SHAW FINDS GROOVE WITH BREWERS
Trade from Red Sox gave career new life
WASHINGTON Shaw was first called up to the major leagues, his father’s message was simple.
“There’s gonna be some ups and downs,” Shaw remembers his father saying. “You just got to get through it.”
Maybe fathers really do know best — especially when it’s Jeff Shaw, who spent 12 years in the big leagues as a reliever. For his son, there were some ups but a lot more downs. And 2017 is evidence: Travis Shaw has gotten through it and then some.
Right now, Shaw is thriving as the Milwaukee Brewers third baseman, one of the reasons the club thinks it can reclaim the National League Central lead despite the Chicago Cubs’ secondhalf revival. Shaw entered Friday batting .299 and leading the club with 103 hits, 24 home runs (tied for sixth in the NL) and 74 RBI (sixth in the NL).
But before Shaw was having a season bordering on All-Star caliber, he was a member of the Boston Red Sox, drafted in the ninth round in 2011 out of Kent State. He was as much a part of the Red Sox youth movement as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. At least, he was supposed to be.
Instead, the 2016 season was a roller coaster that ended on a steep decline.
Shaw opened the season on a high note, beating out Pablo Sandoval for the starting third-base job despite playing first base for just over four years in the minors.
Then he posted a .274 batting average with 48 RBI through the first week of July. But after the Red Sox traded for Aaron Hill on July 8, seemingly everything changed.
Shaw closed the year batting .184 in his final 47 games, and it became even harder to ignore what Sandoval’s price tag had been in 2014 ($95 million over five years). And just like that, Shaw was traded to the Brewers in December.
“(I was) just trying to do a little bit too much,” Shaw said. “I got out of what I like to do at the plate, and I wasn’t playing every day. So when I got in there, I thought I needed to prove (something), get two, three hits every night that I did play.
“That’s where everything kind of goes south . ... You try to do too much, and it just doesn’t work. I learned a lot those last few months of the season, and it’s helped a lot this year.”
In retrospect, the move jumpstarted his career. He’s a regular fixture in the Brewers lineup, faces left-handers more often and his experience with the Red Sox taught him not to “play GM.” But hindsight is 20-20, and Shaw’s success doesn’t mean he didn’t feel like he left Boston thinking he wasn’t the man for the job.
“I thought I was better than what I showed to end the year last year,” Shaw said. “Coming up with all those guys — that young core that Boston has right now — I was a part of that group in the minor leagues, coming up at each level. It sucked leaving them, but at the same time, like I said, it’s a better opportunity personally over here right now.”
Shaw might have left them, but he says he still talks to Betts, Bradley, Brock Holt, David Price and Deven Marrero almost daily. Ironically enough, they sure could use their old friend’s help right now. And, surprisingly, a trade as seemingly insignificant as Shaw’s has tied five careers together.
Hill was signed by the San Francisco Giants after finishing the 2016 season in Boston, only to be designated for assignment at the end of June.
Sandoval was on the disabled list for much of May with a right knee sprain. He played 32 games for the Red Sox this year, posting a .212 batting average and 12 RBI before being designated for assignment in mid-July as well.
With the chaos at the hot corner, the Red Sox had no choice but to call up prized prospect Rafael Devers from Class AAA Pawtucket (R.I.) and thrust him immediately into the fire of a divisional race.
And Tyler Thornburg — the right-hander the Brewers traded for Shaw, Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington — hasn’t pitched an inning this season. He was placed on the 60-day DL in early May because of a shoulder impingement.
As for Shaw, a new city sparked a fresh start, and he still remembers a second piece of advice his father gave him after his first year in the majors.
“You’re gonna be better next year because of what you went through this year,” Shaw recalls his father saying.
Right again, Mr. Shaw.
Third baseman Travis Shaw is batting .299 with 24 homers and 74 RBI for the Brewers, who are battling the Cubs for first place in the National League Central.