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2021 Red Sox: Alex Verdugo in the Spotlight

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Hot damn! Hot damn! Hot damn! The 2021 Red Sox are good at baseball. Just how good? A .640 winning percentage, tied with the Big Bad Dodgers with a 16-9 record good. The 2020 Red Sox were awful. Extremely, deeply and undoubtedly an awful baseball team. Dead last in the American League East bad. A -55 run difference bad. The 2020 season is in the past, and thankfully for Red Sox fans, it only lasted 60 games. An awful 60 games that might just net the organization a talent like Jack Leiter, Kumar Rocker, Jordan Lawler, Marcelo Mayer, or Henry Davis. Let’s now focus on the good, the 2021 Red Sox. And, let’s shine a light on one of the brightest spots on the roster, outfielder Alexander Brady Verdugo.

2021 Red Sox: The Trade

On February 10, 2020, The Boston Red Sox traded outfielder Mookie Betts, pitcher David Price, and cash considerations to the Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. The trade was met with immediate backlash from Red Sox Nation. Still, to this day there are Red Sox fans that hate the fact that Red Sox ownership never extended Betts, and others still upset the Red Sox didn’t get more talent or at least pitching in return for Betts.

Betts, a man that constantly talked about testing free agency and setting the market, signed a 12-year $365 million extension, before even lacing up his cleats in a regular-season game for that team that makes Chavez Ravine home. There is no doubt that a global pandemic played a major factor in Betts’ decision to pretty much staying a Dodger for the rest of his baseball life, but it doesn’t make it any easier for most of the fanbase to see him in Dodger blue. Enough about Betts, this article isn’t about Mookie Betts, it’s about Alex Verdugo.

The Controversy

Writing anything positive about Alex Verdugo means addressing the elephant in the room. And no, the elephant isn’t that he replaced Mookie Betts, whether or not that’s even fair to Alex Verdugo the baseball player. The elephant in the room is Alex Verdugo‘s role in failing to prevent a sexual assault of a young woman in 2015, while a minor leaguer with the Dodgers. The Washington Post first reported on the incident in February of 2019, citing that the Dodgers organization and Gabe Kapler were told of the assault, which occurred at a hotel in spring training, and that they did not alert police.

The allegations are disgusting and vile, and should never have been dismissed. San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who at the time was the head of Dodgers player development covered up this incident, to “protect,” his players, something he should never have done. And, amongst the current landscape of baseball, as this article is being written, Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred handle domestic violence with such abhorrent neglect. We see you, Domingo German, Aroldis Chapman, and Julio Urias. We see you’re still allowed to get major outs for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

No, Alex Verdugo was not named as the man that assaulted a terrified young girl that night in Arizona. Verdugo was named as having been one of the players, along with James Baldwin to have gotten drunk in a hotel room, and videotaped a group of young girls engaging in a physical altercation and posting the fight to social media. Verdugo was allegedly in the bathroom while Baldwin began to sexually assault the young woman. Not a single thing that occurred that evening was the fault of the young woman. The Los Angeles Dodgers let this young woman down. Alex Verdugo let this young woman down. Gabe Kapler let this young woman down. Society let this young woman down.

Alex Verdugo will forever have the evening near Camelback Ranch held over his head, and honestly, he should. Something like what occurred that evening should never go away. And if Red Sox fans have a bit of a sour taste in their mouths as it pertains to Alex Verdugo the person, they have every right. As this article progresses, Alex Verdugo, the player on the 2021 Red Sox will be discussed. The Alex Verdugo, who hits a top-the-lineup of a very potent Red Sox offense.

Verdugo addressing the allegations during his Red Sox introductory press conference. (Remarks begins at the 6:50 mark.)

The Player

Comparing Alex Verdugo, the player, to Mookie Betts the player, is in no way fair to Alex Verdugo’s game. Mookie Betts crushes other players, not named Mike Trout in WAR, and sometimes it’s not even close. Career WAR wise, Betts ranks only below, Babe Ruth, Mike Trout, Rogers Hornsby, and Barry Bonds. There is no doubt that Mookie Betts is good at baseball, in fact, Mookie Betts is great at baseball, historically so.

You know what, though, Alex Verdugo is pretty darn good at baseball too. In fact, right now, at this moment, the moment you’re reading this article, presumably you read this article in the next few days, and not the end of the season, anyway right now, Alex Verdugo is having a better season than Mookie Betts.

The stats have changed a bit since tweeted out on April 28th, as right now Verdugo is hitting .313/.366/.518 with a wRC+ of 142, three home runs, and a 0.9 fWAR. Betts’ numbers are .250/.362/.413, a 122 wRC+, two home runs, and a 0.7 fWAR. There is no way that Mookie Betts finishes 2021 with numbers even close to resembling what he’s put up so far this season. Mookie Betts is simply too good a player to finish with such a low fWAR, even in his worst offensive season as a full-time major league player, where Betts had a 107 wRC+ in 2017 in 153 games, finished the season with a 5.3 fWAR. Betts finished at exactly the tenth spot in fWAR in 2017.

Mookie Betts is elite at every facet of the game, that’s why he always produces such a high WAR. To believe Mookie Betts is truly regressing right smack dab in the middle of his prime is laughable. Will he ever have a season as elite as 2018? He might not, but can he easily finishing the 2021 season with a season similar to 2019, where he hit .295/.391/.524, with a 135 wRC+ and a 6.6 fWAR? Absolutely.

Alex Verdugo adds a spark to the 2021 Red Sox. A spark that was there in 2020, and might have truly been the only one. He’s the type of player, as you’ll see down below, that takes the time to engage with fans. He doesn’t just embrace it, he genuinely looks like he enjoys the interaction. Verdugo makes the 2021 Red Sox a better team. He gets on base, has surprising pop, and plays an above-average defense at any of the outfield positions, and has an elite arm.

Do we have to ask Red Sox fans what more they could want from Alex Verdugo? He possesses perennial All-Star talent and is just 24-years-old. The most Verdugo has played over the course of his young career was 106 games in 2019, and 2021 looks to be his first full major league season. The 2021 Red Sox season is still very young, but so is Alex Verdugo, and no one can know what caliber player Verdugo will be over the next five years, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Alex Verdugo from age 24 to 29, can outplay Mookie Betts from age 28 to 33.

The 2021 Red Sox have Alex Verdugo on their team, and the team is pretty darn good, whether anyone gave them the due credit coming into the season. The 2021 Red Sox are fun to watch. Just check Verdugo hitting a bomb and enjoying some “tunnel time.” Jump on the bandwagon right now Red Sox fans, Alex Verdugo and the Boston Red Sox aren’t going away.

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