photo by Samara Pearlstein
Oh my goodness, oh my gosh, oh my holy Paws. It is being said that Victor Martinez will sign with the Tigers, allegedly for a 4 year, $50 million contract. It’s not yet official, no team announcement yet, etc etc blah blah blah.
This is exactly what I most hoped and feared would happen. People had actually asked me ahead of time what my reaction would be if VMart left the Red Sox for the Tigers, so I had time to think about this in advance, and I was still unable to come up with anything more coherent than random mumbled nonwords and possibly some drool. If he had re-upped with the Red Sox, I would have been content. If he had signed with Random non-Sox Team X, I would have been mildly upset. If he had signed with a serious rival of the Sox or Tigers, I would have been very upset. But signing with the Tigers– over the Sox– brings me joy and sadness and sadjoy in equal measure. I’m used to cognitive dissonance and all, but huurrrblurblurhuargh.
ON THE ONE PAW:
–Dude can hit. He can hit for average, and he’s got some power (20 HR last year, anyways). He doesn’t get on base at a mind-wrenchingly torrid rate or anything, but his OBP last year was .351, and that would have rocketed him into the upper ranks of the Tigers lineup right away. Indeed, only Miggy and Traitor Damon had 100+ at-bats and a higher OBP.
–Dude can catch. No, he is not the greatest defensive catcher in the league, but our Pudge days are over (sigh). VMart is perfectly serviceable behind the plate. He more or less successfully caught Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball last season, something that should not be glossed over: it has given lesser catchers nervous breakdowns before (sorry, Josh Bard). Because of his age he shouldn’t be catching every day anymore, even though he will inevitably say that’s what he wants, but that’s cool, because Alex Avila’s irrepressible beard is in the house, yo.
He can also play first base, if Miggy needs a break or a DH day or somesuch.
–Dude has been around for a while. He’ll be 32 in 2011, and that will be his 10th big league season. He’s gone to four All Star games, if that means anything to anyone. He has spent his entire career in the American League, and most of it in the AL Central. No offense to Gerald Laird, but if we have to pick someone to mentor Alex Avila (to the extent that The Savior needs mentoring), I think most of us would rather see that role go to VMart.
–If the reported contract is accurate, it’s not SO bad. Four years is actually less than I had feared; I was sure he was going to insist on five or even, Paws forbid, six. In 2014 VMart will be 35. I’m not saying he necessarily has the durability of these guys, but Varitek, Pudge, and Posada are all 38– Varitek is just about done, but the other two are still more or less trucking along. Brad Ausmus somehow stayed in baseball until he was 41 (although he too was effectively done at 38). The Tigers have already said they plan to use VMart as a DH who can spell Avila at catcher every so often, which should (should) help keep him in crispy fresh playing shape for longer. Barring Bad Injurious Things, I feel not-vomitingly-awful about keeping him through age 35.
–He knows the Secrets of Cleveland. With his inside knowledge, we shall defeat them handily in all ways! Insert evil supervillain laughter here!
ON THE OTHER PAW:
–My poor Red Sox. It was always going to come down to a young catcher mostly having to go it alone– either Avila in Detroit, or Saltalamacchia in Boston (that’s the plan, anyways). I felt a lot better about Avila’s ability to handle that. Salty has a lot more experience, but it’s been a rough couple of years for him, and Avila’s preternaturally wise ways make him seem better-suited to that sort of pressure. I dunno. Possibly Salty will be just fine and he absolutely will not get out to a slow start that will cause every Boston-area media outlet to start screaming hysterically for his blood as fans rend their clothes and sacrifice pigeons on altars decorated with Jason Varitek bobbleheads… but it’s Boston, you know? I already have my Varitek bobblehead ready to go.
–He is definitely not as, uh, prickly a character as Pudge was/is, but there still may be some friction, as VMart has said that he wants to catch a lot, he’s not wicked happy with the idea of DHing, etc. Pretty much every catcher says this, and as he’s not yet at the fully decrepit stage it may be hard to convince him that the DH spot is his friend. I think Jim Leyland will be better prepared to handle this than poor Alan Trammell was, though.
–A long contract for a catcher already in his 30s always has the potential to go horrifically, hilariously wrong.
–He was BFF with Adrian Beltre, his kid was BFF with Clay Buchholz… there may be some sadness about having to leave all that to come to Detroit, especially after the MASSIVE SADNESS that came with his departure from Cleveland (I was actually in Cleveland at the time, and listening to Cleveland sports radio immediately following the trade was one of the most awe-inspiringly depressing things ever. There were literally truckers calling in and threatening to drive off the road. There was an interview with VMart where he started crying on air). I expect Jhonny Peralta to do all he can to keep this from becoming A Thing. No pressure, Jhonny.
–Relatedly, being that much closer to Cleveland and playing in that splendid city more often may be taxing for the only guy in the country who actually, honestly, deeply loved played for the Racist Logos.
In general, I like this move quite a lot, so long as I don’t think about it from a Red Sox fan perspective. As an acolyte of Paws, I feel good.
ETA: It’s on MLB.com now, although it may not be official until the end of the week due to paperwork and the requisite physical.