Photo From: Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports
Nearly six months have flown by since Rick Porcello and the starting nine kicked off 2017 with a 5-3 victory against the Pirates. Kimbrel notched a save, Benintendi went deep, and the X-Factor pillaged a pair of bags. Even the new and improved Pablo Sandoval drove one home and crossed the plate himself.
But over the course of the 150 games following, we’ve seen quite a few changes in the Sox clubhouse. Kyle Kendrick and his 12.96 ERA have been sent packing, Steve Selsky had a venti cup of tea, and Brian Johnson tossed Boston’s sole complete game shutout of the season, since being delegated back to AAA.
And the $90 million man himself was at long last, designated for assignment.
When Dave Dombrowski sent Travis Shaw packing during the Winter Meetings accompanied by a small package of prospects, there wasn’t much of an uproar in Boston. Personally, I didn’t like how the Mayor of Ding Dong City was discarded during the 2016 season. He struggled against lefties, sure, but how the heck did he end up on the bench, in favor of Aaron Hill? 52 XBH and an OPS of .723 isn’t too shabby, especially for a number six hitter in the lineup. I can’t say I’m surprised that the slighted 3rd baseman is having a monster season, jacking 30 bombs, while adding 96 steaks for the Brew Crew through 134 games. His offensive production this year has led to heavy scrutinization of the December 6th maneuver, which was further exacerbated by Tyler Thornburg’s boo-boo. It was the worst case scenario that could have unfolded at the hot corner; a year prior, there was a logjam of mediocrity consisting of Shaw, Hill, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, the endangered and injured Panda, with Yoan Moncado nipping at the heels of the big league roster (Devers was hardly a thought at this point). Yet come May of 2017, Wade Boggs’ mustache was contributing more to the position than the uniformed players were. Even Jhonny Peralta got 20 days afforded to him in Pawtucket. 3rd base was a problem; solved by an unlikely, unsung hero: Deven Marrero.
The position was a revolving door early on in the campaign. Hernandez may have served as a useful incumbent, but fell prey to season ending surgery. Holt was concussed, and Josh Rutledge, doppelgänger of the Brockstar, landed his self on the 60 Day DL. Bear in mind, this was all occurring as the NL Central was being assaulted by Shaw and Eric Thames, who Boston kicked the tires on in the offseason. Trade rumors began swirling, centered mainly around Todd Frazier, (good contributor, power bat that the Sox lacked) and a Mike Moustakas rental. With Moncada out of the picture and the depth dwindling, D-Mo got the call. While he won’t be adding any Silver Slugger hardware to his armoire, (we did see him put together a nice 7 game hitting streak) his impact can’t be glossed over. His glove work, footing, quick hands and heady instincts highlight his gold glove caliber defense, despite playing out of position at 3rd base. The fact that he didn’t weigh 280 pounds was a sight for sore eyes as well. Having a mainstay at the corner infield spot allowed other pieces to fall into place for John Farrell, and the focus of the team turned to winning. Yes, saber metrics are effective in measuring a player’s defensive capabilities, but the most telling statistic is this: 27-17 in games started by Marrero. Does anyone feel like arguing against a .610 winning percentage?
Marrero was eventually spelled by Tzu-Wei Lin in an effort to spark the offense, but his contributions were not overshadowed. Sure, last night was a nine run blowout; Sale captured the headlines by becoming the first pitcher in 104 years to strike out 191 batters on the road, and only the second to some guy named Pedro Martinez to rack up 300 punchados in a single season… but did you see the utility player’s teammates react to his long ball? His compatriots that he’s gone to battle with in the minors for so many years recognize his work ethic, and appreciated it’s results. You’re not going to have an all star at every position. Deven bailed the team out in a big way by locking down 3rd, as we awaiting the impending cavalries, more commonly known as Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers. And since, hardly a glance has been directed towards a Brewers box score.
This is a mere tip of the cap to the Florida born Mr. Marrero, who served as a reminder that in an era where 40 home run, 200 strikeout players gain notoriety, but there’s still room in America’s Pastime for rock solid defense and serviceable contributions with the stick.
Guys like Deven win games, and the postseason roster won’t be complete without him.