Can Boston Red Sox prospect Chris Acosta turn it around?

Jul 27, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the fifth inning of the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 27, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the fifth inning of the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have had players throw it away – not the ball, but the potential for a career others dream about.

The Boston Red Sox had two promising prospects that self-destructed in the last few seasons over personal issues. One was directly related to alcohol and the other to some undefined psychological or emotional issues. Both were young and that certainly has an impact on how one views their place in the larger scheme of things.

Young and stupid are two terms that are invariably linked together. I managed to provide a litany of proof that both do coexist and have since done the famous “learned my lesson” and moved on. With youth, you have a certain level of self-induced invincibility, arrogance, and hubris that most certainly will be diminished with the perspective of age and its accompanying experience.

Recently I wrote an article on the Red Sox latest drug suspension – this one a young 19-year-old outfielder named Chad Hardy. Hardy made an incredibly bad personal choice and the resulting consequences were a 60 game suspension. That little career item could certainly finish off Hardy.

Stupidity is not isolated to the use of banned substances, but other behaviors which occasionally surface. On the major league level, the consequences are administered and the player generally appears with a hangdog look and will seek some type of penance. The “crimes” usually revolve around a public display of temper that would make my four-year-old granddaughter envious.

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Then comes the next level that has become far too prevalent – spousal abuse. Again the results are usually a league or team-imposed penalty along with contrite promises to do better in the future – hopefully, by better, it is an attitude change and not the ability to be more discreet with abhorrent behaviors. But back to lower depths. Of baseball and the minor leagues.

A poster recently brought up the name Jon Denney. I wrote an article about Denney while he was still on the restricted list for Boston. A talented player with projected major league potential. Denney also had some significant issues with personal self-control.

In 2014, Denney was arrested late in the evening for speeding and suspension of driving under the influence. Denney had already encountered a similar issue while in high school and had a restriction on his license. Denney became mildly belligerent with the officers and was carted off to the local lock-up to contemplate his situation.

"“He was a Boston Red Sox player and he didn’t care [sic] he had money and made more money than we would ever see.” – Police report on Jon Denney"

Denney played the famous “Don’t you know who I am card?” to officers and attempted to use his Red Sox connection in an attempt to get a free pass. That is a tried method of many of the famous and near famous as they attempt to weasel out of a situation that is quickly becoming disastrous. A certain connection that demonstrates that idiocy sometimes never dissipates with age.

The Red Sox did the right thing and suspended Denney and formulated a treatment plan. Eventually, Denney was released and signed with the Royals organization only to end up in independent league baseball the last two seasons with limited results. Now Denney can use the phrase “Don’t you know who I use to be?”

In 2014, a 16-year-old Dominican right-handed pitcher became a millionaire thanks to a $1,500,000 signing bonus by the Red Sox. Christopher Acosta upon signing was considered the eleventh ranked international player and the Red Sox felt they had a future gem with the 6’4” Acosta. Acosta was considered a close second to Anderson Espinoza.

Acosta played in the Dominican Summer League in 2015 posting a 1-4 record and a 4.28 ERA. The youngster demonstrated nice control with an impressive 1.3 BB/9. The picture was all tulips and lollipops as the kid was on his way.

In 2016, Acosta was at Ft. Myers working out as he prepared to join a short season team in the organization as the next step forward, but an “incident” happened and Acosta – without permission – returned home and was consequently suspended and placed on the restricted list.

The restricted list is where a player can simply rot at the discretion of the organization since Acosta cannot play for another team. A baseball limbo until behaviors are acceptable, you are released or chose to retire. In the case of Acosta, a retirement is not the path he is choosing.

Acosta remains on the restricted list and what his issues are have not been public – at least with any sources I have examined. At 18-years-old this is a tragic situation, but one that is not beyond redemption. Can Acosta turn it around? Young and talented minus maturity.

Baseball teams have limited amounts of patience. With prospects that are viewed as possible additions to the parent club in the future that patience is naturally extended. For those with questionable potential the organizational leash is rather short as Hardy will undoubtedly discover.

Maturity is difficult to define and the primary ingredients to me are accepting accountability and responsibility. I know 70-year-olds that still are incredibly deficient in both. With Denney, the clock is moving far more rapidly than with Acosta.

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I will occasionally search for tidbits on both – especially Acosta – in the hopes that somehow both have found some degree of stability in their personal and professional lives.