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After coming off a season that had many fans, media members and teammates questioning his heart, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is now turning those question marks into exclamation points.
Even though we are all elated at his current MVP run, we all remember last season, as then-Red Sox third baseman Adrain Beltre connected with a “Dynamite Kid-like” headbutt into Ellsbury’s ribs. Ellsbury’s year was cut short, reducing him to all but 18 games in 2010. Many fans, myself included, called the Oregon native out on his toughness and his willingness to play through pain. We were calling him “soft” and a “baby” after hearing him complain about how the doctors mishandled his injury. It had every old-timer this side of Charlestown screaming about how “Yaz” or Evans would have played through the pain. That wasn’t fair to him, his rib injury was a serious injury that obviously needed the appropriate time to heal.
Now, in 2011, on a team with the most explosive offense in baseball, the All star outfielder has been an absolute pipe bomb. This season, especially this past July, Ellsbury is making his case to be this year’s MVP. Currently, he’s hitting .313 (9th), has 79 RBIs (8th), 22 home runs and he’s third in the American league with 33 stolen bases. What a power hitter like Ellsbury’s doing stealing bases, I haven’t the slightest clue. He’s also second in runs scored (83), fifth in batting average with runners in scoring position (.345) and he has over 60 RBIs from the leadoff spot. And he’s currently on pace to have 27-30 home runs and an RBI total in the high 95 to 100 range.
Ellsbury has it all. He’s like a cute blonde, showing off some side boob and eating a popsicle, you know, a little bit of everything. And that’s what an ideal MVP candidate should be: a little bit of everything. Ellsbury has a tool set that can’t be matched by any other leadoff hitter this season. He can get into scoring position for Gonzales and Ortiz and drive in his own runs with his deceptively powerful bat. He’s bounced back in 2011 to become on of the top ten all around players in the league.
There are about seven weeks left in the season and in these remaining seven weeks he’s going to be judged differently than a lot of the other candidates this offseason. He’s going to be judged as a leadoff hitter. His job, role and expectations are different from that of teammate Adrian Gonzales (who leads the league in RBIs), Mark Texeira, Miguel Cabrera or Jose Bautista. This may give him an advantage, as he’s not a three or four spot bat, it’ll certainly help him stand out in the crowd of “middle of the order” hitters. Often times, one of the statistics that the baseball writers highly consider are RBIs. This would give Gonzales the advantage, as Ellsbury isn’t in contention to lead in that category and Bautista has a low total for a home run leader. But, from the leadoff position, he has no equal.
The Red Sox center fielder’s chances of winning the award aren’t entirely slim, in my opinion. I just don’t think he’s as much of a lock as some fans around town may have you believe. He is a lock for comeback player of the year and the winners of that award are almost never in the MVP talks as well. It would make for an excellent story if he were to win the MVP. Being both an MVP and comeback player of the year, in the same season, let’s see some “softy” try to pull that off.