don’t know about that. We’ll see what happens this offseason. There’s been a lot of talk that it’s different but we’ll see what happens, man. I don’t have any input on those (personnel) decisions.”
Ownership has made it clear they’re determined to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold in 2020, which means players like J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts may be finding new homes.
If that’s the case, Bogaerts will need to be even more vocal next season. He wants to lead like David Ross, a good-natured player that only got nasty when he needed to. As such, the shortstop is still focused on finding the positive.
“Hopefully they can stay,” Bogaerts said. “I don’t know who’s going to go, who’s going to stay, we don’t know. But we know that we had an amazing group of guys. An amazing bond. And those are memories that will last forever. Just like 2013, the year we won it, you won’t forget those good times.”
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason