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Good to see Jacoby Ellsbury in leading role

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 16, 2012 10:39 AM

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Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

ellsburyjacobyfinn716.jpg1. I suppose the five hits he has in nine at-bats since his return to the lineup has served as a reminder, but I thought not enough was made of Jacoby Ellsbury's absence and the effect it had on the Red Sox. Based on MVP balloting, he was the best offensive player in the league last season, and his numbers (212 hits, 32 homers, 46 doubles, 39 stolen bases, .928 OPS) stand as a historically great season. Future NL-pinch-hitter-extraordinaire Daniel Nava filled in beyond expectations in Ellsbury and Carl Crawford's absence, and Scott Podsednik had his moments, but the Red Sox also had to endure 268 mostly fruitless at-bats from Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish while biding their time until the varsity (copyright Larry Lucchino) returned. Seeing Ellsbury back at the top of the lineup makes it easier to have optimism about this team without searching too hard for it.

2. A three-run homer every once in a while would be swell, but any grievances regarding Adrian Gonzalez should stop well shy of suggesting he's jaking it by missing games due to illness and a back issue recently. He's a player who prides himself of being in there every day -- the fewest games he's played any season among the previous five is 159. He may be a disappointment, but he's not a malingerer.

3. One way to kill time before the start of Patriots camp, which can't get here soon enough: Stare at the depth chart, rattle off the names, and marvel at the talent Tom Brady will have at his disposal this season in the passing game alone: Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, Julian Edelman, as well as Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. There will be attrition, of course, and someone like Stallworth may not even make the cut. The passing game probably won't be as productive as the record-setting Randy Moss/Wes Welker fireworks show of 2007, but it will be able to torment a defense in more ways.

4. As far as the running backs beyond Woodhead are concerned, you have to figure Stevan Ridley, who suffered from acute fumbleitis late in his rookie season, will pick up most of BenJarvus Green-Ellis's carries, presuming he spent the offseason carrying a football everywhere he went like Darnell Jefferson in the "The Program.'' I can't envision Joseph Addai being anything more than the new Fred Taylor. Shane Vereen, whose rookie season was lost from the beginning, is my sleeper. The kid is electric in the open field.

5. Bruins one-timer: I'm probably in the minority on this, but I'd rather trade Milan Lucic than David Krejci in a deal for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan or another top-shelf forward. As enigmatic as Krejci can be -- he reminds me of Rajon Rondo in that regard to some degree -- he also has a track record of playing his best when the spotlight is brightest. But if it's Krejci or Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, forget it.

6. The theory that he was having ex-Celtics Remorse is interesting, and Ray Allen was certainly subdued at his introductory press conference (perhaps he was expecting a house DJ and maybe some pyrotechnics?) but it's hard for me to figure anyone going to Miami for millions of dollars to play with LeBron James is going to be bummed about much of anything for long.

mantlemickeyfinn.jpg7. As you probably can imagine, I can't get over the story about the haul of rare baseball cards found in someone's attic in Ohio. It's every baseball fan's daydream. Or a fan of loot and money, for that matter. I spent hours as a kid scouring my grandmother's attic trying to find my dad's extensive collection of '50s baseball cards, with not a trace of vintage '52 cardboard to be found. We all have a similar story, don't we? I can tell you this: Those cards, estimated to be bring $3 million if they are sold or auctioned, will go for a lot more than that. I'd bet double.

8. So assuming that Andrew Bailey returns to the Red Sox while the games still matter this season, is he the closer immediately, does he have to prove himself in a setup role first, or has Alfredo Aceves done enough to keep it? I'm leaning toward the latter, though there are fantasy baseball biases at play there.

9. Brent Lillibridge has a minus-33 OPS+ in 16 plate appearances for the Red Sox. It's a puny sample-size to be sure, but I look at his career 67 OPS+ in 600 at-bats -- not a puny sample size -- and I find myself hoping that the Red Sox don't ditch Ryan Sweeney to keep Lillibridge around, even considering his speed and defensive prowess. For some noodle-bat perspective, Craig Grebeck had a minus-55 OPS+ during his 43 plate-appearances with the Red Sox in 2001, while Cesar Crespo put up a beastly minus-4 OPS+ in 79 plate appearances in 2003.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

rosscodyfinn716.jpg

Still waiting for Lucchino's report on how "cheerful" he was after Bobby Valentine called him out for a lackadaisical defensive play Sunday.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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