Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sentimentallity be damned

I've been bad about blogging this month. Mostly because I've taken on two projects - one, I'm organizing a blues festival (hopefully it works out - I should know in a week or two if it's on the scrap heap), and two, I'm working on a comic book adaptation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley - those of you familiar with Celtic Mythology know what I'm referring to).

As such, I'm a little bit behind.

Let me get to the Jason Varitek situation.

Let's begin with the following - I understand the decision to not accept arbitration. However, Scott Boras was off his rocker looking for Jorge Posada money. I mean, completely and totally mental.

I understand that Varitek calls a good game and works well with young pitchers, but he's a gaping hole in the lineup. Over the last three seasons the Red Sox captain has averaged .238 at the plate, struck out 331 times, and grounded into 32 double plays.

Players are paid for their offensive production, and as much as it pains me to say it, Varitek is no Posada.

Over the same three year span, Posada has batted .303, struck out 233 times, and grounded into 25 double plays. Hell, only twice in his career has Posada batted below .262. Varitek hasn't hit higher than that since 2006 when he had the third highest average of his career at .281.

On the defensive side - Varitek gunned down 30 percent of would-be base stealers over the last three seasons while Posada puched out 38.5 percent of them.

Varitek can take offense all he wants at the Red Sox $5 million one year offer (with an option) if he so chooses, but it's more than generous for a 37 year old catcher who should have to fight for a starting spot going into camp.

There are a lot of people that might disagree with my assessment, or that I'm comparing the Captain so unfavorably to a Yankee, but I'm not given to sentimentality in regards to winning - neither should Red Sox management or coaches.

I have enjoyed Varitek thoroughly for the decade-plus that he has been the team's backstop. I would love to see him come into camp and tear the cover off the ball and prove everyone wrong - but his recent production just doesn't merit top pay, and if he truly believes that it does, then it's time to cut ties.

Fans are a different beast. Fans can afford sentimentality when management can't. Unfortunately, because the fans can afford and do let emotion cloud their views of a player's value - particularly at the end, fans often get unjustifiably upset with a team for the team's treatment of a favorite player.

Truth be told, I would have loved to have seen Troy Brown come back for a last hurrah in Patriots blue, or even Drew Bledsoe, but I understand that Brown probably wouldn't have been able to get anywhere near the top of the depth chart and would have languished on the bench. Bledsoe - well, he just wasn't a Belichick guy, so I get that neither was about to happen.

Offensively, Varitek is just not starting material anymore. Five million big ones is still starter money. Realistically, the way he's hit the last couple of seasons, we should be looking at someone who should have been offered in the $2 million to $3 million range. The Sox have been more than fair in offering $5 million. If Varitek doesn't take it, my guess is that he'll be unemployed until at least April.

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