He won’t be there in the playoffs, but they wouldn’t be there without him.
The Red Sox were down bad, as the kids say according to the decidedly not kids on the internet, in late August and early September. Not only had they already squandered a division lead to the point where that was entirely off the table, but their roster was being ravaged by COVID. Different parts of the roster all certainly had their moments with the virus during this outbreak, but perhaps none felt it as noticeable as the middle infield around this time.
At a crucial juncture in the season, the Red Sox were rolling with a middle infield of Jonathan Araúz and Jack López. Both of those guys performed admirably given the circumstances, but it’s also unfathomable that this was the double play combination for a contending team down the stretch, even if only for about week. With Xander Bogaerts and Christian Arroyo out, this team desperately needed some help.
Enter: José Iglesias. The Red Sox signed their former shortstop prospect back on September 6, and while I certainly don’t think there was pushback on the deal I know no one really expected anything besides general competence and maybe a few strong defensive plays. What no one expected was for him to be the everyday second baseman even when everybody was healthy, nor that he’d be one of their best hitters in the month of September/October.
But that’s exactly what we’ve gotten. Iglesias was the everyday second baseman, playing in all 23 games on the schedule after he was signed. And he was one of the best hitters on the team in September/October, hitting .356/.406/.508, good for a 148 wRC+. That last mark was second only to Kyle Schwarber in this final month of the season among players with at least 10 plate appearances. (As a side note, with no plate appearance restrictions Austin Davis was the team’s best hitter this past month.)
We’re talking about a tiny sample here, with Iglesias only coming to the plate 64 times, so I’m certainly not going to waste my breath speaking to the sustainability of his performance. That’s besides the point. What matters is what actually happened, and what actually happened is that Iglesias provided a spark and many a huge at bat when it seemed like everything was crumbling, and was improbably the stabilizer this team so desperately needed.
Because of the timing of his arrival, he is ineligible for the postseason, so we’ve seen his last plate appearance of the season already. Back in 2013, Iglesias was a sneaky big part of Boston’s playoff run, playing for the team earlier, helping net them Jake Peavy, and then making a crucial error against them in the ALCS. He’s the sort of quietly important side character that every run has. If the Red Sox surprise us all and run through October, he’ll be that yet again, but in a more direct and noticeable way. And even if they don’t make that surprise run, it’s amazing that they made it as far as they did, which wouldn’t have happened without him.
So as we’re hopefully spending the next few weeks rooting for and talking about a Red Sox roster without José Igelsias on it, we should take this time to appreciate what he did for a team that was so desperately searching for his stability.