BOSTON -- As Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts continues playing out an up-and-down rookie season that’s seen both success and failure, perhaps nobody understands where he’s coming from more than a former Boston shortstop sensation.
Nomar Garciaparra, an inductee into the Red Sox Hall of Fame on Thursday, was once in a very similar position. A first-round pick in the 1994 draft, Garciaparra arrived in the majors in 1996 with high expectations and a reputation as one of baseball’s top prospects.
Although he says he hasn’t paid much attention to this year’s Red Sox team due to his current broadcasting job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garciaparra spoke about what it was like to be regarded as a young star.
“I don’t think there was any more pressure than what I was putting on myself and what I expected from myself,” Garciaparra said. “I wanted to get to the big leagues like every aspiring player wants to be, and I wanted to stay. That was really my focus.”
In the 10 seasons since Garciaparra's departure from Boston in 2004, nine different shortstops have made Opening Day starts for the Red Sox. The expectation entering this season was that Bogaerts could keep that number there for years to come.
Garciaparra was the 1997 Rookie of the Year with a 30-homer, 98-RBI season, but Bogaerts hasn’t put together that type of breakout performance. Since a hot start that had his slash line at .304 AVG/.397 OBP/.438 SLG on May 31, the 21-year-old Bogaerts has slumped across the board the past few months, lowering those numbers to .233/.297/.350 entering Thursday.
Despite his poor performance of late, Bogaerts’ confident demeanor and long-term projection still have many pinning their hopes on him as the first great Red Sox shortstop since Garciaparra. After all, Bogaerts emerged as an every-day player down the stretch of the Red Sox's 2013 World Series run.
“I wanted to go out there and win -- that was really the way I thought every single day when I was down in the minors,” Garciaparra said. “It didn’t change when I got to the big leagues. It was about winning every single day. That’s what I thought about and focused on.”
Spoiled by victory in his first taste of the majors, Bogaerts seems to fall in line with Garciaparra’s way of thinking. Even with the Red Sox’s losing record this season, Bogaerts has continued to strive for success at the plate, working with hitting coaches Greg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez on rediscovering the initial success he had this year in the hopes of turning things around before season’s end.
Still expected to hold down the position for Boston entering next season, Bogaerts knows he must improve in order to live up to his potential. And if you were to ask Garciaparra, that mentality is the best way to grow as a major league player.
“Trying to get better -- that was really just my mindset,” Garciaparra said. “That’s the way I felt every single day until the end of my career. I really tried to simplify it as much as I could.”