There were murmurs as soon as Red Sox manager John Farrell said that players don’t lose their jobs just because they’re injured. He was referring to Stephen Drew‘s return to the Boston line up from a March 7 concussion that forced Jose Iglesias, Boston’s heretofore light-hitting shortstop, into the starting roles. Iglesias, who had a strong spring, went off as the season started.
In six games Iglesias batted .450 and continued his usual wizard-like play in the field. Yes, he would certainly come back to earth if left in but after his team high 68 at bats in the spring in which he batted a more than respectable .294, it looked like 2012 could be Iglesias’ break out year.
Nevertheless, Farrell kept his word and Drew was installed as the every day shortstop and Iglesias was sent back to Triple A Pawtucket. He has not been the same. Iglesias’ Minor League slashline of .206/.270/.441/.711 has been less than impressive – that is until you take a look at Stephen Drew‘s eight game slashline of .115/.233/.154/.387.
Managing professional athletes, some with delicate psyches, while balancing the business of baseball and team chemistry is a high-wire act without a net. Make a controversial move and a player gets hot at the right time and you’re a genius. Make the same move with negative results and fans will be fitting your head for just the right sized pike.
It’s not that dramatic with Farrell. Even after dropping a double header on Sunday, the Sox are playing well and have been energized by the return of a David Ortiz who over the past two days picked up right where he left off before being injured in July 2012. Farrell has been a calm and professional influence and his team has responded accordingly. But just as he had to make a move with slumping rookie Jackie Bradley, Jr. Farrell’s hand may be forced if Drew continues to slump. It has not been reported by any media outlets that Drew is still suffering effects of his concussion. Indeed he has passed the tests prescribed by Major League Baseball to be cleared for play.
What we can’t know, however, is if there is a lingering undetectable syndrome that may imperceptibly be affecting Drew’s play as a ball hurtles 90 plus mph, dipping and darting toward it’s final resting place, usually in the catcher’s mitt past his bat since his return. To be clear, these are not facts, they are my opinions. It’s not much of a stretch if you think about it in terms of human nature and job preservation.
Stephen Drew sustained a devastating ankle injury late in the 2011 season. Although he rehabbed hard his 2012 season was full of upset and disappointment. The Diamondbacks sent him to the As after he batted .193 over 40 games for them. He played 39 games for Oakland and batted .250 to end the 2012 season. Over the winter the Red Sox offered him a $9.5 million dollar one-year deal. Drew needs to prove he can come back from the ankle, concussion and now perhaps loss in confidence that long-term injury can inflict.
In the meantime, Jose Iglesias bides his time again in the minors, waiting for another chance to get his unconditional shot.