Friday, July 17, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: E is for…

Ellsbury, as in Jacoby

Jacoby Ellsbury was a top prospect in the Red Sox organization for some time. I didn’t know much about him other than that. I knew he was a practically untouchable minor leaguer, and would someday show his stuff in the major leagues. Frankly, that was enough for me. At the time, we had an aging centerfielder in Johnny Damon. It was nice knowing that something was in the pipeline for a replacement. Once Damon left, perhaps a little sooner than the Red Sox would have liked, they went out to trade for Coco Crisp. So, I wondered what was going on with that Ellsbury guy I had heard about. Apparently, people felt Ellsbury needed another year or two to season before coming up. He finally came up to the bigs during the 2007 season.

I was lucky enough to be at Fenway for Ellsbury’s major league debut. As I said, I didn’t know much about him, or his skill set. I just knew he was an up and comer. It was with some amusement that I watched his first at-bat, which ended up as a groundball to catcher. We wondered in the stands just how many players had gone “2-unassisted” in their first major league plate appearance. Probably not exactly what he was looking for.

In his next at-bat, he hit a routine groundball to short. Again, not the start he would written up. I was about to mark the “6-3” in my scorebook, but looked up just to be sure there wasn’t an error. My jaw dropped when I saw him beat it out for an infield single. This wasn’t a ground ball to the hole, or up the middle. This was an easy hopper to shortstop. I’m not sure if the shortstop had to take more than a step or two to field it. Ellsbury just flat out beat the throw. That’s fast! Speed can help you in many ways and degrees in a baseball game. There’s simply being able to run. Fast enough to score from second on any base hit. There’s Johnny Damon fast. That’s where it’s hard to double you up, and just about any ground ball hit in the hole doesn’t even draw a throw. This was more. This was game changing, Ichiro-like, speed. If he was beating out grounders to short, it was all different. Why hadn’t I heard about this before? Why didn’t I know about the guy in the minors with the blazing speed? This could be fun.

So far, it’s been a blast. Ellsbury’s speed has changed everything. He can bunt for base hits. He has scored from second on both a wild pitch and an infield single. He had a straight steal of home. Going first to third isn’t a question. It’s going first to home that teams need to worry about.

Whenever he’s up, I always wonder what exciting thing he’s going to do this time. Really, as a fan, that’s all I can ask for…right?

E is for Ellsbury, Jacoby.

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