Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Ellsbury, Red Sox headed for ugly divorce

Posted by Bill Koch on August 14, 2010

Jacoby Ellsbury and the Boston Red Sox look even more likely to divorce in the offseason after the outfielder hit the disabled list on Saturday.

It’s the third time in 2010 that Ellsbury has been placed on the DL, as he aggravated the rib injury that he’s been fighting since the opening weeks of the year when he fell to the ground running out a ground ball in Boston’s 10-9 meltdown against Texas on Friday night. The smart money here says that Boston will fade from contention from the American League East and wild card races and Ellsbury will be shut down for the year. It might be the last we’ve seen of No. 2 in a Red Sox uniform.

Make no mistake about how ugly this situation has become. Ellsbury insists that he can’t play. The Red Sox think that he can. That never ends well. Perception tends to become reality, and the perception that’s being crammed down the throats of Pink Hat Nation is that Ellsbury is soft. We here at Ramble On aren’t about to take a guess about how much pain another man is feeling, but we can still examine the situation and render a verdict that Ellsbury won’t be in Boston next year.

Let’s review. Ellsbury suffered an injury two weeks into the season this year when Adrian Beltre absolutely train-wrecked him chasing a foul ball in Kansas City. He cracked five ribs and landed on the DL. The Red Sox, through published reports, characterized Ellsbury’s injury as soreness or discomfort. They never said anything about a fracture, never mind multiple fractures. Translation – they thought he was milking it. Boston wasted no time reporting when and how Dustin Pedroia broke his foot, Victor Martinez broke his thumb or Jason Varitek broke his foot. The Red Sox clearly established a double standard when dealing with Ellsbury’s status.

That shouldn’t be anything new for anyone in Boston who has followed Ellsbury’s career. They rewarded him for hitting .438 in the 2007 World Series by trading for Coco Crisp in the offseason and forcing a platoon situation in center field. They rewarded Ellsbury for batting over .300 and stealing 70 bases last year by bringing in 37-year-old Mike Cameron to play center field, shoving Ellsbury to left and creating some ill will before the season even started. The fact that Ellsbury would have been safe in center and away from Beltre while Cameron, who ended up injured anyway, is cruel irony.

The notion that Ellsbury was the worst every day defensive center fielder in the majors last year is laughable, whether it’s based on UZR rating or anything else. Defensive metrics are much too new and subjective to be quantified, and showing a slavish devotion to them doesn’t guarantee success – ask the basement-dwelling Seattle Mariners how they’re doing in the American League West. Those same ratings clearly have never watched Marco Scutaro dive for a three-hop ground ball that is 10 feet to the left of second base and not come up with it – he’s ranked seventh in the majors according to fangraphs.com in range runs above average. Some of the names behind him include super-quick players like Alcides Escobar (MIL), Elvis Andrus (TEX), Yunel Escobar (TOR), Erick Aybar (LAA), and Jose Reyes (NYM). Think Scutaro really has more range than any of them? We didn’t think so, just like we never thought Cameron would be a better alternative than Ellsbury in Boston.

How much is one man supposed to take? We can’t blame Ellsbury for not being too eager to get on the field and play in a place where he doesn’t feel wanted. The Red Sox have done nothing but try to push him out the door since he flashed onto the scene as one of their elite prospects, and the final shove looks like it’s going to happen this offseason.

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3 Responses to “Ellsbury, Red Sox headed for ugly divorce”

  1. Steve G. said

    Scutaro ranks ahead of those players because range runs above average is a cumulative stat, I believe. He has 50 to 300 more ABs than most of those guys.

    Also, Yunel Escobar is who you’re citing as a better SS by the eye test? The Braves traded him partly because they thought he’d get too fat to stay at SS. And all of Reyes’ injuries have made him gimpy and bad in the field.

    I don’t really think there are any Ozzie Smith-like defenders at short anymore anyway. You have a bunch of older guys skirting by on reputation (Omar Vizquel, A-Gonz, Jeter) despite declining stats and reports from scouts, and younger guys who are roughly equal to one another. Mark Belanger, where have you gone?

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