Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Defense of Jacoby Ellsbury

Even when Jacoby Ellsbury won us all free tacos in 2007, even when he was healthy, I always kept myself from embracing him fully. He certainly helped the Red Sox during his time here, and by all accounts was a good teammate; he even grew a beard during last season's magical run.

But through all that, there was a lingering certainty that Ellsbury's presence in the Red Sox dugout, and in center field at Fenway, was temporary. You don't sign with Scott Boras to take a home town discount.

I understand that fans were upset at Ellsbury's departure. He was a young, talented, home grown player with the kind of speed we rarely get to see in a Red Sox uniform. But unlike certain other beloved players who have defected to the Bronx, Ellsbury never claimed he wouldn't play for the Yankees. Ellsbury never promised to be a Red Sox for life.

Hell, the Red Sox didn't even offer Ellsbury a contract, knowing full well they would have to commit to him for more years and more dollars than they were comfortable with. Sure, Ellsbury has been dynamite for the Yankees for far this season, but not signing him was never about this season.

The Red Sox didn't sign Jacoby Ellsbury because there's no telling what kind of player he will be by the end of his contract. Would you be willing to pay Jacoby Ellsbury $21 million dollars for his age 37 season? Especially considering his lack of durability in his twenties, I'm perfectly content to say goodbye.

I know Red Sox fans are suffering through a pretty bad start, and it's easy to say that keeping Ellsbury would have prevented that. That might even be true, but it's short-sighted - the Red Sox had Ellsbury for most of his prime years, at a reasonable price, and it would not be prudent to pay a premium for the better part of the next decade. (Personally, I'm in the camp that wishes we'd kept Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead of embarking on the A.J. Pierzynski Experiment.)

I haven't been at Fenway yet this season, so I missed Ellsbury's (figuratively) pinstriped Fenway debut. I understand the mixed reaction fans had to him, particularly given his spectacular performance in the absolute thrashing the Red Sox took at the hands of the Yankees.

But what did Red Sox fans want Ellsbury to do? Retire? The Red Sox didn't even offer him a contract (and no, a one-year qualifying offer doesn't count). Sure, it hurts that he went to the Yankees as opposed to literally any other team. But he took the money and security the Yankees offered, and almost anyone out there would do the same.

The truth is, Ellsbury looks like he belongs in a Yankees uniform. The Red Sox were always looser and sillier than would have suited Ellsbury - the Yankees straight-laced style fits his businesslike demeanor much better. 

Obviously, I would prefer he have no more games like last night while playing against the Red Sox, but I won't waste any more time booing him or wringing my hands because he left us. Ellsbury was never a traitor. He's a practical man who made a pragmatic decision, and I won't hold it against him.

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