When the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore, I braced for the worst. This was the sort of signing that always brings out the worst in a fanbase, particularly after a relatively quiet offseason. The sort that fans can't look at objectively, in isolation.Can't you just hear the sarcastic radio callers now? "Sure, the Yankees got Tanaka and McCann and Ellsbury, but we got Sizemore!" Forget the fact that he was a no-risk acquisition with some upside. Grady Sizemore is an injury-prone bum and the Red Sox are better than that!
It didn't come. Oh, I'm sure some folks played into the old tropes, but they were a minority, and not even a vocal one. Maybe it's the era of good feelings following a World Series win. Maybe it's just that fans are more savvy when it comes to free agency today in the aftermath of 2011. Whatever the case, Red Sox fans were mostly positive, if not expecting much from Sizemore.
Somewhere over the past month, that attitude has changed, but not in the direction we might have expected. Slowly but surely, Sizemore-mania has taken hold. He's gone from being a capable-if-fragile backup to Boston's secret weapon. Jackie Bradley Jr. starting? Please, the Sox can stash him in Triple-A! We're gonna ride the Grady Train as far as it'll take us!
What happened? Certainly not spring training. Or at least not the games. Sizemore hasn't looked bad, exactly, but he's certainly not having the sort of spring that makes fans take notice. Really the only thing truly remarkable about the one-time Cleveland star is that he is actually healthy for the first time in years. Or at least every word out of camp seems to be positive. That's a big first step for Sizemore, but it's hardly a guarantee of quality. It's not as simple as "broken" and "fixed."
The last time Grady Sizemore was any good was 2009, and he hasn't really been great since 2008. That's a huge amount of time in baseball terms. This time hasn't been spent in deep freeze. Sizemore didn't just blink out of existence and then pop back up in a Red Sox uniform. This is time Sizemore has spent away from live pitching, away from competition. And it's time Sizemore has spent aging. Every year we see players go from star to has-been, and Sizemore has five of those years between him and his better years. That they're filled with, effectively, blanks is only slightly more encouraging than if they'd each seen 150 games of poor production.
Sizemore Sizemore Sizemore!
Sizemore Sizemore Sizemore!
The point is not that Sizemore is a lost cause. The point is that he does not get the benefit of the doubt. He has to prove himself all over again, because we really haven't been given any reason to credit his 2014 self with his 2008 quality. And that's without his injury history. And his age and long-term value compared to his competitor in Jackie Bradley Jr.
Once upon a time, Grady Sizemore was an All-Star. And it's possible that the day will come when he rises to that level again. But a handful of spring training games and some generally positive reports on health should not be enough to convince anyone that the day is at hand. Grady Sizemore is not Boston's secret weapon, or their one great hope after a quiet offseason (not that they need one). He was signed to give Boston the depth they needed in center and right field, where otherwise they would be one injury away from a defensive horror story. And for all that the upside is there, the hype seems to have far outstripped Boston's actual expected value in this deal. Let's take it down a notch.