Rick Burleson, where are you? I'd like to put the Rooster, now 62 years old, in a time machine and transport him back 40 years to 1974, when he took over the Sox shortstop job. Burleson and his attitude would look great on the '14 Sox.
Down in Fort Myers, the team again has questions at short. Stephen Drew remains unsigned, and probably will not play for Boston this year. Xander Bogearts has not been impressive, especially in the field. Deven Marrero is still not ready.
Nearly every Sox World Series team since 1946 has had a strong-fielding shortstop, beginning with the incomparable Johnny Pesky. 1967 had Rico Petrocelli, who caught The Popup. By 75, Rico had moved to third, and Burleson, in his sophomore season, established himself as a coming star. His range was not super, but he made up for it with effort and intensity. He batted .252 with 25 doubles and 62 rbi's, while fanning only 44 times. Burleson continued strong in the postseason, hitting .444 in the ALCS and .292 in the momentous World Series.
Rooster provided 5 more productive years in Boston. From 75 to 80 he played in at least 145 games and had over 140 hits each season. He was a three-time AL all-star and 5 times received MVP votes. In 79, he won a Gold Glove. He might have finished a great career in Boston if not for the ineptitude of GM Haywood Sullivan. As in other cases, Sullivan dealt with coming free agency by often refusing to negotiate and simply trading the player. So after the 80 campaign, he swapped Burleson and Butch Hobson to the Angels for Carney Lansford, Rick Miller, and Mark Clear. It was a fair to poor trade, but the Sox escaped further criticism when Rick injured his throwing arm after one year in Anaheim and was never the same.
Only once since 86 have the Sox gotten to the Fall Classic without a strong fielder at the position. In that year, it was Spike Owen down the stretch. In 04, it was Nomar Garciaparra and, after his trade, Orlando Cabrera. They got by with the infamous Julio Lugo in 07, but having Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia on either side of him helped a lot. The problem seemed to be solved last year with Jose Iglesias, but he was dealt for pitching help. Drew took over and had a fine season.
Sox history is littered with good-hit, no-field shortsops from Joe Cronin to Vern Stephens to Edgar Renteria. Without a productive Bogearts, the Sox become questionable up the middle with a new catcher, shortstop and center fielder. The spotlight is definitely on Bogearts.
Matt O'Donnell interviewed Rick Burleson in 2009. The videos of the interview are below