Quench me when I’m thirsty

Photo of the Captain taken at the last game at Fenway in 2009 - ALDS game 3 - courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Photo of the Captain taken at the last game at Fenway in 2009 - ALDS game 3 - courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

It came as a surprise to no one that Tek exercised his option on Wednesday and will be back with the team.  He seemed resigned to his new role as the playoffs began this year and Theo made it quite clear before Tek’s decision was made public that Victor Martinez would be the full-time catcher – so Tek knows what his staying on with the team will mean.  EVERYONE knows that Tek knows this.   And Tek’s history is such that no one really thinks this will be an issue.  He’s always been professional and seemingly puts the team first.  Well, everyone knows this except this guy.

In their on-going effort to make an issue where there isn’t one, the Boston Globe publishes a piece about how Tek coming back “won’t end well”.  Not because he’ll play poorly due to his age and obviously decline in his skills…no not that.  It “won’t end well” because Tek’s “mere presence” is going to “undermine” Victor Martinez.  I’m using quotes here because I don’t want it to be mistaken that I am the one writing those ridiculous words.   Here’s more from Mr. Gasper:

Tek’s return for a 14th season with the Sox sets up Martinez’s game-calling skills to be second-guessed at every turn by fans, media and possibly his own pitchers.

very time Martinez puts down a sign this season and a Red Sox pitcher shakes him off, you’ll have to wonder if the pitcher is doing it because he thinks there is a better pitch in that situation or because it’s not the sign that Varitek would have put down.

I’m wondering if Gasper actually paid attention to the Red Sox during the second half of the 2009 season.  The fans, the media and the Red Sox pitchers all fell in love with Victor Martinez, pretty much on sight.  Of course, it seemed that Josh Beckett had some trouble adjusting but you know how Tito dealt with that?  He let Beckett pitch to Varitek most of the time.  But even Beckett finally gave in and let the reality hit that, sadly, Tek was turning into Doug Mirabelli.  If the starting rotation in 2010 is the same as it was in 2009 – every pitcher on the team will have had sufficient innings under their belt having pitched to Victor Martinez.  Some with great success.  Does Gasper think a new pitcher will come in and question Martinez’ talents?  Does he think the pitchers currently on staff are so stupid they thought Martinez was a quick fix and Tek was coming back to the every day role in 2010?

The kicker in this “commentary” comes here:

Can’t you already envision a scenario where Josh Beckett, who seemed to be the most obstinate about Martinez supplanting Varitek as the team’s best option behind the plate last season, goes to manager Terry Francona and asks for Varitek to be his personal catcher?

Beckett, who in three regular-season starts with Martinez had a 6.19 ERA, would have been forced to adjust if Varitek departed. Now, Beckett, in a contract year, can cling to his security blanket. So, every time the Red Sox send their ace to the mound they’ll have to take Martinez’s valuable bat (.303, 23 home runs, 108 RBI, .861 on-base percentage-plus-slugging) out of the lineup, a bat that is the primary reason Martinez is valuable as a catcher in the first place.

It makes me think that Gasper has never seen Martinez play.  Is he unaware that most actually think he’s a better first baseman than catcher?  Does he not realize that Tek catching most likely will almost NEVER take Martinez’ bat out of the lineup because Tito will probably schedule days off for Mike Lowell…our aging, creaky, third baseman…putting Youk at third and Victor Martinez at…wait for it…first on those days?  (Not to forget the struggling designated hitter who will benefit from rest this year as well…)

Gasper ends his piece by saying it would have been better for Tek to have signed elsewhere.  Not for his offensive and defensive declines, but so the players, media and fans won’t second guess everything Victor Martinez does behind the plate.  In two-plus months this year no one second guessed Martinez.  Actually, the media and fans were clamoring for him to take over the lead role from Tek and even Gasper points out that Clay Buchholz actually improved with Martinez and Jon Lester “worked well” with him too.  It was also determined that he could serviceably catch Wake.  That’s three out of five, Gasper.  Slide in Daisuke, who only pitched to Martinez once in 2009 (against the Yanks, giving up 1 earned run, 7 hits and 5 walks so there’s too small a sample size), and maybe your only “issue” is Beckett?  (And that’s a big maybe since I’m not even close to being convinced Beckett will be an issue here.)   Tim Wakefield pitched for years to his own catcher, is it really the end of the world if Beckett does it for a season?

I’m happy the Captain is back.  He means a lot to the team and to many of the fans.  He seems to be dealing with the issue of his new role, even acknowledging as the playoffs began that it was tough but that you do what’s best for the team.  I’m okay with people arguing that having Tek on the team, even in this diminished role, could hurt the team – no one enjoys a hitter in there batting a solid .200, even for just one game a week – but to argue that he,  just as a man, will hurt this team is that typical alarmist crap that the Globe has now become expected to write.  Slow news day?  Let’s try to get the fans worried about what MIGHT happen!  Thankfully and, admittedly, surprisingly, most of the fans – even some of the nuts who comment over at Boston.com, weren’t having any part of Gasper’s ridiculous argument.  A few agree with him, though.  There’s one commenter who chides the folks criticizing by defending it as an “opinion”.  Fine. It’s his opinion that he’s spouting like fact – and it’s  my opinion that all he’s trying to do is get fans riled up about Tek.  Hell, the Globe needs to tout a new villain for the new season.  Instead they’re getting riled up about the lazy writing going on over at the Globe.  I like it.

So welcome back, Tek.  I, for one, am happy you’ll be back in the clubhouse…but I’m also happy that VMart will be taking on the majority of catching duties, I can’t lie about that.  So that’s one issue settled for the Sox and a whole lot more still left hanging out there.  It’s going to be a long and, hopefully, interesting hot stove.

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