Legends On Deck

Game of the Week: The AL East’s Not-Sot-Elite Shortstops

Photo Courtesy of the MLB

Photo Courtesy of the MLB

Does anyone remember, say, circa 2002 in the AL East?

For the Yankees, their captain and recently retired future HOFer Derek Jeter was the leadoff hitter and manned shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter played in 157 games, while hitting .297 with 191 hits, 18 home runs and 75 RBIs. While this wasn’t a historic year for Jeter, he put together a solid showing and made the All-Star team. While Jeter never put up the power numbers, only hitting over 20 homers 3 times in his 20 year career, he always came up in the clutch and got close to 200 hits each season. If I had to put together my All-Time team, I would have to take an extremely hard look at Derek Jeter. Aside from his stats, the poise and professionalism of Derek Jeter made everyone, yes even Red Sox fans like myself, respect the man that broke my heart so many times.

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As for the Red Sox in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, they had Nomar Garciaparra. While Garciaparra never quite lived up to all the hype he generated in Boston after a couple stat-crazy seasons, he was nothing to take for granted. In 2002, Garciaparra put together an MVP-like season. In 156 games, he hit .310, with 24 home runs and 120 RBIs. Not too shabby, huh? Nomar was never quite the same player after he left Boston, but was able to bat .323 with 178 home runs and 690 RBI in 9 seasons with the Red Sox, with only 6 of those seasons being for over 85 games.

What happened to those types of shortstops? The game has changed significantly from 10+ years ago, but guys nowadays are bigger, faster, and stronger than the players that partook in the “Steroid Era.” The supplements and vitamins that are given to players nowadays have significantly changed the game and we see that through the stat lines. Guys strike out more, while hitting more home runs. Players aren’t as skilled as they were 10-15 years ago, but now make up for it with incredible strength and power. Pitchers pitch harder, and hitters hit farther. Plain and simple.

Would I like to be able to see a guy hit .320 with 17 home runs and 115 RBIs instead of seeing David Ortiz go up there and hack at every pitch like it stole his lunch money? Absolutely.

But there is nothing that we can change about that.Unfortunately for the Red Sox and Yankees, though, both of their shortstop situations are in limbo.

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/LOD

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/LOD

The Red Sox look to have their next Nomar Garciaparra in Xander Bogaerts, but he has not necessarily progressed like most experts thought he would. Last season, in 144 games, Bogaerts hit .240 with 12 home runs, 46 RBIs, and an eye-numbing 138 strikeouts. Defensively, well, lets just say he’s not Jeter. In fact, at one point early in the 2014 season, Bogaerts was so bad at shortstop that they signed Stephen Drew and moved him to third base. Instead of trying to prove everyone wrong, Bogaerts was noticeably upset and let the change mentally effect him.

However, I believe in Bogaerts. Would I have liked him to play and act extremely different last season after being faced with adversity? Yes. But what sticks out to me is the way that he handled himself during the 2013 postseason. Fresh from Triple A, Bogaerts strutted into Fenway Park during the playoffs and showed everyone why he was so highly touted in the Red Sox farm system, hitting .296 with an OBP of .412. The Red Sox may need to be patient, but I believe that Bogaerts is a special player.

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/LOD

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/LOD

It actually pains me, a Red Sox fan, to say this, but I miss Derek Jeter. The “Red Sox Killer” and captain of the New York Yankees has already been sorely missed in The Bronx after retiring at the end of last season. “The Captain” never wowed anyone continuously at shortstop, but his ability to hit effectively while manning a difficult position, and being an incredible locker room presence, is just two of the many reasons that no one will ever wear #2 again for the Yankees.

His apparent replacement, Didi Gregorius, has pleasantly surprised in his short time in pinstripes. Defensively, he is an upgrade over the aging Jeter. The quickness he shows out on the field makes his range encouraging and a stark improvement. Unfortunately, Gregorius needs to loosen up at the plate and become more comfortable before he can even talk about replacing Derek Jeter. Fortunately for the Yankees, Gregorius is athletic and energetic, which will help significantly in his develop as a young player.

Will Bogaerts or Gregorius ever replace Jeter or Garciaparra? Absolutely not. However, these guys don’t need to replace anyone. They need to try and maximize their own ability and not live in the shadow of legends. As long as you are playing your game to the best of your abilities, a franchise cannot ask any more of you (But us Yankee and Red Sox fans sure will try).

Pete Packowski

Pete has lived in the Boston area his entire life. He grew up going to Fenway Park and watching the Red Sox. He is currently attending Boston University and is majoring in sports journalism. Once he graduates, he plans on entering the Army. He is also the owner of Biased Boston Sports, which covers the four major sports in the city. His main strength is current major league talent and highly regarded prospects. You can follow him @Pete_BBS