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What The Deuce: Justin Turner, Xander Bogaerts, And The Number 2

Boston’s new corner infielder will be wearing numero dos—whether you care or not.

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

That’s right folks, it’s gonna be a jersey number blog. Stick around for the fun. There’s the back button. No one would blame ya.

Red Sox Nation found out earlier this month that newly-acquired corner infielder Justin Turner will be wearing the number 2 on his back during his Boston tenure. New number announcements in the offseason often tend to come and go, but the deuce being issued again struck a familiar chord with fans. Can’t imagine why.

With Xander Bogaerts off to the West Coast after signing a megalodon-sized deal with the San Diego Dads, the number he sported for nearly a decade at Fenway Park was surrendered. That very same number was given to a different player in the organization—again, a brand new player—faster than you could say “Gerrit Cole has coughed up another postseason home run.”

Reactions to the news have been mixed, from the anti-Turner-2 sect... the camp of indifference.

I get both sides of it.

At some point in the near future, 2 was probably going to be reissued by the club anyways. Maybe it gets retired at some point down the line considering its association with both Bogaerts and the late Jerry Remy, but I’d imagine that wouldn’t be happening until X decides to hang the cleats up for good. Giving 2 out now and ripping the bandaid off with a guy who has a connection with the number isn’t the worst route to go in. I don’t blame Turner at all for picking it.

On the other hand, I can’t say I completely agree with the sentiment that we’re dealing with ““““““““just”””””””” a number here. I don’t think it’s worth throwing a huge hissy fit over (even if I think it’s worth blogging over, which is basically the same thing), but taking the meaning out of uniform numbers that have been established with a team over time doesn’t make much sense to me.

Why do teams (and even entire leagues) retire jersey numbers in the first place?

They’re representative of a bigger meaning beyond just a few digits. It’s a distinct honor across sports to have that signifier immortalized. Is 34 “just a number” to Red Sox Nation? How about 9? Does 6 not carry any meaning behind it in the club’s history? Or 45? Does 26 not inspire you to drink over 100 Miller Lattes on a cross-country flight?! Have you no soul?!?!

I also think it’s notable to consider that there have been multiple instances of time passing between former stars in Boston bidding their adieus and their numbers being given back out again. What makes Xander’s situation so different?

Kutter Crawford only took up 50 this past season after Mookie Betts was traded in 2019. It was damn near five years—ironically enough—between Nomar Garciaparra’s departure at the 2004 trade deadline and Rocco Baldelli taking up the mantle of number 5. Hell, 21 hasn’t been worn for nearly three decades! Are you meaning to tell me that no one has wanted to wear Roger Clemens’ old number since 1996? 21 goes hard. It’s a fantastic number that looks great on a uni. Does it just so happen that no one has called dibs on it?

So while I’m not out here cursing the Red Sox for offering numero dos up to Tormund of “Game of Thrones” fame, I understand why fans may believe it’s a bit of a tone deaf move to do so—even if I’m not going to get overly combative of defensive about it. It’s a number that was likely going to be worn by someone not named Xander Bogaerts going forward, yeah, but numbers aren’t totally devoid of meaning. Both things can be true at the end of the day.

I appreciate that Turner seems to understand that there’s history behind his new threads as well.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, Turner’s performance on the field will ultimately either quell the jersey number complains or amplify them. For the sake of the Red Sox and our collective sanity, I sure hope it’s the former. If he plays well—and he certainly has the opportunity to do so in 2023—the whole thing will end up being a trivial side story.

Now can we please get a move on to Opening Day, Father Time? I don’t know how many more of these storylines I have left in me, man.