The Sox have weathered a first month of the season filled with injuries, ineffectiveness and all other manner of suckitude, and have surprisingly come out of it with a 11-12 record. They have beaten up on the dregs of the AL, and thank god for doormats, going 9-4 against the Royals, Jays, O’s and Texas, while running up a less than impressive 2-8 record vs the Rays, Yanks and Twins. What’s surprising is not that there have been issues, it’s been what they are.
We all know about the Ortiz-Tito-Lowell love triangle, the injuries to Ellsbury and Cameron, and the general anemia of the Sox offense, but the pink elephant in the room is really the catching situation. Plain and simple, Victor has been about as impressive on the field as what I left in the toilet this morning. He’s hitting .247, with an OBP of .301, through 20 games as catcher and DH, has hit only one home run and has five RBI. Added to that is the fact that he is 1-27 in catching runners, and has never been the strongest defensively or as a signal caller.
On the other side of the coin is the guy who still wears the “C” for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek is the highest paid backup/personal catcher (Beckett) in the majors and he has earned it. He has been a rock for the team for the past eight seasons, and has led them to two Series titles. Over the past two seasons he has been much maligned for his lack of offense, even though he has started hot both times and eventually worn down (he hit .239 with 13 HR and 38 RBI in the first half last year, and .157/1/13 in the second). At this point, however, he is flourishing in the backup role. Without the wear and tear his body has taken as a backstop each day, he has hit .323 with four home runs and 8 RBI.
The simple answer here is to put the Captain back behind the plate and mix Victor in with the clusterfuck that is the DH position. While it’s not easy, it would get the more potent bat (at least at the moment) into the lineup, and put a guy who had the best catcher ERA (that would be his pitchers ERA while he is behind the plate) in the AL last season. The problem with that is the downturn that Tek’s numbers will take once he is spending every day crouching, and the fact that, as great he is as a signal caller, his arm is as much a wet noodle as Johnny Damon’s when it comes to nailing base stealers.
So, what’s left?
Nothing really. Chris Iannetta is available, having been sent down to the Rockies after struggling in very limited chances this season (30 AB), but that would necessitate adding a third catcher to the roster and effing with the balance of everything else. There are also a few other trading options, but none that really fit the bill. Gerald Laird might be a possibility from the Tigers, but he presents the same issues as Iannetta, as does Chris Snyder of the D-backs.
There’s the wait and see option, where the Sox let it ride and hope that Victor removes head from ass and starts hitting like he did last fall, when he went .358 with the Sox. They could also remain internal and give the recently-promoted-to-Pawtucket Lars Anderson a shot if he shows something at AAA.
Truly, the best option is to make the move that everyone wants. Make a deal. Bring in Prince Fielder or Give Jed Hoyer whatever the hell he wants and acquire Adrian Gonzalez to shore up the middle of the order, move Youk to third and let Tek be a bit of a black hole in the lineup as catcher, kinda. The Sox would then have time to develop Luis Exposito, Mark Wagner, Adalberto Ibarra (the new cuban guy) or any of the other guys in the pipeline into a Major League quality catcher. This allows the club to avoid screwing with the balance (O.K. it necessitates trading or cutting Ortiz, Lowell or Beltre) and do something that is not just a stopgap, but a longer term solution.
There is no quick and simple fix for this, especially with the fact that the Sox are still missing both of their centerfielders, the starters are hit and miss (though we have gotten three quality starts in a row), Bard is still giving up too many homers, and Beltre, the “best defensive third baseman on the planet” has more errors than homers (even though he is now hitting .338).
Trust in Theo.