I have a problem.
I. Hate. Julio. Lugo.
I hate the stupid sub-.300 OBP he had last year. I hate the stupid hitting streak he’s on right now, because I know he’s just doing it to be even more of a $%@#$ later. I hate his enormous bug-eyes that stare so widely AND YET STILL MISS THE BALL. I hate that he wears his belt higher than Steve Urkel. I hate that he’s owned in 56% of ESPN fantasy leagues—who are you people and who is your leader??
Because of Julio Lugo, I am even starting to hate the song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” which makes me hate him even more, because that’s a good $#@%* song, goddammit.
I hate that Lugo’s six errors are nearly TWO-THIRDS of Boston’s 10 team errors. I hate that he would have even more errors if the official scorer were allowed to assume EVEN THE MOST BASIC AND ELEMENTARY LITTLE-LEAGUE LEVEL DOUBLE PLAYS. I hate that even when he doesn’t make an error, he still finds a way to suck. I even hate the one thing about him that doesn’t technically suck—his speed on the basepaths—because that speed masks the true depths of his sucktitude in the batter’s box.
Is this measured, or rational, or fair? No, no, and hell no. But then, hatred so rarely is.
So most of all, I hate that Theo Epstein offered him way more money than any other GM was even imagining offering him, so that now, not only are we paying through the nose for this @#$*%!, we can find no one else to take him off our hands. The $26 million remaining on the deal would be better spent stuffed directly into owner John Henry’s 164-foot yacht, the Iroquois, and burned as fuel.
And of course, I hate that Julio Lugo is blocking fuzzy-cheeked Jed Lowrie. Did you know that Lowrie has 5 RBI in 26 plate appearances, while Lugo has 5 ribbies in 86 plate appearances? Typical. More errors than runs batted in! And five GIDPs too! Even with the speed! And I laugh—LAUGH!—at the fact that in the ninth inning of of a recent game, with the Sox up by a run and Manny Ramirez out of the game, Terry Francona moved Lugo to left field and Lowrie over to shortstop as a defensive replacement.
But it is not happy, trilling laughter. No, it is cold, cynical laughter. Because, as I was forced to conclude in this week’s Metro column, Julio Lugo’s below-average play and above-average pay likely mean that Jed Lowrie’s days in Boston are numbered. Not only is the entire left side of Boston’s infield locked up through 2010, Jed Lowrie may not be a natural shortstop anyway, as he lacks some of the necessary “first-step quickness” (in the words of Baseball Prospectus). However, he has worked hard to cut down on his error rate and his throws are generally solid, so his comparative lack of range may not be immediately apparent. This leads me to conclude that, at short, the most that could be hoped for is the defensive capability of Derek Jeter, who has very sure hands but, like that other good-looking Derek, one Mr. Zoolander, “can’t go left.” Thus, another team may be happy to take Lowrie and stick him at second base. As for the possibility, explored by Coley at MLB Trade Rumors last weekend, that Boston would keep him and use him as a super-utility guy? It’s possible, but I think it’s unlikely as long as he has even greater value to the team as trade-bait.
But Red Sox fans, take heart. Even if we are stuck with Julio Lugo through 2010, we do have another, potentially even better shortstop prospect waiting in the wings. Right now, he’s down at Greenville, Boston’s single A affiliate. Oscar Tejada, writes Baseball Prospectus, is a “toolsy Dominican” who was “impressive” last year, in his debut season for the Gulf Coast League, “showcasing gap power, good speed, excellent range, and a cannon for an arm.” He’s still “at least three to four years away,” but he’s also “brimming with potential.” Some additional info:
The Good: Tejeda has all of the tools necessary to be a star-level shortstop. He’s a good hitter with a line-drive stroke who has the frame and the bat speed to develop into some power. Defensively, he has excellent range, crisp actions and a strong arm.
The Bad: Not even 18 yet, Tejeda is still rough around the edges in many aspects. He still hasn’t seen enough breaking balls to make the proper adjustments to them, and he needs to improve in the little parts of the game, like bunting and baserunning. Like many young, flashy shortstops, he’s prone to errors when trying to make spectacular plays.
Perfect World Projection: A starting shortstop with the ability to create runs at the plate, and prevent them in the field.
Timetable: Tejeda’s youth and inexperience leaves him very far from his potential. While it seems like he’s ready for a full-season assignment, he’ll be only 18 for all of 2008, and there might be a need for patience.
I hope Oscar Tejada comes along well. I hope he’s ready to go by spring training in 2011. And I hope to God that I still have eyes to see him by then, because if I’m stuck watching Julio Cesar Lugo for the next three full seasons, I may actually claw them out.