The Boston Red Sox made a huge splash heading into the 2011 season by adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to an already exciting lineup. Many were talking about how many home runs Gonzalez would blast now that he had finally escaped the cavernous PETCO Park. Some debated on how many bases Crawford would steal or how many runs he would score.
Everyone seemed to forget about having a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury for the 2011 season.
If you follow the Boston sports talk, then you would have heard chatter of potentially moving Jacoby Ellsbury after what many considered was an overplayed injury by the young center fielder.
"Soft," "baby" and "diva" were some words being thrown around to describe Ellsbury after his rib injury took much longer to heal than expected. Especially after Ellsbury blamed team doctors for "mishandling" his injury.
Coming into the 2011 season, many Boston fans wrote off Ellsbury as nothing more than potential trade bait.
I believe it is fair to say that the critics have officially been silenced.
Ellsbury is experiencing his break out year. He is hitting .319 with 19 HRs, 72 RBI, 84 runs and 31 SBs. He has already set new career highs in home runs and RBI, but is on pace to set them in hits, runs and average as well.
Surprisingly, Jacoby's biggest competition for the award may come from two of his teammates.
Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia are both having fantastic seasons as well. Pedroia is on pace for career highs in home runs, stolen bases and RBI. Gonzalez has met all of the expectations that fans had for him coming into this season.
So why Ellsbury?
He has been the catalyst for this powerhouse offense.
Ellsbury has cemented his place as the leadoff hitter for the Sox, even with the pressure of incoming challenger Carl Crawford. His ability to get on base and give middle-of-the-order guys like Gonzalez and Pedroia a chance to drive him in can't be overlooked.
More importantly, he has developed into much more than just a leadoff hitter. While his steals have dropped off slightly from 2008 and 2009, he has made up for it with a drastic increase in power numbers.
Ellsbury is currently on pace for 27 HRs and 103 RBI. He brings a tool set that no other leadoff hitter in the league can match.
It is clear that this lineup would not be the same without Ellsbury at the top of it. The development from being a speedy leadoff hitter to a five-tool star needs to be recognized.
Whether you feel Ellsbury is still "soft" or "a baby" after the injury escapade from 2010, or if you are the latest hop-on to the "Jacoby Bandwagon," one thing is clear: Jacoby Ellsbury is your 2011 American League MVP.