Xander Bogaerts is a finalist for the American League Gold Glove award at shortstop, which is not a sentence I ever expected to be typing this time last year.
Red Sox fans should know as much as anyone that the Gold Gloves aren't exactly the most meaningful of awards. They have a long history of being doled out to players whose contributions at the plate somehow led to an overinflated sense of their contributions on the field. That's just kind of how things have worked for most of baseball's history, given how hard it is to tell good defense from bad with one's eyes alone. Sure, the error and the diving catch are easy to differentiate. But when the diving catch comes after a short run from a slow player and the error is the result of a great defender coming up just short after covering a great distance...Well, you get the idea, and probably have for many years now.
For all that, though, that Xander is even in the conversation is kind of unbelievable given where he's come from. Bogaerts was always the big-bat prospect whose ability to stay at short was in question, and frankly, in his first full year, the results weren't pretty. In an infield with Pablo Sandoval at third, Dustin Pedroia at second base, and Mike Napoli (also a finalist in his own right) at first, Bogaerts was thought before the season started to be the weak link that might sink Boston's ground ball strategy.
Obviously that whole situation didn't exactly work out for the Red Sox, but it wasn't because of their shortstop. Instead, Bogaerts turned his defense from a liability into a strength. Is he one of the greats? Hardly. I don't think many would argue he really deserves to win this thing. But it's still good to see his hard work acknowledged with a finalist spot. It's a good ways from where anyone expected him to be before the season started.