Earlier this winter before the season began, I talked about how much I loved the 2007 team. With this being the ten-year anniversary of the championship, we are going to spend the year periodically looking back at some of the players and moments from that run. It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, but I figured it made sense to revisit it with today being an off-day. As the Red Sox get set to take on the Yankees in their next series, now is as good a time as any to look back on the young player who took the city by storm in the fall of 2007: Jacoby Ellsbury.
Since we come from the future, we know how Ellsbury’s Red Sox career ended up going after that initial run in 2007. He had his high moments — I’m still extremely bitter about him not winning the 2011 MVP — and his low moments. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll just tell you he was probably my favorite position player to watch for the Red Sox. His style of play was just so exciting, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have as much fun watching a player as I did watching him in 2011. It seems the general fan base feels the opposite, or at least a very loud minority does.
Regardless of the present-day feelings about Ellsbury, there is no denying the electricity he provided in his first taste of the majors in 2007. He would come up for a short stint in the middle of the season. For the most part this wasn’t notable, save for when he scored from second on a wild pitch.* When we think of the rookie that year we think of September and beyond.
*Somehow there is no video of this. The internet has failed me.
Ellsbury was a top-fifty prospect in all of baseball heading into that season, and as a former first round pick he was on the radar of many Red Sox fans before he ever put on the uniform. Top prospects, of course, are always risks of busting, but the hopes were high for Ellsbury. There was hype, and oftentimes those players can disappoint even when they are productive players. That was not a problem in this case.
When Ellsbury came up he was just 23 years old and was only a couple years removed from playing in college. Suddenly, he was tasked with playing for a contending team that had championship aspirations that also happened to play in one of the most pressure-filled markets in the country. It was not an easy task. He was up to it, though. He put together a phenomenal September in which he hit .361/.390/.536 in 105 plate appearances. It was a good enough performance to earn him a spot on the playoff roster as a sparkplug type player.
In that postseason, he really started to earn legendary status that can only come from a player with as little experience as him. Think Andrew Benintendi last year, except with the team playing more than three games. Ellsbury would start that postseason exclusively as a bench player, being utilized mostly as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. With Coco Crisp struggling, though, he took over as a starter in Game Six of the ALCS against Cleveland and never relinquished that spot. After taking over a starter, he hit .375/.444/.542 in the postseason. The marquee game for the young outfielder was Game Three of the World Series when he went 4-5 with three doubles. He was the first rookie to post four hits in a World Series game since 1946 and just the third of all time.
The performance was good enough to make Ellsbury into something of a cult hero in Boston for some time. It’s kind of crazy to think about right now, after all the injuries and supposedly disappointing years turned him into a punching bag of sorts. For that fall, though, everyone loved him. He was electric on the bases, and while he was a little rough around the edges in the outfield his speed allowed him to run everything down. When you combine that with his fearless postseason performance and his boyish good looks, he looked to be the next face of the franchise. He never quite reached that level, but he was a productive player for most of his Red Sox career. And he was a major contributor to a World Series champion. That’s good enough for me.