A year ago, Mark Kotsay came to the Red Sox as an everyday player and had to take a back seat on a team with World Series aspirations. He embraced the role -- and he even returned this season, taking a leadership role among starters and bench players alike. It was his idea to have "Rescue Squad" T-shirts printed up for the team's reserve position players and relievers, a way of giving those players who didn't play every day a chance to have their own niche in the clubhouse.
"This is a guy that came in last year and immediately became a leader in our clubhouse," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That's something that we take very seriously and I appreciate very much. It was tough -- he's as professional as they get, but it's hard because you learn quickly to admire people like that. That will certainly never change."
Kotsay's leadership in the clubhouse, though, didn't make up for the fact that he wasn't producing enough at the plate to make him worth keeping around. A nagging calf injury hadn't helped matters, either. He had a line of .257/.291/.324 upon his release, and he looked like a DFA'd man walking in going 0-for-4 against Texas on Wednesday.
It became almost a no-brainer that Kotsay would have to go to make room for Adam LaRoche, a player with a very similar skill set. LaRoche will have to do this year what Kotsay did last year -- take a back seat on a team with a chance to go to the World Series. He provides a lefthanded bat for a team that's had trouble against righties, just like Kotsay, and he'll play first base full-time if Mike Lowell's hip lands him back on the disabled list, just like Kotsay. He even moved right into Kotsay's old locker between J.D. Drew and Jason Bay.
The Red Sox are a better team today than they were with Kotsay on the roster and LaRoche a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that doesn't mean they weren't a little sad to see Kotsay go.