June 18, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the one and only, your new folk hero and mine, the Almighty Christian Arroyo.
We’ve all seen players go on sick power runs in baseball before. Randy Arozarena went nuts and hit ten home runs in the playoffs last year. Trevor Story hit seven home runs in his first six major league games. But what Christian Arroyo has done this past week is something else entirely.
Arozarena is a superstar-in-the-making that was just putting himself on the map during last year’s playoffs. Story is a multi-time all star that’s good for twenty-five homers a year. Christian Arroyo is … well… he’s the guy that did this.
Then the next day, he did this.
And then on Wednesday night, he did this.
A 437-foot game-tying three-run bomb on June 10th. A 403-foot game-tying eighth-inning solo blast on June 11th. And a 467-foot pinch-hit seventh-inning salami to win the game on June 16th. Each game looked lost at the time Arroyo came to the plate. Each homer was a no-doubter that completely swung the momentum in Boston’s favor and led to a win. And each bomb was followed with a nasty bat flip and a home run trot that was straight pimpin’.
It’s not hitting three home runs in seven days that’s so impressive. It’s not that the homers went an average distance of 436 feet. It’s not even that they all either tied the game or gave the Red Sox the lead. In each case, it was the moment that truly set it apart. And any guy that can deliver three moments like that in a matter of seven days is an integral player that can fill a critical role on a contending team.
Last Thursday, the Red Sox were staring down the barrel of a 7-4 deficit against an Astros team that had just taken three-of-four from them in Houston and were about to sweep them in Fenway. The crowd, beaten down and demoralized after watching the Sox get whupped the past two nights, came unglued as soon as Arroyo launched that hanging breaking ball into orbit. The bat flip, the Houston catcher’s disgust, and Arroyo’s hoots and hollers as he circled the bases got Fenway a-rockin’ for the first time in the series.
The following night, Boston was five outs away from dropping the first game of a wraparound four-game series to Toronto. This time, it was a letter-high fastball that he jumped on to tie it up, galvanizing the Red Sox toward a walk-off win the next inning. The win would turn out to be especially huge considering that the Blue Jays outscored the Red Sox 326-4 over the next two games.
This past Wednesday night was the most impressive display yet. Arroyo was pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning of a game the Sox trailed 7-6. The Red Sox had pitched and fielded horribly and blown two three-run leads. In no way did they deserve to win that game. Arroyo quickly fell behind 0-2, and the Atlanta crowd rose as they waited for the big inning-ending K as AJ Minter delivered the 1-2 pitch. Let’s overlook, for now, the fact that AJ Minter blows. The sheer pressure of such a moment, deep in a pitcher’s count and in danger of stranding three guys on base, would be too much for a lot of journeyman middle infielders to handle. But Christian Arroyo, at least this past week, seems to be the kind of guy that embraces these moments.
Christian Arroyo made his major league debut in 2017. He’s played for four big league teams in parts of five seasons, during which he’s accumulated a total of 395 at bats. The Red Sox claimed him off waivers last August from the Indians, a team for which he stepped in the batter’s box a total of one time. Until then, he was essentially a career minor leaguer. What he’s done lately has me convinced that this guy is not only the greatest Arroyo the Boston Red Sox have ever seen, but one of the best arguments I’ve ever seen for all those analytics guys who insist that there’s no such thing as the “clutch gene.”
Everyone loves an Energy Guy, and Arroyo looks like that guy for the 2021 Red Sox. With 13 lifetime home runs and never having held a secure job in his entire career, he’s got no reason to be a supremely confident major leaguer. Yet he flips his bat and stares his clutch homers down like Manny Machado, then screams his way around the bases like a Dothraki warlord.
Energy guys like Christian Arroyo are a key component to championship caliber teams. In fact, the Red Sox have never won a World Series without one (not in this century anyway). He is set to join the ranks of Orlando Cabrera in 2004, Jonathan Papelbon in 2007, Jonny Gomes in 2013, and Brock Holt in 2018. None of these guys were the most talented players on those teams, but they could always be relied on to give their teammates a jolt, a laugh, or an atta boy when they really needed it.
The funny thing about energy guys is that they are also always deeply flawed players. Cabrera was said to be a bit too friendly with his teammates’ wives, Papelbon was an idiot, Gomes was an egomaniacal hardo, and Holt couldn’t hit very well. Arroyo’s bugaboo is that he’s never met a pitch he didn’t want to swing at (5 walks in 130 plate appearances). Christian Arroyo checks all the boxes, both good and bad, for being the official Energy Guy of the 2021 Boston Red Sox.
Now that I see what Christin Arroyo is made of, I feel even better about Boston’s chances this year. He’s just one more reason for the rest of the American League to beware the BoSox. On a team full of fighters, he’s the guy that’ll jump on the grenade.