Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the tag “Ryan Lavarnway”

Advice for the Red Sox: Farrell, Morales, Ortiz

It’s not that these September games don’t matter at all. There is plenty of room for evaluating guys like Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, and Ryan Kalish. However, every move that this organization makes going forward must be done with an eye towards the future. The 2012 Boston Red Sox are officially about the 2013 Boston Red Sox

Here are nine pieces of advice for a ball club in desperate need of putting its best foot forward.

—Do what you have to do to pry John Farrell from the Blue Jays. If Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos demands a player like Clay Buchholz or even Daniel Bard (yes, that Daniel Bard), you move on–because that’s ridiculous. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Farrell should be the top candidate to replace Bobby Valentine.

—Bring David Ortiz back on a one-year deal. I love these tough-talkers who call into radio shows and proclaim how they’re sick of Ortiz, how he’s a baby, and the Sox need to move on. Get real. I wouldn’t necessarily offer him arbitration, but Ortiz has to be the anchor of that lineup next season. And remember: A pissed off Ortiz is a productive Ortiz.

—Sign Cody Ross this offseason and never let him play right field again. Ever.

—John Henry must empower GM Ben Cherington. He is an intelligent, qualified executive who deserves more autonomy. If that means somehow lessening the importance of Larry Lucchino, so be it. Wins are more important than selling commemorative bricks.

—Give Franklin Morales a fair shot to start in 2013. I’d go to battle with that guy as my fifth starter any day of the week.

—Integrate some patience this offseason. The Red Sox have gotten away from their bread and butter–taking pitches, working the count, and wearing down the opposition. You can get away with a couple of free swingers like Will Middlebrooks, but for every young, anxious hitter, you need two players who are willing to take what is given to them. ESPN’s Jeremy Lundblad explores this in more detail here.

—Trade Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason. Fans will undoubtedly gripe, but it is the best decision. Here is why.

—Find a way to harness Alfredo Aceves. He is undoubtedly volatile, quirky, and, at times, troublesome. But he is a weapon, a guy who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, spot start, or even close an occasional game. If he proves to be detrimental to the team, cut bait.

—Do not be afraid of bad publicity. When discussing the idea of firing Valentine before season’s end, WEEI’s Rob Bradford advocated the idea by saying “rip the band-aid off.” I don’t necessarily agree with firing Valentine now, but Bradford’s point is actually a good one. This organization has gotten away from what is most important: Assembling a quality team that is capable of playing consistently good team baseball. Are there going to be bumps in the road along the way? Sure. Rather than compromising what is best for the franchise in order to avoid a few potholes, hit them head on. Face the music and learn from the mistakes.

Quick Hits

  • Kevin Youkilis took a Philip Humber offering over the right field wall in the top of the third inning. Three of his teammates happened to be on base at the time. Youkilis’ grand slam was an encouraging sign. He is at his best when he is taking the ball to the opposite field. It was nice to see him drive the pitch the way he did as well.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia plated three runs and hit two round trippers last night.  Salty is an easy target when it comes to criticism because Ryan Lavarnway‘s major league ready bat awaits in Pawtucket, but he is a guy who will put up more than acceptable numbers, especially for a catcher. Saltalamacchia’s 2-25 start is a distant memory. As it always it when it comes to baseball, patience is key.
  • Felix Doubront threw 110 pitches over six full innings last night. I like what I see from Doubront. Once he begins hitting the outside corner on a more consistent basis/umpires giving him that call, Doubront’s pitch count with decrease, allowing him to go deeper in games.
  • When the Red Sox were at their lowest points in this early season, we noted that the offense had consistently showed resiliency in the later innings. They had come from behind on several occasions in Detroit and Toronto. The Sox bats are not waiting until the eighth or ninth innings to do their damage any longer.
  •  Mike Aviles may not be as patient as you would like a leadoff hitter, but he has embraced his role. The guy is scorching hot. He is setting the table and driving in runs. It’s nice to see the offense support the pitching staff the way it has.

Thanking Tim, While Being Reminded of Reality

AP Photo Courtesy of David Goldman

Tim Wakefield announced his retirement Friday at the Red Sox Spring Training complex in Fort Myers.

Wakefield has had an excellent career, and he has made an identifiable mark on the Red Sox record books. I’m not going to spend a ton of time rehashing the milestones that Wakefield has reached during his memorable 17-year haul with the Sox.

If you still need a breakdown of Wakefield’s statistical accomplishments throughout his career, I’d start here.

If you need a bit more context, I suggest clicking here.

————

Wakefield will always be looked upon fondly by fans in New England because he spent the best part of two decades wearing a Red Sox uniform. To say that that is rare would be a huge understatement. He was a part of two World Series teams. There are not many people that can say that they own two WS rings with the Red Sox logo on them. He was never even close to being the most talented player on any Red Sox squad. At the same time, there are no ugly contract disputes or off the field blemishes that can sully Wake’s reputation in these parts. Fans are drawn to Wakefield because many see themselves in the 45 year old knuckleball pitcher. He was never paid much money, relatively speaking of course. Number 49 was never flashy. He was more blue collar than anything. He looks like a guy that could be behind you in line at Dunkin Donuts, ready to purchase a medium coffee, black. Simply speaking, as a fan, you can easily identify with Wake. He hunts, he fishes, he goes to work, does what he’s asked, and goes home to his family. Clearly, plenty of Wakefield jerseys have been sold over the years.

All of the praise that Wakefield has received over the course of the past few days is well-earned. His performance on the diamond has, at times, been magnificent. His longevity and perseverance will forever go unquestioned. The charitable work that Wake has done without the presence of cameras simply adds a shine his already-pristine reputation. I have to imagine that he will be seamlessly inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

————

Now that we have wiped up our drool, let’s check back in with reality. Wakefield’s decision to retire is mutually beneficial. By not accepting a minor league, non-guaranteed offer, Wakefield cemented his legacy and went out on his terms. It’s a dignifying choice. On the other hand, GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox did the right thing. A reluctant invite to Fort Myers that included no guarantees essentially told Wakefield that you’re not welcome back this season. Kudos to Cherington for making a good, objective baseball decision despite the fact that it may upset many fans. It’s not like the 2012 Red Sox can be absorbing public relations hits on the regular. As a Red Sox fan, you should be encouraged by the decision to not bring Wakefield back on a one-year guaranteed contract. The fact that the team, for all intents and purposes, cut ties with Wakefield shows that baseball still matters more than selling merchandise to the crew on 4 Yawkey Way. Wake could have netted seven wins in 2012, giving him the most victories in franchise history. Safe to say that a few t-shirts would have been sold. Would I have liked to see Wakefield pitch one more summer and vault above Roger Clemens and his 192 wins as a Red Sox? Absolutely. But I know that his time had come and leaving this team was necessary.

I’m sick of personal catchers. I’m tired of giving up walks, past balls, and uncontested stolen bases. Wakefield’s departure certainly does not solve all of these issues, but it doesn’t hurt. This Red Sox team, more than ever, needs a heavy dose of the basics, a strict diet of fundamentals. I don’t care if it is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway, or even Gary Tuck behind the plate–it shouldn’t matter. Get on the mound, throw strikes, and execute your pitches. Make it difficult for opposing lineups to push across runs. When Wake toed the rubber, you knew that the Red Sox offense could not be off of their game. It’s safe to say that Wakefield was never a contender to lead the league in WHIP. Guys like Wakefield are valuable. They are durable and largely selfless. However, due to his trademark pitch, Wakefield was not the most economical player to have on a roster. In order for him to be on the mound, Wake needed a guy behind the plate who could consistently corral his pitch. When you think about it, what else is Doug Mirabelli really known for? For 17 seasons, in one capacity or another, the Red Sox needed Wakefield. This year, Wakefield needed the Red Sox more than they needed him. It was time to go.

Fans will debate whether or not the 2012 Boston Red Sox could have used Wake. The one thing, however, that cannot be argued was best summed up by Wakefield on Friday.

“Whatever I was asked to do, I always had my spikes on and was ready to go.”

Jason Varitek’s Time in Boston is Over

Photo via angleton.isd.tenet.edu

The Red Sox and Jason Varitek have had a long, beautiful marriage. There were good times like in 2004 when Varitek posted a nice .296/.390/.482 line. He also delivered a glove full of cowhide to the face of Alex Rodriguez during the middle of that summer, an image that is forever engrained in the minds of New Englanders. The Red Sox, in case you didn’t remember, won the final game they played that year, something they hadn’t done in 86 years. Like all long-term relationships, there have been bad times. Unfortunately, the valleys have occurred more often than the peaks recently for the soon-to-be 40 year old. Last season, in 68 games, Varitek put together a notably terrible .221/.300/.423 line. Things that were once sweet are now sour. The kids have moved out, and there really is no reason to stay together.

And that’s okay.

Nevertheless, there is not a single plausible reason why Varitek should be a member of the 2012 Red Sox. At the same time, I understand the arguments that fans will put forth as to why Tek should be back this season. Let’s go through each one of these points as a way of illustrating the utter stupidity it would be for the Red Sox to even entertain bringing number 33 back in any capacity.

The team owes it to Varitek to let him go out on his terms.

The Red Sox have paid their longtime catcher over $67MM. They do not owe him anything. If Tek wants to make an agreement similar to something Nomar Garciaparra did in 2010, that’s fine with me. He can even throw out the first pitch on April 13 at Fenway. I’m all for recognizing a guy who has had one heck of a career, but he should not be on the roster.

Varitek still calls a great game.

At this point, I’m not even sure what this means. I understand that Varitek does a tremendous amount of homework on opposing hitters. His bookshelves probably look similar to Curt Schilling’s. When Tek throws down a sign, the guy on the mound not only tends to throw that pitch (instead of shaking it off), but he truly believes in that given pitch at the point it leaves his hand. There is something to be said for that, but the success of the Red Sox staff is dependent upon Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz—three veteran pitchers who are making a ton of money. They are seasoned arms who could all finish in the top ten in Cy Young voting in 2012, with or without Varitek. If the Red Sox were heading into the season with a staff full of Daniel Bard‘s, I would say that it may not be a bad idea to bring Varitek back to continue as an supervisor of the staff and a tutor to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That simply is not the case, however. Varitek’s mere presence perpetuates a false dependency for members of the pitching staff. We will return to this point later.

He is the captain of the team. He shouldn’t just be let go.

Varitek’s legacy as a captain and two-time World Champion is precisely one of the many reasons why he should retire, but if he truly does want to continue playing, it cannot be here. Can you imagine the captain of the Boston Red Sox having to compete for a job in Spring Training? Neither can Bobby Valentine. In reality, Varitek would not even be competing. Instead, he would be collecting dust, waiting for an injury to occur to Saltalamacchia or newly signed Kelly Shoppach. That sounds like more of a distraction than a captain.

Josh Beckett is coming off of a successful year that ended tumultuously. It would be best to keep him as comfortable as possible, and Varitek is his personal catcher.

Beckett and the rest of his staff-mates were not nearly as poisonous as the media portrayed them following the all-too-well publicized September collapse. They were comfortable. Way, way too comfortable. For Beckett, Varitek has been the biggest part of his comfort zone since arriving in Boston. I don’t blame him either. Number 33 is a knowledgeable catcher who any pitcher would love to have as a backstop, but the pacifier needs to be removed. Management should not be concerned with placating Beckett. Like I alluded to before, he is a veteran who does not need his hand held every fifth day.

——————–

Varitek is the catcher I spent the majority of my childhood watching. He signed a ball for me before a game at Fenway against the Orioles when I was still in Little League. I’m not a hater. I am someone who believes that a 40 year old who brings nothing offensively to the table and serves as more of a caddy than a catcher to a high maintenance pitcher should not be a team that does not deserve to have certain little luxuries. If you listen to someone who believes that Tek should be on team, count how many times his or her arguments invoke the past tense. He has become a guy whose points of success are no longer in the present or the future. Varitek was an excellent catcher who was a major part of two teams that won two World Series.

It is simply no longer his time.

Saltalamacchia is ready to be the everyday catcher, and Shoppach is there to serve as a backup. Ryan Lavarnway will be waiting in Pawtucket. Varitek should look no further than to his counterpart from the Bronx. Go out with grace like Jorge Posada. You will always have a place in Boston, just not on the 2012 Red Sox.

Thank you to baseballreference.com for the statistics used in this blog.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.