Less than two years ago, Will Middlebrooks was the starting third baseman for the World Series Champs, the 2013 Boston Red Sox (remember that obstruction call that ended the Game 4?). The organization looked at him as one of the top prospects after he had a decent freshman season in 2012, that even ended up being a factor into the Kevin Youkilis trade. However, after struggles and injuries on 2013 and 2014, he got traded to the San Diego Padres for Ryan Hanigan. Middlebrooks' story is the classic example of an over-hyped prospect not living up to the expectations from fans and media. At some point this season, several websites were comparing Middlebrooks to Pablo Sandoval but the 2012 rookie spent the remainder of the season with the Padres AAA-Afiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Photo by Jorge Camargo
As I've mentioned in some of my previous articles, I'm currently living in El Paso so I attend to several games of the Chihuahuas. This past weekend the team played their first playoff series ever and I went to the game trying to get an interview with Middlebrooks. Even though he was kind of friendly at the beginning, as soon as he felt that I am a Red Sox fan he hesitated to give me an interview with the excuse that he didn't have time. Of course the situation was understable since he was preparing for a playoff game, but the whole situation got me thinking. Did he really hesitate because he had no time, or because he knew that I am a Red Sox fan and Red Sox Nation gave him a hard time while he was here? Middlebrooks continued to sign autographs for the fans that arrived early while I was still standing next to him, until a kid handed him a Topps card from his 2012 season. He just stared at it for a couple of seconds before signing it and the kid asked him if something was wrong, but Middlebrooks silently continued to sign baseballs and cards. Watching him be friendly with the fans and media just brought more questions to my head. Does he miss wearing a Red Sox uniform? Would Pablo Sandoval be that amiable if he was sent down to AAA thanks to his perfomance? Would I be standing a few feet away from him if he didn't reject the idea of playing Winter Ball last season? Maybe I was just overthinking the whole thing, but stuff like this always makes me wonder and ask the inevitable "what if...?" question. For a moment I wished that he was still with the Red Sox, until I remembered his numbers and attitude at the end of last season.
When Middlebrooks was asked about how he felt when the Red Sox signed Sandoval, he gave the following answer. “It wasn’t fun, knowing my role going forward was as a utility player and backup. “I didn’t want that. I didn’t know what to want. I’d never been in that position. “So when the trade happened, it was a bittersweet feeling. I loved my time in Boston. I loved my teammates, my coaches, the staff. But for my career going forward, it was a great opportunity.” I wonder if he still sees it as a bittersweet feeling, and not as a relief for him and the team.
Do you think Will Middlebrooks can bounce back to the player he was back in 2012? Leave your comments below and don't forget to follow us on Twitter at @RedSoxLife and follow me at @iamjorgecamargo for more Red Sox stuff.