Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: What Should the Red Sox’ Expectations Be This Season for Mookie Betts?


This is what happens when Twitter is at your fingertips and the Red Sox are getting shut down by Vidal Nuno, a junkballing lefty with a 5.88 ERA who had given up five homers in his previous two starts and is probably named after a hair product:

I mean, I didn’t expect them to listen, especially since my last suggestion — hey, how about bringing back that Drew guy? — has become a punch-line I’ll never escape.

But here we are, a day after the Red Sox did call up 21-year-old dynamo Mookie Betts. He’ll be in the lineup today, and with Shane Victorino gone for the foreseeable future — don’t worry about a thing seemed to be his offseason workout mantra — Betts will get a chance to provide the Sox with a Holtian boost in the second half.

Given his age and relative inexperience — he played 54 games in Double A, fewer than either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Xander Bogaerts, and has just 23 caps (soccer speak!) at Triple-A, there’s natural concern that they might be rushing him.
But you know what?
He deserves this. He’s earned it. At two levels this year, he hit .345/.437/.520 in 77 games with eight homers and 29 steals. Since he moved up to Single-A Greenville last season, he has 15 homers and 49 steals with a .342 average and a .962 OPS in 123 games.
He has been an unstoppable force at the plate at three levels now, and the remarkable quickness in which he adapted to the outfield might speak better for him than his stats do. This is not a case of the Red Sox overvaluing a prospect, which is a silly notion anyway. It’s a case of giving a player who has done everything right his just reward.
He’s young — he was born the same week as Xander Bogaerts — and he may struggle. But it’s been a long time since he has. Perhaps Mookie Betts is just what the struggling Red Sox need.
On to …
James Young = Gerald Greene. Agree?

Nah. Green had more raw talent — it was easy to see him as a future star just based on his ozone-piercing leaping ability and his classic shooting form. But he wasn’t ready for the NBA in any way — physically, emotionally, maturity-wise, you name it. It’s not that he lacked professionalism — it’s that he didn’t even recognize where it should begin, and his obliviousness nearly cost him his career. Green is a great comeback story, but the only Celtics player I can recall who was less ready for NBA adulthood was Joe Forte. Young is only 18, so obviously he’ll have some maturing to do. But the one year of college — which is one more than Green had — should help, and it’s encouraging that he played his best in big moments for Kentucky. I really like this pick, especially at No. 17.
You troll for the anti-John Dennis crowd just like the sports radio hosts you criticize. Fact is their show brings in good ratings so not everyone hates him and [there] is a core group of advertisers who are adamant JD stays. PS I am sure you wont publish this because it offers counterpoint to your opinion.
— John Run

Ooh, you bullied me into it, Belvedere. I agree with you on both points — I’ve made both in print, actually. Many of their advertisers — especially long-timers — love Dino, and without big-picture context, their ratings are very good. But your idea of trolling is generally me speaking the truth, though I’ll admit it’s hard to resist poking at their thin skin from time to time. They were No. 1 for a long time. Now, their competition has surpassed them with a long run in first place of its own, and it really hasn’t been close. There’s a reason they added a third, younger voice to the program in Kirk Minihane. Something had to change, and the show is better for it, despite John’s petty protestations at the beginning. With John and Gerry’s contracts up soon, it’s reasonable to wonder if more change will happen. I happen to believe it won’t, but you never know. John doesn’t strike me as practical about his place in the Boston sports radio pecking order these days.
Can the Sox really afford to let Lester walk? As good as Workman and Rubby have been, going forward the Sox staff needs an ace/anchor/whatever euphemism you want to use. Buchholz is still a mess and I have a hard time thinking Lackey would sign here again.
— Jake From State Farm

Hi, Jake From State Farm. You sound hideous. (Sorry, couldn’t help it — I just now got the reference.) I’m with you on Lester. There’s no obvious replacement for him unless they plan to get in on the bidding for Max Scherzer or make a deal for someone like Cole Hamels. And the former will cost more money while the latter will cost prospects. And I’m going to go with anchor as the euphemism there. Lester obviously produces at the level of a top of the rotation starter, if not a no-doubt No. 1 starter. But his secondary value is that he always takes his turn. A high-quality starter who gives you a 3.50-ish ERA and 200 innings a year in the American League year after year after year (excluding ’12, yes) is a resource that any contending team must covet. He’s going to get his money somewhere, and I hope it’s here. I trust that he’ll pitch well into his mid-30s, and I have no idea how they would replace him.
More likely to spend 2015 in Boston…Kevin Love or Giancarlo Stanton?
— Mark

Neither. [Sighs, kicks cat.] They’ll be in on Stanton a year from now — maybe a half-year — but it’s tough to believe the Love thing is going to happen unless he says this is where he wants to be and uses all of his leverage against the T-Wolves. I’ll say this, though — Minnesota fans must be pretty forgiving if they’re ready to welcome him back. Can you imagine how mad Boston fans would be if a star player took a get-to-know-you tour of another city while still under contract?
Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

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