There aren’t too many days during the regular season that a baseball fan has to sit back in quiet reflection without that annoying distraction of nine innings of baseball. Today is one of those days. The hometown nine dropped the series-sweeping game in Minnesota last night, with Jon Lester playing the martyr for a beleaguered Red Sox bullpen. In a game where all of the top three out of the bullpen (Albers, Bard, and Papelbon) were unavailable, Francona decided a running-on-fumes Lester was a more viable option than a clearly rested and refreshed Randy Williams.
With all due respect to the career minor-league nomad, I’d tend to agree. Williams has done admirably thus far in his tenure with the big club, but Jon Lester remains one of the top arms in the American League.
So, as with most things I approve us, Tito’s decision blew up in his face. Lester, clearly gassed, walked his fifth of the night, and the Twins tacked on some insurance off Aceves to take the final game 5.2. On the plus side, Aceves didn’t balk. So we’ve got that going for us.
But, with the dearth of news to report on today, I thought I’d take a look back at one of the less heralded moves of the 2010 trade deadline– the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty was a centerpiece of a deal that sent Mark Texiera to the Braves back in 2007,and was advertised as a switching hitting catcher with a huge frame and a high power ceiling, but limited defensive abilities. His tenure in Texas was spent in direct competition with Taylor Teagarden, which should have won awards for the two most ridiculous last names in baseball at the time. Eventually the pair split time with Gerald Laird, whose most notable characteristic is that he is quite slow.
Saltalamacchia eventually was relegated to the minors, however, when he began suffering from what those in the quasi-medical profession refer to as the “Knoblauch Syndrome”. For those unfamiliar with the diseases’ symptoms, please refer to former Yankees and Twins 2nd basemen who, hilariously, almost overnight forgot how to throw the ball to first. These weren’t ordinary misses, either; some of the mortar shots he fired off ended dozens of rows back, causing severe physical and psychological damage to shoe in its path**
Anyway, Jarrod was sent back down to the minors because he was having a whole lot of trouble getting the ball back to the pitcher without having to have the shortstop field a one hopper first. Additionally, his power ceiling, long the light at the end of the sub-par defensive tunnel, had failed to reach its true potential. As such, amongst a flurry of activity on July 31st was a small report that Ranger AAA catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchi had been traded to the Boston Red Sox for three minor leaguers; Roman Mendez, Chris McGuiness, and “some other guy” (PTBNL or cash).
At the time, few thought much of the deal. Salty, a castoff from the Rangers shelved in the minors, hadn’t lived up to his much-hyped fanfare, and was a middling prospect at best. Of the three players the Sox parted ways with, one’s most notable trait is that his first name spelled backward is almost Nomar, and the others is that his last name couldn’t be more Irish if he’d painted it green, white, and orange. All in all, a deadline dominated by Cliff Lee and Dan Haren left Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly to Boston free from additional pressure and expectations.
Now, just over a year later, the Red Sox seem to have tapped into that reservoir of talent that had eluded teams for so long with Saltalamacchia. Splitting time with the “ionic” Jason Varitek, #39 has appeared in 73 games for the Red Sox, and in 270 plate appearances has hit at a .253/.319/.469 clip, with 11 homers and 38 RBI’s. His .788 OPS ranks sixth amongst AL catchers, and, when combined with Varitek’s stats, Red Sox backstops have produced nearly as well as any in the league. On top of that, Saltalamacchia has cut down runners with respectable efficiency (a hair over 30%), admirable considering a number of his starts find him on the receiving end of one of the best knuckleballs in league history.
The spare parts we shipped to Arlington in the deal have had distinctly divergent paths. Mendez, a right-handed starter for Texas’ A-Ball affiliate, is 9-1 with a 3.42 ERA and nearly a 4:1 K/bb ratio, which is truly quite impressive for a 21 year-old. McGuiness, however, just has a cool name. He’s batting just a Werth-ian .218 on the year, with one longball in 200 PAs. He’s striking out nearly twice as much as he walks, and that pretty much the opposite of what you’re supposed to do in baseball.
Suffice it to say, the Red Sox may have found a catcher in the rye (my apologies to Mr. Salinger) with Saltalamacchia. With Ryan Lavarnway just putting up ridiculous numbers between Portland and Pawtucket this year, we may see two young, power-happy catchers manning the plate for years to come.
Also, we’d move seamlessly from “SaltyTek” to “Lavarnamacchia”, which would be just fine with me.
If you use twitter, you should follow me @ShopAtMartland. I won’t tweet about baseball all the time, but when I do, it’s Dos Equis. Wait, what?
**events described herein may not be entirely accurate. Or even remotely accurate.