I’ll give you a hint. Player A is the best player on the best team in baseball and Player B is the best player in baseball: Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. Betts’ numbers are still this close to, and in some cases better than, Trout’s even after missing 19 games earlier this season. But Betts is producing these numbers on a team that is 37 games over .500 with the best record and most runs scored in baseball, and Trout is on a team that is struggling to stay over the .500 mark and is in a division with the Astros and Mariners.
This conversation has come back up after Betts came to the plate with the Red Sox down 2-1 and the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. He concluded the at bat which lasted over seven minutes and consisted of 13 pitches by golfing a ball below his knees over the National Car Rental sign on the Green Monster for a grand slam.
Can we really be surprised anymore when Mookie does something remarkable? When he comes up in a big situation, he is expected to deliver. It is more of a surprise when he doesn’t. A laser single off the monster in his next at bat even seemed underwhelming, even though it was just another instance of him coming through when the team needed him to.
But the grand slam at bat was a perfect example of a Major League hitter making adjustments on the fly. Mookie came into the at bat 5-31 in his career against J.A. Happ, who seems to have his number. But the ever-optimistic Dennis Eckersley was ready for something big and pointed out that it was the perfect spot for Mookie.
After seeing the first pitch, Betts began to dial in and wait for something with which he could do some damage. He was behind on the 1-1 offering, which provided a speck of doubt about whether he would ever figure out Happ. But he was gifted an early birthday present by Justin Smoak, who dropped his foul popup down the right field line, which let him get more comfortable against Happ and see what he was really bringing. And for the next eight pitches, Mookie just kept tipping them foul and not offering at pitches too far out of the zone. All the while, the crowd – and Eckersley, who wanted to party – was just getting more and more giddy.
“Here we go! It’s time to party. Right here,” is what Eckersley all but demanded of Betts before the 3-2 pitch, Happ’s 46th of the inning, and the 13th of the at bat. And party they did, as Mookie sent the ball soaring deep to left field. Then there was pandemonium – the kind that can only be caused by a beloved athlete in the greatest sports town there is. Dave O’Brien went crazy, Eckersley finally got his party, beat reporters were saying it was the loudest they’ve heard Fenway in a long time, and Mookie jumped up and down all the way around the bases. He had come through in the biggest situation of the game yet again.
So why doesn’t Mookie Betts get as much attention in the national media as players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Aaron Judge? This at bat just showed how important Mookie Betts is to the Red Sox and to baseball as a whole. He brings electric excitement and produces at a higher level than 99% of the league. To anyone who says he just isn’t as exciting, or doesn’t have the kind of personality that the others have, I would show them a clip of him as soon as the ball left the bat. He knew where that ball was going.
This was at the end of an at bat where he just grinded through pitch after pitch and didn’t give up. It was a microcosm of this Red Sox season as a whole. They have games where it will be rough going at the beginning, but they will just keep on fighting no matter what. It’s similar to the 2013 season, and we all know how that ended.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter that the rest of the league doesn’t appreciate this guy. We appreciate him in Boston, and we know that what the Red Sox have in him isn’t something that comes around just every day. He is the epitome of the perfect five-tool player and the Red Sox haven’t had a player this good in a long time. They can never let him leave. He deserves all of the money that he asks for.
Because with Mookie Betts on your team, it will always be time to party.
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