The Boston Red Sox are finally at the .500 mark thanks to a game-saving Jackie Bradley Jr. catch. The downside is Bradley’s great defense is offset by his lack of offense.
Baseball fans are not immune to conflagrations and just a reminder of the sordid history of the Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees can exemplify that. There is another divide and that is among the fans themselves regarding players on their team. You could say a baseball civil war dividing family and friends over the value of a player.
The most contentious of all civil wars in recent fading memories is the division in Red Sox Nation over Jackie Bradley Jr. The emotional fulcrum drifts back and forth depending on Bradley’s accomplishments or lack of accomplishments. In a 2-1 victory over Baltimore, both were on display. Bradley went 0-for-4 and left three runners on base and did the walk of shame to the dugout twice for futile attempts to hit the evasive white sphere.
The dueling intensified on social media with broadsides being tossed with each Bradley offensive failure. The Bradley supporters merely hid in their Twitter bunker until they could regroup, which Bradley did in the eleventh inning. This is becoming a daily ritual regarding the love him or hate him with Bradley.
Then as quickly as one can say “game saved,” the good Bradley made a spectacular catch to rob Trey Mancini of a walk-off home run. This has been Bradley’s entire career that is checkered with mystical slumps, awe-inspiring catches, long offensive hot streaks, and bullet throws. Just how much does great defense offset a .234 career batting average?
There is a flip to this argumentative coin and that is simply reversing with the great offense being weighed against a poor defense. The most notable comparison in recent Red Sox history is Manny Ramirez whose defense rarely made a highlights film unless it involved a bonehead play exemplifying the motto of “Manny being Manny.”
The difference is on offense you get multiple opportunities within a game and on defense – most notably outfield defense – multiple opportunities within a game are unique. This is easily demonstrated by defensive metrics and the category of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). For his career, Bradley has just 36 DRS and is actually at -5 DRS for 2019. This is symptomatic of the outfield where opportunity prevails itself with less frequency than the infield.
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Just where is the demarcation line? At what point do you symbolically toss in the towel and bench Bradley? Manager Alex Cora recently sent Bradley on a two-game hiatus. A day or two off relegated to the sidelines may either motivate or somehow magically resuscitate Bradley’s anemic bat. Based on last night, Bradley’s bat has barely a pulse.
The Mendoza Line is often exemplified as a strategic point of reference. The line – named after Mario Mendoza – places a statistical breakpoint at a .200 batting average. Based on that figure, Bradley has some significant hitting to get to the Mendoza Line. I would place Bradley’s value at where his career average rests at .234.
If Bradley’s current slump intensifies, decisions will have to be made. I am sure there is pitcher jubilation when Bradley’s defense rescue’s a hurler stats from earned run purgatory, but likewise, a failure to produce at-bat brings out the negative as a potential win evaporates. Right now the Red Sox are doing what they have always done with Bradley and show patience. Patience I would have tossed to the winds long ago.
Meanwhile, the sideshow will continue with the Bradley proponents and Bradley naysayers participating in their civil war or based on what I view an uncivil war. Maybe the clutch Bradley that garnered an American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award will surface?