NEW YORK — The Boston Red Sox are taking the training wheels off Mookie Betts. They’re also pushing the 21-year-old into a rocky terrain.
Betts was called up to the Red Sox from Triple-A Pawtucket before Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He arrives carrying the weight of Red Sox Nation on his shoulders, as the top prospect already has been anointed a potential savior of the floundering defending World Series champions.
The Red Sox’s decision to call up Betts is a win-now move, as ass-backwards as that sounds when dealing with a minor leaguer only three years removed from high school. Something needed to change, and calling up Betts represented the only in-house option with the potential for a huge payoff.
Minor lineup shuffles or bringing up just another farmhand wasn’t going to cut it. The Red Sox needed to swing for the fences if they planned to salvage their season, which reached another low Friday when Boston was blanked by New York 6-0 while producing just three hits.
The best-case scenario for Boston involves Betts doing what he’s done in the minors since being drafted in the fifth round in 2011: Rake.
Betts, who attained national prospect prominence with a monster 2013 campaign, has furthered the hype this season. He is hitting .345 with eight homers, 48 RBIs, 29 stolen bases, a .437 on-base percentage and a .957 OPS in 77 games split between Pawtucket (23) and Double-A Portland (54). He has far more walks (51) than strikeouts (33), which perhaps is the best indication of his incredibly advanced plate discipline. The production has been supplemented by a seamless transition to the outfield.
It would be ill-advised to expect Betts to set the world on fire, though. Sure, one can dream, hope and pray, but asking someone with zero big league experience to rescue the defending champs from the depths of hell is borderline unreasonable. It lays the groundwork for disappointment, no matter how invaluable these next three-plus months could be in Betts’ overall progression.
Could Betts burst onto the scene and give the Red Sox the shot in the arm they so desperately need after being shut out for the seventh time this season? Absolutely. It’s why they’re making the move. But the Red Sox need much more than the second coming of Brock Holt — as awesome as that sounds — to climb the ladder in the American League East.
Betts’ incredible rise through the minors — culminating over the last few weeks with what can only be described as “Mookie Mania” — has provided a point of optimism and hope for the struggling Red Sox. Now, with Betts in the fold, Boston officially enters make-or-break territory, with the next few weeks being critical in determining the club’s true identity.
Betts’ call-up is the right move. But it’s not a sure bet — or Bett? — to bring the Red Sox to a better place. Let the fun begin.
Photo via Twitter/@SoxNH