A few weeks ago I wrote about the Boston Red Sox’ zero-risk, Bill Belichick-style value signing of Grady Sizemore. It appears I was misguided in designating the move “zero-risk.” Angst and malcontent are beginning to permeate the Beantown airwaves as fans, writers, and radio hosts begin to face the reality of a significant return on the investment.
Sizemore has exceeded expectations and then some. After undergoing microfracture surgeries in both knees, two sports hernia surgeries, as well as back and elbow surgeries over the past three years, the general feeling coming into camp was that Sizemore would give it a college try, but serve primarily as a mentor/motivator for prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. Such has not been the case.
Through 21 Cactus League ABs he’s hitting .381, but what’s far more noteworthy is that he’s played back to back games without incident. On Monday he threw his body around on both sides of the ball and looked no worse for the wear. Meanwhile, presumed heir Bradley Jr. has come out of the gate as tepid as his 2013 Spring was torrid. Through 37 ABs his average sits at .189 (which is 192 points below Sizemore’s, for those keeping score).
Spring Training numbers are, of course, not the whole story here. That’s why unease in brewing in the Olde Towne. At play here are questions of practicality as well as organizational philosophy. Foremost: can Sizemore be an everyday player? While his Spring has been remarkable (and heartwarming) it is still quite early to imagine he’ll play 150+ games. If he can’t, what are the roster implications? Shane Victorino can slide to center, but the Sox have been outspoken in their desire to keep him in right. (As of 2 hrs ago, it’s been reported that Daniel Nava will work out in center, which can only mean Sizemore is winning more hearts than just pink hat-wearing ladies…) If Sizemore wins the job, Bradley Jr. will face either reserve duty or a return to Triple A. What does it say about the front office if homegrown talent is suppressed by a stopgap veteran import?
I came across a book on Amazon the other day and this was the title: If You’re Riding a Horse and it Dies, Get Off. While completely unrelated to baseball, this is common sense, and Sox fans should take notice of the title–if only to follow the over-complicated analogy I’m about to make. Jackie Bradley Jr. is a young, unproven horse. If you ride him, he might get up some good speed, he might finish in the middle of the pack, or he might totally flounder and lose the race. You just don’t know. Grady Sizemore is an old, stud thoroughbred who’s returned from a broken ankle. If you ride him, he’ll either blow everyone away, or he’ll die trying. If he dies, Sox fans, you just get off.