Boston Red Sox Gold Glove CF Jackie Bradley Jr has been about as bad as you possibly can be so far in 2019 but will a trip to Chicago wake up his bat?
To say that the 2019 season has gotten off to a nightmare start for Jackie Bradley Jr. is an understatement. The Red Sox Gold Glove outfielder has been virtually absent on both sides of the coin since Opening Day. Early season woes in the field such as that blunder in Oakland with Mookie Betts and a bat colder than ice have rendered him a liability in the lineup.
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The Red Sox just finished up a homestand that saw the Tigers, Rays and A’s all come through Fenway Park. They went 4-4 which is a disappointment after having gone just 3-3 in their previous homestand. Both were major opportunities to gain ground on the rest of the division and became moments lost. Other players like Mitch Moreland, J.D. Martinez, and Betts all seem to be getting warm while JBJ remains frigid. Could a trip to Chicago change his favor with the baseball Gods?
That’s what I honestly can’t tell you. With other players that may not be playing the best, there have been glimpses of something there to get me excited. Rafael Devers has had some poor games but he’s had bright spots that give me optimism that he could get white hot any moment. JBJ hasn’t had even a glimmer of something positive. A small hit here, maybe an RBI there but he’s mostly been a sure out for whatever pitcher is facing him.
Anyone who watches sports though has to have the optimism that the dark days could end at any time, right? Like he can’t stay this cold ALL season long could he? We’re a month into an attempt at defending the Word Series thrown and at this point, it doesn’t feel like the days are going to get any brighter for JBJ. He’s batting a depressing .156 with just 14 hits at this point and that doesn’t lead to much confidence.
But it’s hard to give up on a guy that has that much talent and ability. Plus we’ve seen this from Jackie before, not as drastic but he has been known to get off to slow starts. This is the ALCS MVP we’re talking about here after all.
Looking at his stat line at this point in the season and one number jumps out and terrifies me and that’s the number of strikeouts he’s amassed already. Going into tonight’s clash in the Windy City JBJ has 30 K’s under his belt while he only had 137 in all of 2018. So he’s well ahead of his pace from last year.
That tells me two things though, the first being that he’s swinging at everything in a level of desperation and the other being that he’s also not being timid at the plate. Both have pros and cons. He isn’t letting the slump get to him too much mentally since he isn’t backing down at the plate but on the other hand, he’s also swinging at anything and everything which is being counterproductive.
Alex Cora still has all the faith in the world in his star outfielder and rightfully so. JBJ has proven over his tenure in Boston that he is a strong component in the machine that is the Boston Red Sox. But how long can Cora keep him in the lineup when he is as close to a guaranteed out as there is right now?
"“You know what he brings defensively,” Cora said. “When he’s doing things like this: putting the ball in play, staying up the middle, you want to keep rolling with him because you feeling like he’s close enough that he can take off.”"
Personally, I wouldn’t mind giving Jackie a day or two off just to rest up and maybe get his head right in case he is letting it eat at him, and I’m sure he is to a degree. Then I take a step back and try and put myself in his shoes and I’m out there giving everything I can and then get benched, it could be catastrophic to his psyche. The Red Sox definitely have a fine line to walk right now and it feels like straying to either side could lead to a bad path to go down.
A small road trip could be good for the Red Sox and JBJ in general right now. Coming off of another disappointing homestand and having a small trip might hit the refresh button for Boston. Especially with powerhouses such as Seattle and Houston coming to Fenway in the not so distant future, this could be a chance to get hot for both Jackie and the Red Sox as a unit.
If he continues to keep having the at-bats that he is where he’s making contact and is still swinging with confidence then this slump should pass. The White Sox are in a similar situation as they sit 13-15 to Boston’s 14-17. So there is definitely a chance to strike for JBJ while in Chicago.
Then the Red Sox are taking a trip to Baltimore where they’ll have a chance for JBJ to beat up on an 11-21 Orioles club. The opportunities are definitely there for Jackie break the slump and get hot at a time where the Red Sox need him the most.
We can all admit that this season has not been what we’d hoped it would be and I’m sure the team would agree. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been a key member of this roster since 2013 and he always seems to find his way come season’s end. I have faith that he’ll do so once again despite the frigid start to 2019. A quick road trip and the support of his skipper may be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing centerfielder.