Back in February, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was receiving a lot more than just pitches on some backfield of the Fort Myers spring training facility. He was also receiving* praise from club officials and coaches, who anointed him as their No. 1 guy. Salty was, literally, sipping champagne and enjoying the thought of the prospective limelight.
*’Receiving,’ in this particular instance, is synonymous with ‘catching.’ Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a catcher for the Boston Red Sox.
“The guy looked like a power forward in the NBA,” remembers one scout. “You know, some height but also some bulk. No one really knows how hard he really worked, but we all kind of think he must have worked pretty hard. I mean, we assume he did…based on what his friends and family told us.”
But, then April rolled around, and that same limelight that came along with all that once-welcomed attention began burning Jarrod’s retinas. They destroyed him like a poorly positioned light tower shining in his eyes while he attempted to throw out base-runners swiping second.
“I can see something’s changed in his eyes,” one player confides. “He is obviously pressing way too hard.”
Stuff About His Personal Life
While no one expected the process of becoming an everyday catcher to be without complication, the 26-year-old Saltalamacchia is off to a bad start of epic proportion—even by Boston Red Sox standards.
Suddenly, people are avoiding Jarrod like he is an adulterer living in Puritan New England. His teammates have distanced themselves from him, manager Terry Francona is no longer writing him into the lineup as frequently and, perhaps worst of all, women refuse to talk to him in social situations—even when he uses fellow teammates as wingmen.
To put it plainly and simply, Saltalamacchia commands zero respect.
The results have not been pretty. A backup catcher at the beginning of the season, Jason Varitek could soon surpass Salty in plate appearances as their roles have seemingly been reversed.
To his credit, V-Tek has fulfilled his part as team captain admirably by supporting Salty in the media, working with him on improving his confidence and providing him with helpful hints on how to score ready and willing women.
“Unfortunately, Jarrod already fumbled away his chance at Heidi Watney well before Jason could offer him any, um, ‘insider’ advice,” laments one club source.
The source would not reveal exactly what transpired other than saying, “Look, I don’t want to turn this into some puff piece about an athlete’s personal life…But let’s just say Saltalamacchia might have been a little too blunt about his expectations of how far exactly being anointed Boston’s starting catcher would get him with Heidi.”
And, so, Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues his embarrassing tailspin.
Some Anecdotal Evidence
“I can’t say it’s very inspiring for any of us to see him like this,” says one teammate who wished to remain anonymous. “In fact, it can be pretty depressing. Our pitchers argue over who gets Varitek as their ‘personal catcher’ because, frankly, nobody wants to be tossing pitches to the other dude.”
Another clubhouse insider relates similarly emotional scenes.
“Jarrod was in one of the batting cages underneath the stadium a couple weeks ago trying to work on hitting breaking balls. Just swinging and missing at everything. All of a sudden, one of V-tek’s daughters shows up and just takes the bat out of his hands, literally. He relinquishes it and Varitek’s kid chokes up on the bat a bit and starts knocking liners right back at the machine like it was nothing. Incredible.”
And incredibly embarrassing for Saltalamacchia, who was later seen trying to conceal a good deal of weeping while at his locker.
Trite Statements about the Future
Nobody wants to hazard a guess as to where Salty goes from here. While some may be quick to point out that Varitek’s production (.128 AVG / .227 OBP / .154 SLG) at the plate is even more anemic than Salty’s (.207/.258/.276), club officials believe the captain is simply trying to minimize the pressure on the “starter” by declining to overshadow him.
Says a scout: “In the past, Jason probably would have at least started, you know, slugging higher than his playing weight by now. But, he’s at a place in his career where putting up numbers at the plate isn’t a priority. Sure, some extra base hits would be nice. But he’s got a bunch of other stuff going for him right now. Too bad we can’t say the same for Jarrod. He’s just bumming everybody out.”