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Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Brock Holt Is A Useful Role Player, But Don't Let Yourself Get Ciriaco'd Again, OK?

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Well, the plan was to write about Rubby De La Rosa's impersonation of vintage Ramon Martinez -- c'mon, we're not actually doing the Pedro thing, are we? -- in his first start of the season.

But the game-plan changed after waking up to a couple variations of this sentiment in my inbox this morning:

How much of an idiot do you think Ben Cherington feels right now when he sees that he just panicked and blew $10M of John Henry’s money on Stephen Drew when Brock Holt is a better ballplayer?
-- Bob

Well, I'll start with this: I don't think Ben Cherington woke up feeling like an idiot. I suspect he's pretty happy. Has a dream job, a wife who also loves baseball, makes decent coin, his team has won six in a row, a young pitcher delivered a masterpiece in his first start, the 21-year-old phenom is becoming a superstar before our eyes ... oh, and he won a World Series seven months ago in his second year on the job.

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No, I don't think he felt like an idiot. He probably feels quite all right about the direction of his life and his baseball team.

Oh, and then there's the most important factor: He gets Stephen Drew back soon!

Yes, I'm being facetious on that last point, but really, to suggest that Drew is of some importance in Cherington's life is almost as ridiculous as the various suggestions regarding how his addition is going to hurt this team.

Or as ridiculous as suggestion Brock Holt is a superior ballplayer to Drew.

bogaertsxanderfinn61.JPGGive me a break. Holt is a useful bench player. He looks like a keeper. His minor-league on-base percentage (.372) is impressive. But he also has flaws that limit him to a utility role. He can't play shortstop defensively, his arm is good but not more than average for a third baseman, and he has little pop in his bat, with 15 homers in 2,070 minor-league plate appearances and one -- which came last night -- in 236 PAs in the big leagues.

Don't get Ciriaco'd by his hot streak. At 26 years old, he's a role player, and one who deserves a role on this team. Just not a starting one.

If anything, Red Sox fans should be pleased how it's all lining up. Drew is an excellent defensive shortstop who hammers righthanded pitching (.876 OPS last year), something they desperately need. The left side of the infield is aligned the way it was last October, with their best defensive shortstop actually playing shortstop.

And Drew's arrival actually benefits Holt, since Drew's arrival gives them two capable shortstops on the roster, meaning the former Pirate won't be exposed at that position. If anything, Jonathan Herrera is the one who could be most affected by Drew's arrival.

As for Bogaerts, the notion that moving to third is going to stunt his growth even temporarily is absurd. The Red Sox did this very thing last October and it seemed to work out OK for all involved, no?

And it's insulting to Bogaerts, who seems to have a remarkably good head on his shoulders for a 21-year-old, that some sort of mental damage will be inflicted by having him change positions for two/thirds of a season. Shifting 35 feet to his right -- and again: He's already done it! In the postseason! To great effect! -- is not the equivalent of asking Daniel Bard to change his mechanics to become a starter. He had his day of frustration when Drew was signed, got over, and went on a tear. Stop this patronizing nonsense about how it might affect him. Bogaerts, confident and mentally tough beyond his years, deserves better.

Besides, he should still play short against lefthanders, and he'll put in the time before the game to keep his skills sharp there.

Stop looking for silly concerns because of an irrational dislike for Drew, an important, peer-respected player during their championship season.

I mean, you don't hear people saying: Holt's at first base today? Whoa, hope the position change doesn't affect him at the plate!

On to ...

THE MAILBOX

Jackie Bradley's last three games; 2 hits, 2 hits, key walk to start a winning rally off Craig Kimbrel. Wishcasting here but I feel like we're going to look back on that 2 run single Tuesday night off the lefty (Avilan?) as the moment he settled in. He'll never be a great hitter but a .260/.330/.390 Jackie Bradley is a hell of a player.
-- Joe

Joe sent this one to the chat Friday. Since then, Bradley is 2 for 8 with his first homer of the season (last night), and he added a battle scar when he took a ricocheting ball off the nose while nearly making (another) impossible catch last night. He's still hitting just .207 with a .599 OPS, but he's been better, and I think your assessment of what he can -- and will be -- is spot-on. I think his OBP will be even higher than that, too. And that defense ... when you play center field the way he does, that buys you a lot of patience.

You've written recently about the Sox catching deficiencies. I agree and disagree. Yes, overall production has been disappointing both offensively and defensively. But the problem is not AJP-- he'd rather have a root canal than draw a walk, but his production is basically what anyone would have expected from him. The issue is his backup. David Ross, while a great character and important piece to the '13 championship, has been brutal at the plate and showing his age on the defensive side. AJP cannot catch 140 games, so it may be time to look for a younger and more suitable backup. I don't think Ross lasts the full season.
-- Catcher in the Rye

You're absolutely right. I was too reactionary to Pierzynski's lousy play a couple of weeks ago -- probably wasn't even that long ago, actually. He's been fine, and while his appearance of sluggishness is going to be annoying when he's not hitting, we'll just have to deal with it. He's helping right now. And you love having him on your side in a contentious series. You know he'll tweak the Rays every chance he gets. As for Ross, I wonder what the tipping point is. He's at .177 right now, but he's so important to the pitching staff, especially Jon Lester, that he could probably go 0-for-June and still keep his job. Probably helps, too, that Christian Vazquez isn't hitting at Pawtucket right now.

castillofrankfinnju.JPGQuick note: The Sox had a moment of silence for Frank Castillo prior to the beginning of the ceremony on Wednesday night.
-- Number 37

Yeah, screwed this one up in the chat. Had a question asking why there was no moment of silence for Castillo, who drowned last July. He threw one inning for the '04 Sox but was a regular member of the rotation in 2001-02. They did pay homage to him. Wish I hadn't missed it. He was a good guy.

Kinda cool that Big Papi was here for Nomar Garciaparra's last great season, and he's here for Xander Bogaerts's first.
-- Alex Cartwright

I like that. He was here for Hanley Ramirez's two at-bats, too. Related to that: Would you have thought in '04 that Ortiz would be the last member of that team still with the Sox a decade later? It's not like he was a kid then -- it was his age-28 season. I guess he was young for that team, though. I was thinking Trot Nixon was younger, but he was 30 that season.

Holy crap I just remembered the Patriots have Revis!
-- GrumpyOldMan

Indeed it is true. This is probably the first time in -- I don't know, maybe since 2003, when Rosevelt Colvin and Rodney Harrison were signed -- that I've looked forward to watching the Patriots defense more than the offense. By the way, you know OTAs have officially begun when Tom Brady tells us that the Patriots still have a lot of work to do. Just once in the next seven or eight years -- you know, before he retires -- I'd like to hear him say after the first workout, "Damn, I've got to say, we're good to go. Look like a Super Bowl winner to me. Tell Richard Sherman I'm coming for him, and make sure the Duck Boats are in working order. Gonna need 'em."

Would you trade for Kevin Love without a contract extension, and if so what would you be willing to give up to get him? If we gave up the No. 6 pick, Sullinger or Olynk, and 2 or 3 additional first-rounders and he left, it would set this team back years in the rebuild process.
-- Jeff

I would, and Ainge made it patently clear he would too, though without naming Love specifically. I can't imagine they have what it takes to make the deal now, though. Missing out on a top-three pick really stuck it to them in that pursuit. If Minnesota still is interested, it's probably going to require the scenario you suggested -- and it probably would require giving up Sullinger and Olynyk. I'll tell you, though, with all of the buzz about Love being in town this weekend to check out the city, I've realized that I'd be thrilled with pretty much any deal Ainge would have to make to bring him here. And I do think he'd stay.

Why do you and your fellow fanboy Bruce Allan hate D&C so much? Cheap to knock their ratings when all you have to do is update your pathetic columns. Allan took all those cheap shots at Kirk Minihane, when really he just wants to be friends with athletes. Dino is awesome!
-- RoadToOctober

This letter actually makes sense if you imagine Dino aiming a sawed-off 3-iron to Minihane's temple while dictating every bat-bleep-crazy word. But I don't think that's what happened, since there are no references to Pedro The Punk, Thad Flynn, warped ratings justifications, or creepy scatological references. Plus, even under such duress I'm sure Minihane would spell Allen right.

Finn, truly, thanks for being a part of the scene. May you have continued success.
-- Guest

Thank you. I bet this one is from my friend Gerry! (Seriously ... thank you. The random messages of kindness keep me sane, brother. Or sister.)

A little PSA. I was a listener of too much sports talk (driving to/from work, 45 minutes each way, 5 days a week) even though I would only call myself a casual sports fan. I really enjoy the Sox, the other sports I like watching, but could care less of what happens. I was sucked into listening to the shows for no real reason. One day I just got so sick of the yelling and negativity I just turned it off. Everyone should try it out. Really. Just for one commute, a day, or even a week. Try it. You'll feel much better.
-- Relax

Amen. Hell, part of my job is to listen to this stuff, and every now and then -- at least one day a week -- I have to listen to something else during my commute, if only for my mental health. Thank heavens for podcasts and the SiriuxXM '70s and '80s channels.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Finished binge-watching Breaking Bad this week on Netflix. It's not that I've never seen a better television show. It's that I can't even think of one that was close. (Still waiting on Netflix to add The Wire.) Presume I'm in the majority on this?