You might not have even noticed his absence with the way the Red Sox are playing and scoring runs, but Jacoby Ellsbury is missing.
Missing from the lineup. Missing from the field. Maybe even missing for good.
Now, of course, that is the worst case scenario triggered by my pessimism, but anytime Ellsbury goes down, you never seem to know what the duration of it will be. According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Ellsbury is suffering from a compression fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot. Basically, he has a tiny hairline fracture that the Red Sox need to be wary of going forward.
The word “hopeful” seems to be getting thrown out a lot about the injury. Everybody is “hopeful” he can return before the season ends. Or are “hopeful” that there are no setbacks. It just doesn’t seem to me that anybody is certain on the subject. I think it’d be smarter to commit to keeping him out until October and make no mention of a late September return. Jacoby needs healthy legs under him to perform at the level Sox fans are accustomed to seeing, so if there’s even a 1% chance that he could inflict more damage by being rushed back, it’s not worth losing him for the postseason.
Since his breakout into the Majors in 2007, Ellsbury has been nothing but a productive and valuable center fielder for Boston’s most beloved team. He patrols center with the speed unmatched by most big leaguers and his lifetime .297 average, 241 stolen bases, and 313 RBI’s speak for themselves as to what kind of leadoff hitter Ellsbury is.
This season has been no different.
He’s hitting .299, with a .355 OBP, 52 RBI’s, 89 runs, and 169 hits. His league-leading 52 steals are 12 more than the next guys total (Rajai Davis, 40), and his DWAR (defensive wins above replacement) is at 2.1, tied with Shane Victorino for 5th-best among MLB center fielders. Ellsbury’s value appears all over the field. The problem is keeping him on it.
His injury history reads more like novel than a list; Concussions, rib fractures, broken fingers, groin pulls, dislocated shoulders, foot fractures, it never stops. While I wouldn’t call him a reckless player, he does play with what I would call chaotic energy, and most of the injuries he’s faced are a result of him trying to make a play at 100 mph. Strangely enough, this most recent injury was caused by just your everyday foul ball off the foot, but that’s baseball for you. A guy can dive through the air, or crash into walls for 161 games and be fine, but a simple foul ball can end it all in seconds.
The silver lining in all of this is that the Red Sox are deep in the depth chart for outfielders, and the injury will give some guys a chance to step up. Specifically, Jackie Bradley Jr. If this is indeed Ellsbury’s last year in Boston — and I don’t really want to touch on the whole contract situation with him because it’s a topic that has been beaten to death — this could be a big spot for JBJ to show Boston what he’s got. I’m assuming Victorino will easily slide into his natural position in center, leaving Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and Daniel Nava to handle the majority of the work in right and left field, but I’d imagine Farrell would like to get Bradley Jr. some work in.
For now, Sox fans should put their worries about Ellsbury on the back burner because there are AL East-winning champagne bottles to be popped.
Magic number: 10.