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Jacoby Ellsbury: one play does not an MVP make. Or lose.

Sep 27, 2011, 11:33 AM EDT

Ellsbury play.bmp

In last night’s Orioles-Red Sox game Robert Andino hit an inside the park homer. Big play. Probably the biggest of the game.  It was a ball that looked like Jacoby Ellsbury was going to catch, but he didn’t.  Here’s the play. It was a great job getting to it, but yeah, you want to see him squeeze that with so much on the line.

But was it more than just an unfortunate play for the Red Sox? Was it the sort of play that changes the character of Ellsbury’s season?  That seems ridiculous, but in a world where people think that his one home run on Sunday night against the Yankees was enough to give him the MVP, it’s inevitable that someone will seize on this one play and make a sweeping pronouncement about it too.

An inevitability borne out on CSNNewEngland last night by Steve Buckley and Lou Merloni, who think that Ellsbury’s failure to catch that ball meant the world.  “Good outfielders make those plays in late September,” Buckley said.  “An All-Star-caliber, American League MVP makes that play,” added Merloni. Here’s the video.

Note that each of them then agree that, yeah, if the Red Sox make the playoffs, Ellsbury is still their guy.

Call me crazy, but the only thing sillier than saying that the MVP award is contingent on how your team does is saying that it’s contingent on one play among thousands in a six-month-long major league season.  If you subscribe to that notion you’re not giving out an MVP award. You’re giving out a “highlight of the year” award.

It’s a long season. The full season — not just its best and worst moments — matters.  On the basis of the full season an MVP vote for Jacoby Ellsbury is completely defensible. Depending on how much you value his defense compared to Jose Bautista‘s, it may actually be compelled. But it’s certainly not something that one play can or should bestow or take away from the guy.

  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    If writers are equating “Value” to the player’s role in his team advancing to the playoffs (or not), then late season antics carry extra weight. It really depends on how much weight a voter gives to ‘clutchiness’ ‘grit’ ‘intestinal fortitude’ ‘intangibles’ ‘testicular fortitude’ or any of the other theoreticals that so many baseball writers seem to care about. Unfortunately, many of them do hang their proverbial hat on such concepts, so Ellsbury needs to create a new highlight in the next two days if he wants to hang in the awards race.

  2. bigleagues - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:44 AM


    Thank you for exposing the nutty madness that is Boston sports radio/TV and brainwashes the masses with hollow observations.

    If it wasn’t for Dennis Eckersley in the studio on NESN during pre and post games shows, there would be complete insanity throughout the regional broadcasts.

    Despite being a lifelong fan, and having been among the handful of blessed Red Sox fans who were in Yankees Stadium for Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS – sometimes I feel like I don’t belong.

    • marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      I agree 100% – I am a life long fan too (30 years in Worcester – now in Phoenix) and do not understand all this ship is sinking crap? Yeah, they stink right now…but the 2000 yankees had a horrible September and still won the series…

      So, until they are officially the next 2007 Mets, the media should put a clamp on it.

  3. jimbo1949 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    He got his break last night, they scored it an inside the park home run instead of an error.

    • Bill - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      That play would be scored an error in exactly zero parks at precisely zero times in the entire history of baseball. So to the extent being treated the same as everyone else in history represents luck, yeah.

      • randomdigits - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        It should have been a triple and an error on the catcher for not coming up with the throw.

      • Bill - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        That’s fair, although I’d be more inclined to charge it to the throw rather than the catch (I can *never* blame catchers for failing to make those plays–nobody seems to appreciate how incredibly difficult they are). The ball beat him there by 20 feet.

    • Jonny 5 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      An error because he almost got to a ball no one else probably would have either? That doesn’t seem too fair does it?

      • mgp1219 - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        Granderson makes that catch.

      • Panda Claus - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        Granderson makes that catch? Possibly so, but so does Ellsbury the other eight out of ten times.

      • marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Impossible…he was not playing in that game.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      A break? Only if one is obsessed with one’s fielding percentage, or about one’s chances to win a Gold Glove. The runs still scored, and the Red Sox still lost.

      The Nation isn’t looking for fairness, it’s looking for blame. As often happens, the blame is misplaced. How about the pitcher who allowed Robert Andino, of all people, to hit that ball?

    • marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      No way was that even close to an error. If he dropped it without hitting the wall, yeah, but it was the wall that caused the ball to come out.

    • bigleagues - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:28 PM

      Bill is on the mark. That play is never, has never and will never be an error. I’ve been official scorer in pro games and no one, not the home team or the away team would ever challenge that should be scored as an error.

      You want to see a hit that should have been an error? See the ball that Carl Crawford missed Saturday against the Yankees:

      Granted that’s still not a routine catch, and it could go 50/50 in terms of the ruling, but I agree with McCarver. That needs to be caught.

      • brianbowman16 - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:58 PM

        Ho ho ho boy, it takes ALOT of balls to say the words
        ‘i agree with mccarver’
        he is Major League Baseballs Cris Carter
        MAN do i hate those two morons

      • bigleagues - Sep 27, 2011 at 10:47 PM

        LOL. Never happened before and may never happen again . . . me admitting that I agree with McCarver that is.

  4. dailyrev - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    It’s the same inanity you see in the political media all the time (the Sunday morning shout-fests, for example): people making insipid and brainless rants to fill the air and provide the most superficial appearance of expertise. Hardly worth noting in this era of mindless media. A day or two earlier, Bautista ran into a wall in Tampa and missed the ball — so is he out of the running too?

    In short, morons will be morons. Unfortunately, many of them are very well paid.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM

      Bautista’s dropped ball doesn’t have playoff implications for his team. I’m not saying it is any less stupid, but that is the difference in the way some people see it.

  5. Panda Claus - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    This is a simple case of the Boston faithful panicking to the point they’re about to burn down their own village.

    That was not an easy play and I doubt Buckley or Merloni would’ve been within 50 feet of making that catch–unless the ball had a doughnut taped to it.

    And let’s not forget the feel-good moment for Andino, since his father was there to see his son play in person.

  6. Jonny 5 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    One thing I’d like some Boston fans to clear up for me since I can only catch the occasional Boston game. Is it me or is Saltalmacchia the worst catcher in the game? Maybe I only get to see games where he’s terrible? I see many passed balls when I watch, and the calls behind the plate also can relate to poor “pitching” performances.

    Am I wrong or does Boston need a catcher more than they need good pitching? Or do I only get to see games where he seems to stink? No. I’m not trolling, I’m genuinely curious.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:11 PM

      Watching that play, Ellsbury made a nice effort but fell short of making a spectacular play. The Boston catcher (I couldn’t tell who it was) really needs to make that play to nail Andino at the plate. They had him by 15 feet.

      • Jonny 5 - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:17 PM

        No, that was a rookie replacement last night.

      • hackerjay - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:23 PM

        It was a terrible throw by Pedroia too though. He had plenty of time to set and make a good throw that wasn’t right at the catcher’s feet.

      • marinersnate - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        “No, that was a rookie replacement last night.”

        It was Saltalamacchia. Varitek who normally catches Beckett was scratched pre-game. Saltalamacchia started and caught until he went out in the bottom of the eighth after being hit by a foul tip. Larvarnway replaced him in the bottom of the eighth. Andino’s ISP-HR was in the bottom of the sixth.

      • Jonny 5 - Sep 27, 2011 at 4:22 PM

        So he is as bad as i think he is????

    • cur68 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      I grant that the throw from 2nd was short, but it wasn’t “right at his feet”; it was in the grass so it bounced well in front of him; he should have been in front of it properly like a major league catcher should be. He makes it look short by handling it like his hands are made of stone.

      But that was vintage Salty last night, wasn’t it? It was pretty much a passed ball, the same way a slider in the dirt seems to eat him alive, too. I watch that guy a lot. One thing that I’ve been struck by with him; he does not get his pitcher a close strike. Especially Lackey it seems. Watching him catch Wakefield is a 50/50 on a passed ball with every pitch, or at any rate that’s how it looks to me. Salty looks like he should be in AA after you’ve watched a Molina catch for a bit.

      • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        cur- I have no clue where else to ask you this.

        I remember you rooting for the Canucks during the Stanley Cup this year- do you live in the Vancouver area? If so, I have a simple question about the International Terminal at YVR – why is it shaped like a penis and testicles?

      • cur68 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        “the International Terminal at YVR – why is it shaped like a penis and testicles?”

        So we can show the world how big and tough we are? Shit man, I don’t know. All I know is if you go down into the right ballsack you can catch a plane to New Zealand. If left; Alaska. What does that mean? I turn right as I head down the shaft. That’s about it.

      • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:07 PM

        At least I’m not the only one to notice this. I was there last week, and everytime I’m there I just shake my head at a particular sign that has the shaft and sack. I always seem to take off from the tip, BTW.

      • cur68 - Sep 27, 2011 at 6:19 PM

        I’m sure that say’s something trenchant about you, Alex, but I can’t think what :) . What airline launches from the ‘tip of the shaft’ any how? “Sperm-Air”?

      • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 7:21 PM

        That and United….

    • oilcanjim - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:54 PM

      Jonny, I watch about four or five Sawx games a week, and I generally think Salty does a decent job behind the dish. He’s certainly better than the yipster I read about before he started playing regularly. His arm is light years better than Tek’s, and he’s generally pretty solid with the glove. The only time I see crazy passed balls is when Wake’s pitching, and the fact that management keeps running him out there rather than the Captain must mean he’s better there, too. As for his game calling- well, we Sawx fans can get a little bit overly passionate about Tek’s superior pitcher management and his four no-hitters, so perhaps our judgement is clouded…

      • Jonny 5 - Sep 27, 2011 at 6:15 PM

        Fair enough jim, thanks for the answer. Wakefield was pitching the last time I saw him behind the plate, then a reliever throwing heat had him chasing passed balls after the old man was pulled. Like I said, I don’t see much of him. Again, thanks.

    • bigleagues - Sep 27, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      No, I don’t think Salty is the worst Catcher in the game. The bulk of the 26 Passed Balls – if not all of them come from catching Wakefield (who also has 15 Wild Pitches). The catcher with the 2nd most PB’s? Josh Thole with 16. PB’s are just a fact of life with knuckleballers.

      The Red Sox have Gary Tuck as a Catching Coach – he is widely regarded as the best Catching coach in the game. Salty improved his throwing form and release this season over last – which is apparent in his career high 31% Caught Stealing. His .992 Fielding % is league average.

      As for the play at the plate, it appears he was anticipating a collision too much perhaps even taking his eyes off the ball just before it arrived.

      If you’re gonna get clocked, you’re gonna get clocked . . . but you only have one shot at catching the throw and making the tag.

  7. hittfamily - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Verlander, Bautista, Gonzo, and Cabrera wouldn’t have caught that ball either.

  8. Joe - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    September is like April, with people killing themselves to make sweeping judgments based on a week’s worth of games.

  9. proudlycanadian - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    In an interview on Bautista said that if he had a vote, he would vote for Cabrera and that he assumed that Cabrera would vote for him (Bautista). They are clearly the best 2 hitters in the AL this season. Bautista also plays very well in right field. He has a very accurate arm and runners rarely test it.

    • Ari Collins - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:27 PM

      2 best hitters – but not the two best players.

  10. Bill - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Watching it again, if he makes that catch and holds on after crashing into the wall, AND the Red Sox go on to win the game and get to the playoffs, you see that catch replayed for years. It really would’ve been a spectacular play, not entirely unlike the Willie Mays catch everyone always tries to compare everything to.

  11. marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    So, when broadcasters that never played CF in the majors speak, we should listen? Hardly… Just another part of the media train that is fueled off the doom and gloom that is the Sox right now.

  12. cinci10 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    So sorry He missed the ball…error?? depends on your ball park!

    I still think Michael Young of the Rangers should be receiving STRONG consideration for MVP. Ccheck out his numbers!! and contributions!!

    • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM

      Michael Young doesn’t deserve any MVP consideration. He only hurts the team when they ask him to put a glove on, and he’s not even the best hitter on the Rangers.

      • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        To be a little more clear:

        A very bad fielder who isn’t an elite hitter doesn’t deserve to sniff MVP talk.

        I was surprised to find out he is a good baserunner, however.

    • Joe - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:26 PM

      Michael Young is not in the conversation.

      • cur68 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM

        Not being considered, either.

    • cinci10 - Sep 27, 2011 at 4:40 PM

      what is with you folks..don’t follow the Rangers…Michael has only made 8 errors all year. He leads the team in hits 105. He is second in the chase for the batting title. He can play any infield poistion ( only 8 errors!!)

      It is like the whole baseball world revolves around the Red Sox and Yankees.
      Last year the Rangers had almost all day games in the first round…heaven forbid the Yankees not play in prime time…
      It gets old….we will just enjoy our Rangers and hopefully get back tot he worlld series…I know we can win it all

      • Alex K - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:20 PM

        Catching balls that he can get to isn’t his problem. He doesn’t get to many balls – that’s the problem. So yeah, he can play any infield position poorly. Errors aren’t a good measure of how good of a fielder a player is.

        Nobody said Young is a bad hitter. He isn’t an elite hitter, however. His batting average is built on a career high BABIP which is .29 better than his career average. He doesn’t hit for power, either.

        Once again- nobody said Young stinks. We only say that he has no business in the MVP discussion.

      • Bill - Sep 27, 2011 at 6:24 PM

        Worth noting it’s not an anti-Rangers thing, either. Beltre, Kinsler, and Wilson have been excellent this year — still not MVP-level, but a lot closer. Then you’ve got Harrison, Ogando, Hamilton and Andrus, who have been quite good. THEN, arguably, you’ve got Young. It’s a completely unjustifiable stretch to consider him for MVP of the *team*, let alone the whole league.

  13. ny82jy - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    To every single red sux fan on here. hahahahahahahahahahaha! i hope u guys complete the choke job tonight and go a game behind TB. You guys are pathetic. I wish i could have all the comments from earlier in the year when you guys thought you were so great. Your pitching sux your managing sux lately and so does your hitting too. Gonzalaz who? Yooooo! who? You guys are a true joke.hahahahahaha

    • cur68 - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      …and that ^^ my friends puts the “ass” in “class”.

      • marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        So true…

    • marshmallowsnake - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Oh, funny how you neglected to mention yourself in the sucking part.

    • bigleagues - Sep 27, 2011 at 8:05 PM

      Who let the 12-year-old in?

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:22 PM


  14. haroldb1234 - Sep 27, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    this catch is a 50-50 shot for god or willie mays; nod to mays.

    the kids hit the wall hard almost full tilt. he plays a shallow center field. had he played normal he’d have beat the ball to the wall and caught it. word to the wise, ells…

    god catches this ball if he moves the fence first, but then he’d get fined by selig…

  15. 12345numbers - Sep 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Jacoby Ellsbury has made 2 errors in his entire career and none of them are this year. He has hit 4 home runs in the last 4 games. He has kept his team in the wild card race. Im a yankees fan and I want to see the rays in the playoffs, but the mvp has to go to miguel cabrera or ellsbury

  16. chrisnbeckett - Sep 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    cut and dry ellsbury is the mvp! He put this team on his back and carried them through this september slump. Without him and were looking at the biggest flop job in history!!!

    • bigleagues - Sep 28, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      Slow down cowboy . . . I agree with you on Ellsbury winning the MVP, but the Red Sox are not yet off the hook for the distinction of worst collapse in history.

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