Adrian's in the Outfield


Adrian's in the Outfield

By Rich Levine

The Red Sox have six games remaining on their tour through the National League, which means that starting Tuesday in Philly, well only have SIX more days to discuss the most worn out debate in Boston! So, lets waste no time and get right into it:

Should the Sox play Adrian Gonzalez in their interleague outfield?

You know the deal by now. As they make their rounds of N.L. parks, the Sox are without their DH, a-k-a David Ortiz, a-k-a their second-most productive hitter. As a result, the only way to get Ortiz into the lineup is to play him at first base, a spot occupied by the teams most productive hitter Gonzalez. Thus, by the commutative property of baseball, the only way for the Sox to have their two most productive hitters in the same line-up is to shift Gonzalez to the outfield, and move Ortiz to first.

If only it were that easy.

For the first three games of the trip (two of which the Sox lost to Pittsburgh), Terry Francona resisted the temptation to switch up his superstars, instead opting to keep Papi in the holster as a pinch-hitter. The argument is that moving Gonzalez to the outfield puts him at a greater risk of injury. When you have a 150 million investment, you do everything you can to protect it. When you have a 150 million investment that just happens to be worth every penny? Youre going to be extra careful. And thats what Tito is doing. To this point, hes less interested in keeping David Ortiz in tune along on his most explosive first half since 2006 than he is preserving Gonzalez. He probably figures, Hey, lets just get through these nine games without any tragedy, seamlessly slip back into our regularly scheduled season and forget this interleague mess ever happened. After all, the next time the DH will be an issue is if the Sox make the World Series, and by then, any indecision will be a small price to pay for the fact that the Sox are in the World Series! Okay, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. For now lets just focus on the immediate future, the six games remaining on the Interleague schedule, and the question:

Should the Sox play Adrian Gonzalez in their interleague outfield?

Heres a six-pack of reasons why the answer is YES.

1. David Ortiz

Hes had an unreal resurgence. Still, this isnt the old lovable Big Papi. A lots changed since his glory years in Boston. Theres resentment towards the club for the lack of an extension, and theres a lot of animosity towards the media for the steroids stuff and what he perceives as unfair coverage during his slow starts the past few seasons. In both cases, hes probably justified, but still, this DH deal just feels like a recipe for the bad blood to spill over again. You know that if he cant get back on track after this break, hell blame the break. And once he starts underperforming, all those complications (from the contract and the public scrutiny) rise to the forefront. The pinch-hitting just messes with his head, and at this stage, his head might be just as important as his bat.

2. The line-up needs it

Listen, its not like the Sox were on fire before losing Ortiz. They lost two straight to the Padres prior to this trip, and in those two games, Ortiz went 0-for-8. So maybe he was due for a rest anyway. But now the rest is over. The Sox need their best lineup out there, or at least their best under the conditions. And, despite our previous assumptions that those days were over, theres no scenario where Ortiz doesnt give them the best chance to win. Is it just nine, or even now, six games? Sure, but in case you didnt notice, the Yankees are back in first. The Sox need their best bats, and Papis once again earned that status.

3. Liability, my Asdrubal Cabrerea
Over the last four seasons, the Red Sox are 21-6 in games that Ortiz starts at first. Talk all you want about how much of a liability he is, that doesnt stop the Sox from winning.

4. No J.D. Drew!

We are, at the very most, four months away from the end of the J.D. Drew era, and that knowledge, no matter how often (or under what circumstances) it crosses my mind, will always put a smile on my face.

But its not enough. Forget four months, I dont need to see another four innings of J.D. Drew in Boston. Any excuse to get him off the field is fine, the Sox will always be better off.

(What I find especially crazy is that Drew is still finding ways to get worse. He cant even get injured the right way anymore. He fouled a ball off his face in batting practice yesterday, but isnt supposed to miss ANY time? Who are you?! And what have you done with robot J.D.!?)

5. Gonzalez wants to play.

Maybe wants to is too much, but hes more than willing to make the switch if its what gives this team the best chance to win. So, its not like theyre forcing Gonzalez into a situation where hes uncomfortable. He doesnt even think its an issue. In his mind, hes only playing the outfield. Whats the big deal?

6. Hes only playing the outfield! What's the big deal?

I understand the need to protect your investments. With the way Gonzalez has played this season, I understand the desire to keep him in a routine. I also understand that Gonzalez isnt a great of an outfielder, and maybe a little bit of a liability himself. I get all that.

But, seriously, were all terrified that hes going to hurt himself playing the outfield? Is that really the extent to which were coddling these guys now? Believe me, this isnt a criticism of Gonzalez. Like I said, hes ready to roll. Im just wondering what everyone is so scared about. He wont have linebackers trying to behead him, a defenseman looking to tattoo him against the boards or a seven-foot monster looking to pile drive him into the hardwood.

Hes playing the outfield. And I know there are risks involved with that, but . . . come on! Not to go AI on you here, but we talkin bout outfield?!

Please. Hell be fine. Theyre paying this guy 150 million, youd think he be okay to run around in the outfield for a few days. He certainly thinks so.

And so should Francona. Forget the worrying and the over-coddling and just give A-Gon a crack in right field. Let Ortiz get back in the flow, before you lose him.

And turn this thing back around.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

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