Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Game 139: Manny Who?

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 3

Two series ago, I conjured up the frightening specter of Manny-less Red Sox as the reason for the dead bats in the Bronx. Take away Manny, it seemed and you took away the run-scoring hits the Sox so desperately needed to win. It was a frightening thought when you contemplated the future in all forms: the immediate future (winning the AL East), the near future (the playoffs) and the far future (the expiration of Manny's contract in 2008). What were we going to do while that oblique healed itself?

At the risk of making a tenuous connection, the answer now seems clear: we were going to wait for the September 1 call-ups and the triumphant return of Jacoby Ellsbury. The speedy rookie is tearing the cover off the ball on his third trip up to the majors in 2007, hitting well over .500 in his first four games and knocking in at least one run a day. In the field he's made some excellent catches, mixing well with the speed of Coco and Drew in the other parts of the outfield. He's taken the pressure off of Hinske's weat bat and Kielty's sore back, not to mention Manny, turning our bated breath for the return of our slugger into
consideration for a measured return. Last night Ellsbury opened the first major wound in Doc Halladay's armor with his second home run, a first-pitch blast that came right after a close play at first (thanks to a speedy Coco) broke up an inning-ending double play. It's not enough to say the kid's for real; he's at a higher, sublime level, burning off the rarefied gas of his ascent into our collective consciousness and begging the wonderful question, "Manny who?"

However, all of Ellsbury's success makes me wonder about his future. Making the (dangerous) assumption that he continues to hit at an even a reasonable level after he's faced the same clubs a few times, there's no room for Ellsbury in the outfield in 2008 without a trade or the decision to risk of making him a fourth outfielder for the next year or two. Alternatively, does he become part of a massive trade; something that brings a high-powered first baseman to the Sox while Youkilis moves back to third in place of Mike Lowell? Or does Ellsbury go back to Pawtucket again for another year to continue to post massive numbers against Minor League pitching? I'd hate to see Ellsbury depart, but I'm a bit of a sentimentalist when it comes to ball players and I could see Ellsbury becoming a big fixture in the mind of Sox fans everywhere.