By Aaron Jackson
Panic – It’s defined as a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.
In Red Sox terms these days it’s described as Holt, Brock. Or Shaw, Travis.
I’m not going to devote much time to the decision to start Brock Holt, because that’s a topic for another day. Let’s talk a little bit about the situation at third base.
Yes, Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox highly paid third baseman, came into camp fat. Spoiler alert! He’s always been fat! His nickname is the Kung Fu Panda. That’s never stopped him from being a guy that has topped the .300 mark 3 times in his career. It never stopped him from being a playoff hero in 2012 and 2014, both times leading his Giants to World Series titles.
John Farrell is managing for his job, and he’s panicking. He’s taking a guy that has shown he can’t handle being an everyday player long term (Holt) and starting him in left most nights. He’s taking a guy who often struggled against minor league pitching (Shaw) and making him the starter at 3rd because he didn’t show up to camp fat and for two months last year he showed that maybe, just maybe he could be a productive major league player. Ask Will Middlebrooks how that works out for you. Their numbers are identical over the first 65 games of their major league career.
Look, I like Travis Shaw. I met him when he came here on behalf of 92.9 The Ticket this offseason. I hope like heck he becomes an all-star caliber player. But Shaw has been in Maine before, and it didn’t go well. He spent a big chunk of his 2012 and 2013 season at Hadlock Field in Portland, playing for the Sea Dogs. While there, he batted .227 and .221 respectively. Certainly doesn’t sound like major league level talent does it?
I can hear you now. “Shaw proved this spring that he belongs in the majors!” Sure, he had a good start to spring training. Then Farrell announced there would be a competition for the starting job and from that point forward he had 2 hits in 21 at bats including an 0 for 18 stretch. Perhaps the pressure of March games in Fort Myers got to him a little bit?
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room. Pablo Sandoval was not good in his first year with the Red Sox. But baseball is full of productive players that have aberrations, years that are outliers. Isn’t it entirely possible that last year was just that for him? Let’s take a look at some numerical comparisons for a couple of other Red Sox third basemen.
.236 AVG, 8 HR, 58 RBI, .298 OBP in 2005 – 500 AB
.265 AVG, 8 HR, 44 RBI, .304 OBP in 2009 – 449 AB
.245 AVG, 10 HR, 47 RBI, .292 OBP in 2015 – 470 AB
The first player? Mike Lowell with the Florida Marlins. The second is Adrian Beltre with the Seattle Mariners. Both players were DONE according to fans and scouts, but the Red Sox took a chance on them, brought them in to play third, and guess what? They both had multiple all-star caliber years after.
The third player is Pablo Sandoval last year. Certainly gives you a little perspective doesn’t it? And all of this is without even getting into the fact that Shaw and Holt on the bench provide some roster flexibility, while Pablo and Rusney Castillo offer next to none.
Again, I hope it works out for Shaw. I really do. But history suggests that 3 years from now Pablo Sandoval will still be playing productive baseball, while Shaw will be the guy that no one remembers.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter)is a Co-Host on The Drive 4pm-6pm weekdays on 92.9fm The Ticket. Follow The Drive @929TheDrive on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook, 92.9 The Drive. Stream The Drive live on 929TheTicket.com