Mookie Betts admits he’s struggled to fill the leadership vacuum that was created when David Ortiz retired last year.
In a recent interview on the “Bradfo Sho,” the Red Sox centerfielder talks openly about his struggles with becoming a vocal clubhouse leader.
“This year has just been rough. Just a lot of failure. A lot of adversity.” Betts explained. “You come off a good year last year, had David to kind of protect us. Now that's he not here we don't have one big person to oversee everything. We just have to kind of collectively as a unit pick up where he left off. I feel like I haven't done my part. I do what I can. Pedey has been great. He's been playing great. Other guys. Sale has been pitching great. I can't even think of everybody right now on the spot. But I think guys have kind of pushed it and I don't feel like I've done my part pushing. I've had some good moments, but I've had a lot of stretches where I haven't done anything. This year has been learning how to do deal with that and learning how to get out of it.”
Betts, 24, acknowledges it’s impossible for one player to take Ortiz’s place –– both in the lineup and behind the scenes. Instead, he says it has taken a collective effort.
“All we knew here was David Ortiz. Just knowing that not one guy has taken the brunt, we have to understand that,” he said. “And it took a little while to understand that. It took us a little while to find our identity. I think we're starting to figure it out. Nobody is going to take a month and we are going to know. It may take us a couple of more years to fully understand it. I think we're starting to kind of get it a little. We have to know that it's not one guy and the rest of the team behind him. It's five or six guys. On and off the field. You have to know that we're all together.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about the perceived lack of leadership on the Red Sox, especially in the aftermath of David Price’s airplane spat with Dennis Eckersley. But those questions have dogged the team all year long, such as when Dustin Pedroia failed to defend right-hander Matt Barnes when he threw at Manny Machado earlier this season.
Pedroia took a different approach than Betts when he was asked last week about his role in the clubhouse. The veteran second baseman, who was just placed on the 10-day disabled list with a knee injury, defiantly defended his leadership.
Betts also took on a reflective tone when the topic turned to his current struggles at the plate. Since July 5, Betts is hitting .248 with a .637 OPS. While his overall batting line remains impressive –– he’s hitting .273 with 17 home runs and an .809 OPS –– it’s a far cry from his MVP-caliber campaign last season.
"Last year could be arguably the best year I have in my career. I'm a realist and I know it ain't getting much better than that,” Betts said. “When am I going to hit 30 home runs again? I don't know if I ever will. When am I ever going to hit .320 again? I don't if I ever will. If I can get somewhere near I did last year, it will be a good year. Knowing I'm not really doing that right now, it's kind of rough. But in the grand scheme of things, the season is not over and the most important thing is that we're winning so I can't really be too mad about it.”