Playing nine innings while still believing the Red Sox can win the AL East despite the skeptical math ...
1. It's easy to have quite a lot of sympathy for Grady Sizemore even though, as one of the crew at Over the Monster pointed out, he's made $30 million in his career. That kind of money, presuming he still has a good chunk of it, allows you to sleep easier even when all of those what-ifs are rattling around in your head at night.
Still, I do feel bad for the guy. The comeback, so promising in Fort Myers, just hasn't taken root. He struggles to pull the ball. He's not hitting with any power at all. He's 31 years old, and he looks exactly like he did when he was 24, one of the most complete players in the game, and on his way to making, well, hell, maybe $300 million.
The only time he doesn't look just like his younger, five-tool All-Star self is when he's on the baseball field. The results just are not there.
The end reminds me a lot of that for his No. 2 career comp, the slightly more durable and less talented Trot Nixon.
Nixon's last decent season came at age 31, when he had an .804 OPS for the '05 Sox. The next year, he hit just 8 homers in 453 plate appearances. The year after that, he hit .224 with three homers as Sizemore's teammate in Cleveland. Eleven games and a .171 batting average for the 2008 Mets in '08 punctuated Nixon's injury-plagued, too-short career.
An abrupt end -- whether for Sizemore, Nixon, or any other ballplayer who loses his skills to injury or time -- is a cruel fate no matter how lucrative it has been, and unless the Red Sox are blinded by what he used to be rather than what he is, it sure looks like his days are numbered once Shane Victorino comes back, >as Eric Wilbur wrote yesterday.
Even though he's shown very little to suggest that he can help this team, and his presence has contributed to Daniel Nava's brutal first half, I still hope they find a way to hide him away, maybe get him some at-bats in Pawtucket if he's willing to go there. Sometimes it's difficult for us to acknowledge it's not going to get any better, too.
2. All right, I know I've got the label as the Stephen Drew Guy, and I wear it with proper facetiousness. He doesn't always make it easy. Dude is streaky.
Have to admit, though, I honestly do not understand why so many have been unconditionally opposed to his return and are beginning the I-told-you-so dance before he's had a chance to get going.
I get wishing the $10 million savings in Dempster Bucks could be dedicated to a righthanded-hitting outfielder with pop. They need one of those, maybe two. (All right. Three.)
But the notion that Drew is something less than a good player at a difficult and important position is wrong, and anyone who paid attention during over the entirety 2013 season knows better.
Yes, he had a brutal offensive postseason, and that's what many (choose to) remember.
It's weird how he's treated as if he cost them something when he helped win them something; it's a fair bet that they aren't World Series champs without him.
He was one of the best offensive shortstops in the league, particularly against righthanded pitching, and his defensive stability was crucial. You watched. You know this. You dismiss it because it fails to fit the narrative, I guess.
You shouldn't be rooting for him to fail just because you were wrong about him last year. You should be rooting for him to be what he was a year ago.
3. Through 30 games, Brock Holt, who had two more hits last night, is batting .341. Through 42 games in 2012, Pedro Ciriaco was hitting -- are you ready for this? -- .360. Holt will eventually find his level too, but we can say this for sure: He's a much, much better offensive player than Ciriaco because of his on-base skills, and as I mentioned a week or so ago, if you believe Holt's incredible feats are sustainable, I'll give you some support by pointing out that his career is not in a particularly different space than Bill Mueller's was in 1996.
4. Had no idea Mookie Betts was related to former Red Sox infielder Terry Shumpert until reading colleague Julian Benbow's excellent profile of the surging prospect in the Globe last week. Shumpert, who was one of about 40 former Rated Rookies who took a spin on the Dan Duquette Roster Carousel in 1995, supplied a .592 OPS for the AL East champs that season. Few would have suspected that four years later, at age 32, he'd go .357/413/.584 with 10 homers in 304 plate appearances for the 1999 Rockies. By the way, weird seeing someone else wearing No. 2 for the Yankees, isn't it? Derek Jeter was high school junior in Kalamazoo when this card came out.
5. A tip of the Bud Light case/hat to Jonathan Papelbon, who collected his 300th career save last night, tying Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter and Jason Isringhausen for the 24th most all-time. That tandem is a good indicator of the elite and not-so-elite company Papelbon now finds himself among. He's 10 saves behind Goose Gossage ... and 11 ahead of Armando Benitez. Papelbon's first 219 saves came during his seven mostly excellent seasons with the Red Sox. There's no doubt they got the best years of his career, and at a much better rate than what the Phillies are paying him. Funny, but wasn't it about this time last year that, in the aftermath of the Joel Hanrahan/Andrew Bailey injuries, some actually wanted the Red Sox to reacquire him?
6. For a guy who nearly died as a young man from a beaning, Don Zimmer sure did lead a blessed baseball life. Best of all, he knew it. He seemed a good man who, because of a generational gap and a completely understandable (if latent) distrust of pitchers, wasn't a particularly good manager. That may not be the kindest eulogy. But it's an honest one.
7. Right now, seeing Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman listed in the pitching probables is a hell of a lot more appealing than seeing the names of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. Feel free to stay a little longer in Pawtucket, fellas. Maybe rent a duplex, stay through July, see the sights, check out the Rhode Island Watercolor
8. The temptation is to get all righteous and suggest Manny Machado is a childish dope and declare I wouldn't trade Xander Bogaerts for two of him and all of that. But the reality is that he's a 21-year-old with a short but decent track record of carrying himself well and who, because he's still worried about his knee, overreacted when he fell awkwardly after Josh Donaldson's hard but harmless tag. It's not an excuse for his stupid bat-throwing episode. But it's an explanation, and one that isn't that hard to understand.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
To be fair to the budding artist who expertly magic-markered that batting helmet, this card did come out -- accompanied by delicious and healthy Twinkies -- 13 years before Adobe Photoshop was invented.