Sometimes one reads an article that is so far from what one believes, it makes one scream and hastily hammer out an angry comment.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote such an article today, about how the Boston Red Sox have been boring this year. Many things, he says, have contributed to this.
While I agree that the hangover from the Steroid Era and the length of games have added to a general decline in interest across the sport, I vehemently disagree with the charge that the Red Sox have been uninteresting.
Nota bene, I really like the Sports Guy, and in no way intend to rip or criticise one of the better writers at ESPN. I just think he is wrong on this, and was inspired to write this in response.
He said today “Quite simply [JD Drew]’s a boring player on a boring team during a fairly boring season.”
He’s wrong. Here’s why.
First off, I will concede that JD Drew can be an infuriating player at times. Not many people would decide literally five minutes before the game that they were not going to play because their leg was a bit sore. Also, not many would, when at bat, watch his teammate steal home plate (in your home stadium, against the New York Yankees) and not even crack a smile.
He doesn’t show emotion, he just goes about his business. His face wears the same nonchalant look when he hits a grand slam in the ALCS as it does when he strikes out looking. Again.
So, maybe he is dull. But who else on the 2010 Red Sox is? Adrian Beltré has taken it upon himself to take out as many of his fellow Sox as possible, and has carved out a niche in proposing to his home runs.
OK, the two players who made their Boston debut alongside him, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro aren’t the most exciting or dramatic players.
Scutaro hasn’t been electrifying, but he has been vital as a leadoff guy since Jacoby Ellsbury was Beltréd on April 11.
Cameron has been poor—especially in the field, which has surprised most people, not least those who spent the offseason bleating about UZR.
Speaking of the outfield, some suggested before the season that the Red Sox re-sign Johnny Damon, and the outfield’s collapse has only reinforced their cries. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would have tracked down Theo Epstein and battered him with sticks had he done that.
Victor Martinez, when he’s not nursing a broken thumb in the Sox’ favourite holiday spot, the DL, swings like a pendulum from "great hitter" to "I’m gonna throw my pitchers under the bus".
Then there’s his backup, Jason Varitek. The captain’s injured, too, of course. But before he hurt his foot, he was one of this season’s better surprises. He may only have 105 plate appearances, but he has the highest slugging percentage of his career and had he continued at that level for the whole season, was on pace to reach a career-high in home runs.
His fellow veteran Big Papi is hitting—21 home runs, 64 RBIs, his highest wOBA since 2007—and is getting back to the status he enjoyed for so long in Boston: when he’s at the plate, you’re not leaving the sofa for another beer.
Those guys were the faces of the franchise for years, but these days, it’s Dustin Pedroia, and to a lesser extent Kevin Youkilis. Youk is on pace for career bests in OBP, SLG, wOBA and homers and perhaps most remarkably of all, he is still healthy. Touch wood.
As for Pedey, he has been what you expect. He plays every game like he’s a six-year-old being allowed out of the house for the first time in a month. He broke his foot, but that didn’t stop him taking grounders from his knees. He epitomises this year’s Red Sox. Scrappy, determined, and imbued with the just-won’t-die attitude of 2004.
The middle relief hasn’t been that boring, either. It’s just sucked.
At the back of the bullpen are Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. Bard’s been as lights-out and blasé as a closer-in-waiting should be, but Pap has enjoyed a season-long game of the not at all boring How Close Can I Come to Blowing This One? It’s painful to watch, but it’s not dull.
But all of that pales in comparison to the people who have stepped up when the starters have gone down. Bill Hall has played left, centre, right, third, short, second and has even pitched a perfect inning.
Darnell McDonald had a game-tying home run and a walk-off single in his first game. Daniel Nava hit a grand slam on the first pitch of his Major League career.
They should be at Triple-A or in a platoon role on the Pirates, but they are largely responsible for Boston being just 5.5 games out of the Wild Card.
As for the season itself, it’s been exciting. Being stuck in third place all year has been difficult, but for the first time in a long time, the AL East is a race between three teams. It will never—it can never—mean as much or be as important as it did in 2004. Of course not.
But if one stops looking for that level of meaning behind the season, one can see that 2010 has been a damn good year so far. Five no-hitters, two perfect games, a player gunning for a Triple Crown, the Padres, Braves, Reds, and Rangers being in first place attest to that.
The 2010 Red Sox have been at times painfully mediocre, often exasperating and always injured. But they have at no point been boring, regardless of what anyone on the LeBron Network says.