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Touching All the Bases

Winners and Losers in the (Overdue and Welcome) Return of Stephen Drew to the Red Sox


As the official recording secretary of the Bring Back Stephen Drew fan club -- or at least that's apparently the perception, given the 253 or so messages I had yesterday afternoon when turning on my phone an hour after the news of his return broke -- I admit to some bias here.

I celebrate the Drew family's entire catalog, that's long established. Momma and Papa Drew should have had more kids for the Red Sox' sake. But facetiousness aside, I genuinely do not understand why any Red Sox fan would take issue with the decision to re-sign him.

He stabilizes the left side of the infield defensively and reunites the SS/3B pairing that did the job well during the World Series run. He costs nothing in terms of prospects. It's a one-year deal, which leaves shortstop open for Xander Bogaerts next year or Deven Marrero if his progress with the bat is legit. He hits righthanded pitching (.795 OPS for his career, .876 with a .284/.377/.498 slash line last year). He's a popular, respected teammate. He helps the Red Sox solve problems at two positions with one move.

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This makes them better now, in a division that is still there for the taking despite the Red Sox' mediocre performance through the first quarter of the schedule. And it has absolutely no impact on the future.

He should help the Red Sox, losers of five straight and certainly flawed, rediscover some of their winning form. And with that clever segue, let's consider some winners and losers from Tuesday's news, starting with these two:

WINNER: Me! Drew Celebrator!
LOSER: You! Drew Detractor!

Sorry, I held off from gloating as long as I could, Please keep reading. I won't do it again.

WINNER: The Red Sox front office: At least in terms of public perception, that is. They gave Bogaerts a reasonable sample at shortstop -- and remember, they know his strengths and flaws better than anyone -- but did not hesitate when a chance to improve the team came along, even at the expense of bruising the kid's ego. Ben Cherington acknowledged something wasn't working, found a solution at no cost to the roster, and improved the team before the first third of the season was complete. Isn't that exactly what you want your front office to do?

LOSER: Xander Bogaerts, shortstop: I'll admit, if I had written this after the news broke yesterday, I'd have said something about the silliness of worrying about Bogaerts's frame of mind. It's just a simple position change, probably temporary, and hasn't the kid already proven to be mature beyond his 21 years?

I may have even snidely noted that these guys aren't delicate flowers and too much time is spent on worrying about their frame of mind.

Ahem. Yeah, obviously, that would have been the wrong approach in this case. Bogaerts's performance (two careless errors) Tuesday as well as his semi-candid words afterward made it clear that the decision did hurt him a little bit.

That's understandable -- he's worked incredibly hard to remain at the position, felt like he was making progress, he's received votes of confidence, and suddenly, he's shifting to his right, a short move that probably feels like it is a world away.

Will he eventually move back to shortstop? He should get his chance again next season. hopefully after a winter of working on footwork and agility. He'll probably play there some this season against righthanded pitching once Middlebrooks returns. But what's happened is a reminder of ... well, let's just paraphrase that Pitt/Beane guy in Moneyball:

"Playing shortstop at the major league level isn't that hard. Tell him, Wash."

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"It's incredibly hard."

It is. Bogaerts found that out this year. Hopefully he'll get over his disappointment in a day or so, especially once he realizes this move should not preclude the Red Sox from trying him there again in the future.

WINNER: Xander Bogaerts, third baseman: His run-production and power haven't been there yet, but they will come when the weather warms up. And given that he's just 21, the .270/.372/.378 slash line -- especially that middle number -- is very encouraging. Perhaps the decreased defensive responsibility will lead to even more comfort at the plate. His season is not far off from the one Manny Machado had last year.

credeverasfinn521.JPGLOSER: Will Middlebrooks: Gammons had a quote from a scout comparing him to Joe Crede this morning. Joe Crede II, he called him. I cringed at the comp ... and then it got worse. Crede was an excellent defensive third baseman who once had a season in which he hit .283/.323/.506 with 30 homers. Middlebrooks is not a good defensive third baseman, he's injured again, he lost his job twice last season, and right now, I'm skeptical that he'll ever have a season as good as Joe Crede's best.

WINNER: The Red Sox pitching staff: Last year at roughly this time, the Red Sox were playing the defensively dazzling Jose Iglesias at third base and Drew at shortstop. I think it's fair to say the defense was, oh, let's call it considerably more suspect this year. Better yet, let's go to the ever-diplomatic Jake Peavy for his take:

I'm not saying this is a Nomar Garciaparra-to-Orlando Cabrera-level defensive upgrade. But it might be. It very well might be.

LOSER: The Yankees: Wait, they're still playing Derek Jeter, that 40-year-old living monument, at shortstop? And they've actually played Brendan Ryan, who is in the major leagues because of his steady/spectacular shortstop defense, to accommodate him? Sheesh. They should have signed Drew months ago, but they couldn't. They might have signed him had Jeter been injured. And it wouldn't surprise me if he were on their radar after the draft, when no comp pick would have been attached. More good players for the Red Sox. Fewer good players for the Yankees. Works for me.

LOSER: Scott Boras: Well, inasmuch as someone who just made a $400,000 commission (presuming a 4 percent take) despite keeping a client in limbo for three first quarter of a season can be considered a loser. I do wonder if Boras's reputation does lose some luster among the players after seeing what happened to Drew and Kendrys Morales. Better, maybe Bogaerts will ditch him as his agent after Drew ended up back here.

LOSER: Morales: The last remaining free-agent (also a Boras client) to reject a qualifying offer was said to be heard humming this upon learning Drew had returned to work:

Possibly honest trivia: That whiny lead singer was named Caillou and grew up to play for the Montreal Canadiens. (He was acquired in a trade from the Canucks.)