Red Sox's Holt has All-Star history
BOSTON - Given the way he has played this season - offensively by solidifying the Red Sox' leadoff spot by taking a team-best .306 average into the weekend and defensively by starting at six of the nine positions - there was some talk about Brock Holt potentially warranting consideration for a spot on the American League team in Tuesday's All-Star game in Minneapolis.
Ultimately he was bypassed, at least in part because he spent most of the first six weeks in the minors, but taking Holt would've made some sense because a player of his malleable ilk might prove particularly useful in a game that features so many substitutions and moving parts.
And also because - as New Hampshire baseball fans know better than anyone - he has a history of All-Star game heroics.
Before becoming a regular with the Red Sox, Holt was property of the Pirates, and after a good start to the 2011 season with the Double-A Altoona Curve, he earned a nomination to the Eastern League All-Star Game that was held in Manchester that summer.
Power was not a primary part of his game then, and it still isn't now, so he'd hit just one home run to that point in the regular season. But shortly after the conclusion of the league's annual home run derby, Holt stepped into the box batting for the West squad with a man aboard. Seeing the short porch in right at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, and knowing it was an exhibition game, he set his sights on something to hammer.
"The stadium up there is really nice, and I just remember getting in a hitter's count. I was just looking for a good fastball to hit," Holt remembered last week. "I got one, and it's not a very deep park - especially to right; it's big to left and center - so I was able to get one out and it won the game. It was fun. It was a good time."
The West went on to win 8-3, but for his blast Holt was bestowed with honors as the most valuable player of a game chock full of future major-league starters, and shined a light on the player who'd be in the majors the next year, and sent to Boston with Joel Hanrahan in the subsequent offseason.
"I'd been an all-star in short season, High-A, then that year at Double-A, so I feel like I had a little bit of exposure. Your first year in Double-A, they say that's the biggest jump in professional baseball. So it was good. Had fun. Had a good year. It was a good experience."
And one Holt carries with him, even as he accumulates memories and accomplishments - and merits discussion as a potential All-Star - at the major-league level.
"Absolutely," he said. "Not many people can say they were MVP of an All-Star game, so that's something I remember still to this day. Don't think about it a whole lot, but it's definitely something I've got with me for the rest of my life, for sure."
Boston will send two of Holt's teammates to Target Field this week, with Jon Lester and Koji Uehara representing the team as part of John Farrell's AL roster, though the two current flag bearers will find a quartet of ex-Sox properties there, too.
The Rangers' Adrian Beltre (who entered Saturday leading the AL with a .341 average), the Tigers' Victor Martinez (who ranked second with a .991 on-base plus slugging), the Athletics' Brandon Moss (who ranks among the league's top 10 with 19 homers and 63 RBI), and the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo (whose 20 homers are one off the NL lead) will be there as well.
A lack of offense can sometimes be perceived as a lack of effort or energy from a baseball team - probably because it can make the game somewhat frustrating and boring if it's your squad that's getting shut down. But the 2014 Red Sox are evidence suggesting that said perception is not always aligned with reality.
Much has been made of the different "feel" between this year's bottom feeders and last year's world champions, with the memories of 2013 often centered on that club's penchant for dramatics and pulling close games from the fire. The team's 11 regular-season walkoffs were celebrated as a sign of that team knowing how to win.
But during their final homestand of the first half, the Red Sox won three games via walkoff - while going 3-7 overall during the 10-game stay - and also had another game in which they rallied from a five-run deficit in the late innings before losing. With those, the team now has eight walkoff wins on the season, easily putting them ahead of last year's pace.
Stat of the week: Going into Saturday night's game at Houston, David Ortiz had been the recipient of 15 of the Red Sox' 25 intentional walks. The only other Boston players who had received more than one? Stephen Drew and the departed A.J. Pierzynski.
Dave D'Onofrio covers the Red Sox for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.