The Red Sox take the field tonight at Fenway for the first time since May 28, and for the first time since April 15, they’ll do so with Jackie Bradley Jr. in the starting lineup. Baseball Jesus will bat ninth and play centerfield against the Rangers, and will likely remain in both spots until Jacoby Ellsbury gets power back in his groin.
In all, it’s been just about a week since Bradley rejoined the big boys, and so far … he’s been OK. At the very least, he’s been better than he was during the 0-for-20 slump that preceded his April demotion. In five games (three starts), he’s 4-for-12 with two doubles, three strikeouts and zero walks. Not great, but definitely a start. And considering he hit .354 with a 1.002 OPS during his 20-game stay in beautiful Pawtucket … who knows? Maybe things are trending in the right direction. Maybe the slump is over. Maybe it won’t be long before we’re all building JBJ statues again and fighting over the chance to plop individual grapes into his mouth.
But for now, there’s one storyline within Bradley’s rookie season that I’ve found particularly interesting: He doesn’t watch a lot of film.
I read about it first over on Boston.com, during Bradley’s initial slump, where Peter Abraham wrote:
Bradley does not watch video of opposing pitchers in an attempt to anticipate what is coming. He prefers to trust his own eyes.
“I just try to play the game,” he said. “Of course I’ll check it out here and there. But it’s not something that I necessarily study. I don’t want to get so tied up in video. I want to see it in person first and then maybe study it.”
And then it came up again during the broadcast of Sunday night’s game on ESPN:
“Bradley’s not a big video guy or study guy,” Orel Hershiser said, as Bradley came to the plate. “I got to stand next to his locker with him yesterday and we were just chattin, and he just said, ‘Well, I’m more of a see-ball-hit-ball guy. I got my stuff figured out in Triple-A and feel real confident that the slump isn’t going to continue.”
I don’t want to make a big deal about this, because it’s not a big deal. In fact, it makes sense. I don’t think you ever want a player in Bradley’s position to be so reliant or obsessed with film. He needs to have his head up and not buried in a laptop. Like Ferris Bueller said: Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while … you killed the car.
And at this this stage in Bradley’s career, let’s say he did spend hours a day pouring over pitchers and previous at-bats, would he even know what to look for? I doubt it. He has to learn the basics before he worries about perfecting the craft. And once he gets, he’ll get there. And knowing what we do about Bradley’s drive and competitive edge, I doubt it will be very long after that before he becomes as much a student of the game as he is a player.
If not, I guess he wouldn’t be the first guy to have a successful Major League career without relying on technology.
Legend has it that Babe Ruth never downloaded a single at-bat onto his iPad.