By Ted Gay – @TedG63
My father, after living 75 years without experiencing the Red Sox winning a World Series, saw them win three times in the last nine years of his life. The final game he watched was the Sox beating the Cardinals to win the 2013 title. While you would think this brought him tremendous joy, truthfully he was bitter about the victory because his favorite player, Jose Iglesias, had been traded at the deadline.
The reason goes back to his childhood. In the 30’s he read a long forgotten book called “The Rookie” about a kid from the sticks who was constantly berated by his manager and teammates until, over the course of the season, he taught them how to win and lead them to a championship. Dad referred to the book each spring when he identified the youngster who he was sure would lead the Sox to their first world title of his lifetime. These youngsters included Wilton Veras, Brian Rose, Frankie Rodriguez, Julio Valdez, Chico Walker and Mike Paxton.
I was in the movie theater parking lot in Randolph when I learned Iglesias had been swapped for Jake Peavy. I knew that, while I visited my father each day, picked up his medication, his food, took him to his appointments, and helped him during various nursing home stints, he would have been happier if I had been shipped to the Tigers rather than the Rookie. “It’s too bad the kid isn’t there,” my father said watching the 2013 parade.
In honor of my father, I am searching for years’ youngster who he would have loved and rooted for no matter how often the Rookie failed. My list includes:
Michael Chavis: Chavis is the odds-on favorite to be the camp phenom. Despite missing part of 2016 season, he has risen rapidly through the system since after being selected in the first round in 2014. The 22-year-old is blocked by Rafael Devers at third base, but he began playing first during the Arizona Fall League. What will keep him in AAA is having to learn a new position. A dominant spring by Chavis will keep Red Sox fans checking Pawtucket stats and begin an early season demand to give the kid a chance.
Esteban Quiroz: With Dustin Pedroia injured and Edwin Nunez’s health a question mark second base could be wide open and the middle infielder signed as a free agent from Mexico has a chance to shine. Right now the 5’7 Quiroz is the poor man’s Jose Altuve. Quiroz’s training camp will determine how poor that man is. A .300 spring average, speed, and solid fielding could thrust Quiroz to the top of the second base depth chart. Quiroz is like a lucha libre superstar given one match at Summer Slam to prove his worth. He can either be a star in Boston or a curtain jerker in Pawtucket.
Chandler Shepherd: At 6’3 and 185 pounds he looks like a pitcher. He has a great baseball/pornstar name. He topped out at 95 mph and averaged a strikeout an inning in Pawtucket last year. Nothing creates spring training buzz like a string of K’s. He is the likeliest candidate to attract attention in camp because he is being stretched out to be a starter. Relievers are like outside offensive linemen; they only get attention when they fail. It would only take a few successful spring outings for people to start demanding Shepherd be brought north.
Jeremy Barfield: Make no mistake, Jeremy Barfield will not impact the 2018 Red Sox. He was signed to fill out the minor league roster and probably had the promise of a spring training invite in his contract. Barfield is someone who could impress by bashing other teams’ minor league pitchers late in spring training games, putting up impressive numbers and making the roster only to be sent down after a 0-5 on Patriots’ Day and never seeing Fenway again.
Blake Swihart: He is far from being a rookie, but a solid spring would secure Swihart a roster spot and bring hope that the Swihart of 2015 has returned giving the team a third catcher/reserve outfielder with pop off the bench. I am not crazy about playing him at second. Defensively we are better off putting Betts back at second, Swihart in left with Benintendi and Bradley in the other two slots. While age-wise Swihart is not in Grady Sizemore land, he is there baseball-wise. Swihart could be the feel-good story of the spring
Come on guys, one of you make Dad proud.