I’ve been saying it since November, an last night was my proof. Jason Varitek is the straw that stirs the drink that is Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, A.K.A. the Boston Red Sox starting rotation. At about four o’clock, just after he had eaten his afternoon live cow, and then ritually burned the amount of strikeouts he was planning to put down on the Jays into Gary Tanguay’s ass, Beckett was shocked out of his OCD routine by the fact that his catcher had neck spasms. For most pitchers this is no big deal. For Josh Beckett, who depends more on routine than the parents of autistic kids to make everything work, this was a catastrophe. John Farrel had already had to leave the club to deal with a family emergency in Cleveland (we send our best wishes and hope all is well), which took out one third of Beckett’s normal pre game meeting, and now he is throwing to an unfamiliar catcher. What happens? Beckett steps onto the mound at skydome and channels John Smoltz (circa 2009, not the good one), giving up seven runs in five and a third.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with Victor Martinez as a catcher. As Beckett himself said, the guy has caught the past two Cy Young winners, so he knows what he is doing, but he is not Jason “I know these hitters better than their own wives” Varitek. Martinez had not caught even one pitch from Beckett before last nights game, and so didn’t have the same knowledge of Beckett’s stuff, but more importantly he didn’t know what Beckett would want to throw.
The past three plus years of working together, plus the fact that Beckett is such a creature of routine, has made Varitek indispensable to him. Lester also feels the same way, having said while ‘Tek was a free agent last winter that his amazing growth last season was partially due to the captain’s tutelage. If you look at the three worst starts of Beckett’s season, Georgie and Victor caught two of them, both on nights when his routine was disrupted. Jason Varitek is what makes our two best pitchers work, and it’s just too bad that Papelbon is too much of a closer to learn anything from him.
(I’m actually suggesting that we start to use the terms “such a closer” for people who are so empty headed that they act, well, like Papelbon does.)
That said it was nice to see the bats come alive, and I’m starting to like the rotting corpse of David Ortiz when he hits in the seven spot. It lengthens the lineup, and since June 6th he has more home runs than anyone in baseball other than Kendry Morales. Bay has four bombs in the past ten games and with Youk back in the lineup we might actually become dangerous again.
Espescially with Dylan Pedroia handling the shortstop duties.