Ellsbury returns - boo or cheer? Three reasons to do both.

Jim Monaghan
Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy ESPN.com
When the Red Sox welcome the New York Yankees into Fenway Park this evening for the first of three games this week, it will mark the return of former Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, the latest in a long line of former Red Sox players who've crossed over enemy lines to join the Yankees.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 23rd round back in 2002 just after high school, he opted not to sign and was subsequently taken by the Red Sox with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft. He made his major league debut on June 30, 2007 going 1-for-4 in Boston's 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers at Fenway.

Almost immediately apparent was the skill set Ellsbury brought to the team. Many long-time Red Sox observers were hard-pressed to come up with another player drafted and developed by the team who possessed Ellsbury's unique skill set. Once he signed with agent Scott Boras, those same long-time observers knew it was only a matter of time before Ellsbury would leave the team as a free agent.

The reaction he receives from the Fenway Park crowd this evening is sure to be a mix of cheers and boos.

1) 2007 - Ellsbury electrified the team during parts of the regular season and his stellar play in the post-season had fans clamoring for him to be in the lineup in place of Coco Crisp. If 2004 broke the 86-year championship drought, 2007 proved it wasn't a fluke and Ellsbury was a big part of that.
2) 2011 - during the horrific September collapse (no, I won't bring up chicken or beer), Ellsbury put together an MVP-type season.
3) 2013 - he was an integral part of the team's recovery from the 2012 disaster, resulting in a 3rd World Series championship in nine years.

1) - just look at the uniform he's wearing.
2) - he's exactly what the team is missing right now: a steady lead-off hitter who plays great defense.
3) - see #1 above

As for me personally? I'll be cheering, but know that there will be some VERY mixed emotions. While with the team Ellsbury was hands-down my favorite player. If I could have traded places with anyone on the planet for 24 hours back in 2011, it would have been him.

And while he never stated that he wouldn't sign with the Yankees, for the 10-year old fan still living inside me, seeing him in those pinstripes does sting a bit. That said, the adult in me thinks the Red Sox made the right financial decision letting him walk. The 7-year deal the Yankees signed him to may be a positive in the short run, but the back end of that contract could be VERY ugly for New York. I'll be happy to take my chances with Jackie Bradley Jr. as he continues to mature into an everyday player.

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