It’s been less than a month, but I already have a hard time remembering what the 2017 Red Sox were like before Rafael Devers got called up. At twenty years-old, he’s the youngest player in the Majors right now, and so far, he’s doing a heck of a job.
But am I really the only one who’s cautious about this kid? I can’t be. I mean, sure, he’s had eight home runs in his first twenty games and contributed five of the Red Sox last twelve homers. And he’s batting over .350 with sixteen RBIs. I’ve even written a piece about Devers’ impressive new standings in the record books.
But let’s think for a second about what it means to be twenty years old and playing in the Majors. When I was twenty, I was heading off to my semester abroad, unsure of myself and afraid of my future. I was insecure and anxious, and I didn’t have a stadium of fans cheering and booing me every night. People have cracked under far less pressure than the amount being placed on Rafael Devers. I’ve seen people online calling him the next David Ortiz, the future of the team. After a month in the Majors. Can you imagine?
Boston has a history of torturing and tearing down its athletes. It’s something I’m both proud and ashamed of, since they are, after all, our fellow human beings, but good for us for being passionate as hell. We take our sports seriously, and we have high expectations for our players. New England has some of the wealthiest teams in the leagues handing out some pretty big paychecks, often to players who don’t pan out. It’s a curse; throw millions at a player who comes here and has the worst performances of their career. Think Sandoval, Crawford, even Price, for some people. I’ve always been a results kind of girl, and I’m the first to admit to having a low tolerance for players who don’t perform.
My point is this: Rafael Devers has been great so far, and clearly, the kid has enormous potential. But let’s not forget that he has a lot to learn, a lot of maturing to do, and will face numerous challenges and immense pressure along the way. Devers has less experience with criticism from the media and fans than most players, and starting your Majors career in Boston is like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool filled with sharks; I don’t envy him. Not to mention the fact that he’s on a team with a lot of young guys and a lack of clubhouse leadership. I’d be more confident if he’d been our 20-year-old rookie last year when he could’ve soaked up a year of Big Papi guidance, but instead, he’s on a team with a majority of players in their early twenties with no one who wants to take up that mantle. Meanwhile, we’re all looking to them to be strong performers to fill the void of a David Ortiz-less Red Sox lineup. I do think Devers can be one of them. Let’s just make sure we don’t ruin him before he really gets going.