Sunday Notes: Xander Bogaerts Is on Track To Surpass Everett Scott

Everett Scott holds the Red Sox franchise record for games played at shortstop. A part of three World Series-winning clubs in Boston, he manned the position in 1,093 regular-season games from 1914-1921. Right behind Scott are Rick Burleson (1,004), Nomar Garciaparra (956), Freddy Parent (909), and Xander Bogaerts (908).

The last of those names stands out, and not just because he’s current. It also stands out because myriad prospect prognosticators didn’t expect him to stick at the position. To some it was barely even a question. I was once told by a name-you’d-recognize prospect guru, — in a condescending manner, no less — that “Xander Bogaerts will never play shortstop in the major leagues.”

He was wrong. Moreover, had this been a normal 162-game season — and assuming Bogaerts had stayed healthy — the 28-year-old native of Aruba would already be within 100 games of Scott’s total. As it is, he’s in line to eclipse the century-old record by the midway point of the 2022 season.

Called up in August 2013, Bogaerts did play nine of his first 17 big-league games as a third baseman — the position he was earmarked for by his doubters. But that was circumstance as opposed to choreography. With Stephen Drew etched in at short, and Will Middlebrooks scuffling at the hot corner, the Red Sox were looking for a way to slot their top-rated prospect into the lineup.

According to Bogaerts, a permanent switch was never in the plans.

“We never had that conversation,” explained Bogaerts. “They never approached me and said, ‘Hey. we want to move you off short, we think you should play third base.’ It was none of that. All of the chatter was through the media — the media guys were writing stories — but I never heard it from anyone in the organization.”

The speculation had come largely from Bogaerts’s build. Compared to most of his contemporaries, the 6’2” — “maybe just below that” — 215 lb. infielder was, and remains to this day, anything but a water bug. Taking pains to not outgrow his preferred position has been a priority.

“Coming up, I was kind of a bigger guy,” said Bogaerts, whose bat — a 136 wRC+ over the past three seasons serving as ample evidence — remains his calling card. “I was determined to stay at short, and in order to do that I’ve had to stay on a good path. Every once in a while someone cheats and eats Wendy’s, but I try to take care of my body as much as possible. I’ve known that if I show up at spring training a little bigger, it could effect a position change.”

The Red Sox dealt Drew at the 2014 trade deadline, but an earlier swap had an even bigger impact on Bogaerts’ future. In July 2013, Boston shipped José Iglesias to Motown. The duo had shared the shortstop position at Triple-A Pawtucket earlier that same season, and each being a sure-fire big-leaguer, something had to give. Had Iglesias remained, Bogaerts quite likely would have moved to third.

“It wasn’t a signal that I’ll be here for a long time, but it was a signal that I have a good chance now,” Bogaerts said of the trade. “He’s a shortstop, I’m a shortstop, so it was kind of like, ‘You know, I have a good chance of being a shortstop here.’”

Defensive metrics have never shone brightly on Bogaerts. While Iglesias is a bona fide magician, Bogaerts is probably best described as steady-but-unspectacular. Web gems aren’t his specialty, but he does turn routine ground balls into outs on a consistent basis. Improved footwork has been the key to his solidity. Buoyed by the tutelage of Brian Butterfield and Bruce Crabbe — to name just two —Bogaerts has gone from a defensive question mark to the periphery of a games-played mark at a position once deemed beyond his reach.

What will usurping Scott’s games-at-short record mean to him?

“Coming up, I never could have imagined getting close to something like that,” responded Bogaerts, who prior to being told was unaware of his place in Red Sox annals. “I just wanted to get here and be a good player. But like you said, that record has been there for a long time, so it would be special. Remind me when I do it.”

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Cristian Pache shared a glass-is-half-full perspective on his 2020 season, which was spent almost exclusively at Atlanta’s alternative training site. The 21-year-old outfielder pointed out that he got 15 at bats per day against a variety of pitchers in live-BP sessions, which he feels helped prepare him for October. So far he’s held his own. After coming to the plate just four times during the regular season, the top prospect in the Braves system hit his first career home run in NLCS Game 3.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Jerry Kenney went 0 for 8 against Mike Kilkenny.

Larry Kopf went 0 for 8 against Cactus Keck.

Bobby Knoop went 1 for 9 against Darold Knowles.

Merlin Kopp went 2 for 10 against Rudy Kallio.

Punch Knoll went 3 for 14 against Ed Killian.

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Mike Brosseau was born and raised in Indiana, and attended college in Michigan, but his baseball fandom — at least before he signed a professional contract — long resided on the north side of Chicago. The Tampa Bay Rays infielder was asked about his pre-Rays rooting interests during an ALCS media session.

“My dad was a big Cubs fan,” Brosseau told reporters. “He instilled that into me. Favorite player growing up… I was a Sammy Sosa fan. I was a big Mark Prior fan. Kerry Wood. The list goes on. Big Cubs fan, in general, growing up.”

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The national narrative is that the Rays “do things differently,” and thanks to a polished, analytical approach are able to outsmart other teams. With that in mind, I asked Kevin Cash if a lot of fans across the country are guilty of underestimating just how talented his players actually are.

“I don’t think we outsmart teams,” responded the Tampa Bay manager. “I think we’re good because we’ve got good players, and we really work hard to get them in the right positions to be successful and win games. The bottom line is that you don’t get to this point — and you don’t have the record we just had — without having good players. We have really, really talented players.”

It’s hard to argue otherwise. The Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series

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Trivia time: Who hit the first home run in Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays history?

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NEWS ITEMS

The finalists for the Players Choice Marvin Miller Man of the Year award are Nelson Cruz, Jason Heyward, and Adam Wainwright. Players across the two leagues vote for the peer they “most respect based on his leadership on the field and in the community.”

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced that night games in April, May, and September will begin at 6:35 p.m. next season. Sunday afternoon games at PNC Park will also be moved up by half an hour, starting at 1:05 p.m.

In the KBO, Kiwoom Heroes outfielder Jung-hoo Lee 이정후 set a new single-season record with his 48th double. Former Texas Rangers outfielder had 47 with the Hanwha Eagles in 2018.

Chunichi Dragons left-hander Yudai Ono threw his fifth shutout of the season on Wednesday and hasn’t allowed a run in his last 36 innings. Ono leads NPB pitchers with a 1.92 ERA and is a favorite, along with Yomiuri Giants right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano — 13-1, 2.02 — to win this year’s Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young).

The Baseball By The Book podcast has had a pair of particularly good episodes in the past month-plus. One features R.A.R. Edwards discussing “Deaf Players In Major League Baseball,” and the other is Mark Armour discussing “SABR 50 at 50.”

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The answer to the quiz is Wade Boggs. The Hall of Fame third baseman homered in the sixth inning of Tampa Bay’s inaugural game on March 31, 1998.

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In the aftermath of Monday’s NLCS Game 1, the Athletic’s Jayson Stark asked Astros manager Dusty Baker about Jose Altuve’s having made two throwing errors after going the entire season without making any. Could he explain how the baseball gods would exact such a fate?

“No I can’t,” Baker responded. “I’m not one of the gods. And if the gods did answer me, that means I’m not here on earth anymore. They come in bunches. Errors, hits, homers — everything comes in bunches. And hopefully that’s the end of the bunch.”

A few more Dusty-isms from pregame media sessions I took part in:

On his team hitting in hard luck: “I’m not really going to have a message other than, ‘Hey boys, we’ve got to keep swinging it. That’s all you can do. Talk is cheap. We’ve just got to find some holes.

“You can’t guide the ball. If you could guide the ball, guys would be hitting .600… Everybody talks exit speed, and this and that, which helps cut down the opposition’s reaction time, but we’re not only looking for exit speed, we’re looking for some exit hits.”

On Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa positioning themselves during an infield shift: “That’s up to them. Sometimes you have to let the boys play. They know each other probably better than anybody. Like Frick and Frack. They know each other big time.”

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2020 STATS-AND-FACTS NOTABLES

George Springer has 18 postseason home runs in 292 plate appearances. Reggie Jackson had 18 postseason home runs in 318 plate appearances, while David Ortiz had 17 in 369.

Seven of the 11 hits that Atlanta Braves pitcher Will Smith allowed during the regular season were home runs. One of the two hits he’s allowed in the postseason has been a home run.

The Detroit Tigers had MLB’s youngest roster, with an average age of 27 years, 224 days. The Seattle Mariners were second-youngest, at 27 years, 256 days.

The Toronto Blue Jays made it into the postseason without a single player who had been in the majors for 10-plus years. The last team to do so was the Philadelphia Phillies, in 1915.

The Baltimore Orioles had 16 bunt hits, the most in the majors. The Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox were the only teams without a bunt hit.

The White Sox had 64 infield hits, the most in the majors. The Milwaukee Brewers had 24 infield hits, the fewest in the majors.

New York Mets manager Luis Rojas became the sixth Dominican-born manager in MLB history. His father, Felipe Alou, had been the first. The only other father-son duos to manage in the majors are Buddy and David Bell, Aaron and Bob Boone, George and Dick Sisler, and Bob and Joel Skinner.

On July 29. Mike Yastrzemski became the second leadoff batter in Giants franchise history to have a multi-homer game that included a walk-off home run. Larry Doyle had done so in September 1909.

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Brian Snitker got an unsatisfying answer from an umpire in the first inning of NLCS Game 3. Dodgers infielder Justin Turner had been awarded first base on a hit-by-pitch, and the Atlanta manager went out to question the call.

“I told him I just saw the replay, and he kicked the ball,” Snitker informed reporters. “You’re not allowed to do that, right? I didn’t really get an explanation. If they’re sending that to replay, I don’t know why they didn’t see that… I said, ‘Wasn’t that intentional?’ He said, ‘We didn’t have it as intentional.’ I know what I saw.”

Viewers saw much the same thing: Turner clearly reached out his with back foot to kick a curveball that was dipping down in the dirt. The pitch should have been ruled a ball, not a HBP. Not that it had any impact on the game. The Dodgers already had seven runs on the board in what turned out to be an 11-run inning on the way to a 15-3 win. Much to his chagrin, Snitker saw that as well.

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Sticking with Snitker, the Atlanta skipper made it clear after yesterday’s Game 6 loss that he’s not a big fan of pitch counts. Asked about Max Fried having thrown a career-high 109 pitches, he responded in a classic old-school manner.

“That career high isn’t a lot of pitches,” opined Snitker. “Talking to him, I was like, ‘I’m blown away that that’s your career high; 140 ought to be a career high, not 107 or 108. In the industry, bells and whistles go off at 100 pitches. Max got locked in today. He probably could have thrown all afternoon. He could have thrown 200 pitches once he got his rhythm.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Bless You Boys, Brandon Day wrote about how George Lombard could become the next Detroit Tigers manager.

ESPN’s Sam Miller ranked the 35 trades that shaped the Rays, Astros, Dodgers and Braves.

Purple Row’s Justin Wick wonders if the Colorado Rockies can get clever with strikeout development.

The posting period for KBO players has been pushed back due to the pandemic, and Yoo Jee-ho provided us with the specifics at the Yonhap News Agency.

Cumberland Posey is the only person to be inducted into both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Shakeia Taylor wrote about the Negro League legend for MLB.com.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

When Joe Morgan broke into the big leagues with the Houston Astros, one of his teammates was Johnny Temple, who’d begun his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1952. Morgan later became an Oakland A’s teammate of Rickey Henderson, whose last MLB season was 2003.

Dusty Baker was an outfielder for the 1981 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Baker finished his playing career with 1,981 hits.

Anthony Rizzo has 5,416 PAs, 515 extra-base hits, and 229 home runs.
Troy Tulowitzki had 5,415 PAs, 513 extra-base hits, and 225 home runs.

Connie Mack retired on this date in 1950. Eighty-seven years old at the time, Mack managed 53 seasons and had more wins (3,731), losses (3,948) and ties (76) than any skipper in history.

Tony La Russa’s 5,097 games managed is second-most all-time, behind Mack’s 7,755 games. La Russa is third in wins (2,728) behind Mack and John McGraw (2,763), and second in losses (2,365).

George Stone had a 140 wRC+ over 846 games for the St. Louis Browns from 1905-1910. A native of Lost Nation, Iowa, Stone had earlier appeared in two games for the 1903 Boston Americans, who won the inaugural World Series.

Lou Gehrig had 21 extra-base hits and a 1.214 OPS in World Series games.
Babe Ruth had 22 extra-base hits and a 1.214 OPS in World Series games.

Willie Mays slashed .239/.308/.282 with no home runs in 78 World Series plate appearances. Hank Aaron slashed .362/.405/.710 with six home runs in 74 World Series plate appearances.

On this date in 2004, David Ortiz’s 14th-inning walk-off single gave the Boston Red Sox a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the ALCS. The contest lasted five hours, 49 minutes and ended at 1:22 a.m EST.

Players born on this date include Moxie Meixell, who played in the three games for the Cleveland Naps in 1912. The Crystal Lake, Minnesota native got his lone big-league hit off Byron Houck, who hailed from Prosper, Minnesota.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

This Kevin Cash quote reminds me a bit of Buck Showalter, who absolutely knew better, setting up the us vs. world narrative of how his players would beat the odds. It’s always a good idea to talk about how great your players are if you’re the manager! What is he going to say, “no, our guys are no good?” How is that going to play?