Last year, on August 1st, Jason Bay was 0-2 with 2 walks in his first game with the Red Sox when he hit a triple off the monster, setting Jed Lowrie up for a walk-off infield single against the Oakland A's. It was a reassuring moment for a fanbase which had just seen their team's biggest star and a central member of 2 championship teams traded. Jason Bay would post a .897 OPS in his time with the Sox in '08, and perform admirably in the playoffs.
This year, August 1st was marked by Victor Martinez going 1-5 in an unimpressive Red Sox debut. He drove in a run, yes, but it was far from the moment Jason Bay had. Since that night, however, Martinez has done nothing but impress, batting .326/.411/.534 in 156 plate appearances.
If those numbers are not impressive enough, he's been putting them up at the most crucial of moments. It was Victor Martinez who ended the Red Sox' 31 inning scoreless streak with a home run against the Yankees (even if it was in a game the Sox would eventually lose). On August 14th, against the Texas Rangers, with the Sox down to their last strike and down 1, Martinez smacked a 2-run go ahead double to right. Against the Blue Jays on the 18th, Martinez doubled in Alex Gonzalez to score what would ultimately prove to be the game-winning run in a 10-9 win over the Jays. And last night (September 9th) Martinez entered into a 4-4 game with the bases loaded as a pinch hitter and hit a bases clearing double to put the Sox ahead of the Orioles once-and-for-all, 7-4.
But it hasn't just been Martinez' bat that has proved valuable for the Red Sox. Martinez' value as a catcher, questioned around the time of the trade by some, has been undeniable. He's not thrown guys out with much more effectiveness than Jason Varitek, or been particularly good at blocking balls behind the plate. Martinez' work as a backstop has been in who he's caught. For one, he's proved capable of catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball--an unenviable duty which in years past has been fulfilled by offensive black holes and defensive mediocrities (when Doug Mirabelli is the most lauded name on a list, it's a bad sign). While Martinez hasn't had many opportunities to catch the injured Wakefield, he has looked like a natural doing so.
It's not with Wakefield, though, that Martinez' has made the greatest impact . Instead, it's been with Clay Buchholz. Since catching Buchholz on August 2nd, Martinez has become Clay's personal catcher, and formed quite the rapport with the young starter. The results have been impressive enough to silence almost all of the skeptics, some of whom, just over a month ago, had been suggesting the Sox give up Clay Buchholz in the trade for Martinez.
Last year, Jason Bay had big shoes to fill. With Manny Ramirez gone, Bay stepped up and was one of the team's best weapons going forward, as he has been this season. Victor Martinez came to a slumping team, and had an inauspicious beginning, going 1-5 in his first game and being a part of the Sox' 0-6 road trip against the Yankees and Rays just 2 games after joining the team. But for as bad as that streak was, Victor has managed to endear himself to the team and the fans all the same. Whether because of his clutch hits, or because of what he managed in turning Clay Buchholz into a legitimate part of the Red Sox' rotation, Sox fans are loving the Martinez trade.