NEW YORK — Jacoby Ellsbury will get his 2013 Red Sox championship ring from Boston general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell before the Sox play the Yankees in the second game of their weekend series at Yankee Stadium Friday night.
Too bad. I was hoping the Sox would do the deed a week from Tuesday, April 22, when the Yankees play their first game at Fenway Park.
That would have been good. It would have been a nice test for New England fans — especially the dopes who chose to boo Johnny Damon when he first came to Fenway with the Yankees in 2006. You know . . . the same fans who razz Ray Allen when he returns to the Garden with the Miami Heat, and Adam Vinatieri when he attempts field goals for the Colts at Gillette Stadium.
Ellsbury knows the drill. He played for the Red Sox from 2007-13. He saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. He knows what happens when worthy Boston ballplayers come home in the uniform of the Evil Empire.
“That’s the reason I love this rivalry — the passion that the fans have,’’ Ellsbury said Thursday before going 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run in a 4-1 Yankee victory over the Red Sox.
“I haven’t thought about it too much just because whatever reception I receive will be out of my hands, but like I’ve mentioned numerous times, I gave that organization everything I had. Every time I stepped on that field, I gave 100 percent and left it out there.
“I know the time that I was there they respected that, they liked the way I played, the way I went about my business. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure there’ll be two different receptions from tonight’s game and from when I head back to Boston.’’
The Sox don’t make a habit of public presentations for emotionally charged situations that might prove embarrassing. So Ellsbury’s ring is here in the Bronx, in the office of Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick.
Still, it would be great to have Dr. Charles Steinberg roll out an Ellsbury video montage when the Bombers come to Fenway. We’d love another look at his electrifying steal of home at Fenway against a stunned Andy Pettitte. We could watch all those homers (32) from 2011 when Ellsbury was runner-up for the American League MVP Award. Maybe we’d get another look at his four-hit World Series game against the Rockies when he was a Xander Bogaerts-like call-up at the end of the 2007 season.
Ellsbury was a terrific player for the Red Sox any time he was on the field. The only problem was the slow healing and the long stretches when he was on the shelf. But let the record show that he played with a broken bone in his foot in the 2013 playoffs. And his major injuries came as the result of hard play — the collision with Adrian Beltre in 2010, and the shoulder-crushing play at second base in the home opener in 2012.
He was the lone ranger in the Sox clubhouse, especially after Jed Lowrie was traded. Ellsbury had few friends and no enemies. He was rarely at his locker (When Dustin Pedroia was asked where we could find Ellsbury, he liked to joke, “He’s out in the back — spray-tanning”).
Ellsbury’s flat-line personality insulated him from the highs and lows of the Boston baseball experience. He did not utter a single memorable remark in his six-plus seasons with the Red Sox and we don’t expect him to start now that he is in the fishbowl in New York.
The beauty of it all is that Ellsbury played hard and played well. His only brush with controversy came after the Beltre collision when he was clearly unhappy with his medical treatment (odd that Ellsbury’s first game against the Sox would unfold just hours after former Sox team doctor Thomas Gill “stepped down” from his position with the Patriots).
Emboldened by the unexpected World Series victory of 2013, Sox ownership made no effort to get into the Ellsbury sweepstakes last winter, and fans universally applauded the crafty Sox for letting the Yankees overpay Ellsbury to the tune of $153 million over the next seven years.
That’s all swell, but the Sox miss their center fielder/leadoff hitter thus far. Ellsbury (batting in the No. 3 spot in New York) is hitting .351 with an on-base percentage of .400, with four steals in five attempts. Sox leadoff hitters are batting an aggregate .158. Grady Sizemore took over the leadoff spot Thursday and went 0 for 4.
Throughout his years in Boston, Ellsbury was careful not to say too much. He professed his love for the team and the town, but never went so far as to say he’d take a hometown discount or that he wanted to finish his career in Boston.
Any extra meaning attached to facing Clay Buchholz and the Sox Thursday?
“I’m excited to play,’’ he said, sounding typically unexcited. “Spent nine years with the organization. Seven years in the big leagues. Roughly a third of my life.
“I left it all on the field for the Red Sox. Played as hard as I could. I’m definitely proud of my time over there. The two championships come to mind. Yeah, I’m excited for tonight’s game. There’s a lot of great memories that I take away and it’s all positive.’’
Ellsbury’s locker is at the far end of the Yankees clubhouse, a stall sandwiched between those of Brian Roberts and the departed Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod’s name plate has been removed from above his stall, and Ellsbury is allowed to use the extra cubicle for spillover clothes and equipment. Derek Jeter dresses just a few feet away.
“I definitely feel blessed,” said Ellsbury. “As a young kid, if you told me I was going to play for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, well, that’s pretty special.
“I look at the time in Boston as the first part of my career and the time with the Yankees as the second part. I couldn’t ask for two better organizations to play for, and I’m excited for this opportunity this year and for the future.
“It was always an intense rivalry and I’m definitely excited to still be a part of it. The fans get into it and the media gets into it and the players do as well.’’