Alex Verdugo Rips Red Sox Culture With Yankees Comparison

May 7, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA;  New York Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo (24) tosses his bat
May 7, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo (24) tosses his bat / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

On Dec. 5, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees made a rare trade that saw Boston outfielder Alex Verdugo sent to the Bronx. As the centerpiece of the infamous Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo inevitably came to Boston with a mountain of pressure on his back. He had an impressive first season with the Sox, but never lived up to the caliber of a player that fans and the front office expected when they exchanged Betts.

The end of Verdugo's tenure in Boston was tumultuous, as he was benched on two separate occasions last season - once for not hustling out a ground ball and once for arriving late to the ballpark. One of Verdugo's benchings, on Aug. 6, resulted in a post-game rant from Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Following Verdugo's trade to the Bronx Bombers, he made comments about his new Yankees manager that "didn't sit well with many in Red Sox circles", as they were widely interpreted as taking a shot at Cora. Referring to Boone, Verdugo stated:

"I'm very excited to work with Aaron. I’ve seen the way he has his players’ backs. The one that really [sticks out] to me is, ‘These guys are savages!’ He’s yelling at the umpire. That’s something I want to see out of my [manager], man. I want to see some fire, some fight for the guys. Instead of airing people out, have their backs. "

Alex Verdugo

The outfielder's line about "instead of airing people out, have their backs" doesn't leave a lot of room for interpretation about whom he is referring to.

The 27-year-old also shed some light on his experiences with his new teammates in pinstripes, painting the experience as a juxtaposition to the Red Sox' culture and clubhouse camaraderie:

"They’re a great bunch of guys who are very close. They hang out with each other off the field. They do pregame stuff together. Postgame stuff together. It’s just a very close-knit group and for them to let me be part of that, and just let me be me - the craziness that I bring - they have been really cool. I think it’s something that has made this transition super easy."

Alex Verdugo

Boston's decision to move on from the former top prospect wasn't entirely centered around character concerns and his production. Verdugo was entering his last season of team control and ultimately signed a one-year, $8.7 million contract with New York. He will almost assuredly get a raise when team control expires after this season, and it's well shy of the $749,500 that Wilyer Abreu of the Red Sox is earning in 2024. All in all, it was the perfect storm for Boston to move on from Verdugo.

In fairness to the outfielder, he also opened up about some of the personal challenges that he faced last season and admitted that they distracted him from baseball. Verdugo lost his grandmother to cancer last season, while his mother was also diagnosed.

To date, the Yankees outfielder is hitting .275/.362/.450 with five home runs and 17 RBI. On the field, Verdugo's departure has been largely offset by Tyler O'Neill's arrival and Wilyer Abreu's emergence. O'Neill is hitting .292/.398/.625 with nine home runs and 13 RBI, while the 24-year-old Abreu is currently sitting at .287/.382/.457 with two home runs and 13 RBI. The Red Sox have been able to replicate Verdugo's production, a gamble they took when they shipped him to the Bronx.

Verdugo will make his first visit back to Fenway Park on June 14, when the Red Sox and Yankees face off for the first time in 2024.

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