Give Josh Bard this: The man left Boston pretty composed, all things considered.
The San Diego Tribune's Tom Krasovic catches up with the one-time Red Sox backup, now emerging as a solid contributor for the Padres since being jettisoned last month in exchange for Doug Mirabelli. One would expect Bard to be bitter about the negative treatment he received here from the fans (They gotta get rid of Bahhhrd!!!), after allowing 10 passed balls in just seven games for Boston, struggling mightily with the radical delivery of Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.
But Bard sounds ... get this ... grateful.
"I think being in Boston gave me a different light on just my whole career, just saying, sometimes you take yourself too seriously," he said. "I couldn't have been more embarrassed than I was there. But it's like, hey, you have two options. You can either put your glove down and walk off the field, or you keep going. Obviously I didn't want to choose the first. So you keep pushing on and good things happen."
Bard described trying to catch Wakefield's knuckleball as "trying to catch a butterfly with a stinkin' waffle iron." Which means we can only assume Bard has tried that as well for some strange reason.
"You feel like an idiot," he told Krasovic.
The Red Sox could one day feel like idiots themselves for giving up on Bard after less than one month of the season.
No, they couldn't continue to watch Bard flail behind the plate with Wakefield, particularly when his inability to catch the pitcher's signature delivery was increasingly obvious. It would have been nice to see if he could grasp the situation as time went on, but when you play in the AL East, and the difference between winning the division, winning the wild card, and staying home for October could mean two or three wins, you can't afford to watch Bard lose you games.
But while Mirabelli has been the improvement the Sox hoped they would be getting when he arrived via police escort to a standing ovation at Fenway, offensively he is proving to be a high price to pay for a specialty player.
Through his first 15 games with the Sox, Mirabelli is batting just .154 with all of four runs batted in. At least in the past, Mirabelli has popped a few out of the yard (he hit one home run every 16.1 at-bats in 2004). But this season, Mirabelli has jacked just one homer in 39 at-bats.
Of Mirabelli's five passed balls with Boston, three, you might remember, came in one inning of one game against the Yankees three weeks ago. From a defensive standpoint, it's difficult to argue with the fact that the Mirabelli trade was a necessity. Wakefield, 1-4 with Bard as his batterymate, has gone 3-3 with Mirabelli, and in June is holding the opposition to just a .204 batting average.
But while the 28-year-old Bard has jumped out to a .333 average with the Padres, with five home runs, Red Sox captain Jason Varitek and Mirabelli are batting a combined .239 on the season. At 34 and 35, respectively, playing at a position that inflicts considerable wear and tear, one has to wonder how much either player might have left.
And down the line, there isn't much coming anymore.
Kelly Shoppach is gone, part of the Coco Crisp trade, and now Bard is as well. Right now, the guy who best fits the label of "best catching prospect" by default in the Red Sox farm system, according to Brandon Magee, a contributor to the Most Valuable Network, is Mark Wagner, a ninth-round pick last year who is hitting .308 down in Greenville.
Other than that, well, Corky Miller is hitting .200 in Pawtucket.
Of note in this year's draft, according to Magee, were a pair of first baseman that the Red Sox took with the possible mindset they could become catchers down the line: "One is Aaron Bates out of NC State. He hit .425 last year and was drafted (as a Sophomore Eligible) in the 8th round. He played in the Cape League (a running theme in this draft) and was named an all-star. Although he played 1B for the Wolfpack, he could move back to catcher. Why, you may ask, was he not playing Catcher to begin with. Well, ask the Sox' 4th round pick, Jonathan Still… a catcher from NC State. Of course, Still mostly played DH due to Caleb Magnum, the regular catcher. He is still available in the second day of the draft.
"The other 1B/Catcher is Matt LaPorta, from the University of Florida. LaPorta apparently dropped a ton (as the Sox drafted him in the 14th round). He led the nation in HRs in 2005, but suffered an oblique injury this year. He is a Junior, so he has the option of returning to the Seminoles. He is also a Scott Boras client."
As is, of course, Varitek, who has two more years on his deal at $9 million per season. Look, nobody is suggesting the guy is done by any means. And as if to answer that very question, he's hitting .357 in June. But he will be 36 at the end of the 2008 season, 37 in April of the following season, and some of the results from these first few months have to be a bit concerning when you consider Varitek and the health of the Red Sox' catching future.
Bard was but a blip on that map, now in San Diego where he is breaking out.
That doesn't make it a bad deal, but an unfortunate one that might have been necessary to make. With possible repercussions still yet to announce themselves.