Mitch Over Marco?

Another day, another baffling decision by the Red Sox.

Today, the Sox activated Mitch Moreland. Moreland, who has only played one game since May 26, is a Gold Glove first baseman and often a key, solid component to this oft-inconsistent lineup. But my elation over Mitchy’s activation from the Injured List was quickly dampened by the news that it’s Marco Hernandez, of all players, who will be optioned to Triple-A to make room for Moreland on the roster.

Marco Hernandez’s story has been one of the few bright spots in this maddening season. After missing nearly two years of baseball and undergoing multiple surgeries, Marco Polo made his return to the Red Sox in a heartwarming and immediately impactful way. In 65 plate appearances over 27 games, he was batting .339 with a .359 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, and .859 OPS. He hit 2 homers, and had 4 doubles and 7 RBI, often at key, extremely clutch moments. He’s a huge reason the Red Sox as a whole have such incredible pinch-hit numbers this season; until recently, their collective pinch-hitting batting average was well over .400. One of Hernandez’s home runs was a late-in-the-game, pinch-hit, game-tying bomb. Over 16 games since June 24, he was 13-for-34, hitting .441 with 9 runs scored. His walk-off hit against the White Sox was one of the best moments of the season. And his defense has been great, too; just last night, he made an insane double-play to help Eduardo Rodriguez early in the game.

This two week stretch that began yesterday, known as the Division Collision, is make-or-break for the Sox. Every game is against division rivals the Rays and Yankees, so the results directly affect the standings, i.e. each game counts more. How the Red Sox play over these 14 games will be a deciding factor in Dave Dombrowski deciding to upgrade the team before the Trade Deadline next week or if we’re going to declare this season a wash and ‘wait til next year.’ In short: this is not the time to option a player who’s hitting well over .300 and coming up big every time he gets in the game.

And the Sox had other… options, pun-intended. For one thing, perennial up-and-down guy Sam Travis could have been sent back to Pawtucket. Or, and this would make even more sense, they could have put Michael Chavis on the IL. He’s been out for a few days with back spasms, and could use some time to get his head on straight, anyway. After all, he’s only been with the club since the end of April, but his 109 strikeouts is far more than anyone else in the lineup. Giving him a break while letting Marco and Travis share infield duties with Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland, who, by the way, went 0-for-13 during his rehab assignments in Pawtucket, seems the most logical move. But apparently not.

Baseball is a business, but some days, it just really sucks. One player I adore comes back, another player you can’t help but root for after all the adversity he’s overcome gets sent down. The good news is that Marco can and will likely be back up at some point. I just hope this doesn’t kill the insane momentum he’s had thus far. Even more importantly, I hope the team can succeed without him. They’re going to have to.

Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

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