Through two weeks, Mookie Betts' MVP encore is going much the same as his team's World Series defense: not so splendidly.
While everything the 2018 Red Sox did was seemingly touched by a higher power, the 2019 campaign doesn't have the same luck-gilded vibe. And though it's possible no one in the game is more skilled than Betts, you wouldn't know it based on the .222 average he carries through 17 games, with more than a few strange defensive miscues mixed in.
If you ask Betts, he doesn't shy away from declarations, like the one he made after a Patriots Day loss to the Orioles.
Mookie Betts: “What I’m doing right now is unacceptable.”— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) April 15, 2019
The ever-patient Red Sox Nation would tend to agree.
No shit— Golf fan (@TWfan19) April 15, 2019
No grace period?
Others, however, were more rational.
He doesn’t look comfortable. He’s making weird mistakes. He’s just not playing like Mookie.— Carmela CL (@carmacarmeleon) April 15, 2019
(Psst ... Is now the time to talk about contract distraction?)
Right. That whole thing.
It's certainly possible that, after an offseason and start to April chock full of extensions across the league, Betts is beginning to fret about his lack of long-term security. He can't let it distract him, though (and he knows that) considering he's professed time and again that he owes it to his fellow players to test free agency at the end of 2020.
But with Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts within his own clubhouse leaching a large portion of Boston's extension money, it has to weigh on him at least a bit. Much of the early criticism of his game has involved letting hittable pitches pass by; that likely hinges on focus and game-planning in he moment.
This isn't Mookie. He will be better moving forward. We just have to wonder if he's got a few more mental hurdles left to climb before those days begin.