Boston Red Sox: Sandy Leon’s other shoe hasn’t dropped

Aug 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Have the Boston Red Sox actually caught lighting in the bottle with Sandy Leon? Leon continues to hit and play excellent defense. Will it continue?

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is an expression that has worked its way into the vernacular for over a century. Originally it is based on the lack of soundproofing in poorly constructed tenements where one could hear the upstairs tenant let the first shoe drop and the sound would reverberate below as you awaited the second. What it migrates into is expecting the inevitable.

For Red Sox fans, we are certainly in a constant state of awaiting the inevitable and it is usually a negative inevitable. An unwillingness to accept anything as being too good to be true. That is the Gods of Baseball rarely bless us with the inevitable being positive. Maybe they have?

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I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding Sandy Leon. Leon got hot with the bat and like any streak, the generally accepted consensus is that it will come to a sudden abyss. With Leon that was certainly magnified since there was nothing historically to show that suddenly Leon had become a latter-day Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench or even Sammy White – to dredge up a name in the Boston catching past.

The story of Leon is well documented and it is classic journeyman existing on the cusp of baseball’s employment list. The ultimately vulnerable player that gets a yawn when his name appears on the transaction wire. For Boston, Leon represented just another questionable addition to the roster at Pawtucket.

Circumstances certainly intervened for Leon in his Boston history. Injuries played a significant part in Leon being given – at least for him – an abundance of playing time. This season the 27-year-old switch-hitter started in Pawtucket and slashed a rather unremarkable .243/.315/.339 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 36 games. Again fate called Leon to Boston, where the “good field, no hit” catcher was called upon to plug another backstop hole. Then it happened.

Leon got hot, as in blazing hot, with the bat. How hot? Leon – traditionally hidden in the depths of the order – climbed the lineup charts like the Beatles climbed record charts. No longer were fans viewing a Leon plate appearance as another quick out. Line drives, flares and the occasional home run started to be expected.

In late August Leon went into a slump – not a prolonged one that gets you tossed back to the bushes, but an attention-getting one for 15 that clearly demonstrated the bubble had burst. The batting average sunk to .349 – a fantastic number by its lonesome, but a steady decrease from the rarefied .400+ of what had once been on his stat line. OK – the party was over for Leon.

Leon started to hit again. The average stabilized and the hits kept on coming – especially key hits and RBI when most needed. The other shoe has somehow not landed. All is quiet on the floor below. Leon is now the go-to guy behind the plate. Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday, and Christian Vazquez all have “the glove”, but the bat is merely decorative.

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Leon is the center of attention behind the plate. The bulk of the catching is now his responsibility. The others mentioned now assume the role that traditionally belonged to Leon. In the playoffs, the responsibility will be his and if he hit .200 it could still be a plus. Leon is an excellent defensive option.

The first statistic, one looks at with catchers is CS% and Leon’s is outstanding since in ranges well into the 40% territory. The handling of pitchers is certainly present and he does the usual field general herding of the fragile psyche of pitchers. They appear confident in his ability and so does Leon.

Sometimes good things do happen. Maybe Leon will be one? Maybe he will crash and burn and be back to being an every-fifth-day option behind the dish? I would like to think that somehow everything has suddenly fallen into place. That’s where once a 1-15 would psychologically devastate a Leon it is now viewed as just a mere road bump.

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If Leon continues the Red Sox will have one of those feel good stories that fans – Boston and elsewhere – enjoy. The more important item is they will have a young catcher in his prime who can hit and play defense.

Let’s hope that other shoe stays put.

Source: Baseball-Reference