Xander Bogaerts became the latest homegrown Red Sox player to land with a different team this week. The shortstop reportedly agreed to an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres on Wednesday night.
San Diego missed out on Aaron Judge and Trea Turner but signed Bogaerts to add to their stable of stars with Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Bogaerts’ former teammate Rich Hill has played for 11 teams throughout his 18-year career, so he knows a thing or two about playing in different markets. He’s played under the bright lights in Chicago, Boston, New York (for both the Yankees and Mets), and Los Angeles, among other cities.
Bogaerts, on the other hand, had only played for the Red Sox in his career. How will he handle a change of scenery?
Hill joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” and talked about what it’s like in different cities and if Bogaerts is in for a culture shock going from Boston to San Diego.
“Yes, I think there will be some culture shock,” Hill said (12:18 in player above). “You’re going from Boston where sometimes you’re white-knuckling it to the ballpark because it’s pretty tough with traffic around here – or maybe that’s just me – or some days just coming here and knowing what to expect with 40,000 fans that are eager to see the Red Sox get a W. I think that’s going to possibly change in San Diego, I just don’t know – and again, we talk about the intensity and the intenseness of the fans that are on top of you at Fenway. You can’t replicate it.”
Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are both over 100 years old and are the only MLB stadiums built before 1962 (Dodger Stadium). Even the new Yankee Stadium doesn't have the same intensity to it.
Something else that comes with playing in a big market like Boston is the media coverage. Fans want the players to be held accountable and the media is the channel for that.
“I think that’s one thing that you always look for here in Boston is guys that are going to … just be accountable for the game, and say ‘Hey, I made the play or I didn’t make the play. I made the pitch or I didn’t make the pitch. I was good. I sucked,’” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter. Everybody just wants the truth and wants you to be honest about your outing.”
All players are going to be held accountable to some extent, but it’s easier to hide from the spotlight – the spotlight that isn’t quite as bright – in smaller markets.
“You could go into another smaller market, let’s say Cleveland, Kansas City, you could even argue San Diego, and you’re going to have four beat writers in there as opposed to in Boston you’re going to have 20,” Hill said. “So you’re going to have a lot more – especially when things are going well… But really if you don’t want to answer questions or you don’t want to have to be accountable for that day’s performance, it’s pretty easy to just not answer, go home.’
Along with less pressure from the fans and media, some cities have so much going on that baseball players can blend in with the crowd and be relatively anonymous. There are two sides to that coin.
“Xander Bogaerts can walk down the street in the Gaslamp District and go get his Starbucks and then walk to the field and not be bothered,” said Hill. “And that’s a good thing, but also the other side of it is playing in a market where people appreciate your effort and your ability to play the game at the highest level is also something very unique that is here.”
Obviously, any team and city can create an intense atmosphere during a winning season or playoff run. But it’s different when that is constant.
“These places when they get filled, like playing in Cleveland for example. Having the chance to play in the Wild Card and seeing that stadium filled, it’s electric. It is absolutely freaking electric. The problem is that it’s just not like that every night.
“When you come to Boston, it’s like that every night. That’s something that, again, it’s very simple when you come here to play is you can’t sacrifice your effort and you can’t sacrifice your mental mistakes, and I think that’s something – that pressure that comes with playing in Boston is really a privilege.”