Earlier this year when we all sorta got the feeling that Dustin Pedroia would not return from his hampering knee injury, I suggested that a stop-gap solution might be to move Mookie Betts to second base (his original position) and have Dave Dombrowski go get an outfielder at the trade deadline. My rationale was that it’s easier to find a productive outfielder on the trade market than a second baseman. Dombo eventually went out and got Ian Kinsler to solidify the two bag, but when he got injured in early August, Betts did move to second base for six innings during a game. Betts is literally the best outfielder in the Majors, but when the Red Sox face off against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, the Red Sox lose the Designated Hitter. Alex Cora has already stated that J.D. Martinez will NOT be taking a seat during the three games in L.A., so there has to be some lineup shifting. Mookie has been taking balls at second base this past week. Is it for insurance, or will Kinsler ride the pine? And furthermore, with Manny “I'm Not Charley Hustle” Machado running the bases like Ty Cobb on a whiskey bender, do we want his knees/ankles/skull getting in the way of a guy who purposefully attempts to injure other players?
Last week, Machado was fined an undisclosed amount of money by MLB for this dirty play on Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar:
As you can see by the quote by Brewers superstar Christian Yellich, the Brew Crew was not happy about Machado’s move. You see guys run down to first base a hundred times a day in the regular season, and amazingly (sarcasm) this almost never happens. I guy clips the first baseman’s leg? Not on a routine play.
Machado of course has a history of this stuff, and let’s just say that last year he made a questionable slide into one of our guys who hasn’t seen much of the field since:
Two days later, Matt Barnes threw a fastball in back of Machado’s head.
Manny was not happy. Dustin Pedroia then uncharacteristically threw his teammates under the bus:
Yelling “It’s not me, it’s them” was kinda a bad look for Pedey, and the fans were none too pleased. But supposedly, that’s all water under the bridge...for Pedroia. Matty Barnes still ain’t too happy about what transpired last season:
You're talking about a play in which Pedey still hasn't played since then, really," Barnes said Monday, via the Eagle Tribune's Chris Mason. "When you take out a captain, a leader of a team, that's not going to sit well with anybody. It kind of is what it is. You move on. I don't see anything happening, I really don't, but it doesn't mean that we've forgotten about it."
Amazingly, Machado hasn’t poked the proverbial bear a la Aaron Judge (playing New Your, New York whlst leaving Fenway after one win) or Alex Bregman (Instagramming the failures of Nathan Eovaldi earlier in the season) yet. I thought for sure Double M’s was going to come out and address the Pedroia situation poorly this week, but so far crickets. That’s smart, because since the Judge/Bregman issues arose, the Sox are 5-0.
So we all can pretty much attest that Machado is a dirty player. That smug smirk of his will surely be the downfall of several remote controls/television sets this week all across New England. But do we want to chance putting Mookie out at second?
Offensively, the lineup will be better. Here’s what you’d be looking at:
Betts - 2B
Benintendi - LF
Martinez - RF
Bogaerts - SS
Moreland/Pierce - 1B
Devers - 3B
Vazquez - C
Bradley, Jr. - CF
That’s a pretty solid lineup. If you chose not to move Betts to second, presumably you’d have to sit Jackie Bradley, the ALCS MVP. JBJ obviously made the most of his hits last series against the Astros, but you ain’t sitting Betts, and Benintendi is the more consistent hitter.
Sitting Ian Kinsler deprives you of superior double play defense, but Cora can surely play the matchup game in the later innings if need be. If the Sox have a substantial lead in any of the Left Coast games, perhaps the Sox do let Martinez grab some bench time to put their best defensive alignment out there. The bottom line? Would the National League just adopt the damn DH already?
I honestly don’t think Machado’s potential to injure guys will factor in Alex Cora’s lineup decisions. If Betts looks serviceable playing his original professional position, Cora will do what’s right for the team. If the Sox take both games at the Fens, there’s really no reason to force Betts into an uncomfortable spot. But if the Sox offense is struggling before heading west, Cora may have no choice.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky