Earlier this week I made the argument that it was in fact time for the Red Sox to make a statement and put a stamp on this early season by taking it to the American League leading Tampa Bay Rays. Well, I think after the events of last night, culminating in a series sweep by the Red Sox, statements were made.
Tampa Bay came into Boston with a lead in the American League East for the second time in a row, and the Rays who were looking to prove that they belong in the mix for the division once again left with a sweep. But last night’s game wasn’t any run of the mill series finale. As Terry Francona would say in his post game press conference;

“Just another boring night at the ballpark.”

I think it’s fair to say that last night was anything but boring. Thankfully, Paul and I were recording our weekly podcast live as the night unfolded. Starting with the spillover from Coco’s tussles with the Rays the night before, escalating to a benches clearing brawl, to Jacoby Ellsbury’s very frightening looking injury (let’s hope he heals as quickly as Paul Pierce), and coming to a testosterone laden head with Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis getting into it in the dugout, last night will be remembered for many things before it is remembered as an on the field statement.
It’s also fair to say that no one could have predicted that the Red Sox would at one point in the game feature an outfield of Chris Carter in left, J.D. Drew in center, and Kevin Youkilis in right. We may, hopefully, never see that lineup in the outfield again.
Of course, the odd outfield configuration was born out of a series of events, some expected and some most definitely not. Coming into the game, the Red Sox outfield configuration was somewhat altered by the injury to David Ortiz and a sore “Manny Hammy” moving Ellsbury to left field, Coco to center and Manny to the DH spot. That was expected. What could not have been predicted was that two thirds of the starting outfield would be removed over the course of the game.
It all started with Coco Crisp’s ejection that shifted Ellsbury over to center as Crisp was replaced by rookie Chris Carter (who made a few nice plays in a position he was clearly a little uncomfortable while picking up his first major league hit).
It is an almost certainty that Coco Crisp will be levied a serious suspension for his actions over the last two games, most likely in the seven to ten game range. The impact of that looming suspension would only be exacerbated a few innings later when Jacoby Ellsbury would make a sensational diving play in right-center field while rolling his right wrist pretty dramatically.
While the news coming out of the trainers’ room has been positive with Ellsbury most likely day to day with only a strained wrist, the worst was not far from being realized as the youngster walked off the field holding his arm very tentatively.
With Coco gone, Ellsbury forced out and Manny at the DH position, the Red Sox had little option but to move J.D. Drew to center and place Kevin Youkilis in the unfamiliar territory around Pesky’s Pole in right field.
The larger question that haunted me as this all went down was a combination of the worst case scenarios playing out before my mind’s eye. What if, Coco was suspended ten games, Ellsbury was forced out for a month recovering from something more than a strained wrist, Manny’s hamstring continued to flare forcing him to DH only, or even worse DL time, and J.D. Drew was to be relied on as your most dependable everyday outfielder with his injury history? With David Ortiz out for an extended period of time, how would the Red Sox manage?
The good news is, at least apparently, that Ellsbury’s injury won’t require a DL stint and there won’t be any overlap of his injury and Coco Crisp’s potential suspension, given he will likely appeal until the timing is better for the Red Sox. Given that, thankfully the thoughts of Jon Van Every as the starting center-fielder for any extended period of time have been back-burnered. As long as J.D. Drew and one of Ellsbury and Crisp is available to play the field and Manny to DH, the likes of Chris Carter and Brandon Moss can adequately fill any short term needs in the outfield. Thank god for outfield depth.
Can you imagine if the Red Sox had dealt Coco Crisp? Where would these conversations be taking us then?
But the Crisp and Ellsbury situations were only part of the odd drama last night. What was up with Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez in the dugout going toe to toe? As David McCarty astutely pointed out in the NESN Extra Innings Extra broadcast, this wasn’t a big deal. This happens all the time in the locker room (well, it happens a few times a season) and is dealt with like brothers squabbling. Terry Francona attributed it as much to the testosterone floating around the dugout after the fight and the adrenaline that comes with putting the finishing touches on a statement series like this.
Look, I am not a fan of letting your emotions take that degree of a hold on you. From Coco charging the mound to the situation in the dugout, this team was on edge last night. But part of me welcomes it.
I said coming into the series that the Red Sox needed to make a statement. They did just that. They made a statement in all phases of the game from pitching and hitting, to attitude and competitive drive. This team stood up and said, “We will not be complacent and watch this season go by. We will fight.” And fight they did!
Time will tell what type of effect this game from injuries to suspensions to lingering internal strife will have on this baseball team. But with Terry Francona manning the helm and the talent on this team, I expect them to start to distance themselves from the Rays atop the A.L. East over the next few weeks.