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Makes it easy..

November 13, 2008

Comments like this make it easy to understand, from an athletes standpoint, why and how the media, no matter how good, can never fully grasp what you do, and how hard what you do is for a living.

“Please, spare me the Dr. Phil nonsense that Varitek’s personal problems somehow affected his performance this season. If anything, they would affect his mental preparation, not his ability to connect with a fastball traveling above 87 mph.”

In talking about Jason, much has obviously been said and he has a pretty passionate group of supporters on the staff. But to imply the above is a borderline admission of ignorance. To say that there is little to no connection with your mental state of mind, and your physical performance, tells me the person talking has never been asked to, or able to, perform a physical activity at a level few others in the world can.

Jason would be the last, and likely never would, to make any excuses for the poor offensive year and a half he has had. I will tell you that what he had to endure physically and mentally absolutely impacted him in a negative way performance wise. People don’t know that he twice last year had a serious viral sickness. He was completely wiped out on two different occasions. Both times he lost significant weight and strength and he did so in the midst of playing. Back on the field in a time frame I would guess was NOT in his best health interest. The other ‘stuff’ are a very big deal here because regardless of what tabloid journalism might have said this guy lived for his children and was and always will be the best father he can be, of that I have no doubt. I’ve lockered next to him for 5 years, he’s as good a man and human as I’ve known. Sure that paints severe bias into the picture but that doesn’t make it false either.

The more important piece to this, and one that was in full view for the pitchers, was the fact that never once did he allow his offensive woes to follow him behind the plate or affect his pre-game preparation, and planning, two crucial elements we as ‘his staff’ valued so highly. The reason I make that statement is that over 20 years of playing at this level that makes him incredibly rare at his position. Few catchers, well none really, that I ever played with put the initial time and effort into game prep he did, but fewer still ever had the ability to separate their offensive woes from their defensive responsibility. As their average went, so did their defensive commitment.

I know the ‘anti’ Tek camp is big, and that’s fine, but at the end of the day his value is far beyond a measurable statistic and I think that’s what rubs so many wrong. You’ll know it when it’s gone, it will be a visibly absent thing.

Do you pay him 15 a year for 4 years, I don’t know but who gives a 36 year old catcher a 4 year deal? If there was ever a guy to get that deal you could argue this was the guy because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt he’ll be in better shape than any catcher in the game for however many years he gets. It really comes down to someone understanding how much of his contract is being paid for those ‘intangibles’ so many argue for, or against.

This guy is the consummate team first, play the game right 24/7 pro. Many don’t care about that aspect, and that’s fine too, there are a ton of utility players that play the same way, but they aren’t worth 15×4 or whatever. But those things matter inside a clubhouse where you inherit a family for 9 months a year. Those things, when absent, can wear a team down fast, but when present they are the things that help a team over the hump as well. This clubhouse has gained, in addition to immense young talent, an incredibly good and deep roster of players with many of those same traits. That bodes well for the coming years, and I would argue Jason is a huge part of that.

I am not saying sign him regardless, or let him walk at a certain price, what I am saying is that there is value here beyond AVG/OPS/HR/RBI that writers like the one quoted above will never comprehend, appreciate or acknowledge.

70 Comments leave one →
  1. earache702 permalink
    November 17, 2008 2:56 pm

    Is Tek a great catcher? Yes. Is he a dead bat in the lineup? Yes. This isn’t a one-season drought. His productivity has been on a steady decline. The bigger question is what are the alternatives? If the Sox let Tek go, who steps in? Will the replacement actually be an improvement? That remains to be seen.

    Frankly, I would like to see Tek stick around to groom others for the full-time catcher role. If Kevin Cash was given more playing time, more at-bats, I think we’d all see what he can do. Right now, catching one game a week is not proving anything for Kevin.

    The bottom-third of the Red Sox lineup was tremendously inconsistent, in 2008. One writer stated that the bottom-third was the “perfect time to walk my dog”, because he knew he would miss nothing. How sad.

    We were one decent batter away from going to another world series. We needed every at-bat to be a decent one, not a wasted opportunity. And, you can’t get there with a .220 batting average.

    Tek is a leader. He is a baseball savant, with very few rivals. He will make a great manager, one day. I hope he remains if the Sox family, for years to come. But, at what cost?

    Whatever is decided, let there be no more excuses. Leave your personal problems at home, and do your job. If Tek comes back next year, I hope he’s prepared to serve his many detractors a huge crap sandwich. If not, take a seat, and give someone else a chance.

  2. str33tsp1r1t permalink
    November 17, 2008 3:22 pm

    Tek may have lost a step at the plate due to playing one of the most physically taxing positions in sports, age, illnesses, personal issues (Huge Impact IMO) etc, but he is also a real leader, pitcher’s binky, and general regulating force in the clubhouse.

    All of these “Get rid of Tek” people are not thinking this through in my opinion. I think we all ought to reserve judgement on players like Tek, Lowell, and Ortiz. I think it must be a very hard thing to play at the level these guys have been playing the last few seasons and not get banged up in the process. Watching Mike lowell’s face during his playoff at-bats told me everything I need to know about that guy. He has the heart of a lion, and played through what must have been excrutiating discomfort (like another fellow I know).

    Eveyone gave Alex Gonzales a free pass on offense because he brought other things to the table that helped the team “WIN”. No fair observer could state Jason doesn’t do the same. Doesn’t he deserve a chance to rebound at the dish? If the issue is bat speed, maybe he needs to hit from the right side only and pull the ball like Mike Lowell does? I’m not saying you pay him to be a nice team guy, but he has real value over the next four years beyond RBI, average, and HR’s. The Sox need to aquire/develop a replacement that can be brought along by Tek over the next four seasons. Varitek should retire a Red Sox period.

  3. November 18, 2008 8:38 am

    “The other ’stuff’ are a very big deal here because regardless of what tabloid journalism might have said this guy lived for his children and was and always will be the best father he can be, of that I have no doubt.”

    I’ve never read anyone question what kind of father he is. But if the rumors are true, and you make no mention that indicates they aren’t, he willing chose to put himself in a position that he knew would put a focus on him that would contribute to stress, pressure and probably affect his playing.

    I hope the rumors aren’t true. I hope his issues were health-related and stress due to the break-up of a marriage – and not based on what the gossip mongers are writing. But if they are, he contributed to the reasons he had such a poor season and what’s to prevent that from happening in 2009?

  4. browns83 permalink
    November 18, 2008 10:44 am

    Is there really a large anti-Varitek camp?? That’s like a yankees fan hating Jeter. I rarely talk to a Red Sox fan that doesn’t appreciate what Varitek brings behind the plate. He makes life much easier on pitchers, all they have to do is nod and execute the pitch.

  5. pbokeefe permalink
    November 18, 2008 2:10 pm

    Schill, I am about to go work for a sports media outlet right after Thanksgiving. I am a sales guy by profession, but my hobby has been sports writing for the past couple years. I am in the midst of launching a site with some friends dedicated to Boston sports, similar to Barstool but with a little more class. Anyway, I have also been writing for a site called Examiner.com. My focus is analyzing sports media. I want to thank you for doing what you have done for years and open up to the media and fans. You will go down as one of my favorite Red Sox for both your on field contributions, your candidness, and your charitable contributions. If you feel like reading my article on you released today here it is:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-1133-Boston-Sports-Media-Examiner~y2008m11d18-Appreciate-What-Schilling-is-Doing

    Thanks again Curt. All the best!

  6. sdl1 permalink
    November 19, 2008 2:34 am

    Great post, Curt.

    To me, Varitek is the heart and soul of this team; to not retain him is tantamount to stupidity. The C on his jersey…reasons enough to keep him. He IS the Red Sox a far as I am concerned. By that I mean, a player who is there everyday (except when Wakefield is on the mound) and can serve as the on-field “manager.”

    If Boras wasn’t in the picture, I know ‘Tek would have already been signed.

    Why is it when I read this guy Finn, I feel like I’m reading those two crap stains Clif Keane and Larry Claflin? (aka Syph & Clap–oops–Clif & Claf)

    To pbokeefe…great article as well. Until recently I was writing for one of the Tampa Bay area correspondents. Small world or what?

  7. fruitgirl permalink
    November 19, 2008 10:22 am

    I wish the dark, cold awful months of winter were over and it was end of February 2009….and I wake up to get on a plane to Ft.Myers to watch my boys play in the warm Florida sun. When I arrive in the land of palm trees amd oranges, I see the big strong symbol of our great team going through the drills at City Of Palms Park as he waves to the onlookers…..we can all have a big sigh of relief that our Captain is back. That is all I want for Christmas. We don’t need more than that. We have a spectacular team with these boys in Boston, and we should all be so proud that they represent us in the glorious game of baseball. So many of them were playing hurt and tired last year, many without public knowledge – because they are not Babies ! Hurt, Tired, and slightly older (on average) and yet they still came within a single game of reaching the 3rd World Series Games in 4 Years !! That is amazing. Everyone needs to stop complaining and see how fortunate we are to have this great bunch of scrappers working so hard to please us. Cheer on Boston, our team is the Pinnacle of the sport, unmatched anywhere today. Bring back our Captain, Theo. Jason is our Guru, our Soldier, Our Glue, Our team leader & we love him. That’s all.

  8. pbokeefe permalink
    November 19, 2008 2:02 pm

    Thanks sdl1, I appreciate it. Curt you continue entertain Boston fans and I am glad that you use your professional athlete ego in a good way. I am always amazed when a guy like you gets bashed for speaking out on politics, opposing players, teammates, coaches, and charities. You are labeled as a blowhard and a loudmouth. Meanwhile people can laugh off guys like Chad Johnson’s antics, Shaq’s stupid egomaniacal rants, and the thousands of players who hold out and pout when they are under contract. All I have to say is, at least you’re not at strip clubs in Vegas on NBA All Star Weekend flashing thousands of dollars of cash with a group of your criminal buddies. Or at least you’re not in the news for getting caught trying to sneak a gun onto an airplane. Or at least you’re not sleeping around with that dish rag Madonna. Keep it up Schill!

  9. fens1533 permalink
    November 24, 2008 8:51 pm

    Curt, thank you for writing this.

    I’m amazed how many both in the media and among the fans are ready to dismiss anything but raw statistics in evaluating players performances. Even more, I’m amazed how many assume their own knowledge of what it takes to make a team is better than that of the actual players.

    How odd, too, that people who limit themselves to statistics, claiming nothing else ‘counts’ and no other factors could influence a player’s season, think their own view is clearest, and least biased. That suggests to me that not only have these people never performed difficult physical tasks at the highest level (as you wrote), but they also aren’t very skilled observers of human nature!

    I’d been thinking about this for a little while, but reading your piece actually inspired me to write a bit on the topic myself, over at Bleacher Report :

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/85279-my-vote-for-jason-varitek-its-bias-but-in-a-good-way

    I don’t know if people will be swayed by what you wrote (much less by what I did), but it absolutely needed saying: baseball is NOT played by robots; why talk about the game as if it were?

    Much thanks, Curt, and here’s to another Red Sox season WITH the Captain back behind the plate.

  10. dash4 permalink
    November 25, 2008 9:43 pm

    I am a Varitek supporter and feel that it would be a hugh mistake if we did not re-sign him. I do not pretend to know what it is like to walk in his or any professional athletes shoes but I do not think we should only be as good as our last performance. Even thought he did not bat well he did so much for the fans and team. I was at Fenway for game 3 vs Tampa Bay and the place was miserable, I brought my two older sons (9&10) and made sure they stayed to the end and they learned a valuble lesson that day, that no matter how your team is doing you always need to support them, Game 4 the fans were miserable again, Varitek reached out to the fans through the media and asked them to support their team for Game 5 and the fans were amazing even when we did not think they would win. But they came back and I was fortunate to be at one of the best come backs ever. I do not want to take away from the other players because everyone contributes, but Variteks homerun and the runner he threw out at 2nd base during game 6 won the game and we advanced to Game 7.

    Varitek is a man of very few words who always has chosen to let his actions speak. I am a mother of 4 sons and like any parent I try to point out role models for them and Variteks work ethic, intensity and mental fierceness that has helped him achieve such greatness is referred to often. He is the only person throughout all the talk that has never made an excuse or tried to explain why his hitting suffered this year. He has taught me it is not what you say in life but how you “be”.

    I hope the Sox’s are smart enough to not let him get away!

  11. lclaflin permalink
    November 25, 2008 10:29 pm

    sdl1,
    My name is Larry Claflin Jr., the son of Larry Claflin, the sportwriter you defamed on this blog on Nov. 19 at 2:34 a.m. Please keep in mind that the people you write about have families that don’t appreciate reading nasty lies about their deceased relatives, especially in such a public forum. My e-mail address is larryclaflin@hotmail.com. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact me. Thanks for your time.

  12. lclaflin permalink
    November 26, 2008 11:45 am

    sdl1,
    After a little research, I found out your real name. You’re Scott Levison, a pony-tailed “freelance” writer from Tampa Bay via Newton, Mass. Over the years, you’ve had plenty to say about my father online, none of it nice. For anyone that cares, here’s the text of an e-mail I wrote to Mr. Levison, who refuses to call or e-mail me:

    “Mr. Levison,
    You seem to have a real hatred for my father, considering the things you have posted over the years, calling him a “hack writer” and plenty of other nasty names.

    Did you ever meet my father? Did he slight you somehow? I’ve noticed you’ve never posted anything about him under your real name, only under the handle sdl. My father wrote about Boston sports for more than 30 years, covering your beloved Red Sox most of the time. He may have had his faults, but he’s generally respected among Boston’s sports community, journalists and every ballplayer I’ve ever met. Are you aware that he and my mother we’re instrumental in raising money for the Jimmy Fund in its early days? Do you know he was good friends with Yaz, Bobby Orr and plenty of other Boston pro athletes? When I met Lius Tiant recently, he said my father was “one of the best.”

    My point, Scott, is that you have no right to defame my father, online or anywhere else. The man’s been dead for more than 27 years. Let it rest, Scott, please. Enough. My family and I would appreciate an apology, today.

    Larry Claflin Jr. Salem, Mass.”

    If anyone knows Mr. Levison, I’d like to talk to you. Please email me at larryclaflin@hotmail.com.

  13. November 27, 2008 6:19 pm

    Schill –

    Once again I have read through your blogs and find you eloquent and insightful. On “Makes it easy” (Tek’s Woes), I agree, there’s more to him than stats. Locker room presence is something some guys look forward to. I played ball, I was an inspirer and as well as the inspired. Tek is undoubtedly suffering in the offensive department, but he had baggage – so does Big Papi, but neither are expendable in the locker room, whether it’s a leader like Tek or a inspirational smile from Ortiz, both men are needed and destined to improve themselves and their fellow teammates . If not, I’ll eat my Red Sox hat on TV:-)

    Keep up the classy work. Thank you and your wife for helping strangers.

    Tim

  14. November 27, 2008 6:35 pm

    Schill –

    Once again I have read through your blogs and find you eloquent and insightful. On “Makes it easy” (Tek’s Woes), I agree, there’s more to him than stats. Locker room presence is something some guys look forward to. I played ball, I was an inspirer as well as the inspired. Tek is undoubtedly suffering in the offensive department, but he had baggage – so does Big Papi, but neither are expendable in the locker room, whether it’s a leader like Tek or a inspirational smile from Ortiz, both men are needed and destined to improve themselves and their fellow teammates . If not, I’ll eat my Red Sox hat on TV:-)

    Keep up the classy work. Thank you and your wife for helping strangers.

    Tim

  15. yankeesonshine permalink
    November 28, 2008 8:28 am

    I think the key to keeping Veratek is having an an able back-up. Maybe with a little more rest than just when Wakefield pitches could prove revitalizing. I look forward to see how the team deals with this situation. The Yankees had the very same dilema- you know our aging switch-hitting catcher. Well Posada is signed, let’s see if Veratek is.

  16. TheWacoKid permalink
    December 16, 2008 8:42 am

    To lclaflin

    Obssess much?

    If I was sdl1 i wouldn’t have responded to your e-mail either.

    To sdl1..great Bill Lee avatar!

  17. Judge6903 permalink
    January 20, 2009 10:34 am

    Although I can appreciate the obvious loyalty extended to Tek in this narrative….. There comes a point of balance where the 1-2 runs he may (Or may not) actually save us with his game calling skills, gets over shadowed by the 2-3 runs he costs us by r-e-g-u-l-a-r-l-y striking out with RISP. And to be honest, I sometimes pray for the K because it’s more endearing than the 4-6-3 option he otherwise seems so fond of.

  18. Paul J Papa permalink
    March 24, 2009 8:52 am

    I would like to thank Curt for a great career and all the great baseball memories. Mem says in 2004 when I seen the commercial he made hiching a ride in Arizona to Boston to help break an 86 year old curse, Curt was true to his word. I have seen many players over the years make that promise but, Curt delivered in fashion, both in 04 and 07 . Thanks Curt …

    Paul Papa
    Somerville Ma..

  19. bruins4glory permalink
    March 24, 2009 5:34 pm

    Curt,

  20. bruins4glory permalink
    March 24, 2009 5:36 pm

    Schill-

    Thank You for pitching for my hometown team. You brought long-lasting glory to the town of Boston, and you will forever be remembered here. I think that you will easily make the hall of fame, and your trademark bloody sock should be framed there. Thank you Curt.

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