Xander Bogaerts reached a historic milestone on Thursday by playing in his 1,000th career major-league game, all of which have come with the Red Sox.
The star shortstop became the 30th player in franchise history to appear in 1,000 games in a Red Sox uniform, but just the 10th do so before turning 29 years old. He joins the likes of Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, Harry Hooper, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, George Scott, Reggie Smith, Tris Speaker and Carl Yastrzemski in accomplishing that feat.
Facing off against the Tigers at Fenway Park, Bogaerts went 2-for-3 at the plate with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored as part of a wild 12-9 win over Detroit. He is now slashing a gaudy .356/.402/.593 on the season to go along with six home runs and 18 runs driven in.
With Thursday’s performance in his back pocket, the 28-year-old has now collected 1,125 hits for the Sox since making his big-league debut in August 2013. That currently ranks 23rd in team history.
Originally signed out of Aruba as a skinny 16-year-old back in 2009, Bogaerts has come a long way in his 11 years as a member of the Red Sox organization.
“It definitely means a lot,” Bogaerts said when asked what it meant to play his 1,000th game with the Red Sox. “I know I came a long way since the day I signed. Growing up as a kid just trying to learn how to play the game, be successful and get to the big leagues. Now I have quite some time now and quite some amount of games which is pretty impressive from a little kid just trying to get to the big leagues from Aruba. I’m extremely proud of myself and I’m thankful for everyone who helped me, especially my family, for always being there for support throughout the good and the bad.”
As things stand now, Bogaerts is a two-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award winner who has played in and won two World Series titles with the Red Sox.
That is obviously impressive, but for Bogaerts to be where he is today was no guarantee.
After making a brief cameo in 2013, the then-21-year-old certainly had a somewhat rough time of things during his first full season in the majors in 2014.
Opening the year as Boston’s everyday shortstop, Bogaerts got off to a strong start, slashing .296/.389/.427 with three home runs and 13 RBI through his first 54 games.
Even while Bogaerts was putting up those solid numbers, the Red Sox brought back veteran infielder Stephen Drew after third baseman Will Middlebrooks went down with a broken finger. That was a move that would eventually require Bogaerts to move to third base, much to the chagrin of the lifetime shortstop.
On the night Drew signed with Boston — May 20 — Bogaerts committed two errors at shortstop in a home game against the Blue Jays and heard boos from the Fenway faithful as a result.
As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote in Homegrown, “the moment crushed Bogaerts and led him to question the organization’s view of him and his future.”
“What am I supposed to think?” Bogaerts asked reporters following that 7-4 loss to Toronto. “How will I know that if we’re 20-30 next year and I’m playing shortstop, they won’t do this again?
“I spent so much time working there and for what?” He added. “If I move now, how am I supposed to get better so that I can stay there?”
Bogaerts would remain at shortstop until Drew was ready to face big-league pitching: June 2, the date he was recalled from Pawtucket.
From that point forward, Bogaerts — despite moving back to short after Drew was traded to the Yankees on July 31 — slashed a dismal .206/.240/.324 for the remainder of the 2014 campaign.
For Bogaerts, looking back at that turbulent time in his career serves as an important reminder for how far he has come since then.
“I started off pretty good winning a World Series my first year. That was nice,” he said Thursday. “But I know my next year after that, I kind of went through a rough stretch. I remember getting booed in 2014, and I was so young. I was like, ‘What the hell are these people booing for me, man? I’m just 21.’
“I’ve learned a lot throughout the years, man,” continued Bogaerts. “I definitely got to give a lot of thanks to my family. It’s been so special to be able to accomplish all these things with everyone in my family that was a huge part of my life, my baseball trajectory. I’m very thankful for them to start with.”
Under manager Alex Cora, Bogaerts has added another dimension to his game. Not only has he been one of the more productive shortstops in baseball over the last four seasons, but he has emerged as a veteran leader as well.
“I do believe he is the most consistent person in the organization,” Cora said of of Bogaerts Thursday. “Off the field. On the field. Physically, what he does in the offseason, the way he takes care of himself during the season. The way he goes about his business. Everything’s about winning for him. He came here in 2013, had a taste, got a ring. That was a special group — a group of grinders: (Mike) Napoli, (Stephen) Drew, (Jonny) Gomes, David (Ortiz), (Dustin) Pedroia. A bunch of grinders. (Shane) Victorino. And he learned right away what it’s all about to play in this market, in this city, in this stadium, for this franchise. He doesn’t take a day for granted. He’s not as vocal or as loud as Dustin… But he’s always ready. He’s always prepared.”
Cora, who hails from Puerto Rico, is aware of how good some of the other shortstops in baseball are, including those from the island like Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, and Carlos Correa.
“But I’m happy that my shortstop is Xander Bogaerts,” said the Sox skipper. “And hopefully, he can play here for a long, long time.”
As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Bogaerts is under contract through 2025 (vesting option for 2026), though he could opt out of his current deal after the 2022 season.
Since signing a six-year, $120 million extension with Boston at the start of the 2019 season, Bogaerts ranks first among qualified shortstops in hits, first in RBI, second in home runs, second in runs scored, second in OPS, second in wRC+, and second in fWAR, per FanGraphs.
To put it simply, Bogaerts is a quality baseball player on and off the field. And as he prepares to play in his 1,001st game with the Red Sox in Baltimore on Friday, the two-time World Series champion is just thankful to get to the 1,000-game threshold.
“If you asked me if I would have imagined playing 1,000 games, I would have been like, ‘That’s a lot,’ he said. “I definitely will take it. For you to be able to play 1,000 games in an organization, you have to be productive and be a guy who, pretty much, they can rely on. I’m happy with the player I’ve become.”
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)