BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a foregone conclusion that your Boston Red Sox will be playoff bound come October. Since a 2-10 start they’ve played practically flawless baseball and look to be in good standing to make a run at another World Series title. With such success, it’s a challenge to nail down not the Most Valuable Player, but the Most Important Player.
Now before moving onto the candidates and this writer’s vote, the difference between MVP and MIP should be explained. A Most Valuable Player is a mostly statistical analysis of the player in question. Jose Bautista, for example, would be considered an MVP based solely on his numbers. There’s much more involved when looking at an MIP, which includes intangibles such as leadership, slotting in the lineup, putting pressure on opposing teams and where would this team be if they didn’t have this specific player, to name a few.
With that said, there could be as many as seven solid candidates to list when thinking in terms of the Sox. That list? Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester and Daniel Bard. Each of these seven players have legitimate cases.
Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .350 and on pace to drive in 120 runs or so, plus he plays Gold Glove defense.
Dustin Pedroia is a vital part of this team, hitting over .300 with plus production at his position, while also stealing over 20 bags and playing Gold Glove defense.
Josh Beckett is this team’s ace. Yes, he only has nine wins, but a pitcher’s wins should never be an indication of his importance. Across the board, his numbers are Cy Young worthy.
Jon Lester is right behind Beckett and would be the bona fide #1 starter on about 25 other major league rosters. His numbers are damn good and he continues to be a horse whose value cannot be overlooked and/or dismissed.
Jonathan Papelbon has recently been the best closer in the game. Don’t believe me? Check his last eleven appearances – LIGHTS OUT.
Finally, Daniel Bard gets, as Terry Francona would say, “the most important outs of the game.” Bard, outside of three or four uncharacteristic tough games, has been one of the best relievers in the game this season. His versatility also cannot be looked past.
But, the final candidate left on the list, is this team’s MIP – Jacoby Ellsbury.
After a tough season last year, in which he was questioned by media, players and coaches, Ellsbury has come back on a tear. His numbers are, without question, ridiculous: .316/.371/.881. He’s driven in more than enough runs from the leadoff spot, and the power that some front office people hoped would arrive within the next two years, is at the doorstep now (19 HR – more than Gonzalez).
Roche Blog: Bedard, Sox Overcome Getting Squeezed
But Ellsbury’s reach goes beyond his numbers in the batter’s box. His skill set strikes fear in the opposition… Opposing pitchers are always concerned with his speed. Opposing hitters are frustrated by his electric grabs in the Fenway triangle. The kid has game-changing ability.
Most of all, however, it’s his importance to the team. Imagine this lineup without Ellsbury at the top… Do you remember when he was hitting 9th at the beginning of the year? While Marco Scutaro can handle the bat, he’s not Ellsbury. While Carl Crawford closely matches Ellsbury’s skill-set, could you imagine how much worse his start could have been if he was forced to hit leadoff? And, yes, Pedroia could do it, but is that really where the Sox want him?
This team’s dynamic would change drastically without the man who gets it all started.
Ellsbury has answered the critics. And, he’s this team’s most important player.
It’s your turn to chime in. In your opinion, who is the Red Sox’ Most Important Player? Let us know in the comments section.