Old Bull, Young Bull
As Steve Buckley put it in a column today, "Life is just so, so good right now."
This is true. But as far as the Red Sox are concerned, there's one black cloud hanging over my parade, and that's the fact that Jason Varitek does not have a contract to play for Boston next year.
I know he's certainly not alone in that. Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe aren't signed either. And all are binkies I'd hate to see go. But that's emotions and memories talking; if we are to be brutally honest, Nomar and Pedro are not who they used to be, and there are more powerful pitchers out there than Derek Lowe.
But it doesn't get any better than Tek. Don't take my word for it; if you were watching any of the games this past week, you saw what he contributed.
If you're still not convinced, ask Curt Schilling:
"Tek, offensively, was the star of the game . . I shook him off three times, once he wouldn't let me shake him off. He's probably as good as anyone there is back there. Even though the time frame of being together has not been long, we do a lot of talking. I'm leaning more on Jason to throw more of what he thinks I should throw. And tonight was one of those games." (Globe)
Pitchers are like high-strung, skittish, very special and very expensive racehorses. Out on the field, the catcher is their jockey, guiding their speed where it needs to go. There are some pitchers who are like Secretariat: they could win the Derby with a sack of potatoes tied to their back. Others--among them some of the best--benefit from someone else calling the shots.
So if pitchers are like racehorses and catchers like jockeys, having Jason Varitek behind the plate catching Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling is like having Willie Shoemaker on Man O'War and Funny Cide.
I'm not a fan of Steinbrenner-esque overspending, and I know something has to give, here. But underspending is just as dangerous--the "Moneyball" concept is an interesting one, but it hasn't exactly been proven yet.
I'm not trying to say I'm smarter than Theo Epstein--I guess I'm just desperate to know what information Theo has that has kept him from signing a guy that to my outside view is a no-brainer. It just makes no sense to me. Even if Tek has a high asking price--what could there possibly be that doesn't make that price worth every dime?
There are some Chicken Littles I've heard recently (on 'EEI, among other places) speculating that the Henry-Warner-Lucchino group is planning to sell the franchise, and hence their refusal to sign the free agents. I think that's a preposterous assumption until we see proof. But not having Tek signed still worries me.
In response to all this, my father told me an old joke:
An old bull and a young bull come up over a hill and see a pasture of fine-lookin' cows. "Wow!" says the young bull. "Let's run down this hill and mount one of them."
And the old bull says, "I have a better idea. Let's walk down and mount 'em all."
That's the way you have to look at this season, I guess. For all the worries about October this year and October next year, right now it's April going on May, there's a ballgame to be played tonight against the Texas Rangers.
"Old bull," my dad said, pointing to himself.
Then he pointed to me. "Young bull."
Either way, I guess it's just bull.