5 Reasons Jason Varitek Would Be Instant Hit as Boston Red Sox Manager
However, it is not as manager as many Red Sox fans had hoped. For the time being, that is probably best.
Varitek was hired last week as the Special Assistant to General Manager Ben Cherington.
While his new role will allow him to learn the ropes of the front office, it may not have a direct impact on the 2013 Boston Red Sox season.
The path to becoming the manager is inevitable. Here's why when he gets there, he will be an instant hit.
Player and Fan Support
There were few Red Sox players who were more revered in their careers than Jason Varitek.
Ted Williams is one. Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice are a couple others.
What do these three classic BoSox have in common with Mr. Varitek? They are the four longest-tenured Red Sox players in team history.
Varitek spent 15 seasons in Boston from 1997 to 2011. Yaz spent 23 seasons with the Sox, Teddy Ballgame spent 19, and Rice 16.
Over his 15 years at Fenway, few players, if any, were more well-liked than 'Tek. He was the core of the team and the rock for many pitchers who needed that guidance.
As players came and went over the years, Varitek was a mainstay, reminding players and fans just how special it was to be a part of Red Sox Nation.
Players such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz spent multiple years playing with Varitek as their captain. It would be an easy transition to picture him as their manager.
He certainly has the players' trust, as well as that of the fans.
His opportunity to manage won't be next season. But when the job falls into his lap, expect full support from Red Sox Nation.
Being a full-time Major League catcher is no easy task.
Known as the general on the field, there is no daydreaming in right for the man squatting behind home plate. He is one of only two players involved in every defensive play of the game and is given special responsibility when he reaches the stature that Jason Varitek achieved.
After his eighth season with the Red Sox, Varitek was named the first full-time captain since Jim Rice held the position from 1985 to 1989.
He was honored with the position at the same time he re-signed a four year, $40 million contract of which then-GM Theo Epstein stated, "It's not every day you're lucky enough to sign a player who embodies everything you want your franchise to be. When you have that player, you don't let him get away."
It wasn't Varitek's prolific offensive skill or star quality that earned him the captaincy.
Rather it was a superior understanding of the game, his relationship with the pitching staff and the atmosphere in which he resided in the clubhouse that awarded him the distinction.
All of those intangible attributes are qualities that any team would want in their manager.
In time the Red Sox will have it.
Front Office Experience
In his new position as Special Assistant to the General Manager, Varitek is going to be learning on the fly.
What the former Red Sox described as "a huge gray area", Varitek will be involved in any and every aspect of the club's front office.
I’m going to be involved in a lot of different areas to learn a lot of different things. Everything from meetings to player development and things along those lines. I don’t think there’s any one thing. I’m trying to learn what I don’t know and what I can help with and what I need to learn where maybe I fit better to help with...I’m trying to learn as much as I can. (Via Boston.com)
It is highly doubtful that anyone in the Red Sox organization views Varitek in this special role for more than a season or two. The job is primarily to give the veteran hands-on experience to the inner workings of the franchise.
It seems like the vaguely-defined role as Cherington's right-hand man is a similar stepping stone that current Chicago White Sox manager, Robin Ventura, took to get to his managerial position.
Ventura spent 17 seasons in the MLB, his first 10 with the White Sox, before retiring after the 2004 season.
Last June he was hired as the special assistant to Buddy Bell, the team's director of player development. Four months later, he was named the manager and has placed himself at the top of the list for AL Manager of the Year.
The front office experience is meant to groom Varitek into the mindset of a manager. By 2014, he may be ready.
His Special Ability with Pitchers
Every Red Sox fan, from the die-hard to the casual, knows that the thorn in the 2012 team's rear end was the pitching staff.
The cringe-worthy statistics and their league rankings are as follows: 4.62 team ERA (26th), 72 quality starts (24th), 1.36 WHIP (22nd) and .260 opponent batting average (21st).
It is questionable if even Varitek could have turned this staff around, but it is guaranteed he would have done a better job than Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Lavarnway can or did do.
One of Tek's goals in his new position is "to get back to that same winning tradition." He called the downfall of the most recent Sox team as upsetting "more so for the organization, the fan base and what everybody has grown to expect."
What everyone expects is the production the team saw while Varitek was behind home plate. His ability to connect with pitchers, calm their nerves and call a game was extraordinary and led to much success.
He caught a record four Red Sox no-hitters, was a part of two Red Sox World Series championships in 2004 and 2007 and holds the team's all-time postseason record for games (63) and at-bats (228).
Varitek spelt success for the Sox and their pitching staff, witnessing only one losing season during his tenure (which came in 1997 when he only played in one game).
One of Varitek's major roles as special assistant to the GM will be working with minor league catchers, including Lavarnway.
Hopefully he will be able to pass along his secrets that worked so well for so long.
He Can't Do Any Worse Than Bobby V
It's sad but true.
At 69-90, the 2012 Boston Red Sox are ensured to at least tie the worst record in the franchise's history since the 1966 team went 72-90.
The good news is that the next year in 1967 the Sox rediscovered their winning ways to post a 92-70 record and proceed to 14 straight winning seasons.
No doubt the Bobby V experience was a disaster. Clubhouse drama, countless injuries, and a lack of team chemistry did not help, yet ultimately, Valentine just could not handle the job.
Few managers could have.
But let's get one thing straight - Bobby V and his media-hungry persona was no fit for Boston.
Another credence to note is that 2013 would absolutely, definitely, in no way, shape or form be the right time to bring in Varitek to manage the Red Sox.
Some fans may disagree, but let me tell you now: you are wrong.
A man as beloved in Red Sox Nation as Jason Varitek is is not someone the organization should throw into the turmoil of a dejected and dysfunctional clubhouse. Nor should he be someone expected to take the team and turn them around 180 degrees.
He does not yet have the managerial skill set to approach such a daunting task.
Take the facts from Ben Shapiro's article on Masslive.com - the great Joe Torre, who compiled a .605 winning percentage managing the New York Yankees, claiming six pennants and four World Series titles, managed for 14 previous seasons without much success.
He managed the New York Mets for five years, losing 420 games on his way to a .405 winning percentage, the Atlanta Braves for three mediocre seasons (.529 winning percentage) and the St. Louis Cardinals for six years (.498 winning percentage).
Successful managing does not come with the flick of a pen.
It takes hard work, years of experience and many self-reflecting moments.
Soon enough, Varitek may have those additional qualities in his resumé.
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