BOSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. isn?t shutting up anyone with his offensive outburst.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Bradley?s huge week at the plate has gone a long way toward proving doubters wrong — it?s still a small sample, mind you — but it?s also adding a layer of intrigue, creating another subject of debate and opening up more possibilities for the Boston Red Sox as they look toward 2016. If anything, the noise surrounding Bradley?s major league potential is growing with each impressive performance.
The whole deal with JBJ for the better part of three seasons has been his inability to hit big league pitching despite defense that?ll play anywhere, including Pluto, assuming the tiny ?planet? finds its way back into our solar system?s good graces. It?s been curious and maddening, to the point where Bradley — still just 25 years old — was teetering on the edge of becoming an afterthought in Boston?s outfield plans.
After all, for how long can we sit around, stroke our chins, look up at the sky and wonder, ?Hmm, now if only this Bradley fellow could hit a little bit,? before we start to make definitive statements regarding his ceiling as a major leaguer? Roughly 600 plate appearances seemed like a decent chunk, if you ask me.
Yet, a funny thing has happened since Bradley?s most recent call-up: He?s not only hitting. He?s hitting like a mad man, forcing Elias Sports Bureau to dig deep — really deep — to find someone who accomplished what Bradley did Saturday afternoon in the Red Sox?s 22-10 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.
Bradley, a guy with a .563 career OPS entering the day, went 5-for-6 with two home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and five runs scored. His five extra-base hits marked a single-game franchise record, and he became just the second player in Major League Baseball history with five extra-base hits in a game at age 25 or younger. The other? Larry Twitchell, who you probably don?t know, which is OK because he accomplished the feat exactly 126 years ago on Aug. 15, 1889, when baseball was weird.
No disrespect to my boy Twitchy, but let?s keep this on Bradley. Perhaps his historical effort against the Mariners will end up being nothing more than a fluky box score we revisit in 2141, when everyone?s flying around in cars — flying cars is the de facto futuristic image, for whatever reason — and laughing hysterically at how many people were named Mike, Chris or John ?back in the day.? Or perhaps it?s a real indication that Bradley has turned a corner at the dish against major league pitching.
(The latter is a more intriguing scenario, of course, unless you plan to discover the Fountain of Youth and cruise the skies a century from now talking about how ?ole JBJ? was the one who never panned out.)
Bradley?s five-game hit streak, during which he?s hitting .591 (13-for-22) and slugging 1.364 with 13 RBIs, isn?t a perfect barometer for measuring his offensive potential. Not even Mike Trout or Big Joe Someone from the mid 80s — 1880s — could sustain that type of production.
But if it turns out Bradley really is evolving into a legitimate major league hitter — a question we’ll hopefully answer, one way or the other, down the stretch — the Red Sox need to figure out where he fits into their outfield plans that currently include Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts and that are subject to change based on Boston?s offseason pursuit of pitching.
In other words, the noise surrounding Bradley isn?t lessening nowadays. It?s just a different kind of noise — chatter built on optimism rather than pessimism — and it?s music to the Red Sox?s ears.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images