When not pounding the pavement for the elusive sports writing position, I spend my time as a substitute teacher in a neighboring town. My wife and I have made the decision to keep on chasing the sports writing dream, but to also turn one eye in the direction of becoming a full-fledged educator.
In my ever-so-brief vocation as a substitute, I can already sense some of the frustration a teacher feels when a star pupil forgets to bring his brain to class.
One day Johnny can recite the Declaration of Independence, and the next day he doesn't know the alphabet.
Such was the month of May for the Boston Red Sox.
With the exception of a three-game sweep to knock the Toronto Blue Jays from the top spot in the AL East's version of King of the Mountain, the Red Sox couldn't manage to come to class for more than two days in a row.
On May 1, the Red Sox found themselves with a record of 14-9 and one game behind the surprising Toronto Blue Jays. In a game of schoolyard leapfrog, the Sox find themselves one game behind the New York Yankees after a 15-13 record for the month.
Though the Red Sox continue to have some star pupils, the team hasn't been able to string together a streak to move them to the head of the class.
Here's how the Red Sox Report Card looks after the first 50 days of school.
Jason Bay: A+
After receiving an A in my last grading session for his strong month of April, Bay has clearly established himself as an MVP candidate after a very strong month of May.
Manny Ramirez's replacement in left field has hit 24 home runs in 99 games in a Red Sox uniform dating back to July 31, while his predecessor has hit 23 HR in 80 performance-enhanced games in Los Angeles.
Bay has averaged one RBI per game this season, has a .286 batting average, an OPS of 1.042, and a slugging percentage of .632.
Along with Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Nelson Cruz, and Evan Longoria, Bay looks like a strong candidate for MVP—all that in a contract year. Sometimes timing is everything.
Kevin Youkilis: A
Youk was at the head of the class after April, and although he missed half of his classes in May due to injury, he clearly must have done his make-up homework.
Youk is hitting .358 with nine HR and 32 RBI in only 38 games. That equates to a pace of 38 HR and 136 RBI if factored out over a healthy 162. He has recently been moved from cleanup to David Ortiz' familiar three-hole in front of Jason Bay.
Manager Terry Francona is trying to get more punch spread throughout the lineup as Ortiz continues to struggle.
Mike Lowell: B+
Though his RBI total dipped in May after a very productive April, Lowell continues to prove he is fully recovered from offseason hip surgery.
He is hitting .300 with eight HR and 35 RBI for the season, with four HR and only 12 RBI for the month of May. More importantly, he has played in 50 of the Sox's first 51 games and has shown no signs of difficulty at the plate or in the field.
Jason Varitek: B+
It is difficult not to give the C(aptain) an A, as he has clearly exceeded expectations. In my house, that means he gets an A for effort in gym class, but a B in the subjects that count.
He is currently hitting .248 with 10 home runs and 22 RBI. Last season, he didn't hit home run No. 10 until mid-August and ended with only 13.
Many assumed Varitek was over the hill after last season's miserable campaign. He is quietly silencing the critics, however, as he has looked better than solid in the first two months of the season.
Jacoby Ellsbury: B
Ellsbury is proving to be the catalyst of the team and is quickly becoming one of the most exciting stars in baseball.
His 22-game hit streak carried him through much of May.
His 22 stolen bases are second in the AL to Carl Crawford's 31, and his circus catches are becoming highlight-reel material. Throw in an April steal of home and a .304 batting average, and Ellsbury has more than earned a B.
Francona has recently dropped him to the No. 8 spot in the order to provide some punch throughout the lineup.
Additionally, he has only 12 walks for the season and an OBP of .342, which is a little light for a leadoff hitter in the Red Sox's patient offense.
Dustin Pedroia: B
It is difficult to give a .326 hitter a lower grade, but Pedroia is the reigning MVP and is now graded on a different type of curve.
He hit only one home run in both April and May, with the first coming on opening day. This makes a stretch of 50 games with only one dinger. Pedroia is, however, a traditional slow starter and had just four home runs in the first two months of 2008.
He is hitting 45 points higher than he was on June 1 of last season and feels the production will come moving forward.
As always, he continues to get on base and play a Gold Glove-caliber second base.
Nick Green/Julio Lugo: C+
It is hard to get excited about this tandem.
Green is hitting .290 with one HR and 15 RBI while playing a subpar defensive shortstop.
Lugo is hitting .276 with one HR and four RBI since returning in early May after an injury.
This week, Francona played Green two starts in a row on the turf in Minnesota because Green gives him more range. This is the equivalent of saying Mike Lowell gives him more speed on the bases than David Ortiz.
I pray for either a rapidly healthy Jed Lowrie come early July or for Florida to get stupid with Hanley Ramirez. Oh, to dream...
J.D. Drew: D
I've never been a fan, and I continue to be increasingly frustrated with Drew.
How Theo Epstein and crew could have seen J.D. Drew as the successor to Trot Nixon is beyond me.
Drew continues to be the poster child for mediocrity and sits at .253 with seven HR and 24 RBI. I predict a nice season of .260 with 12 HR and 60 RBI. Yawn.
At least Trot had a heartbeat. I guess my standards are simply too high. What do you expect for...yawn...$80 million?
David Ortiz: F
Sorry, Papi. Enough is enough.
I've been amongst your biggest supporters, but this writer is jumping off the bus before you jump off a bridge. I no longer care why you are struggling.
Papi is single-handedly hog-tying the rest of the lineup. It doesn't matter if he bats third, or seventh, or 10th. An out is an out is an out.
Do I sound frustrated?
Time to sit him down and consider him to be the league's most expensive pinch hitter.
I'd first try Chris Carter, a lefty in Triple-A who is known for his bat. If he can hit .300 with 12 HR and 50 RBI for the rest of the year, it's an improvement at relatively no cost.
The only way you keep Ortiz in the lineup is if you trade for Hanley Ramirez or Miguel Tejada. Then Papi's Belanger-like average will be offset by an above-average hitting shortstop.
The bench really has only consisted of Rocco Baldelli, George Kottaras, and Jeff Bailey, with the exception of cameo appearances from Jonathan Van Every, Carter, and Gil Velazquez.
Baldelli has been hurt for much of the season and seems to lack the punch he had in his previous years with Tampa. He's hitting .244 with two HR in limited action.
Kottaras has struggled at the plate but is catching for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more than holding his own.
Bailey continues to look like a career minor leaguer, hitting .188 while filling in for Youkilis. With Mark Kotsay soon to return from the DL after a back problem, Bailey will more than likely be sent to Pawtucket.
Tomorrow: The Boston Red Sox pitchers
Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report. He is available for hire or comment at email@example.com. He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children's book that is capturing the heart of the nation. Visit www.agloveoftheirown.com to learn more about this exciting book that is being supported by Jason Grilli, Joe Torre, Ken Griffey, Craig Biggio, and Sean Casey.