“Even before last night, he had quietly worked his way into your heart,” writes Jackie McMullan in her column in today’s Globe. Well, Jackie, I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there — and while Graffanino is busy inspiring you, your words are inspiring little confidence in me:
The truth is, before he damaged his thumb, Bellhorn was in danger of losing his job anyway. It has been a nightmarish season for the quiet, conscientious infielder whose loose locks and disheveled uniform conjure up comparisons to the lovable Pigpen character in ”Peanuts.” His teammates staunchly defend him, because Bellhorn works hard, keeps his mouth shut, and desperately wants to succeed. He drives fans crazy because he waits and waits and waits and WAITS on pitches and strikes out far too often. He has whiffed a team-leading 109 times this season (Manny Ramirez is second with 83). He was batting .216 when he went down, and he heard about it, almost every night.
Even the soft-tossing vacation with Millahhh doesn’t seem to have helped much…
Kevin Millar was concerned enough about Bellhorn’s psyche to invite him to Texas over the All-Star break and provide his own version of a pep talk. Shortly after that, Bellhorn went down with his injury.
…and the team cowboy isn’t very reassuring…
“At some point Bellhorn will get right, and he’ll help someone, whether it’s the Red Sox or one of the 20-other-something teams. Remember, this guy came up with some of the biggest hits this team has ever had. He just needs some time.”
…and Tito is (understandably) noncommittal:
“I’m not ready to go there yet,” he said. “These things work themselves out.”
Meanwhile, the comments on this post seem to suggest that Tony Graffanino has earned a few nicknames, which means that the fans are getting behind him. August is here. It’s time to face it straight on: Bellhorn might not be coming back this season.
As unsettling as the article is to the Bellhorn fan in me, props to Jackie for pointing out that Manny strikes out a lot too. Strikeouts are apparently forgiveable if you bat in a lot of runs and have a tendency to hit dingers, even if you lollygag around the field and have the most atrociously immature attitude. When it comes to personality, I’ll take Bellhorn’s quiet steadiness over the Manny Ramirez rollercoaster any day. I suppose it’s irrelvant to bring up the 2004 postseason as an item in No. 12’s favor — after all, what has Bellhorn done for us lately?
Graffanino’s doing very well, both offensively and defensively, and there’s no doubt he’s giving our regular second baseman a run for his money. It’s a classic example of baseball’s short term memory, but it’s important to remember (heh) that it cuts both ways: right now Graffanino’s up and the Dirt Dogs are asking, “Mark who?”, but to survive in this town you either have to be at the top of your game all the time, or you have to possess balls of steel and an internal confidence and self-reliance that will carry you through the rough spots, when you’re being booed off the field by the same fans who gave you a standing ovation last month. We know Bellhorn has this — he proved it to us last year. Graffanino might — he did come to us from Kansas City, and must have experience with going unappreciated. But, then again, he did come to us from Kansas City, and I think we can all agree that Kansas City is not Boston, and that Graffanino has yet to experience the agony that comes hand in hand with the adulation. We’ve heard all this stuff before.
Graffanino: you’re doing well, so thank you. Bellhorn: we miss you, and we haven’t forgotten you, so start doing well, okay?
I’ll leave you with some classic self-effacing and surprisingly insightful Millahhh:
“Three weeks from now, we might not even be talking about any of this. I mean, how many times have I been on my last toe?”