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Could Jason Varitek Catch on as Red Sox Coach Under John Farrell?

Varitek has an eye for the game that would benefit Farrell.
Varitek has an eye for the game that would benefit Farrell.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Saul WisniaGuest ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

The rumors are already circulating on Red Sox.com and elsewhere that Torey Lovullo will be joining new Red Sox manager John Farrell’s staff as bench coach. Since Lovullo served as Farrell’s first base coach in Toronto and is also familiar with the Red Sox organization – having managed at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2010 – this seems like a logical choice.

But there is another guy who Farrell enjoyed a strong relationship with during his four years as Boston’s pitching coach, someone who possess the high baseball IQ that Farrell is surely looking for in his lieutenants:

Jason Varitek.

 

Sure, Tek already has a new job as a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, but does anybody know exactly what that means? There were two vice president/assistant GMs listed in this year's Boston media guide, so it's conceivable Varitek would be working under one of them.

Many fans and media types believe this George Constanza-like position is merely a place-holder until the man who caught nearly 1,500 games in Boston eventually gets back into the dugout as a coach or manager.

Even if Luvollo gets the bench coach job, it's easy to imagine Varitek fitting into another slot on Farrell's staff. He was known for his meticulous game-day preparation as a catcher, and nobody this side of Ted Williams could better analyze a hitter's tendencies. Boston pitchers (and no doubt Farrell) loved how Varitek got them ready for a contest.

Many believe Tek's retirement before last season is largely to blame for the total collapse of the Red Sox pitching staff in 2012. Boston's team ERA ballooned from 4.20 in 2011 to 4.72 last year, 12th in the AL. During Varitek's last year catching at least 110 games in 2008, the club figure was a much more respectable 4.01. In 2007 it was 3.87—first in the major leagues.

 

Varitek could also hit a little himself, accumulating 306 doubles and 193 homers during his 15-year career, so it's not inconceivable to see him as either a hitting or pitching coach.

If the latter seems a strange fit, don't forget about Dave Duncan—a former catcher who has spent some 25 years as a MLB pitching coach and has helped both the Cardinals and A's to World Series titles.

In the weeks leading up to Bobby Valentine's inevitable firing at the end of the 2012 campaign, there was much speculation about whether Varitek would be a good fit as the next Rex Sox manager. Cherington put this rumor to rest quickly, which was likely a good thing. Even if Tek did want the job, it would have been tough for him to come in with no experience and try to discipline guys he had played with just two years before.

Coaching is another story; you're an instructor rather than the big boss, and it's not vital that you be a hard-ass. Knowledge of the game and a desire to work hard are the two keys to success in the coaching ranks, and Varitek possesses both. He's also a link to the glory years of 2004 and 2007, good karma which the team surely needs. 

Varitek did take some heat for being captain of a club that collapsed epically in the 7-20, chicken-and-beer fiasco of last September, but the team was even more rudderless without him this year, going 69-93 for Boston's worst record since 1965 – seven years before Varitek was born.

Catchers have long been considered the smartest men on the field, and it's no coincidence that this year's four League Championship Series managers –Mike Matheny, Joe Girardi, Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy, all spent their playing careers behind the plate. If he's interested, Varitek could likely match wits with any of them.

 

All he needs is a shot.

 

Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at http://amzn.to/qWjQRS, and his Fenway Reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com. He can be reached at saulwizz@gmail.com and @saulwizz

 

 

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