By Gerard Lombardo – @getoffatkenmore
In 1994, The Tecmo Super Baseball cartridge was permanently implanted in my Sega for months on end. Being a straight up nerd, it was there that I discovered the beauty of simulating an entire season, for the satiating sensation of combing through box scores and marveling over end of season slash lines and division winners. Of course, gaming consoles have evolved into what we dreamed about as kids: immensely detailed graphics, seamless game mode and player updates, plus wireless networking with players around the world who serve as vocal reminders that we all suck, our kills are cheap, and everyone is a noob no matter what. So occasionally, a decompression from Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network is necessary, and reverting back to the offline gaming of Halo’s campaign missions or MLB The Show’s dynasty mode are revisited. And in 2011’s version of The Show, the Yankee team featured a rookie that wasn’t known for his offensive prowess. In fact, he wasn’t known for anything at all. Yet, like all licensed MLB players, he was a part of the game, albeit as A-Rod’s 9th inning defensive replacement. Just another Pinstripe donning ballplayer, that was only recognizable to me because of my steadfast dedication to the world of simulating baseball dynasty modes.
So six seasons later when the national pundits reported and analyzed the impact of Dave Dombrowski’s underwhelming acquisition, I nodded my head in agreement, concluding that it was a depth move to strengthen the bench and give the starting infielders some stretch run R&R. Was I right? No. Am I ever? According to my ex, also no. But in fairness, nobody really saw the thrice traded, eight year veteran posting a slugging percentage of .534 in his first 37 games with Boston. Nor did we expect him to become the catalyst of Farrell’s daily lineup card, far exceeding our initial perception of him as being a contact hitting utility player. Now, the only question regarding Nunez is “how many.” As in, how many commas need to be placed in the salary line on Dombrowski’s contract offer to keep the 30 year old in Boston?
Even though the dollar signs are the focal point of any pending free agent, there are three more mitigating factors surrounding the infielders likelihood to remain a Red Sox:
1. There has to be mutual interest. This should be a non factor as Nunez has raked at Fenway and unlike the Renterias and Crawfords of the world, he doesn’t buckle under the spotlight. It’s been a good fit thus far, with no conceivable reason to believe that would change for the worse over the life of a contractual agreement.
2. Money. As I struggle to scrape together two dollars for a Monster Energy, I remind myself that the Sox ownership, players and staff make more in a month than I do in a year. I don’t care if they have to offer Eduardo upwards of $15 million a season; it’s not my money, and any excuse that the brass wants to make is wasted. You don’t sign David Price to the tune of a crippling $200 million, then turn around and feign assets. I get it, there’s a better chance of South Korea crossing the 38th parallel than there is of our General Manager crossing the luxury tax threshold. But the object of major league sports isn’t to boast frugality; rather, to hang banners and scream in the euphoria of victory. As the esteemed Herm Edwards delicately voiced it years ago: You play. To win. The game.
3. Last, and perhaps the most overthought scenario, regards the Dominican born athlete getting significant at bats in an already crowded infield. But is it really as crowded as we think? For a major leaguer to see 500 AB’s, he needs only to play in 130 games. How will Nunez reach that plateau? Well, Devers will need to be spelled in his 2018 season as he adjusts to the rigors of a 162 game marathon & perhaps the dreaded sophomore slump. Xander is a wild card, as he could potentially be trade bait considering his money grabbing agent, and underwhelming offensive numbers along with mixed bag reviews of his defensive metrics. If he remains in Boston, nobody will mind seeing Nunez eat some of his at bats. And over on the right side of the infield, Pedroia is looking older every day; his disabled list stints are becoming regular, and as hard as he plays you can be certain the days of 150 game seasons in behind him. Just considering the factors of Devers playing his first full season, Bogaerts’ inconsistency, and Dustin’s dominance of the DL, there should leave no question as to how Eduardo Nunez will acquire play time. This is also a player that can be used as a designated hitter, given his average range and glove work, while alternatively could be given a few workouts at first base as a method of getting his bat in the lineup.
While the novelty of gaming systems has worn off over the decades, the same cannot be spoken for Boston Red Sox baseball. And as Eduardo Nunez has journeyed as a New York 2004 amateur free agent signing, to the bright lights of Minnesota’s Target Field, then on to the canoe filled waters of San Francisco’s McCovey Cove, he’s grown from The Show’s player rating of 67 into a major league All Star. One that’s looking for a forever home. An All Star that Boston badly needed and was rewarded with. So break out your finest parchment paper and fanciest feather ink stick, Mr. Dombrowski, because come this offseason, it’s Eduardo Nunez who will undoubtedly be looking to be rewarded.