Red Sox Dilemma: Yoan Moncada vs. Dustin Pedroia
When the Boston Red Sox first signed 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, many people started wondering what the infield would look like, once he was ready for the big leagues. The Red Sox already have an All-Star second baseman in Dustin Pedroia. Would Moncada make the switch to third base or shortstop?
BostonHerald.com‘s Scott Lauber reported that “if it’s up to Moncada, the choice is easy” to stay at second base, “adding that he models himself after All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano.” A year after Cano moves on to Seattle, and yet the Yankees-Red Sox feud continues, even if indirectly.
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At a reported 6’1″, 220-pound frame, “He looks like an action figure,” said David Hastings, acting as Moncada’s agent. The teenager is likely still growing, making it possible that he could be even stronger and faster than at present. Physically, he is already athletic enough to make his MLB debut; however, Moncada will need time in the Red Sox farm system to prove or raise his baseball IQ for any playing time in Boston. Some people are saying it will be years. Some people are saying that it could be any time, if he proves himself quicker than expected.
Lauber adds fuel to the debate by adding, “one Red Sox official said [last week] he has ‘no doubt’ Moncada would be able to stay at second base.” Yet, Pedroia is already sitting at second base, presumably, until the end of 2021 when his contract expires. That is $96.5 million just waiting to be paid.
Anyone else notice the problem?
First of all, Moncada has to prove himself, just like any other baseball player, in the minor leagues. Depending on his performance, that could take at least a few years. Baseball is a game of mitigating failures, where even the best only get a base hit a third of the time. Rocketing success in the minors does not always mean that a young man is ready for the bright lights of Fenway Park. The defense should be the same for him, but the offence at the plate will tell all, once he faces professional baseball pitching of this caliber.
Once Moncada gets through those hurdles, which should be at least a year, he has to supplant Pedroia. Let’s see: a potential phenom versus a proven talent, with an American League MVP and multiple World Series titles to his credit. You would think it a no-brainer.
Why anyone in the Red Sox organization would say to anyone in the media, or even fathom, that Moncada could replace Pedroia in the near future is mind-boggling, unless he meant in five years, near the end of Pedroia’s contract and, likely, his career. Pedroia has hit .299, with 106 home runs and 546 RBIs, in nine years for Boston. He is 31 years old, in the prime of his life, and has already done what any second baseman could, at a mere 5’8″ and 165-pound frame. Apparently, it’s news to Red Sox officials that size didn’t matter to him. Maybe that official should have been paying more attention to Brad Pitt’s rendition of Billy Beane in Moneyball: “you guys just sit around talking the same old “good body” nonsense like we’re selling jeans.”
It’s true that Pedroia suffered an injury, which kept him out of the lineup for a number of games last season, which also contributed to a drop in his numbers. They dropped to a .278 batting average, which led the team, with 7 home runs and 53 RBIs. Not too terrible for a guy who hit lead-off much of the year.
When you have more hits than anyone on your team (153) last season and you still have one of your bosses saying that a rookie could take your job in the future, without evaluating the kid properly, you may feel disrespected. You may feel that all of your blood, sweat, and tears were fine before, but were emotionally disposed of by a Kleenex of money. You may feel like you gave the best years of your life, and still have more to give, to someone who once loved you, but a more youthful, Latin lover has now seduced his heart with promises of the future. You may also feel like the chemistry is broken and you will make him regret those feelings, with scornful revenge.
Pedroia’s All-Star appearance in 2013 may have been his last, but there is no real evidence to prove that. Just like there are no assurances that Moncada will surpass expectations and become the Red Sox second baseman in the next few years. All of these events could come to pass; and none of these potential outcomes could see the light of day. The only sure thing that can be said is that the Red Sox official should have kept his mouth shut. Why start a fire near your rebuilding project? Boston needs Pedroia looking ahead to post-season glory, not over his shoulder at Moncada and the aging past.