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Touching All the Bases

How Spectacular is Jackie Bradley Jr. Defensively? The Red Sox Haven't Had Anyone Better in Center

Playing nine innings while demanding that Mookie Betts is in the lineup every day, position be damned ...

1. This is going to sound like hyperbole. I assure you it is not. It's the truth, and it's becoming more evident by the day: When all of the factors that make for an exceptional defensive center fielder are considered -- range, arm, instinct, grace, fearlessness near the fence, a knack for the spectacular -- Jackie Bradley Jr. might become the best we've ever seen here at Fenway. And it's even more apparent in person, especially from a bleacher seat, when you realize how much ground he covers and how he seems to be going full speed from the first step.

2. The Red Sox have had a lot of fine center fielders in my lifetime. Fred Lynn was spectacular and fearless, Ellis Burks won a Gold Glove despite having to dodge Mike Greenwell on every ball hit into the left-center gap, Otis Nixon was fun for a year, Damon Buford and Darren Lewis were excellent in the late '90s, Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon covered plenty of turf even with their limp noodle arms ... but the best single season I ever saw a Red Sox outfielder have in the field was Coco Crisp in '06. He couldn't throw either, but the man was "The Matrix" with the glove.

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3. It's funny, the Red Sox' playoff hopes are probably lost, and yet there's a distinct possibility that the second half will be far more entertaining than the first even if there's nothing meaningful to play for in terms of the standings. If Betts, Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez and even Brock Holt play every day, this is going to be an interesting team to watch. Last night's rally was a glimpse at the future. Here's hoping for a few more of those flashes in the present.

4. I don't want to go off on a tangent on this. I sort of already did the other day. But I do have a lingering question: How come so many among us -- fans and media -- are quick to deem the 2013 Red Sox lucky (which was true in a lot of regards) while acting as if acknowledging that they have been extremely unlucky this year (also true) is treated as some kind of pathetic, invalid excuse for their failings? I don't get the mind-set of people whose default mode is to dismiss unexpected success while acting as if the bad times are a team's true natural state. Who thinks that way? It's warped and seems like it would be a miserable existence.

5. We've heard and speculated on the names of players the Red Sox might move before the deadline -- Jake Peavy, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, even Koji Uehara -- and the ProJo's Brian MacPherson did a terrific job of identifying potential destinations for all of them in a piece yesterday. But it seems to me there are a couple of other obvious trade candidates whose names don't come up as much. David Ross, Mike Carp, and Craig Breslow could have real value to contending teams.

6. Interesting to read the backlash on Deadspin and Hardball Talk regarding Rob Bradford's story about how A.J. Pierzynski's personality rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I agree that not a lot of players get out of Boston without a trail of after-the-fact anecdotal criticism following closely behind. But to me, the difference is that it seems obvious that it is his former teammates who didn't mind seeing the door hit him on the way out rather than anyone in management. This is not a Red Sox smear-campaign culture thing. It's a case of a guy's ex-teammates exhaling now that he's taken his iPhone and gone away.

7. I'm wary about his health, but I'm on board if there's something to the rumor that the Red Sox could send Jake Peavy and presumably someone else to the Cardinals for Allen Craig. He's raked consistently in the minors and majors until this year, and while there's no place for him as a designated hitter or first baseman here, he'd be an interesting option in left field, especially if Gomes is moved.

8. Starting to think the Red Sox will retire No. 26 in Holt's honor before they get around to doing for Wade Boggs.

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

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In case you were wondering who wore No. 26 immediately preceding Boggs, and I know you were. I have no idea what number Rudi wore during his one-day stay with the Sox in '76.

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