There will be plenty of time to discuss John Lackey’s failings this season. Last night may have been the first and hopefully it was the worst (game score of just SIX), but it certainly won’t be the last.
So while the crowd is piling on this morning, bemoaning his “contract,” his “stuff,” his “indifferent” postgame candor and his inability to close out hitters and innings, I want to take this in a different direction. Specifically, I want to hone in on right-center field, about 370 feet from home plate.
Surprisingly, there is almost no mention this morning of the play that helped turn last night’s mugging into a full-blown beating. I take you back to the fourth inning. Lackey is giving up shots but there are two outs and nobody on. That is when Yorvit Torrealba lifted a dangerous fly to right-center that Jacoby Ellsbury tracked well before he flubbed the dismount. The ball hit the heel of Jakes glove, fell for a double and Lackey was then dragged into an alley and beat senseless.
Had Ellsbury made that very makeable catch, Lackey would have been back in the dugout and who knows whether the Rangers would have pulverized him in the fifth. Given how Lackey was throwing in the fourth inning, logic says Ellsbury’s misplay only speeded the inevitable.
That is one argument that I would expect Ellsbury’s camp to make. The other is Torrealba’s fly was a difficult chance. In fact, it would have taken a Herculean effort to reel that in.
I don’t buy this second line of reasoning. True, it was a difficult play but it is one that half the league’s centerfielders make. I say that because Ellsbury was there. He didn’t have to fully extend. He got plenty of leather on the ball. AND HE DROPPED IT! It wasn’t an error. But it was a play that differentiates the “run-savers” from the middling. And it was a play that Ellsbury has made in the past. That he didn’t make it last night was a big deal as it opened the floodgates on a huge inning. And it lends support to those who claim Ellsbury’s work in CF is sometimes a bit questionable. As it was last night.
While Ellsbury has now misplayed two balls in two games, it must be noted that he looks great at the plate. He’s taking pitches, squaring up balls, and generally causing havoc. It’s obviously early but I am encouraged that Ells may be morphing into a more dangerous offensive player. His glove has never overwhelmed me, and there is a reason his arm is constantly lampooned in punyarm.com, but his bat has upside and hopefully we are seeing Ellsbury capture some of that upside right now.