By Ted Gay – @TedG63
I am hesitant to disagree with our senior writer, Terry Cushman, who wrote in this space that Jackie Bradley would be dealt by midseason but I forecast not only will JBJ be running down balls at Fenway in the postseason but he will be the key to the Red Sox success.
I believe that all three Boston outfielders will improve at the plate this season now that they are no longer under the thumb of Burgermeister meisterfarrel and the “win, dance and repeat” will give the Sox an edge over the Bronx bashers. Mookie Betts is considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, Bradley’s glove is an extra-base killer while Andrew Benintendi is developing into a top left fielder.
Outfield defense is like special teams in football. No one pays attention until it fails. With “lift” being the hitting technique of the moment more balls are going to be hit to the outfield and having three defensive specialists are going to be invaluable. Run prevention became a joke when the Sox previously tried to implement it as a philosophy thanks to Dan Shaughnessy and the talk radio stooges but preventing a run is as valuable as plating one and Boston’s outfield should prevent more runs than any outfield in the game.
Stephen Drew is the perfect example of how the defense is dismissed in Boston. During 2013, while the writers and talk shows demanded Drew be benched, inside the clubhouse there was nothing but praise for the steady shortstop. His range, his arm, and his experience held together our last championship teams’ infield defense. While he could be a rally killer on offense, he did the same on defense which is why he wears a championship ring.
That is not to say Alex Cora should write out a lineup based on defense every day. It is the least important of the triumvirate of talents that composes a baseball team.. If JBJ is dancing around the Mendoza line come Memorial Day outfield defense becomes a luxury that can no longer be afforded. If that happens my prediction that the Red Sox will win the East becomes less likely.
When I stare into my broken, hazy, often wrong crystal ball I see Bradley continuing to be a dominant presence in centerfield while returning to the hitting form he showed in 2016. The Red Sox tiny dancing outfielders should turn more hits into outs than the Yankees even with brilliant Aaron Hicks in center field, and match them run for run. Aaron Judge will outslug Betts in right field, but Betts will continue to be Roberto Clemente to Judge’s Frank Howard.in every other aspect of the game.
With the Yankees wanted power, Chris Sale, new managers, stocked bullpens, and skyrocketing payrolls the entire season could rest on the Jackie Bradley’s shoulders.
If that scares you, then this season might be a bumpy ride.
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