In baseball, timing is everything. Timing the delivery to the plate. Timing your swing. Or, in the case of Will Middlebrooks and Ben Cherington, timing a trade.
This is one thing that Theo was pretty good at. When he traded a popular player, the schedule often worked in his favor. Trading Manny? Better make sure your next ten games or so are against lesser opponents. That way the team will win right after the trade, and make the deal look good. When Ben Cherington traded Kevin Youkilis, he got that part pretty well take care of. He got the next nine games to be against Toronto, Seattle, and Oakland. The Sox should cruise through those series. The trade will look better with every victory. But, he didn’t exactly do Will Middlebrooks any favors.
Middlebrooks was off to a blazing hot start to his career. He can’t keep up that pace. Mike Schmidt would have had trouble keeping up that pace. He was going to cool off. The problem came down to timing.
Kevin Youkilis was traded at Middlebrooks’s peak. He was even named the AL player of the week for the week prior to the trade. That’s a pretty good peak. Then Youkilis was traded. The third base job was given to Middlebrooks. I actually heard a radio moron ask on Monday if Will would be able to handle the pressure of being an everyday third baseman. They were already setting him up. Would he be able to keep up his production under the intense pressure of being a starter in Boston? Of course the radio moron knew the answer was “no.” Middlebrooks would not be the player of the week every week for the rest of his career. His production was going to fall off. Bingo. A story was created.
Naturally, Middlebrooks has cooled a bit. He has something like one hit since Youkilis was traded. Chances are he won’t be going 3-3 tonight against King Felix. Even if he goes 1-3 in Seattle, the radio moron will be able to talk about him batting .150 since the trade. The story he invented will suddenly have legs. And that’s all the media needs. Legs. Callers will call in supporting this ridiculous theory. Callers will call in opposing the idea. Then, writers will ask Middlebrooks about it. Is the pressure getting to you? They’ll ask his teammates. Is Will crumbling under the expectations that come with being a starter? He’s only 1-11. He made that error, remember? The made up story keeps going.
If only Cherington had traded Youkilis this weekend instead of last. Middlebrooks could have been spared all this nonsense. He could have come back next week and performed well. Then, instead of “crumbling under pressure” he could have “seized his opportunity.”
The only difference would have been timing.