Defending Jacoby Ellsbury

Here’s what I don’t get about the controversy over talk show hosts calling Jacoby Ellsbury “soft” because he’s only played in 18 games this season.


How exactly do they know?


I guess I would better understand their pot shots if a pattern had been established over several seasons, but last year Jacoby played in 153 games – one fewer than Dustin Pedroia – and attempted 82 stolen bases (which is incredibly taxing on the body).  As a rookie In 2008, Ellsbury played in 145 games – equaling Kevin Youkilis – and attempted 61 steals.


Ellsbury sprint.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Jacoby has five broken ribs.  Among other things, his critics say it shouldn’t take this long for broken ribs to heal.  Huh?  I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject and that’s the point – I don’t know of any sports broadcasters who got into the business after breezing through med school.


Over the past few months, I’ve had several people who had suffered broken ribs in the past bring up Ellsbury’s injury.  Every single one said that they’re not surprised that Jacoby has had a hard time returning this season.


Broken ribs are apparently very painful – who knew?


When Jacoby rehabbed with Pawtucket at the beginning of August, I asked him if he was bothered by media members calling him “soft.”


“You can’t let that get to you,” Ellsbury said.  “Anybody that knows me – my teammates and my coaches – they know how hard that I play.  They know my track record.  I don’t miss games, I play hard, and I play all-out, so the naysayers just motivate me more.  It doesn’t really bother me at all.  Deep down, if you’re comfortable with yourself that’s all that matters.”


After Terry Francona defended Ellsbury this week by saying that “talking tough on the radio is a lot different than running into a wall or getting hit with a pitch,” the response over the airwaves was predictable:


“So now we’re not supposed to have an opinion?” was a typical defense.


No, good talk show hosts need to have strong opinions and my favorite hosts often tick me off with positions that I disagree with.  As long as they’re not “pulling a Bayless” and saying something absurd just to be provocative, I have no problem with expressing strong opinions.


I just happen to think that in this case that they’re wrong.


And that’s my opinion.


* * * * *


It took 2 months, for Josh Reddick to lift his batting average above the Uecker Line.


Bob Uecker batted exactly .200 in his major league career . . . Mario Mendoza hit .215.  It’s a one-man campaign to have the reference changed.


If he glanced at his stats on the scoreboard, Reddick saw a batting average below .200 in 44 of his first 48 games.


“I try my best not to look up at the scoreboard even when things are going well,” Reddick said with a laugh.  “That’s one of those things that baseball players look at as a bad omen because if you are going to worry about your stats, then you are not going to worry about the at-bat. But looking up when my average was .180 it was like ‘Oh, why are you even here.’  So .250 looks fantastic to me right now.”


Reddick follow thru.jpg 

Since June 4th, the 23-year-old outfielder has batted .313 (57-for-182) to lift his average from .183 to .247.  It’s not what he was hoping for after batting .390 for the Red Sox in spring training, but there has been considerable improvement.


“I’m not letting things get to me anymore,” Reddick said.  “And hits that seem to be falling in for me now so I guess it is true what they say about everything evening out.  To be honest, I’ve stopped caring about my stats and that has worked out for me.”


“He’s finally gotten himself into a rhythm, which is good to see,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen told Brendan McGair of The Pawtucket Times.  “He’s putting a stamp on the end of the season, which is good considering where he was.  Hopefully he can take that confidence into the off-season and be ready for next year.  Nobody has ever lost any faith or confidence in what this guy will be able to do.”


With September call-ups less than two weeks away, Reddick says he’s trying not to think about it.


“I’m not really there yet,” Reddick said.  “I’m still trying to work on my numbers here. If it happens, it happens.  But if not, I’ll go home early. I always want to be up there so I hope that it does happen, but if it doesn’t happen it would be understandable because I haven’t really done much for those guys except for one or two at-bats. We’ll just see what happens. I am working for it so hopefully they can see that I have been having a good month since the all-star break and I’ll get rewarded for it.”



Reddick is a strong candidate to return to Pawtucket next year and the PawSox have started investigating the possibility of a “Josh Reddick Magic Hair” promotion (if you don’t know what I’m talking about read this).  The team has contacted the manufacturer of the Wooly Willy toy to see if it’s feasible to make a version with Reddick’s face.


“That would be a hilarious thing to take part in and I think that the fans and the kids would get a huge kick out of it,” Reddick said.  “As everybody has seen, for the last four years that I’ve been in this organization I’ve given everyone a what-the-heck-is-he-doing kind of feeling because I’ve has a Mohawk three or four times, and the mustache is always an option.  It comes at a time whenever I’m not swinging the bat well.  If I go about a two week stretch where I can’t seem to do anything, I mix up my look and see what happens.  Then I hope that the baseball gods will start making things work out.”


For the last two months he’s been looking good where it counts – at the plate.


* * * * *


The PawSox conclude their 8-game homestand on Friday as they face Lehigh Valley at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and


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One comment

  1. sittingstill

    Watching Coco Crisp make a terrific catch last night, I couldn’t help thinking about how one small nagging injury can make such a huge difference in a player’s career. Coco seemed perfectly suited for Boston, but that broken finger derailed his whole year.

    I have no idea how it is that everybody’s an expert on a player’s medical issues. Ellsbury never hesitated to hit the wall or lay out for a catch; heck, the guy hit a fence hard enough to knock his contacts out. I remain amazed by the mechanics of stealing a base–the ground isn’t really that soft to land on. I have a shot of Tito forcibly removing him from a game after a HBP–Tito’s pulling him by the jersey because he clearly doesn’t want to come out.

    I’ve never broken ribs, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to deal with the healing process for broken bones that you can’t immobilize in a boot or a cast.

    And I can’t believe that folks could take seriously the idea that after devoting his LIFE to being successful in baseball the kid would willingly sit for anything less than a serious injury.

    (I’m not wishing Pawtucket instead of the big club on Redd, necessarily, but I really want that promotion to happen!)


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