I used to write for another site called Red Sox Life in the before time. And when you’re writing for a team specific site like that, you can sometimes struggle for stories – especially when the team is in Spring Training. There was only so many times I could write about chicken and beer or whether or not Bobby Valentine was going to manage the entire season with that fake mustache on.
This could explain why I latched on to Pedro Ciriaco so badly. He was hitting game winners, stealing bases and playing slick defense wherever Bobby Valentine put him. What was there not to love?
Valentine loved him too and was campaigning for the young infielder to stay with the big club when the season started. His logic probably went a little something like this:
Well, Nick Punto sucks. So why not go with the kid instead?
But just like many of Bobby Valentine’s preferences when it comes to players, the Red Sox brass did not agree. And so, after hitting .419 with 8 stolen bases in 28 spring games, Ciriaco was sent down to Pawtucket. Undeterred, Ciriaco hit .301 and swiped 14 bags in 64 game with the Paw Sox before being called up.
Going in to this season the Red Sox had a hole at shortstop. A hole they thought could be filled by a platoon of Aviles and Punto. Slowly as spring training progressed it became apparent just how bad Nick Punto was, but there was another thing that people started to notice – Mike Aviles was actually pretty good.
There were the defensive limitations and he’d never had a complete season as “the guy” but he could hit a little bit and he was cheap. If it didn’t work there was always Jose Iglesias down on the farm.
Then Aviles started the season absolutely on fire. It appeared the Sox had found their diamond in the rough, someone who could spell the time while Iglesias worked on improving his plate discipline. Aviles was so hot at one point that it seemed like he was going to be an All Star.
Not bad for a guy the Royals basically cut.
The pitchers in the majors have a way of figuring things out. Between the constant scouting and video sessions – they will find your weakness, exploit it and then make you look foolish. It’s just the way it works and poor Mike Aviles has been no different. The hits are no fewer and farther between. Those homeruns that his was hitting with regularity at the beggining of the season? Non existent. And god forbid he tries to steal a bag anytime soon.
Even with all that, he’s still the 9th ranked shortstop in ESPN standard leagues. Clearly there is some talent there, but it seems pretty maxed out at the moment.
Ciraco, though, seems to have nothing but room to grow. He plays with a poise that hides his relative inexperience. A brash cockiness that only comes from being the absolute man.
Pedro Ciriaco is a stud.
He may not be your shortstop of the future (hopefully with all the time they’ve spent on Iglesias he can figure it out) and Pedroia will be back eventually, but Aviles seems just about cooked at this point. Why not trade him for a starter, reliever, first baseman that doesn’t exclusively hit singles, 14 tins of Skoal or a picture of John Henry in women’s underwear. Anything really, because I’ve never heard the Fenway crowd chant Mike Aviles before. But they certainly were chanting Pedro’s name in his first at bat.
With a team that struggles in the likeability department, wouldn’t it be nice to have a good story for once? About a player that fans genuinely root for and not openly against – the way I do everytime Adrian Gonzalez sticks his ass out on a 2-0 pitch and flies to left.
Supposedly “the varsity” is returning soon, and they way they are payed they should play like “the varsity.” The injection of life and talent couldn’t come at a better time as the Sox try to climb there way back in to first the Wild Card, and then hopefully the Division race. Ciriaco could be the bottom of the line-up second leadoff man that could provide Ellsbury with rare RBI chances for a leadoff man. Not to mention the fact that Ciriaco has the speed and long strides to score from first on a single.
I’m aware that the same thing that’s happened to Aviles could very easily happen to Ciriaco. The guy can’t hit .625 forever. But as long as he keeps hitting remotely close to this he needs to be in the lineup.
MLB is different from the NFL in the way that a big contract, star player won’t lose his job just because of an injury (Sorry, Youk, but you hadn’t played like a star in a little while). It’s why Carl Crawford will start the first game he is able to and Daniel Nava will get a nice pat on the butt for the incredible job he’s done in Crawford’s place. The same thing will happen when Dustin Pedroia returns and Ciriaco will be forced to move.
But with Aviles there is no big contract, no loyalty, no ravenous fan strong hold that would make a bunch of mouth breathers boo a young player who took over for a former Sox cornerstone. There’s just a former nobody who has exceeded expectations and now has some value on the trade market.
It’s not like what they have been trying so far is necessarily “working.” With the promotion of Ryan Lavarnway a foregone conclusion and the return of Crawford to be followed by Pedroia and Bailey eventually, there will be plenty of new faces in the line up every day. The Red Sox will seem like a completely different team. So the Red Sox should trade Aviles for a “need” and go young on the left side of the infield with Middlebrooks and Ciriaco.
That’s what I would do. But then again, I’m the president of the Pedro Ciriaco fan club.
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