The Fat Man, the Diva and Edgar
So, David Wells, huh? Yeah that's probably going to take me a while to get used to. It's not so much that he's not a good pitcher. Because, he is. He's a good, solid lefty starter. He's a proven postseason performer. He's a big game pitcher. All that is great. It's that he's David Wells. And, you know, despite what people say to pump him up, he can't very well stop being David Wells. People say that you can learn to love anyone provided they try to earn your love. And they're probably right. But I have spent the better part of my life, or at least from 1997 on actively hating David Wells. And not in a "I don't like that guy because we can't figure out a way to beat him" way. Or even a "That guy plays for my enemy and therefore, by the transitive property, that guy is my enemy" way. But more like a "blinding, white supernovas of hatred are shooting from my eyes every time he appears on screen" way. 'Cause, yeah, he's David Wells. He's the Fat Man. He's Blubber Butt. He's a drunken slob. He's many more unprintable things that I've called him throughout the years.
Prior to the Sheffield infusion this season, David Wells and Jorge Posada were my two most hated Yankees. No, not Jeter. That's too easy. And Jeter, despite what he represents, plays hard and seems to genuinely respect the game. He looks like a Muppet even though the media (read: Fox Sports) have brainwashed the masses into believing he's cute but whatever, good looks are not a prerequisite for good ballplayers. See also: Randy Johnson. But there was something about Posada's rat face and Wells' complete disregard for the finer points of the game that really irritated me. Posada has no chin and a sorry excuse for an ass so I can usually comfort myself by saying that at least our catcher is hotter. But Wells just irked me. He calls himself a "throwback." I called him a jackass. And now he's on my team. I have to root for him. I have to call him "Boomer" without even a hint of irony.
We keep hearing about how his "colorful personality" as Larry Lucchino put it, is going to fit in so well with Boston's self-proclaimed idiots. Um, maybe. Then why do I see a powderkeg ready to explode? Curt Schilling is notoriously loquacious and I think we all know how Schilling feels about various things, (the Yankees, ALS, Ford Trucks, the President, the war, Pedro), but Schilling also has an extremely intense work ethic. Wells, to be kind, doesn't. I suppose it's possible that these two can share a clubhouse without actively trying to kill each other. But I wouldn't expect them to be best friends.
Besides, Wells is completely bald. How is he going to fit in with the Mannys, Damons and Arroyos of the world? Ah well, I suppose now Kevin Millar has a drinking buddy.
That said, I think it's probably a good thing that the Fat Man (I shall continue to refer to him as such until he deems himself worthy of a new nickname. Or until he beats the Yankees, whichever comes first), is not moving into a rotation with Pedro Martinez. Our Dominican Diva is not ours any longer and while I do feel a bit sad about the whole thing, I think it's the right solution to what would have become an increasingly complex problem. Pedro is 33. That is not old but have you seen Pedro Martinez lately? He's a small man with a small frame and freakishly long fingers. If I'm the Red Sox, I'm betting on Pedro not being, you know, Pedro in four years. Hell, Pedro wasn't Pedro this year. There were times when he pitched well, brilliantly even. But there were more times when he made us nervous. The Pedro of old didn't make us nervous. The Pedro of old was a guaranteed "W." The Pedro of old shut up, did his business and played baseball. Today's Pedro is different.
What surprises me the most about the whole thing is that people are surprised he took the money. Pedro calls it "respect." We all know what he means. We've seen his diva act for the past seven years and by and large, we let it slide. It's fine when he's on your side. It's even kind of endearing at times. Pedro's a badass and a headhunter but he was our badass and headhunter and if you don't like it, well you can damn well step into the box and face his 97 mph fastball. We put up with it because he always proved his point.
This year, he stopped making his point so clearly. Yes, he's still a wonderful pitcher and the Mets got a gamer for a few years. I hope they enjoy him. But lately, it seemed that Pedro needed more help. Pedro needed defensive brilliance behind him or baserunning blunders in front of him (Thanks again, Jeff Suppan!) to get out of jams. There were still times when he could twirl it with the best of them but for the first time this year, Pedro labored. He actually admitted that he couldn't beat someone. Or don't you remember that "The Yankees are my daddy" business? We'd never seen that before. The old Pedro did not get beat. The old Pedro was too proud for that.
I don't think this is a case of the Red Sox bailing on a player once he begins to show signs of mortality. Far from it. I just think they were making the smart move by refusing to mortgage their future to satisfy their aging present while still showing the necessary "respect" to one of their own. And I think it was the right move. That Pedro didn't bite and chose to pack it up and head to New York is his decision. I wish him the best there. Who knows, maybe he'll pull a Roger Clemens, undergo a resurgence and toss two Cy Young seasons. Good for him if he does. I hope his contract doesn't become an albatross, the likes of which the Mets are so familiar with (Oh hello, Mo Vaughn). I hope both sides get what they want from this deal. But I'm glad the Red Sox held their ground. Pedro Martinez is no longer a member of the Red Sox and that's okay. I don't know that I wanted to see arguably the best pitcher of my generation fade away. Because something tells me that Pedro will not go quietly. He is too good a pitcher and too proud a man for that.
While Theo let Pedro walk and brought the Fat Man to the buffet, the Nation was up in arms over what we viewed as the shadiness of our team. The team that will set out April 11th to raise the Championship banner and receive their World Series rings (in front of the Yankees, no less. Bug Selig, sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I just want to hug you!), is shaping up to look remarkably different than the team that hoisted the trophy in the parade a few weeks back. We've lost a starting pitcher, we still haven't signed our catcher (Theo? Seriously, I'm warning you on this one. Do not dick around), we lost our franchise shortstop and the guy that replaced him probably isn't coming back either. Derek Lowe is in the Witness Protection Program somewhere and even our team doctor is gone. But at least, as of today, we have a new shortstop. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the shortstop of the 2005 (and 2006, 2007, 2008 and possibly 2009) Boston Red Sox, Edgar Renteria!
What can I say, Theo? Score! Many of you will remember Renteria as the unfortunate soul who hit the weak grounder to Foulke which ended the game, the series, the crying and the wailing and gnashing of teeth of 86 years of Red Sox fans. And to think, the poor guy is going to have to see that clip replayed over and over ad nauseum for years to come. Because, yeah, we aren't liable to let that go anytime soon.
But Renteria is a good player. A great player even. I don't think the Sox overpaid either as they're getting him for roughly $10 million a year which is less than the $15 million annually that Nomar reportedly turned down in spring training last year. Wow, does that seem like decades ago or what? Renteria is also only 29-years-old. He's younger than Nomar, Jeter, A-Rod and Cabrera. His range is second only to Royce Clayton whom you've never heard of before because he plays for the Colorado Rockies and they have the dual misfortunes of wearing purple and sucking so very hard. By contrast, Renteria comes to us from the Cardinals. Admittedly, the last time we saw the Cardinals they were trying to get out of the way of a Red Sox-shaped freight train but make no mistake about it, the Cardinals are a good baseball team. And Renteria was a large reason why.
Thinking about this guy in the number two slot behind Damon gets me all hyped for spring training. His defense is excellent as well. I'm really excited about this guy. Theo and company apparently outbid St. Louis and Detroit for Renteria's services and his comments about the team, calling them "traditional" and "winners" are already rubbing New Englanders the right way.
That's the thing about the Hot Stove League, there are ups and downs, sometimes on the same day. A new guy comes in, an old guy leaves. You miss out on the hotshot starter but you stage a coup and steal a coveted rookie. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Now, Theo, about that starting catcher position...