When Johnny Damon signed with the New York Yankees after the 2005 season, I was pissed off. Boggs and Clemens glory years with the Sox were before my time, so when they both eventually signed with the Yankees, I was indifferent. But Damon was our guy. He grew that Jesus beard. He was a free spirit in the clubhouse. He single handedly won game 7 of the ALCS for us in Yankee stadium. Everything about him screamed Red Sox. Then he shaved his beard, cut his hair (and his balls) and put on those pinstripes. He deserted us in the worst way possible. I’ll never forgive him for that.
When news broke of Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the NYY last night, I felt empty. It always sucks when one of your guys goes to the dark side, but Ellsbury was different. He helped my Red Sox win two world series titles in 7 years. He came in as a rookie in 2007 and captivated Red Sox nation with his speed and aggressiveness. He was plagued by injuries through much of his Red Sox career, but fans always gave him a pass, because when he was good, he was one of the best we had. When the Red Sox won the world series this past October, there was a lot of talk in the media about legacies. Dustin Pedroia, the “dirt dog”, always playing through injuries, always giving 100%, a guy you wanted on your team and a guy who was going to retire a Boston Red Sox. Unless something catastrophic happens, Pedroia will go down as one of the greatest Red Sox of all time. Two world series victories. David Ortiz. The best crunch time athlete of my lifetime. I was on vacation in Florida for the 2004 ALCS. I’ll never forget exactly where I was for games 4-7. To this day, it’s one of the best series of days in my entire life. I’m not sure where this franchise would be without David Ortiz, and I’m glad we don’t have to worry about it. Three world series. (Think about that: 85 years before David Ortiz – 0 World Series. 11 years with Ortiz – 3 World Series)
That brings us to Ellsbury. I spent most of last night and this morning looking for a picture that embodied Jacoby’s stay here in Boston. That’s usually a task I fail at, but this time, I think I found it. The picture at the beginning of the article is Jacoby leaping for a fly ball but coming up just short. That’s his tenure with the Red Sox in a nutshell. He never quite got there, to that upper echelon of sports figures we always thought he’d reach. Before I go any further, I would like to say that I loved watching Jacoby Ellsbury play baseball. I was 19 when he came in as a rookie and helped us win a world series. I’ve seen him steal home plate, get clutch hits, and cover center field at Fenway Park like very few others have. He was, and should continue to be, a great player. But he’s not a franchise guy. You can tell just by looking at him. He doesn’t have the intensity of Pedroia. He doesn’t have the personality of Ortiz. He plays the game, gets his paycheck, and goes home. No more, no less. He wasn’t a clubhouse leader. He was an extremely talented ballplayer, who, to his credit, handled playing in this environment very well. I expect the same thing to happen in New York. Maye we’ll miss him, maybe we won’t. Only time will tell. I’ll leave you with one final stat, and keep in mind, this is a center field who just got a contract worth close to $22 million dollars a year. 18, 158, 74, 134. Those are Jacoby Ellsbury’s games played over the last 4 seasons. See ya in October, Jacoby. If you’re lucky.