The small stuff first. We signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal; it’s a solid signing. He’s a scrappy player with a decent bat who’s great in the field. He also seems to have a reputation for a good clubhouse character, which may be helpful at a time like this. We signed Albers to a one-year deal, and we tendered Aceves, Bard, Morales, Aviles, Ellsbury, and Salty. Rich Hill is now a free agent. Jenks had back surgery.
Incidentally, the bid for Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish is rumored to be even greater than Dice-K’s bid. He’s going to Texas. Some say he’s better equipped to succeed here, but Dice-K has made me skeptical and bitter.
Bard is unofficially officially a starter. I know that because we just traded Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Mark Melancon, a reliever who played for the Yanks in 2009 and 2010 but who closed for Houston last season. Obviously, Lowrie is the one of those two with the higher profile. He had phenomenal potential that was substantially hindered by injuries; there’s no escaping that fact. The team had needs that Lowrie, as a result, was unable to fulfill; perhaps he will help the team best as trade bait. But we won’t know that until Melancon has pitched well into the season for us.
Truth be told, I would argue that, although his stuff seems impressive enough, we don’t really know all that much about him in the context of the Major Leagues. Last season was his third in the big show; he pitched 74.1 innings in seventy-one games, gave up five home runs, walked twenty-six batters, posted an ERA of 2.78, and struck out sixty-six. His WHIP was 1.22. Last year was the first season in which he posted a save at all, and he posted twenty of them. And he’s twenty-six years old. From all of this, we can learn that he’s young, he’s new, and he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to close regularly for a team like the Red Sox in a city like Boston in a league like the American League in a division like the AL East. As I said, it seems like he’s got the raw goods, but at this stage, I do not feel comfortable with him being slotted as our regular closer right off the bat (pun not intended), hands-down, no questions asked. Throw in the fact that he had major surgery on his right elbow early in his career, and there are definitely some doubts.
Then again, the surgery was a few years ago, and Paps at one time was also untested, and so is Bard as a closer. They have absolutely electrifying fastballs; Melancon gets up to ninety-five miles per hour. He also works with an effective cutter and curveball. Brad Mills seems to think he can do it. All I’m saying is that Melancon has some big shoes to fill in the biggest baseball town in the country. Hold onto your hats, folks. Hold onto your hats.
Bill James’s predictions for the coming season are in. He has Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Papi all declining in batting average; Youk’s average is slated to markedly increase since he hopefully will be starting the year more healthily than the way he finished last year. We can expect one additional home run from Papi this year; more importantly, James’s prediction shows that Papi’s power will perpetuate. Gonzalez and Ellsbury are also slated to go yard more frequently. Pedroia supposedly will be stealing about ten less bases, but the reason why he probably didn’t get a strong projection all around is because he was injured. Provided that he isn’t injured, he’s going to rock it. Look for Gonzalez to perform better than expected as well, since he’ll be entering his sophomore season with us and since he’s now sufficiently removed from his offseason shoulder surgery.
And lastly, literally, it looks like last season really was Tek’s last season with us. Salty has found his footing, Ryan Lavarnway is coming up, and Kelly Shoppach is coming back. Obviously it won’t technically be official until Tek signs with another team or retires, but it looks like the year of the goodbye will continue.
We acquired Tek from the Mariners in 1997 and probably didn’t even know at the time the extent of the impact he would make upon arriving. His entire Major League career was played here. His development as one of the best catchers in the game was completed here. Honestly, I always thought he would retire here, and it’s a true shame that he isn’t. True, his last several seasons saw a marked decline in both performance on the field and leadership influence off the field, but we’re looking at the whole picture here.
Since he’s spent his entire professional baseball life in Boston, we can speak in terms of career numbers. He is a career .256 hitter with 193 home runs, 757 RBIs, 614 walks, and a .341 OBP. But we never expected him to be a hitting catcher. We expected him to be a catcher, period, and what a catcher he was. He has played in 1,488 games and started 1,372 of them. He has picked off 10,166 batters and caught 184 stealing. His fielding percentage is .994; last year he made only four errors, and the year before that he made none. His catcher’s ERA is 4.17.
And obviously some of his greatest contributions go well beyond even those stellar fielding numbers. He was a true leader in every sense of the word both on and off the field, which is why he wore the “C” on his jersey, a rarity in baseball these days. He knew the pitchers inside and out and could adapt on the fly in any situation, which is why he caught and called four no-hitters, a Major League record. There is also something to be said for having such a veteran on the team, especially with a collaborative and positive personality like his, to ease transitions and be a moderating force in the clubhouse. And, of course, no tribute to Tek would be complete without mentioning the contribution of the forever-to-be-remembered A-Rod fight on July 24, 2004. It was a turning point in the season. It was legendary and historic. It was epic.
To his credit, he has a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, three All-Star selections, two World Series championships, and the respect and affinity of Red Sox Nation. He was the quintessential team player, and I firmly believe that his character and quality as a player and teammate warrant consideration for employment within the Red Sox organization, hopefully as a coach. We remember what you’ve accomplished here, and we won’t forget it. You’ve seen us at our best and worst; it’s been a phenomenal ride. We as Red Sox Nation salute you, Tek. And you will most definitely be missed.
In other news, the B’s shut out the Kings, womped the Sens, and crushed the Flyers in a particularly impressive six-zip shutout. We scored our first goal in the first minute of the game and four goals in the first period alone. We’re nursing a four-game winning streak and are tied with the Flyers at the top of the conference.
I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks. I expect winning signings when I get back. Good, solid deals that will address the team’s needs. It doesn’t have to be flashy; we’ve seen the detrimental effects of fixing what isn’t broken and being flashy for flashy’s sake around the league, and we’re not going to do that. Just some good, solid deals and we’ll be fine.
Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
Read Full Post »