By Brodie Barrick — @BarrickMLB
From the time he came onto the scene of Red Sox Nation in 1996, Nomar Garciaparra took the MLB by storm. From his 30 homeruns and 209 base hits as a rookie, to his countless All-Star games, and his .323 batting average in his career with the Red Sox, Nomar was a guy that the Red Sox were counting on to finally break the “Curse of the Bambino”. As history unfolds, it turns out that he was a guy that made the curse finally breakable. Unfortunately for Nomar, he was a member of the Chicago Cubs when the Sox won their World Series in 2004. His precense in Boston, both on and off the field, set the Red Sox up to break that curse regardless whether or not he was a member of the team when they won. Even the beloved Curt Schilling has noted the role that Nomar played in the Red Sox winning the World Series. Nomar was my first ever “favourite player” and held the title of “Favourite Former/Retired Red Sox Player” until Big Papi went off and retired on us. And since he left, the Red Sox felt a void on the left side of the infield like no other. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to call that the “Nomar Hole”.
Don’t get me wrong, Orlando Cabrera did his part down the stretch for the Red Sox and certainly didn’t let the “Nomar Hole” affect the World Series push that season. He hit .294 and cashed in 31 runs in only 58 games that season. Orlando Cabrera wasn’t the problem. It’s what came after that was the problem.
From the years 2005-2013, the shortstop position in Boston was as depressing as re-watching Buckner’s Game 6 error in ’86. In 05’, Edgar Renteria wanted to join the team that beat his Cardinals in the World Series the year prior. He lasted one season. Alex Cora decided to give it a shot as well that season. He bounced around until ’08. Then it was Julio Lugo, Alex Gonzalez, and ever Jed Lowrie in ’06. Royce Clayton and Gil Velazquez wanted a shot in ’07. ’09 rolls around, Alex Gonzalez comes back and brings along Chris Woodward and Marco Scutaro. I think you get the point. It was a turnstile at the shortstop position. Zero stability. Almost a write-off in the lineup. I think Red Sox Nation just accepted the fact that we were never going to have another shortstop worth anything.
Enter Xander Bogaerts. 2013 comes and the “X-Man” emerges onto the scene. Could the Red Sox FINALLY have a shortstop worth the price that it costs to manufacture his jersey? Although he played just 30 games in the 2013 season, Bogaerts was a member of the playoff roster and ultimately won a World Series that season. Although the Sox moved Bogaerts to 3rd when they resigned Stephen Drew in 2014, he was quickly moved back to shortstop following the trade of Drew to the Yankees. It was from here on out that Xander has cemented himself as the Red Sox starting shortstop. In 2015 he batted an impressive .320, second to only Miguel Cabrera for the best mark in the AL. He won his first of 2 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards for shortstop this season. He has proven to be able to hit in all spots in the lineup, and moving forward he will be heavily relied upon to hit anywhere from 2nd to 6th. I like him a lot in the 3rd spot with Mookie Betts digging in behind him, but that’s ultimately a decision for John Farrell to make.
Not only had Xander filled a hole on the field that has been seemingly unfillable since the departure of Nomar, he is also entering his 4th full season as a member of the Red Sox. He may only be 24 years old but he is going to be counted on in this clubhouse to act as though he is a veteran with the amount of youth and new faces to Red Sox Nation. It is nice to finally have a shortstop, after so many long years with regret of trading Nomar, that people will actually go buy a jersey for. Look around Fenway. I’m sure you’ll find a #2 jersey somewhere. Probably more than you’ll see of Julio Lugo.