Tomase: How Justin Turner can help fill Red Sox’ leadership void originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Dodgers have boasted insane offensive firepower over the last decade, from Adrian Gonzalez to Cody Bellinger to Mookie Betts and multiple All-Stars in between.
But talk to teammates and foes about the man who made the whole thing work, and they mention a surprising name: Justin Turner.
The well-traveled veteran is cut from the same leadership cloth (not to mention facial hair) as former Red Sox sluggers Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, with a bit of J.D. Martinez‘s obsessive attention to detail sprinkled in.
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At age 38, he’ll effectively be asked to replace Martinez’s faltering production at DH, as well as his presence as an offensive sounding board. Two years removed from his second All-Star appearance, as well as a career-high 27 home runs, there’s so much more to Turner than meets the eye.
Just ask Kiké Hernández, his former teammate with the Dodgers.
“Oh man. That was his team in L.A.,” Hernández said. “Hitters meetings, we preached a lot about grinding at-bats and not being nine hitters, but becoming one lineup and becoming one offensive unit. And it seemed like in every single meeting, he was the guy voicing that.”
The Red Sox won’t lack for motivation this season, not with pretty much everyone picking them to repeat in last place. But motivation can only be harnessed with leadership, and the departures of Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and Martinez opened a massive void in that department. Turner may be just the man to fill it.
He certainly stepped up in Los Angeles after joining the Dodgers in 2014 as a minor league free agent who had already bounced from the Reds to Orioles to Mets. At 29, he hardly looked like a breakout candidate, but he turned an ability to play all four infield positions into 109 games and a .340 average.
He earned his first MVP votes two years later, setting career-highs in homers (27) and RBIs (90), and he made his first All-Star team in 2017 at age 32, establishing himself as a pull hitter who “dominates the strike zone,” per Hernández. Along the way, Turner’s flowing red beard and take-no-prisoners style made him one of the faces of the team.
So if you’re looking for perseverance from a player who was handed nothing, Turner’s your man.
“We talked about culture elements and coming from a great offensive group in L.A. and obviously his own…
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