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Nuggetpalooza: Jason Varitek rides into the statistical sunset 03.01.12 at 9:27 am ET
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The Red Sox watched as an icon retired Thursday. Jason Varitek spent 15 seasons with the Red Sox after Dan Duquette acquired him and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb in the “Deal of the Century,” “Tower Heist,” or whatever you want to call it that makes Seattle’s braintrust look ridiculous. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “If Varitek never gets a hit, he’s still a great player, because his preparation makes the pitching staff better,” I’d be rich. But there must be something to it, because during his 14 full seasons with Boston:

– The Red Sox won 90+ games 10 times;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances;
– The Red Sox won two World Series titles;

Say what you want, but Jason Varitek did *something* right. Prior to Varitek’s tenure:

– The Red Sox won 90+ games (or the equivalent) 10 times in the previous 49 seasons;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances in the previous 80 seasons (I know, that’s unfair, but still);
– The Red Sox last won World Series titles in 1916 and 1918;

He was an All-Star three times (2003, 2005, 2008), won a Gold Glove (2005), won a Silver Slugger award (2005), and finished in the top-30 in the MVP voting three times (2003, 2004, 2005).

It’s too bad that we can’t measure everything that Varitek brought to the table using stats. But stats is what I do, and most of the accepted stats today for non-pitchers are based on hitting. For Varitek, while he did some damage to his opponents with the bat, offense wasn’t the centerpiece of his game.

Having said all that, enjoy a Varitek retrospective, Nuggetpalooza-style:

—————————————————————————————————————————-

* – Varitek leads Red Sox catchers all-time in:

AB: 5,099 (1,239 more than Carlton Fisk)
Runs: 664 (37 more than Fisk)
Hits: 1,307 (210 more than Fisk)
Doubles: 306 (99 ahead of Fisk)
Home Runs: 193 (31 more than Fisk)
RBI: 757 (189 ahead of Fisk)
Walks: 614 (225 more than Fisk)
Strikeouts: 1,216 (a whopping 628 more than Fisk)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox react to retirement of Jason Varitek 02.28.12 at 10:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news spreading of the retirement of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek on Thursday, the players he leaves behind in the clubhouse began to react on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz:
‘€œIt was awesome being a part getting to play four seasons with him and being able to throw to a guy that everybody is going to remember as the captain of the Boston Red Sox. It was a good time for everybody. I hope his decision makes him and his family happy and they go with their lives and know that he was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate.’€

What he learned from Varitek:
‘€œHow to pitch. He’€™s a guy that you know when you’€™re on the mound and you shake him off and he sort of just stares at you, you’€™re like, ‘€˜OK, I won’€™t throw that pitch. Don’€™t worry about it.’€™ Especially being a young guy coming up and you’€™re already intimated by just pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway and then you have Jason Varitek catching you.

‘€œHow to slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball.

What he remembers about Varitek calling the no-hitter of Sept. 2, 2007 vs. Orioles:
‘€œA couple of times, early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit and they were caught but after that, it was like, ‘€˜OK, I’€™m just going to throw what he puts down.’€™ The game started to speed up on me a couple of times. I remember him calling timeout, running out there and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch wherever, down and away, get a ground ball and get out of an inning. That’€™s what I’€™ll always remember about him, he was always the guy that could always calm you down when he things were starting to speed up.”

Did he expect Varitek to show in camp?:
‘€œHe’€™s an animal. You see how every year he comes into spring training, what he looks like, how his body is a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome behind [the plate] and still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball but that was his and his family’€™s decision.’€

Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
‘€œHe meant a lot obviously. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before, he was trying to recover from injury so we didn’€™t get to spend a lot of on-field time together but still picking his brain a lot. But last year, [he] was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. And just the person he is, you can’€™t find a better person.

‘€œJust the way he went about his business, watching him. Wasn’€™t even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that.’€

What Varitek did for helping him lead the Red Sox pitching staff:
‘€œI was definitely a little hesitant. I didn’€™t know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked toward him, ‘€˜Get this meeting started, get this started.’€™ But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn’€™t expect that, didn’€™t expect him to be so helpful and [tell me], ‘€˜Hey man, this is your team.’€™ I said, ‘€˜You’€™re the captain, it’€™s your team.’€™

“That’€™s the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help me out, stuck up for me and I can’€™t thank him enough for jump-starting my career.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, jarrod saltalamacchia
Friday Notes: Red Sox not thinking of carrying three catchers 02.24.12 at 2:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Even in the absence of Jason Varitek, there are plenty of catchers who are making a favorable impression on new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. He praised Jarrod Saltalamacchia as an emerging leader “who is trying to step right into his own,” and suggested that the catcher was swinging quite well from the right side that is usually not his strong suit. The roster features Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito, the latter of whom Valentine suggested appeared to be “trying to take a step into his time…He looks very good.”

That said, even as Valentine said that he was not ready to think about how playing time might be divided among his catchers, he did say that there was one construct he hadn’t considered to this point: Carrying three catchers on the roster.

“I think the American league affords you the opportunity to bring that extra pitcher and right now I’€™m thinking about carrying that person,” said Valentine. “I think the third catcher would have to be someone who plays other positions pretty well. But DH is a position.’€

That said, DH is not quite as important as defensive versatility, and since Saltalamacchia, Shoppach and Lavarnway do not play defensive positions aside from catcher, that would appear to underscore the likelihood that the Sox will open the year with Saltalamacchia and Shoppach in the big leagues with Lavarnway and Exposito getting regular catching time in Pawtucket.

OTHER NOTES

Left-hander Drake Britton came into his first big league camp in excellent shape after a full offseason of workouts. While he endured a brutal struggle in 2011, going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA for High-A Salem, there were some interesting developments that could bode well for his future. First, after being limited to 75 innings in 2010 in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, he was healthy for every start of the year, taking the mound 26 times. Secondly, when he struggled to command his curveball, the Sox had him experiment with a slider late last season. He took to the pitch quickly, and the mechanics and grip of that pitch allowed him to reclaim his 12-to-6 curveball. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Chris Carpenter, drake britton, frank montas
And so it begins: Bobby Valentine on the state of the Red Sox as spring training opens 02.19.12 at 2:58 pm ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

FORT MYERS — It is an unusual spring for the Red Sox. As they return from a 2011 season that witnessed immense promise before ending in a startling collapse that yielded tremendous on- and off-field questions as well as turnover in both the front office and manager’s office, the Red Sox are a team that starts spring training with greater-than-usual uncertainty. The shape of the roster is less settled than is typically the case, and the mindset and dynamic of the organization will also be a work in progress over the coming six weeks in Fort Myers.

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, the successor to Terry Francona‘s eight-year run at the helm of the Boston dugout, did not hide from that fact. He embraced the questions surrounding his club.

“At the start of season, you have all questions,” said Valentine. “You have questions about how the team will come together. How the pitching staff will work with the catchers. How the lineup will look and work together. I’€™d say we have all questions and questions of good health, too.

“As far as positions, we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now, [Carl Crawford]‘€™s health is of question for maybe Opening Day anyway ‘€“ for opening day of Spring Training. We’€™ll deal with left field. You know a couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots also. If you mean just the personnel, those are the questions that need answers. The general idea of all the things coming together need to be answered.’€

Here are some of the questions that Valentine addressed on Sunday morning:

On what he think the team needs to do in the wake of its historic collapse in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: andrew miller, Bobby Valentine, Daniel Bard, felix doubront
What Jason Varitek really taught Jarrod Saltalamacchia 02.18.12 at 11:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Jason Varitek has indeed caught his last game in a Red Sox uniform and will be retiring his spring, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will remember one act of kindness and generosity in particular.

Saltalamacchia was with the Braves in 2007 as a minor leaguer and made the trip to Fort Myers for a spring training game. He sent a Red Sox No. 33 jersey over to the Red Sox clubhouse to have the captain sign for him.

“He signed a jersey for me, and on it it said, ‘catch with pride.’ You take that and that’s what he’s done his whole career and I’m going to do the same.”

Now, ironically, Saltalamacchia – after taking over primary catching responsibilities in 2011 – is in position to assume the leadership role of the Red Sox pitching staff, with Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway behind him.

Salty said Friday he hasn’t been preoccupied with whether Varitek will accept the minor league contract offer from the Red Sox and report to camp on Sunday.

“Honestly, I haven’t really though about it,” Saltalamacchia said. “I can’t assume anything. I don’t know where he’s at. I don’t know if he’s thinking about coming. I know they’ve offered him a minor league invite.

“I’m just preparing for myself. It’s like a game day, if I’m not playing, not in the lineup, I’m still going to prepare to play that day. So, I’m prepared for him to be here and for him not to be here.”

The final words of advice he take from Varitek?

“Just be yourself, be who you are,” Saltalamacchia said. “People are going to like you for who you are. People are going to respect you for what you do about your business. There’s a lot of little things as far as catching, that I learned. It’s mainly to be a good person, a good teammate and respect the game.”

Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
As Tim Wakefield retires, Red Sox now await the decision of Jason Varitek 02.17.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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FORT MYERS – Jason Varitek was not at JetBlue Park on Friday as Tim Wakefield announced his retirement. But the future of the longtime Red Sox captain remained very much a part of the proceedings.

Just as they did for Wakefield, the Sox have offered Varitek a minor league contract with an invitation to come to big league camp and compete for a roster spot. Just as was the case for Wakefield, the Sox are allowing a longtime franchise cornerstone the space to make his own decision about his future.

“We told him that there was an opportunity to come to camp, and gave him, as we did to Tim, gave him as much of the landscape as we could in terms of what that would mean. … We felt like they had earned that, to be given some sort of stake in the decision and we’€™ve tried to give them as much information as we can,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “[It is] a unique situation, to put that in a player’€™s court and not normally what we do. In these two particular cases, we felt that there was merit to doing it that way because of what the players meant to the team.”

Cherington said that at this point, with pitchers and catchers due to report on Sunday, he is not expecting any additions to the roster. However, the decision will ultimately be Varitek’s as to what to do with his career. Wakefield said that he has talked with his teammate of 15 seasons this offseason, but that it is impossible for him to use his own situation to make any assessments about what is right for Varitek. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Derek Jeter, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Added pressure on ourselves is ‘where we faltered’ at 3:24 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Whether or not Jason Varitek reports to camp this spring with the Red Sox, the leadership of the pitching staff will fall directly on the shoulders of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

And Friday afternoon, after a grueling day of work in the burning sun that baked both of his forearms, Saltalamacchia said he doesn’t feel any added pressure after “The Collapse” from last September.

“I don’t feel any added pressure, no, because we’re going to have to do it together,” Saltalamacchia said. “When I mean leader, I’m not going to have a ‘C’ on my chest, I’m not going to tell people what to do. But I’m going to go about my business the right way, lead by example a little bit on that front, and get to know the pitchers, get to know them a little more and find out what we can do.”

Saltalamacchia said he’s gotten a head start on the season by speaking with new pitching coach Bob McClure.

“I spoke with Bob, and he’s been great as far as the pitching side of it and getting feedback from him has been great,” Saltalamacchia said.

“I don’t think last year there was any kind of [lack of] leadership. We all knew what to do. You’re with a team that’s been there, done that. Guys with two rings, guys with one so we knew what we had to do. I think we might have put a little added pressure on ourselves and that’s where we faltered.”

Read More: bob mcclure, Boston Red Sox, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
Larry Lucchino on Red Sox payroll, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and more 02.10.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino rebutted claims that his team is scaling back its spending this offseason, saying in multiple settings that his team plays on blowing past the $178 million luxury tax payroll and suggesting that the Sox will exceed the $189 million franchise payroll record, which was set last season.

In an appearance on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio’s “Inside Pitch,” Lucchino painted a picture of a far-reaching commitment by team owners to the payroll, both over the duration of the group’s tenure (which began in 2002) and in 2012.

“Look at what we’ve done and not what we say. Since we have been here — we are now beginning our 11th year — our payroll has consistently been at the top end of Major League Baseball,” said Lucchino. “It has not been No. 1. That position has been reserved, probably permanently, for the New York Yankees, but it has been second most every year, and we have invested lots of money in amateur draft picks. We sign our draft picks at a much higher percentage than used to be the case. We’ve invested in international signings — you can look at some of our Cuban players and some of our Japanese players — and so we have invested dollars into this franchise because we recognize that the fundamental question about a franchise and about its ownership is, is there a commitment to winning. I think that our track record demonstrates that there is that commitment.

“Now, this year, if you want to talk specifically about 2012, we will have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox in 2012,” Lucchino continued. “Will we eclipse the luxury tax threshold? To be sure, we will — once again. So I think the talk of us not spending needs to be viewed in the context of real facts and in comparisons to real dollars.”

In earlier comments to MLB.com, Lucchino also disputed the notion that the Red Sox’ spending has been impacted by the Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of the Liverpool Football Club.

“That has not been the case,” Lucchino said of the idea that the Red Sox ownership group was channeling its resources towards soccer players. “There has not been a situation where that was cited for a reason for us not to do something here.”

Asked for how he feels when his team is characterized as being “cheap,” Lucchino suggested amusement.

“It makes me laugh. It just proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You certainly can’t please all of the sportswriters much of the time. But that’s OK,” said Lucchino. “What’s important to us is that our fans realize that we are in this to win it, and we operate accordingly.

“Are there financial constraints from time to time? Of course there are. No one has an unlimited budget to do absolutely everything they want to do. But with some common-sense parameters, as I said, we’re going to have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox this year, and the commitment to winning from the very highest levels — John Henry, Tom Werner — throughout the entire organization, there is a powerful sense of obligation that our job is to commit to win, provide our fans with entertaining, competitive, winning baseball.”

(For a detailed look at the Red Sox payroll, click here.)

Lucchino also touched on a number of additional topics. Among them: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino
Kelly Shoppach agreement spells likely end for Jason Varitek with Red Sox 12.13.11 at 11:22 am ET
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The writing had been on the wall for some time. Whenever he was asked about Jason Varitek this offseason, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he would inform the 15-year veteran if the team decided to go another direction. Now, it appears that the Sox have decided to go in another direction.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement with catcher Kelly Shoppach on a one-year, $1.35 million deal. (The deal was first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.) The contract is guaranteed.

Shoppach, taken with the Sox’ top pick in the 2001 draft, hit .176 (fifth lowest in the majors among the 355 players with 200 or more plate appearances) with a .268 OBP, .339 slugging mark, .607 OPS (325th in the majors) and 11 homers in 87 games with the Rays last season. It marked the third straight season in which the 31-year-old has seen declines in his average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS since a career-best 2008 season in which Shoppach hit .261/.348/.517/.865 with 21 homers for the Indians.

However, Shoppach had far better numbers against left-handed pitchers. He hit .241 with a .344 OBP, .444 slugging mark, .788 OPS and seven homers against southpaws. Moreover, he threw out 41 percent of potential base-stealers last year, the top caught stealing percentage in the American League.

Shoppach made his big league debut with the Sox in 2005, playing nine games in the majors and going 0-for-15. He was traded that offseason to the Indians as part of the deal that resulted in the acquisition of center fielder Coco Crisp. Shoppach spent four years with the Indians before being traded to the Rays prior to the 2010 season.

The Sox had expressed a desire to have a veteran in spring training who would compete with Ryan Lavarnway for the job of a complement to expected starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Shoppach appears to be that catcher, something that would appear to render Varitek expendable. Moreover, the guaranteed deal for Shoppach also increases the likelihood that the Sox can return Lavarnway to Triple-A so that he can get regular playing time behind the plate to complete his minor league development. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, Jason Varitek, kelly shoppach,
Red Sox prepared to cut ties to Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield 12.07.11 at 4:38 am ET
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DALLAS — It was not a definitive verdict. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington did not say that a pair of franchise linchpins would not be back.

But he came close. The words did not represent a significant departure from previous statements this winter, but nonetheless, Cherington made it sound like it is increasingly likely that knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (after 17 years with the Sox) and catcher Jason Varitek (15 years into his Sox tenure) may have seen the end of their days in Boston.

“We’€™re not ready to commit to anything. I have spoken to both and plan to talk to them both again. Certainly we’€™ll do so before we make any final decision,” said Cherington. “I have a great deal of respect for both and feel like the best thing for the team and the best thing for them is, if there’€™s not a real role on the team, I’€™m not sure it’€™s fair, I’€™m not sure it’€™s the right thing for them or the team. We haven’€™t gotten to that point yet. I’€™ll talk to them when we get closer to that.’€

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, hit .221 with a .300 OBP, .423 slugging mark and 11 homers in 68 games in 2011. Wakefield, 45, went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA last season, making 23 starts and pitching 154 2/3 innings, his most since 2008. Wakefield remains seven wins short of the Red Sox’ all-time career wins record.

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield,
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