As Boston heads deeper into November the smart money is on Jacoby Ellsbury staying in a Red Sox uniform but only for one more year.
When you look at the circumstances from both Ellsbury’s and Boston’s perspective, it simply makes sense. After Ellsbury’s injury plagued and subpar 2012 season his marketability in a trade to land a premium pitcher and possible cash or prospects is at a low point. This makes for a marriage of convenience for both parties in 2013. Ellsbury will have the season to increase his marketability so, barring injury, Boston should get a top notch walk year effort from Ells. Ellsbury gets another year to set the table for a potential big payday. It’s one thing to report the news and offer an opinion. It’s another thing to be a fan and feel the pull of one of those what if moments.
Ellsbury was called up and caught fire at the end of the last Red Sox championship season in 2007. In 33 regular season games he batted .353 and swiped 9 bases. His easy elegance in the outfield and willingness to sacrifice his body to make tough plays coupled with his startling acceleration, natural speed on the base paths and innate sense of timing made him an instant threat in the field and at the plate. Fans loved the kid.
In 2008 and 2009 Ells blossomed. He played in 145 and 153 games respectively, batted .280 and 301 and went berserk on the bases. Opposing pitchers became unhinged as Ellsbury stole a total of 120 bases in two seasons, setting the table and upsetting pitching rhythms to distraction.
Even more encouraging, his gap power and speed turned singles into doubles and doubles into triples. There was a buzz about the kid. People and the press showed up to see what the fuss was about. It was the end of the 2009 season, Boston had him locked up for another four years and the sky was the limit. Then the sky fell.
Nine games into the 2010 season Ellsbury charged hard for a ball in shallow left field. Yes, left field. Remember the absurd Mike Cameron experiment that shoved a budding star out of his natural position? I don’t. Not that I’m bitter about it. That’s a lie. Ellsbury collided with third baseman Adrian Beltre and lost in a big way, breaking multiple ribs. He came back for nine games in July, re-aggravated the injury – a diagnosis which the Red Sox medical staff had clearly mishandled – and was lost for the season. Kevin Youkilis questioned Ellsbury’s stay away course of treatment. Ellsbury made a statement. It was awful and, in retrospect, the injury and ensuing subtle back biting signaled the beginning of the end.
Ellsbury rebounded in 2011 with a career year. He hit .321, caught everything in sight and slugged 32 homers. He placed second in AL MVP voting.
Last year Ells was poised to continue on his rising trajectory until another devastating injury, this time to his shoulder after a collision at second base, took him down for months. When he came back he was not the same player. Worse yet, he seemed emotionally checked out. The fire that once burned bright became a smoldering pile of average.
It’s a near certainty that Ellsbury will be lost to Boston after the 2013 season and another outfield hole will need to be filled, leaving fans to wonder what could have been had it not been for two fateful collisions that derailed what otherwise might have been a long and productive career at one of baseball’s most important positions.
All the words that I come up with
They’re like gasoline on flames
There’s no excuse
If I could I’d undo what I did wrong
I’d give away all that I own
- Sorry, Daughtry