In a great season for Red Sox fans (the exploits of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez alone would be cause for delirious joy), the emergence of Josh Reddick has been one of the better story lines on the team.
He plays the game hard and plays it with a flair. His swing is one that sees the bat whip through the zone with fluid authority, he slides into bases without much regard for his well being, and he seems to have a cannon for a right arm, gunning down runners from Fenway’s cavernous right field.
But really, what makes his story compelling is that he’s young.
He’s had quick stints with the Red Sox the past two seasons, marked by impatience at the plate and quick trips back to Pawtucket after whichever player he was covering returned from injury.
This season, at 24 years old, he’s pulled it together, showing an improved intelligence for the game to go along with his obvious natural gifts. While a number of Red Sox corner outfielders have struggled, Reddick has stepped up. In 46 games in Boston, Reddick is hitting .338 with 5 home runs and a .949 OPS.
And that’s come at the expense of some veteran players. Last month, the Sox sent Mike Cameron packing, Reddick having usurped him as the Sox’ best option off the bench. And more recently, J.D. Drew has seen his job handed to the younger Reddick. That’s how it goes.
Given all that, last night was rather remarkable. To cap another excruciating marathon by the Red Sox and Yankees, Josh Reddick hit the left-field wall in the 10th inning to drive in the winning run. And, as several media outlets this morning pointed out, Drew was among the first Red Sox out of the dugout to celebrate with Reddick.
To see Drew among the first to run out to celebrate with his replacement was rather heartwarming. Forgetting expiring contracts and possible resentment, there was Drew, celebrating a win with the player, 11 years his junior, who took his job.
This is not intended to be one of those “the game mirrors life” pieces, but Drew’s support seemed to be genuine, his joy following the win a rare show of emotion for a typically even-keeled, sometimes stoic player. And it signified the circular motion of the game at this level. Kids come up, some fail, some succeed, and some are lucky enough to have long careers, with home runs, All-Star Games and World Series sprinkled in. And every single one of them will be replaced.
Drew has effectively been replaced, the victim of Reddick’s coming-out party sweeping across Drew’s poorly timed slump. But, in that moment, he seemed to be at peace with his fate.
Kevin Youkilis openly noted that, one day, he won’t be playing for the Boston Red Sox, either because of retirement or because a younger player, perhaps someone like Will Middlebrooks, will come up and take his place. And he was OK with that. Not long ago, he was the young player looking for a spot, and some day, he’ll be the veteran pushed out for the younger player. As he put it, being part of that is “cool.” Right now, Reddick is at the beginning of that journey. Drew is experiencing the end.
Players come in young, and they leave old. No one plays forever.