If you weren’t paying attention to the Red Sox this holiday weekend (and bless you if that’s the case), you missed the 2013 World Champs hit last place, drifting further into baseball oblivion. The Sox dropped two of three to the Baltimore Orioles, needing a broken bat bleeder from Jonathan Herrera, the last man on their roster and since farmed out, to avoid two straight sweeps at Fenway Park. The beat went on last night in the form of yet another dull, listless performance, a 4-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox in which Boston managed a measly two hits. The Sox are now 1-6 on their current 10-game home stand and have scored three runs or less in 22 of their last 34 games.
Amidst the ongoing slide to the bottom of the barrel however, one tiny little beam seemed to begin flickering from the wreckage of this year. Jackie Bradley Jr.’s bat at last looks like it’s starting to catch up to his sensational glove. Finally, something may be looking up.
This isn’t to suggest that Bradley can or will save this doomed season. And seeing as how every time it looks like things may be starting to go right for this baseball team it then quickly slides right back down the hill, there’s every chance that calling attention to Bradley’s recent success at the plate will result in another massive slump. But given the kid’s immense struggles with the bat pretty much since Opening Day, he deserves any and all plaudits tossed his way.
Entering last night, Bradley was hitting .455 for the month, with a tremendous (albeit small sample-sized) 1.136 OPS. He’d posted consecutive multi-hit games, the first time he’d accomplished that since May 27-28 against the Braves. And perhaps most impressive of all, since sitting at .202 with a .572 OPS on June 18, Bradley’s now batting .304 over his last 14 games, keeping it rolling last night by going 1-for-2 with a walk.
Great numbers? No, not really. But considering from whence he came, you have to tip your cap. Bradley’s making adjustments at the highest level in the form of a more open stance and those adjustments are not only starting to pay off, they are helping to justify keeping his name on the lineup card. It appeared for a while that Bradley’s fantastic defense, on display multiple times again over the weekend, ceased being enough reason for Sox manager John Farrell to run him out there every day. Not anymore.
In case you haven’t noticed, no one on the Sox is having a good year offensively. Most of the roster has been downright hideous. There’s a reason Jon Lester is the team’s only All-Star. And the combination of Bradley’s troubles and Farrell’s need to turn over every possible rock in search of a spark not only played into why the Grady Sizemore experiment was allowed to go on for so long but had at least a little bit to do with why top prospect Mookie Betts was called up to the big leagues during the series against the Yankees’ late last month.
But now that he seems to be figuring it out, Bradley needs to play every day. The season is going absolutely nowhere so why mess with what could potentially turn out to be a good thing? If Bradley is indeed this team’s center fielder of the future, keep running him out there. Send Betts back to Pawtucket so he can play every day too as opposed to sitting on the bench up here, as he’s done in four of the nine games since his recall, which does no one, especially Betts himself, any good.
Another option at this low, low point would be to find a winning team in need of a veteran pinch hitter and move Jonny Gomes. Then shut down Shane Victorino, who is about to attempt to return to the team for some reason, for the remainder of the year and have Betts play every day for the big club too. Daniel Nava and Brock Holt, nice players both (though Nava’s sub-.300 slugging percentage signals that his best days appear to be behind him), are not a part of the future of this club the way Bradley and Betts are. Let Nava and Holt platoon in left and right with Holt seeing time in the infield as well.
The Red Sox are a dead team. Their offense is on a historically bad pace. They are not going to get better. Every move or decision made since last winter has ranged from outright failure to complete disaster. It’s over for this group. Unless they miraculously win their next six straight heading into next week’s All-Star break, as much of the organization’s youth as is possible should be on the field at Fenway when the schedule resumes a week from Friday against the Kansas City Royals.
Put Bradley at the front of the line. His uptick may be only a couple weeks old but in a Sox season as dismal as this one that constitutes a bright light worth following.