Because things often get posted out of context or get misinterpreted, here is a excerpt from the WEEI story that explains that "lost his fire" comment. In it, he also says he didn't get complacent.
Competition, he explained, wasn't the reason he found himself playing well enough to make Kevin Youkilis expendable a season ago, and isn't what will pull his batting average.
"Yeah, everyone has different buttons to push. I'm just a competitive person when it comes down to it. It doesn't matter if it's for a job. I feel like I kind of got away from that," Middlebrooks said. "I don't know if I got complacent, I wouldn't call it that. But I just kind of lost that edge for a little bit. I don't know if it was because I was dealing with injuries and thinking about that stuff, and just not locked into, 'I'm going to kick that guy's a ss' every pitch. That's who I am. That's who I've always been. Pitch by pitch, you're not going to beat me this pitch. And if you do, I'm going to get your a ss next pitch. That's it. Move on. I got away from that mentality."
As Middlebrooks speaks, it's easy to buy what he's selling.
It's easy to understand that his own internal fire -- the one he said had been inexplicably doused -- is what is now steering him, not the presence of Iglesias. It's what is driving up his blood pressure with each word, and why he felt obligated to write the word "compete" on the inside of his glove.
It's not like he needs a reminder, but after what transpired earlier in the season, Middlebrooks is leaving nothing to chance.
"I lost that little spark, that fire, coming in and being pissed for no other reason than they're trying to beat me today. I'm getting that back," he said. "I went 1-for-7 the other day, and I felt [expletive] good because I left the game knowing I was competing. I had that little fire back in me and it's starting to get going again. Does that mean I'm going to go on a streak of hitting .500 the next two weeks? Probably not, because that's hard to do. But those completive juices are back flowing. I cleared my head, and I'm getting healthy again."
Middlebrooks has only played in two games since coming back from the 15-day disabled list, but he clearly has used those two games as his springboard to fixing what he felt had been broken.
Perhaps is was the time away from the lineup, or maybe it was getting the chance to observe and reflect while not having results define each day. But he can now admit, and identify, the differences in his approach and his demeanor. It was the kind of self-evaluation that had been percolating with each passing game.
"I knew it," Middlebrooks said. "I'd sit here after games, be frustrated, beating the crap out of myself about it because I knew it. I would come in here after every game and think about the game. When I'm done with the game, after I come in, I'll spend about five, 10 minutes … I'll come in here and be in my uniform. I just come in, I think about the game and what went on, and when I get up, I'm done with it. That way I can move on to the next day. That's my time, when I come in and evaluate what I did, what I could do different, what they tried to do to me.
"I think I lost the confidence. I was struggling. I'd struggled, but never really on this stage, dealing with stuff in my body. I just kind of got down and it sucked. It was frustrating. Snowball effect."
And if there is any doubt about the mindset, the reminder on the inside of his glove serves as a fail-safe.
"That's who I am. When I'm at my best, I'm just competing and I'm going to kick somebody's a ss," Middlebrooks said. "I'm not worried about Joe [expletive] the barber in the stands, the umpire calling stuff a couple of inches off the plate. ... I'm not even worried about my approach. I'm just seeing the ball and trying to beat his a ss. He's trying to beat me. It's as simple as that."
Contrary to comments on this thread, Middlebrooks wasn't handed the 3B job. He earned it last year in 85 games, which isn't a small sample. It's like any other position, he earned the job with his play so the next year, he goes into the season as a starter. That's not being "handed" the job.
Now, like any other player, if he doesn't produce, it reaches a point where decisons have to be made. In these situations, being patient tends to pay bigger dividends that having a short leash. Because of his play, Iggy has earned playing time at the expense of Drew and Middlebrooks so Middlebrooks has already seen a cutback in his playing time.
But Middlebrooks' potentials payoff as a RH power hitter makes it worth staying patient with him. I didn't like his comment earlier about him being a power hitter and ot changing his approach, but lately it seems like he has learned his lesson. His last homer was to right and last night, he went the opposite way at least once. So it looks like he isn't trying to pull everything.
It will reach a point where th Sox might need to find a replacement for Middlebrooks for the stretch run, but I think it's worth letting it play out a little longer and continue the Iggy-Middlebrooks-Drew platoon.