Bogaerts' All-Star spot more than earned

July 9th, 2019

could have spent the All-Star break basking in the sun in his native Aruba, and he almost did.

But that wouldn’t have been right, considering that Bogaerts has been the most consistent and productive player for the defending World Series champion Red Sox this season.

Bogaerts wound up punching his ticket to Cleveland as an injury replacement to Hunter Pence, and that allowed him to bask in some well-deserved spotlight during Monday’s All-Star media day rather than that sun in Aruba.

This is Bogaerts' second All-Star appearance. He was the starting American League shortstop in 2016.

“I’m very thankful for this one, obviously,” Bogaerts said. “It’s a great reward, each and every one. I don’t care if it’s your first, fifth or 10th. They all are special in their own ways. I think every player that plays this game would want to be recognized with something like this.”

Bogaerts was joined by Red Sox teammates and , who were also selected as reserves. However, Martinez will start as the DH and bat fifth, filling Pence’s spot in the starting lineup. Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the skipper for the AL, and he was pleased to once again be able to write Martinez’s name in the lineup.

“J.D. Martinez, he was one of the best hitters last year. A guy that everybody knows his story. He's been amazing,” said Cora on Monday while announcing Martinez as his No. 5 hitter.

While Betts and Martinez were the central figures for the Red Sox last season, Bogaerts was the third driving force that helped the team achieve a franchise record 108 wins.

“He definitely was the other bat in the lineup that helped us go,” Betts said. “J.D. and I, we weren’t hitting every day. When we didn’t, he did. It’s one of those things where it’s great having him in our lineup for sure.”

The 2019 All-Star Game will be played tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.

This season, Bogaerts has been even better. His slash line of .294/.384/.535 (.919 OPS) are the best top-to-bottom numbers of his career. His 3.7 wins above replacement ranks top among shortstops, third in the AL and sixth in the entire league, per FanGraphs.

“Huge. He’s been huge,” Martinez said of Bogaerts. “I’m really pumped to see him here. He’s been a huge part of our lineup all season. He’s having a great season, so I’m happy for him that he got in the game.”

The name “Bogaerts” is all over the leaderboard. He ranks in top 10 in the AL for doubles (tied for first, 29), runs scored (fourth, 67), hits (ninth, 98), RBIs (third, 65), walks (sixth, 50), on-base percentage (sixth), slugging (seventh) and OPS (fifth). He is the Red Sox's leader in both doubles and RBIs, and his 17 homers are the most first-half long balls for a Boston shortstop since Rico Petrocelli hit 25 in 1969.

As much as Bogaerts had led on the field, he’s done every bit as much in the clubhouse.

Put simply, during a year that Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million contract extension, he’s showing signs that the prime of his career is starting to take form, and he was well worth it.

“We made a big commitment with him to keep him here for six, seven years. It looks really good,” Cora said. “I think offensively, he bought into the concept last year instead of trying to hit .330, hitting line drives the other way, just to look for pitches in the middle of the zone and do some damage. And now all of a sudden, he’s hitting almost .300, driving the ball.”

Bogaerts plans on savoring these next couple of days just as much as his first go-around in 2016.

“I think each year is individual,” he said. “Everyone should appreciate being here, appreciate the opportunity to be invited and get to be here. These are all the best players. It’s a fun time, man. We should definitely enjoy it.”

For Betts -- last year’s All-Star MVP for the AL -- this is his fourth consecutive trip to the All-Star Game. The right fielder got hot before the All-Star break, improving his slash line to .272/.392/.467 (.859 OPS) and extending his league lead in runs scored (77), aided by crossing the plate six times and notching seven base knocks in the Detroit series before the break. Those numbers are still a far cry from his .346/.438/.640 (1.078 OPS) AL MVP Award-winning season in 2018, which Betts has no problem admitting.

When it comes to what the Red Sox -- who are currently in third place in the AL East -- need to do better after the break, Betts started with himself.

“I have to play well. I think it’s one of those things I have to take ownership of and play better, and I think set a better example of where we want to go, and that will show the other guys where we need to go,” he said.

Though Martinez’s power has dipped from where it was in the second half of 2017 and all of last season, he is still having a strong season that includes a line of .304/.376/.541 (.918 OPS) along with a team-leading 18 homers.

While Martinez recently acknowledged the first half has been a grind, he is ready to embrace his third All-Star experience.

“It’s awesome. It’s a cool experience,” he said. “It’s a great experience to be around all the guys, all the commotion, there’s fans everywhere. There’s so many cool things going on. It’s a cool atmosphere.”