when Jackie Bradley Jr. was a bum who couldn’t hit? It wasn’t
all that long ago when that was the general consensus of a very large portion
of Red Sox Nation, where patience is not always a strong suit.
A year ago
today (May 10), Bradley was called up from Pawtucket and given what appeared to
be one last chance — off the bench — with the big club from then-general
manager Ben Cherington. That shot with Boston lasted exactly 11 at bats before
Cherington shipped JBJ back to the minors with little to no trade value.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
patience with Bradley (pictured) had apparently ran out after he went 0 for 11 before the
demotion on May 22, and writers had their baseball intelligence questioned (to
put it mildly) when they suggested the Red Sox not give up on the best
defensive center fielder to wear a Boston uniform since Fred Lynn.
matter that four of those 11 at bats, which came in 13 plate appearances, were on
the road against Oakland’s Sonny Gray (not the version we saw Monday). It
didn’t matter that three were in Seattle against Felix Hernandez.
didn’t stick with Bradley for 22 at bats because he was panicking since he knew
his job was on the line. Less than a year earlier, Cherington proved he didn’t really
have what it takes to be a GM in the big leagues by giving up on 21-year-old
Xander Bogaerts at shortstop by throwing money at Stephen Drew in the middle of
perhaps the biggest reason Cherington did not even try to keep Jacoby Ellsbury
after the 2013 season. Maybe Cherington thought 541 career at bats should have
been more than enough to prove the GM made the right move to let the
injury-prone Ellsbury limp to the Bronx.
What is even
more puzzling was that Cherington let everybody and his brother not named
Jackie Bradley Jr. play in the Boston outfield.
71 games (318 at bats) in Pawtucket in 2015, Bradley hit .305 with nine home
runs, 12 doubles and 29 RBIs.
eventually got another shot with the Red Sox, and he proved he could hit in the
big leagues. His batting average rose from miniscule to .249 by the end of the
season. He hit 10 home runs, 17 doubles and drove in 43 runs.
83-at-bat stretch late last season, Bradley, who for some reason wasn’t playing
in center field, hit .446 with 24 extra-base hits and a 1.441 OPS.
time Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who discussed
trading for Bradley when he ran the Tigers, mandated JBJ be permanently moved
back to center field.
though Bradley was crushing it at the end of last season, naysayers were still
saying nay. They cautioned not to, for some reason, put any stock into his numbers
May now, and it is time for JBJ backers like Dombrowski to say “I told you so.”
It’s time for those who doubted him to say, “Yes, yes you did, and I was wrong.”
absolutely on fire, and, excluding the ageless David Ortiz, JBJ might be the
best player on the first-place Red Sox. He at least has been over the last
he got off to a slow start at the bottom of the order, Bradley’s average is now
.303 after a league-best 15-game hitting streak.
Whitehead points out in a piece about “Jacoby DLsbury” injured again, Bradley’s
batting average rose from .222 while hitting 21 for 52 (.382) with four
doubles, three triples, four home runs and 17 RBIs during the hitting streak.
That is no
weak streak. That is a bona fide tear. It might even be time for the Red Sox to
move Bradley up in the order. Perhaps he should trade spots with Mookie Betts,
who isn’t hitting like he will just yet?
least a thought worth discussing.
also giving the Red Sox Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field — even
though he dropped a fly ball Monday night. Of course, we could forgive one
defensive miscue on a night when Bradley went 3 for 6 with six RBIs and an
electrifying, although wind-aided, grand slam.
By now JBJ
has, hopefully, proven once and for all that he is here to stay, and the Red
Sox will send him out to center field every day for the next 5 to 10 years.
So go ahead
and admit it; you were wrong about Bradley. Then I’ll admit that I just might
be wrong in my defense of Clay Buchholz.