If there’s anyone who has a right to be bummed by Jason Heyward winning the Braves’ starting right field job it’s Matt Diaz who is basically losing his starting job to Heyward. But part of what makes Diaz a useful player is that he’s pretty smart, and his brains were on full display today when he was asked about Heyward:
“I’m sure the fans are pleased, but I know this
locker room’s very, very pleased. We’re all pumped. We know he can help
us. He’s going to make pitchers pitch differently . . .I have no idea how it’s going to work. I just know we have
four really good outfielders, and Bobby always finds a
way to find people playing time. I’m sure if he feels I have the hot
hand, I’ll get to play. I don’t know what position, I don’t know when.
I’m sure the other guys are the same way.”
I’m sure Diaz is aware that Heyward, for all of his promise, is being overhyped to some degree. I’m also sure that if you asked him to be totally honest he’d say that in 2010 he could probably outhit Heyward, certainly against lefties, and very likely overall (indeed; if Heyward puts up a 120-130 OPS+ like Diaz is capable of he’d exceed his already high expectations).
But Diaz is no fool. He knows who the future is in Atlanta, and it certainly isn’t a 32 year-old platoon guy. Maybe it’s not appropriate to praise Diaz for acknowledging what seems manifest, but worse players than him have reacted far more poorly upon losing their jobs in the past, and it’s nice to see that any potential headaches in this situation are being avoided.
But wouldn’t it be great to see Melky Cabrera lose his head over all of this?
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.