Why does it take an executive order to get Mookie Betts to steal a base?
That’s basically what happened in the first inning of
yet another impossible-to-watch Red Sox loss Wednesday afternoon in Minnesota.
Red Sox Nation President Jerry Remy apparently had
enough watching Betts park himself on first base and said he’d really, really
like to see Mookie steal a base to try to jump start the struggling team. A
batter later, as if he was listening to the NESN color man, Betts easily swiped
It was Betts’ sixth stole base of the season. Yes six.
Let that sink in for a minute. Six stolen bases.
The speedy Betts has just six steals in seven attempts
through 46 games, and two of them came in one play. That’s only four more
attempts than the jogging Hanley Ramirez.
As a team, the Red Sox have 15 stolen bases on 20
attempts this season. The Yankees have twice the steal attempts.
Whatever happened to the aggressive John Farrell who
brought the double steal to Fenway with him when he managed the Blue Jays? Now
it is like he has Billy Beane looking over his shoulder.
The last time the Red Sox had an offense that wasn’t
impossible to watch was in 2013, when Jacoby Ellsbury was the lead-off hitter. He hit
.298 and got on base at a .355 clip.
More importantly, Ellsbury was a threat to steal every
time he reached base. He stole 52 bases and drew attention from pitchers on
Since Ellsbury took the money and ran to the Bronx,
the Red Sox haven’t had anybody even remotely threaten a stolen base.
Before going on the disabled list, Ellsbury stole 14
bases in 37 games this season. The pressure Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, who has
12 steals, put on opposing pitchers is a big reason the Yankees got off to a
When they were winning before Ellsbury went on
the DL with a knee injury, the Yankees were leading 1-0 in the first inning
almost every game. That’s how the Red Sox were with Ellsbury at the top of
The 2015 Red Sox, on the other hand, are trailing in
the first inning almost every game. Thanks to Joe Kelly et al, it is often been
by a touchdown.
You don’t have to be Harrold Reynolds to know that
stealing bases makes things harder on the opposing pitchers. It also makes
things easier for the batter. Stolen bases lead to more fast balls. They also
lead to rushed fastballs that tend to straighten out and miss their location. Stolen bases lead to more runs, and boy could the Red
Sox use more of those.
More runs means less pressure on pitchers like Kelly
who have the stuff but lack the makeup. The old saying says speed never goes into a slump. Well,
it sure does if you just park that speed on first base while waiting for the
two-run home run that is never coming.
Betts has scored just 20 runs while batting at the top
of the order most of the season. That’s not going to cut it.
Changing the lineup around isn’t cutting it for
Farrell, either. The Red Sox need a change of philosophy. Giving Betts, who
stole 33 bases in 99 games in the minors last season, the green light and a
kick in the butt is a good start.
If the Red Sox aren’t going to take advantage of all
that Betts has to offer, they might as well include him in a trade for pitching.