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The Red Sox Need A Shortstop

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2009 at 2:06 pm
New in stores, the Julio Lugo Bobbleglove

New in stores, the Julio Lugo Bobbleglove

The Boston Red Sox need a shortstop.

Yeah, I know they have one already, but they need a new one. Julio Lugo simply isn’t getting the job done.

The shortstop position is one of the most important in baseball, often called the most dynamic position on the field. A team’s shorstop is supposed to be its star, its cornerstone. A great shortstop goes down in history as the face of a franchise – Cal Ripken Jr, for instance (before he moved to third); The Wizard Ozzie Smith; Derek Jeter. Those guys are shortstops.

Julio Lugo? Not so much.

The face of the Yankees

The face of the Yankees

Lugo is shabby in the field, has a career .270 average, and has 78 lifetime home runs. Not exactly numbers that have jerseys flying off the shelves. A shorstop should inspire confidence, be a leader on the diamond, and sell jerseys at the team store. Julio Lugo does none of these things. Derek Jeter does. He’s a franchise shortstop in every sense of the word. Nomar did, even though many – including myself – would argue that he was overrated. But at least people liked him, and talked about him, and wanted to watch him play the game of baseball.

Julio Lugo is just boring.

In fact, since the (hugely neccessary) Nomar trade, the shortstop position at Fenway has been a revolving door of mediocrity. Orlando Cabrera was great – he was a clubhouse presence with all his flashy handshakes, he could hit, and he was a helluva fielding shorstop – but Theo let him walk. Then there was Edgar Renteria, who was supposed to be good but couldn’t handle the bright Boston lights, and he flamed out quickly. After a miserable, error-filled season Theo shipped him off to the Atlanta Braves for slugging third-base prospect Andy Marte (who is now playing for the Indians AAA affiliate and sports a career .211 avg). When Rent-A-Wreck finally departed (only to return to form with the Braves), Theo made his most egregious error yet, signing Lugo to a 4 year, $36 million free agent deal. Since then, Lugo has racked up errors at an alarming clip while simultaneously failing to muster any power at the plate.

The one that got away

The one that got away

The elephant in the room when you talk about Red Sox shortstops is Hanley Ramirez, the 25-year-old former Red Sox prospect and current franchise shortstop for the Florida Marlins. Theo packaged Ramirez and pitcher Anibal Sanchez in the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston, and Ramirez promptly went on to win the Rookie of the Year in 2006. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I wish Theo had never made that trade. I mean, without Beckett and Lowell the Sox don’t win it all in 2007, but never under any circumstances is it a good thing to let a potential face-of-the-franchise guy get away. It’s the kind of thing that can set a team back for years. And when you look at Ramirez’s 2007 numbers (29 homers, 51 stolen bases, and a .332 avg) it becomes clear that Hanley is a special kind of player – the kind that everyone in Boston would love to have back.

But the Red Sox are in good shape at the moment, so it’s no time to point fingers or talk about regret. Lowell is hitting and Becket will come around. There is, however, still a giant black hole at shortstop and neither Lugo, Jed Lowrie, nor Nick Green is going to fill it. And unless Theo has something up his sleeve, that hole will remain, at least through next season when Lugo’s contract is finally up.

So where do the Sox go from here in terms of the shortstop position? There aren’t any beacons of hope on the minor league horizon and it would be hard to trade for a stud shortstop without eating the money already commited to Lugo. As of right now, it looks like Theo’s plan is to grease up the revolving door and keep it in good working order.

At least one thing’s for sure:

Nomar Garciaparra is not walking through that door.

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