The Boston Red Sox may have lost the game on Sunday, but they also received good news. Center fielder Mookie Betts is feeling much better, after sustaining a concussion.
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The incident occurred last Tuesday in a game against the Chicago White Sox as he leaped to make another of his highly-publicized and very popular catches, only for the ball to enter his glove just as he fell over the right field fence in Boston’s Fenway Park. The collective crowd gasped as he landed right into the Red Sox bullpen inverted, smacking his head, neck, and upper back on the hard, unforgiving ground. The ball falling loosely out of Betts’ glove on impact was the least of Red Sox Nation’s concerns at the time.
Ricky Doyle of NESN covered the story. According to his report, “the 22-year-old must go through Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol before returning to action, but he was scheduled to undergo exertion testing Sunday that involved running on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “Even when [Betts] says he runs up stairs there’s no dizziness, there’s no pressure in the head […] That wasn’t the case two days ago. So like I said, he seemingly has turned a corner.”
While that is great news for everyone involved, it must be pointed out that Betts is not expected to rejoin his teammates in any capacity until this Friday, when the Red Sox are in Detroit to start a new series when they take on the Tigers.
It’s not a question of needing Betts to return quickly, as Boston is 47-59 for the season. Being 13 games behind the American League East division leaders, especially when it’s the New York Yankees, does sting. The Evil Empire pounded the Chicago White Sox into oblivion yesterday, while the Red Sox couldn’t hold back the Tampa Bay Rays in the closing frames. The Red Sox are not even close to the wild card race, being eight games back and behind nine other teams for the last playoff spot. Having starters Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello on the disabled list doesn’t help, either. If Boston got back in the playoff race, it would be a miracle.
However, it’s important for Boston to have their center fielder back because of what he does for the team. Betts’ numbers are not staggering, but they are a telling sign of greatness being nurtured to blossom. The Tennessee native is hitting a slash line of .265/.317/.438 with 10 home runs, 48 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. It puts him fourth on the team for RBIs, behind David Ortiz (59), Xander Bogaerts (51), and Hanley Ramirez (51). Betts has also crossed the plate 52 times, placing him second behind Ramirez who has scored 56 times.
Jul 28, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts (50) goes over the right field wall to catch a fly ball at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
For only his second season, his first full one with Boston without demotions to Triple-A, Betts has been one of the leaders in the statistics and the intangibles. He is the spark on the base paths, finding a way to put pressure on the opposing pitchers to make a mistake. Between his growing offence and his half-man-half-amazing defense, which has drawn comparisons to veteran greats of the past, Betts has shown all the makings of an All-Star. Arguably, he should have already been one this season, having better numbers and more influence over his team’s victories than some of his colleagues whom made the All-Star Game.
The fans trust him on the field. In late or close games, Betts hit .308 with multiple times him being the difference between a victory or a defeat. Yet, it’s more than just that; it’s the fact that his value stretches beyond the numbers. When Betts is in the lineup and in center field, the Fenway faithful are more at ease. They trust him compared to the ins-and-outs of some of the big names on the team. Between Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval getting repeated injuries and committing follies in the field worthy of the Keystone Cops (if you’re old enough to remember that reference), their batting numbers are hardly compensation. Ramirez is batting .266 and Sandoval is hitting .260, which is dreadful considering the pair are set on making a combined $183 million for the next four to five years in Boston. Betts is making $515 thousand this season and can only seek arbitration in 2017.
The youth movement is close to being in full effect. With Bogaerts having a comeback year of All-Star caliber proportions, Brock Holt deserving of a full-time role, Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez being the future at the catcher position, Travis Shaw impressing recently, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo needing more playing time to grow, and a host of young arms and positional prospects in Triple-A, it may be time that the kids start running the show. Having Betts alongside the older Beantown babies is essential in that transition, having just gone through it himself. It will be good for the players, the fans, and for Betts’ progression as one of the future leaders of the team.
With the way Betts plays, however, the future is quite possibly now.
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