Say whatever you will about the age, the health or the arguably declining production of Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, but one thing you can't possibly take away from him is his unwavering professionalism.
No matter what happens to Lowell in the coming months, you just know Lowell will be able to swallow the news and take it in stride. Whether he's back at third base, moved to first, warming the bench, or just sent packing, Lowell has the maturity to handle whatever the future holds for him.
But what does the future hold? Even Lowell himself doesn't have a clue.
"I have no idea," the Red Sox infielder told WEEI.com last week. "I have absolutely no idea. That’s not my department."
Indeed, it's all up the Theo Epstein and the Red Sox' front office to decide what's next for Lowell. They've tried to trade him already, and they've failed — whether they try again or whether they keep him around, either way, Lowell will be able to swallow the personal beef and focus on doing what he does best: playing baseball.
"I don’t have a problem," Lowell told WEEI. "I think everything is getting lost with all the other pieces of who they want. But I think I’m going to do much better than last year. I feel like there were close to 20 games I felt I should have been in the last two months of the season, which would have given me about three more homers and would have put me at 20 [home runs] and 90 [RBIs], which is about what I am."
Lowell knows what he's capable of. It doesn't matter that he's turning 36 next spring and he's coming off thumb surgery — he's still a productive player, and there's still a place for him in Boston. Lowell is confident of that. There's no reason we shouldn't be too.
When rumors surfaced weeks ago of Lowell being traded, everyone understood the reasons why. The Red Sox were angling for a younger, cheaper, healthier roster, and with that in mind, it made sense to cut Lowell out of their future plans. But with Lowell now looking like he'll still be around in 2010, it's equally understandable why the Red Sox should love to have him around.
Honestly, who doesn't love a guy who, like clockwork, gives you a .280 average and 20 home runs, solid defense at third base, and a consistent clubhouse presence that makes everyone's lives easier? Lowell has been so reliable over his four years in Boston that we've begun to take him for granted.
If Lowell isn't traded before Opening Day, whether to Texas or somewhere else, then the Red Sox will find a use for him. They most definitely should. He's still barely lost a step defensively at third base, despite his age, and as Terry Francona has noted, Lowell can also be used at first base or as a DH.
Throughout this offseason, we've been hearing countless rumors about the Red Sox finding an immediate replacement for Lowell. Adrian Gonzalez's name has been thrown out there more than a few times. Miguel Cabrera is a candidate, too. Adrian Beltre, it's been reported, is still in play as well.
All of these players would fit in just fine in Boston. They'd all contribute nicely. But there's no shame in passing them all up. There's no reason not to be content with Lowell — after all, there's nothing wrong with getting perennial 20-homer power from your third baseman.
For the past two years, Lowell has flown under the radar in Boston, underappreciated for the fine work that he's done. But if the Red Sox ever lost him, they'd quickly discover what they were missing.
Sometimes, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. With any luck, the Red Sox won't lose Mike Lowell for a while.
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