Pedroia Gives the Royal Wave
Lord Pedroia, you define loyalty and determination. You are a model to the young, who hope to emulate your intensity. You offer every moment on the diamond to the service of almighty baseball. You make me your proud servant.
As your loyal subject, Duke of Fenway, I have a timely message to deliver. Resist the temptation to yank the ball to left and go with it to right field, as you do so well. (While you’re at it, mention this to Mayor Napoli, the Regent of Saltalamachia, and Squire Drew, all of whom will whiff at David Price fastballs, while trying to out-muscle him.)
No doubt I will receive your contemptuous stare for thinking I can give you batting advice. It’s not as if I invented the art of going with the pitch. It’s just that I can see you struggling with pitches, you have smoothly delivered into right field in the past, and I think, “His majesty is striving overly hard. He needs to relax and go with the pitch.”
Notice the stout Lord Ortiz who gently guides the ball into left, when they pitch him away. He knows he can jack it and often he does. He takes what is served and serves it right back. Notice the Earl of Ellsbury who slashes the pitch to left, spinning toward the foul line. He gave up on his long-ball aspirations and raised his average fifty points. The Baron Nava patiently watches the world go by until he takes the two-strike pitch to the opposite field. O.k., maybe the Baron could be less patient.
When I see these pretenders negotiating with the fierce Price or the relentless Moore, I think, “His majesty can negotiate with the best of them. Indeed look at the fine contract he has negotiated with Count Cherrington. He acquitted himself with such dignity to complete a prosperous contract in the midst of the tourney. Surely he can out-fox the sinister Sir Price!”
My lord Pedroia, I implore you. Hold back a modicum as the pitch slips over the outside corner. Swat the delivery into right field and take your modest station at first base. You will vanquish the fearless Price and his minions of the bullpen. You will humiliate them with the might of small ball and win the war of attrition.
I beg your forgiveness for my impudence and wish you Godspeed on Monday.
Your loyal servant,
Now that Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have been signed to contracts, the Red Sox should consider getting the jump on Steve Boras, Jacoby Ellsbury’s agent. These three players represent the heart of a team that has shifted personnel with abandon in the last three years. If there is a core to the team, they are it.
Ellsbury is a special case, because he has the ruthless Steve Boras as an agent, but ultimately the decision to sign is Ellsbury’s (as far as I know). As I argued in the spring, Ellsbury represents a critical mass of players the Red Sox brought through their farm system and managed to stay with the parent club for more than a cup of coffee. They include Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, John Lester, Clay Bucholz, and Felix Dubront. Maybe Jose Iglesias. For each of those there are two or three talented recruits who were traded and successfully transplanted. Lots of talent leaks out the Red Sox farm system.
Perhaps this idea of retaining the talent from your farm system is archaic, with the significant fire sales before the trading deadlines. There is already talk about the great reserves the Red Sox have to trade for pitching before July 31.
But talent can be squandered, too, and many successful teams have used their farm systems to great advantage, such as Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh. These teams are compelled to develop their own talent for lack of revenue, but they are the look of the future, because they have taken the time to grow their own stars.
Jacoby Ellsbury has reached a place where his speed and timely hitting have made him indispensable. The Red Sox have lacked a good lead-off hitter for most of their existence, and Ellsbury has the potential to be the gold standard in that role. With some mentoring from Shane Victorino and support from those below him in the order, he could bring a consistent threat the Sox need against the top flight pitchers in the AL East.
Ellsbury should seize his opportunity as well. He has a good support system in Boston. The Red Sox have a number of experienced outfielders to keep the pressure off him. Fenway fans are savvy and appreciative of contributions, not just the power and RBI numbers. You need that appreciation when you bat first in the order.
So let’s get this contract done. Take Steve Boras out of the loop and give Ellsbury the security he needs at this stage of his career. If there’s a chance to build this team with solid, homegrown talent, let’s seize it. Ellsbury forever!
The proactive signing of Jacoby Ellsbury to avoid arbitration was a welcome show of good sense between the parties. The Red Sox have a worthy record of signing all their arbitration-eligible players since 2002. Now if they could only lock up long-term contracts this way.
Admittedly Ellsbury still has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season to be worthy of the big payday. I can still remember the gifted Jimmy Piersall, another center fielder, who never reached his potential due to a penchant for throwing himself at baseballs and down the base paths. Pete Rose could do it with impunity, but some players simply do not bounce off the turf. They bend and break.
But the Red Sox have spent many millions on players with shaky physical credentials, just look at Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli this year. Yes, they are only one-year investments, but the assumption is that they might be re-signed after a healthy season. Other reclamation projects, like Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller, paid off with handsome dividends and have also by-passed arbitration with modest contracts.
But if Ellsbury manages to play healthy at nearly the level of the 2011 season, the Sox should lock him up for another ten years. From Ellsbury’s point of view this move could make sense for several reasons:
- He has a defined role as a lead-off hitter and center fielder with the Red Sox
- The fans love him; he brings a level of excitement that no other player brings to Fenway
- John Farrell has known him since his rookie year; he won’t ask him to do what he can’t do
- He has team mates who have come through the system with him: Pedroia, Lester, Bucholz
Much of the argument relies on an archaic concept of “team” that the Red Sox should nurture, now that they have moved their “rent-a-stars,” Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. There will always be flux in the personnel of Major League teams, but Red Sox fans have appreciated loyalty in their players and consistency in their lineup. One reason Pedroia and Ortiz are loved in Boston is their devotion to the team on the field and in salary negotiations. The Red Sox should honor this loyalty and try to cultivate it in other players, like Ellsbury and Lester.
Signing Ellsbury to a long-term contract will certainly depend on whether he can make it to the All-Star Break without visiting the “Disabled” list. Given a show of good health and consistency, the Sox should try to wrap up Ellsbury’s contract for the coming years as soon as possible.
With Scott Boras as his agent, Ellsbury may prefer to test the riches of the free agent market. But Ellsbury may have the loyalty of a Pedroia or an Ortiz buried in him. He may see the value of a consistent team culture and a throng of adoring fans when he plays at home. He should certainly weigh those intangibles against the riches to be gathered in another ball park.
Here is one fan who is ready to say–“Ellsbury forever!”
Now that the big guy is signed, we should acknowledge that he played through relentless distraction and discord, as well as injuries. He stood with management to quell clubhouse chaos and never pointed the finger at Valentine or anybody else during this forgettable baseball season.
In all this, he never wavered from his desire to retire as a Red Sox player, which is quite a mission, given the unraveling of the team over the last twelve months. Papi may be all that is left of the heroic team that wiped out the competition in 2004 and 2007, but he is quite a pillar. Better yet, he is foundation for the next two years.
David Ortiz has proven he has everything it takes to lead: calmness, concentration, loyalty, and determination in the clutch. He is worth more than his contract, but it is a reasonable contract, like the man himself.
Apparently Jason Varitek misjudged his marketability when he decided to file for free agency in 2008. And apparently the Red Sox overestimated the availability of catchers when they started negotiating with Steve Boras. So the parties have arrived in January with nothing but embarrassment to show for their Winter’s labors.
On the balance sheet for 2009 many baseball fans can sympathize. Items we imagined as “assets,” such as real estate, are depreciated and immovable. We are not bargaining for anything except to break even and survive our economic winter. Some are bargaining just to hold on to those assets until another Spring Training.
So we feel your pain, Red Sox management and disgruntled catcher. We get that no one’s going to win on this negotiation. Do you? Can you just scale down your expectations like the rest of us? Can you complete the roster and be glad you have an experienced catcher and a satisfying job respectively?
We’re not asking a lot of 2009: a job, a house . . . a shot at the World Series. Help us make a piece of that dream come true.