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The Killer B's Go Boom

The dismantling is complete. The greatest defensive outfield in Red Sox history, and perhaps the greatest trio the franchise has ever penciled into spots 7-8-9 on your scorecards, has been erased clean from the Boston roster.

Jackie Bradley Jr. signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, the final thread to the Killer B’s outfield with Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.

If these three home grown prospects had come along in the 1950’s, there would have been multiple songs and probably albums written in their honor.

Mookie Betts, the young MVP, the best prospect to come through the organization since at least Yaz and probably Williams. Benintendi, the heartthrob with the poetic swing and flowing locks. JBJ, flashed more leather than a West Texas cattle drive, possessor of a howitzer for a right arm and despite a bat made of soft maple, in 2018 had a knack for the clutch, winning the ALCS MVP. And much like the Parker’s turkey when the Bumpus hounds were done with it: “Gone. All gone.”

How did we get here? How did these 3 get away? The difficult thing to come to grips with is that they didn’t slide away in free agency to an eager market like Johnny Damon did in 2005. Betts was traded to LA while under team control. Ditto for Benintendi to KC. Bradley sat on the open market until this week when the Brewers came to their senses and realized that an outfield of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr would be the best in baseball. That changes the question from “How?” to “Why?”

Because defense isn’t valued in sports in 2021. Having a top notch defense in baseball seems like an accidental luxury. Take Jackie Bradley Jr. as the example. JBJ has been called “the greatest defensive outfielder I have seen in my life” by Bob Ryan, which in my opinion is almost more valuable than the one Gold Glove award that he has and the 3 others that he SHOULD own, yet reside on the shelves of others. The problem is that Jackie Bradley Jr. is a career .239 hitter. The number of hits, runs and extra bases Bradley has taken away over the years matters not, only that he’s never come within 30 points of .300. JBJ has literally turned walk off home runs into outs defensively and yet the concern about his swoons at the plate have persisted.

The Killer B’s (a nickname that never really caught on, but again in the 1950’s would have been lyrical magic) have oft been compared to the Red Sox outfield of the mid/late 1970’s of Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. While you can easily see parallels between Lynn and Betts (both won MVPs early in their career, and departed Boston after merely a handful of seasons) that is where the comparison dies. Rice and Evans would each spend almost two decades prowling the largest patch of green at Fenway Park, while Bradley and Beni are headed to the mid-west after probably leasing and not owning in Boston.

The best comparison for the Red Sox former outfield is the Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom”. A group that dominated on their way to one championship before inexplicably going their separate ways.

The incredible rise and confusing demise of the Killer B’s will be debated and lamented for the next 20-years in this region. Akin to Fisk-Lynn-Burleson, the venerated “Kapstein Connection” that agent Jeremy Kapstein leveraged out of Boston during the infancy of free agency in 1980. When we look back at the greatest squad in team history, the 2018 Boston Red Sox, we’ll be left to wonder why within two years Betts, Bradley and Benintendi were gone and much like right now, I’ll wager that we won’t have answers.

The images of 2018 all feature gloves and outs. Betts amongst the backdrop of fans in Houston bringing a home run back. Bradley tumbling in a heap at the base of the Green Monster against Minnesota. Or the two most enduring pictures from 2018: Andrew Benintendi’s Jordan-esqe leap in game 2 vs the Dodgers and his game saving catch in game 4 in Houston. All are for the history books, but none of us thought history would come so soon.

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