Batting First and Playing Left (or Right) Field...
There was the hotter-than-a-firecracker Boesch who burst onto the scene in May 2010, rocketing moon shots into the baseball night, exhibiting that classic, smooth uppercut lefty swing that has been the trademark of everyone from Willie Stargell to Ken Griffey Jr. to Josh Hamilton.
That Boesch, the first one, hit the tar out of the baseball and for a time was so impervious to big league pitching that manager Jim Leyland nestled him behind perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera in the batting order.
For a short time, Boesch provided some decent protection for Cabrera. No one knew how to pitch this kid Boesch, who hails from California, where so many of the baseball greats have called home. That’s partly because the kids in California are able to wield baseball bats even in the wintertime, instead of shovels.
At the All-Star break of 2010, Boesch No. 1 had American League pitching as his oyster. He was seeing the baseball as if it were as big as that spheroid the folks used to blow up and knock around the center field bleachers at Tiger Stadium.
Boesch, some felt at the time, was a lock for Rookie of the Year honors.
But after the break, Brennan Boesch No. 1 had been stashed away somewhere and replaced by a doppelganger—Brennan Boesch No. 2.
This Boesch was an evil twin. Rather, a wretched one.
Boesch No. 2 couldn’t have hit the ball even if it was placed on a tee.
His numbers sank faster than Newt Gingrich’s in Florida leading up to the primary. He struck out more than the class nerd looking for prom dates.
The second Boesch was a combination of Mr. Magoo, 2011 Adam Dunn and the last kid picked in gym class.
The protection for Cabrera went from Brinks to Barney Fife, almost overnight.
The second Boesch trudged home to California after the 2010 season forced to prove himself worthy to be on the 2011 Tigers. His roster spot, when the Tigers gathered in Lakeland last February, was hardly a given.
Thankfully, here came Brennan Boesch No. 3.
Boesch III made the Tigers quite easily. He was one of the best hitters in camp. Two games after Opening Day in New York, Boesch III went 4-for-4, including a home run, and had four RBI. He also scored four runs.
Boesch III played with a quiet confidence. He didn’t have any more of the first-year jitters that doomed Boesch No. 2. The silky smooth uppercut lefty swing was back.
It was nothing more than rotten luck that took Boesch III away from the Tigers prematurely last year.
A stubborn thumb injury, suffered in August, was the only thing that derailed him. This time it wasn’t pie eyes or a feeling of being overwhelmed by big league pitching that shook Boesch back to Earth.
The Tigers cruised to the AL Central title with Boesch in the dugout, cheering instead of playing.
But don’t let that fool you. Don’t let the fact that the Tigers ran away from the pack with a perfectly-timed 12-game winning streak in September make you think that Boesch III wasn’t integral to the team’s success.
That much was evident in the playoffs.
Oh, what might have been, had the Tigers had Boesch III available to them as they tried to slug it out with the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
Boesch wasn’t the only Tiger who was either lost entirely or less than full strength in the postseason, but he was among the most important.
As the Tigers prepare to gather once again in Lakeland in a couple weeks, Boesch has no concerns as to whether he will be on the team on Opening Day. Boesch III put those fears to rest.
But I submit that there should be some more question marks surrounding Boesch, only this time it has nothing to do with having confidence in him as a big league hitter.
I propose that the Tigers create a fourth Boesch.
Leyland has told the media ad nauseam that he has written many, many lineups down on paper following the season-ending knee injury to Victor Martinez, both before and after the Tigers signed Prince Fielder. That’s nothing new; Leyland loves to jot lineups down. If Leyland were a scientist, he’d be of the mad variety, working in a dusty cellar surrounded by beakers of various colored liquids.
Sadly, it appears that every lineup has Austin Jackson leading off, unless Leyland is keeping something to himself.
This is where Boesch IV comes in.
Few in Tigers Nation are thrilled with the prospects of another year of Jackson, the nifty center fielder, starting games by striking out.
The Tigers must have led the league in having their No. 2 hitters walking past their leadoff hitter going from the on deck circle to the batter’s box.
Jackson shouldn’t be batting leadoff any more than Ben Wallace should be the Pistons’ new starting point guard.
Why not make Boesch the new leadoff hitter?
Dump Jackson down to ninth, where he belongs.
Boesch IV, the leadoff version, will likely hit .270-plus, start the occasional game with a home run, and—most importantly—he won’t strike out 175 times. He’s got some speed, is a competent base runner and he won’t strike out 175 times. He’ll get on base with surprising frequency. Did I mention that he won’t strike out 175 times?
Indulge me for a moment. This time, I’m jotting down a lineup.
Actually, I don’t care what Leyland does with spots two through eight, as long as he gives my Boesch at leadoff/Jackson at ninth thing a try.
A fourth Brennan Boesch?
So far, we’re 2-1 with Boesches. I say we try for 3-of-4.