Jacoby Ellsbury, you make the decision

By Editorial Staff

Think a manager’s job is easy?  Think again.  No disrespect to Ron Gardenhire but, to me, Terry Francona was Manager of the Year last year.  Yes, the Twins made the playoffs and the Red Sox didn’t, but look what Francona had to deal with all year.  The slew of injuries and yet, every night he put a competitive team on the field.  This isn’t about debating who should have won and who shouldn’t.   Gardenhire won and I congratulate him for it.  I want to talk to you about this year.

If Tito thought he had tough decisions to make last year, just think what lies ahead for him this year.  You probably think I’m crazy right now, don’t you?  You’re reading this thinking the Sox are possibly the best team in baseball today and Francona has it easy this year.  Almost every position has a potential All-Star at it.  My point is this, how would you like to have the responsibility to fill out this lineup card everyday?  The additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have been the headline stories of the off-season.  These additions also place a huge responsibility on Francona.  The easy part is who is starting and what position they will be playing, but where do you place them in the batting order?  

I know for me, my first thought was Jacoby Ellsbury leading off, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, and then Adrian Gonzalez.  But, do you want to see Kevin Youkilis batting fifth?  But what is your option?  No way in hell am I going to have Youkilis clean up and Gonzalez batting fifth.  See where this is going?  The lower half of the lineup seems simple enough, David Ortiz followed by JD Drew, Marco Scutaro, and then Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Chew on that for a minute.  Big Papi dropped to sixth in the lineup.  A perennial thirty homer, one hundred RBI guy, now batting sixth.  How many teams do you think would like to have the problem of having Ortiz bat sixth in their lineup?  I would say that Ortiz might not be happy batting sixth but look what happened to this year’s free agent crop of designated hitters.   They had a difficult time finding a team that even wanted them, never mind what spot in the lineup they would be hitting.  Batting sixth looks pretty damn good, doesn’t it Papi?

 Francona has voiced his pleasure of having such a dynamic team but don’t tell me he hasn’t lost a little sleep pondering over this lineup situation.  Winning will certainly make each night easier for Tito, but, if they do have a three or four game losing streak, look out!  Leave it to Dustin Pedroia to step in and support his manager by telling the media that he doesn’t care where in the lineup he bats.  He is even willing to bat ninth if that’s what the team needs.  He will be hitting “lasers” regardless where he bats.  Just another example of why Pedroia deserves that capital “C” on his jersey once Varitek retires.  But, Pedroia batting ninth?  Not getting an at bat until the third inning?  Sorry Dustin but I don’t think so.  You are the Red Sox version of the “straw that stirs the drink”; you need to be in the position to make an impact day in and day out. 

Should you drop Jacoby Ellsbury to the ninth spot?  You want to take that speed off the base baths early in a game?  If you think about it, your leadoff batter only bats first in the first inning.   The other problem that you have by dropping Ellsbury to the ninth spot is both Pedroia and Crawford have said that they are not totally comfortable batting leadoff.  See what I mean? 

 I personally like the speed Ellsbury and Crawford provides at the top of the order. My opening day lineup card would be filled out in this order; Ellsbury, Pedroia, CrawfO.D. Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, Scutarro and Saltalamacchia.  I feel this is the more dynamic lineup.  But, I’m not Terry Francona; I don’t know how egos play a part in his thought process.  Will Youkilis be upset batting fifth?  Or Ellsbury batting ninth?   

Really the decision that Francona needs to make is where to bat Ellsbury; first or ninth?

I bet most teams would like to have a problem like this.  Regardless, this is still not an easy decision to make no matter how you look at it, and one that will probably be questioned more than once this upcoming season.

What do you think?  If you were filling out the opening day lineup, would you have Ellsbury leading off or in the ninth spot?