Only about 10 feet separated Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts at their respective podiums during Monday's All-Star media day, but they felt worlds apart.
Seated at adjoining daises in the Cleveland Convention Center, the Red Sox teammates answered very different questions.
Bogaerts looked happy, relaxed, and content as he discussed his monster first half, which included a league-leading 29 doubles as well as 65 RBIs, just two behind AL leader Mike Trout. He discussed his burgeoning leadership responsibilities and the pride he takes in the development of potential stars like Rafael Devers.
Betts, meanwhile, maintained the distance that has marked his personality since he arrived at spring training as the defending MVP and began politely declining interview requests by the barrel. Betts will never be confused for an extrovert, but when he's going well, the joy with which he plays the game and carries himself is infectious. This year, that joy rarely reveals itself. He looks weary.
"I've got to be the energizer and I take pride in that, so I have to find a way to get it done," Betts admitted.
He fielded queries about his struggles during a half that didn't remotely approach last year's breakout, when he legitimately outplayed the great Trout en route to collecting the MVP hardware.
As Betts and Bogaerts spoke, one issue seemed to bridge the disconnect between their demeanors: their respective contracts.
Bogaerts just signed a six-year, $120 million extension that already looks like a massive bargain as he produces like an MVP candidate. Betts, meanwhile, reiterated that he won't negotiate during the season while acknowledging that his contract is on his mind. He settled in arbitration for $20 million and won't become a free agent until the end of next season.
"You think about it, but it's just a thought and it goes in the past," he said. "You have to take care of your business. It's going to come. No matter what you do, it's going to come, so don't rush it."
The two are case studies in the risk-reward calculation of waiting vs. acting, of maximizing earnings vs. accepting security.