In Today’s News…
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Still a bit blurry-eyed after staying up for the opening act of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, I awoke Thursday to the account of a Red Sox win over the Tampa Bay Rays in The Boston Globe. Turning the pages of the paper, which remains one of life’s simple joys — especially while sipping morning Joe — I was struck by a couple of thoughts.
Initially and immediately, I noted the times of the two games. The Sox and Rays required 3 hours, 22 minutes to reach a 2-1 conclusion in nine innings, only two of which featured any scoring. The B’s and Hawks completed the near-equivalent (actually 93 percent) of two full contests, encompassing five intermissions, in 4:38. At their same pace, Boston and Tampa Bay would have needed almost 6 1/2 hours to finish 16-plus innings (93 percent of two whole games).
Indeed, baseball is a timeless game.
More importantly — and as such, more enduringly — I read Pete Abraham’s story about the Red Sox-Rays encounter and was reminded of how dramatically one’s baseball fortunes can change. During a career. And, often, within a season.
Abraham led by writing that “Daniel Nava deserves votes for the All-Star Game” and later chose the word “indispensable” to describe the current Red Sox and former PawSox outfielder.
As you’d expect, Abraham supported his notions, which might have seemed unthinkable at any number of points along Nava’s baseball odyssey. For example, Nava ranks in the top four among American League outfielders in four significant offensive categories: on-base percentage (first), average (second), RBI (second) and OPS (fourth).
“He’d get my vote,” said Boston manager John Farrell, offering a public endorsement of Nava’s All-Star candidacy. As Abraham also pointed out, since Nava’a name isn’t included on the ballot, he’ll have to be a write-in candidate.
Considering how often Nava could have easily been written off, the mere mention of him making the mid-summer classic is truly amazing.
Perhaps you already know his back story. If not, the condensed version follows.
Nava was once a last-place batter for his high school team; failed to make the squad at Santa Clara University as a walk-on; stayed involved in the sport as an equipment manager; transferred to a junior college; returned to Santa Clara on scholarship; went undrafted by major league baseball; and needed a second chance to hook-up with an independent club.
Along the way, he captured a conference batting crown; tore up the Golden League as a Chico Outlaw; was discovered by the Red Sox; and hit a grand slam on the first pitch of his first big-league at-bat in 2010.
Even then, major league success for Nava was anything but assured. Two years ago, he was coming off an all-star caliber campaign in the International League when he returned to Pawtucket for the start of the 2011 season. He ended April with a .159 batting average and didn’t hit his first home run until the final night of May, giving him a paltry 12 RBI in 42 games.
To their credit, the Red Sox stuck with Nava, who closed 2011 with a .268 average and .372 OBP after delivering seven homers and 22 RBI in his last 32 games. Given his status — not exactly a prospect at the then age of 28 — many, if not most other clubs would have cast Nava off. Boston didn’t, and today is reaping huge dividends from someone who, as Abraham asserted, continues to prove himself indispensable.
Another name very much in the latest Boston baseball news is that of Alfredo Aceves.
After giving up seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings of a rain-shortened rout at the hands of Oakland on April 23, it was obvious to most observers in Red Sox Nation that, at best, Aceves needed a change of scenery. Which many believed would mean a new organization.
Instead, the Sox dispatched Aceves and his 8.66 ERA to Pawtucket. Since making his PawSox debut on May 2, he’s gone 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in five starts, limiting opponents to 28 hits in 30 2/3 innings pitched. Subsequently, Aceves has earned two promotions to Boston.
On May 27 he held the Phillies to one run in six innings of a 9-3 victory. A couple of weeks later, starting in St. Petersburg about an hour and a half before they dropped the puck in Chicago, Aceves again allowed just a single run in six innings.
Months from now, should the Red Sox play into baseball’s postseason, neither effort should be forgotten. Each is a reminder of something else that can always be said about the timeless sport.
Baseball is a game of redeeming values.