Jason Varitek filed for divorce on July 28. The Red Sox captain has been married to his wife Karen since 1996 and the couple has three daughters.
One has to wonder if that off-field drama is related to Varitek's abysmal plate performance this year. Personal turmoil of that sort has got to be a considerable distraction. Varitek entered today's game batting just .213 -- the third lowest average in the majors.
The veteran catcher turns 37 next April, and clearly been in decline for a couple of years. But his at-bats have been just awful this year. The latest example came when he grounded into a double play in the fourth today, leaving the bases loaded.
According to Peter Gammons, the Sox have spent a half year looking for young catchers in other organizations in the event that Varitek gets a 3-or-4 year deal somewhere else this offseason. That kind of offer seems almost unimaginable at this point, given his age and rapid offensive decline.
The Sox have expressed interest in the Rangers' Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as well as Rangers' minor league catcher, Taylor Teagarden. The Sox are hoping to develop Mark Wagner so that he can supplant Varitek.
Pawtucket catcher George Kottars, who came over from San Diego in the David Wells trade, hasn't lived up to expectations, batting just .237 with 15 doubles and 64 RBI. However, his OBP is over 100 points higher (.341) and he's hit 21 homers, third on the PawSox.
As of Wednesday, the average production of Major League catchers was a .251 average, with 10 homers and 52 RBIs.
If Varitek departs, the pickin's will be slim.
Jed Lowrie continues to impress. The shortstop hit yet another double today, his 14th of the season. Lowrie is proving himself to be a big league shortstop on a day-by-day basis, and although no one likes to see a player lose his job due to injury, Julio Lugo might not get his back in Boston.
Consider how the two Sox shortstops stack up:
Lowrie: 44 games, 14 doubles, 3 triples, 1 homer, 30 RBI, .318 Avg., .377 OBP, .492 Slg.
Lugo: 82 games, 13 doubles, 0 triples, 1 homer, 22 RBI, .268 Avg., .355 OBP, .330 Slg.
As you can see, Lowrie's stats are better -- some much better -- in almost half as many games.
He's already won his manager's confidence.
"You bring a young kid up to play, and you basically hope that he makes the plays, and knows how to play the game, and things like that," said Terry Francona.
Management was hoping that Lowrie would be steady, show decent range, and make the routine plays. Just manage the position, and don't make any costly errors. Anything else you can do at the plate would be a bonus. Lowrie was hitting just .268 with the PawSox this season. But with the big league club he's since outperformed all reasonable expectations.
"All of a sudden, it seems like he's getting a big hit every time he comes up, and there seems to be men on base, and his production has been off the charts," said Francona. "So it's been a welcome addition. In maybe an area where you don't have a right to expect that much, it's been great."
Expect the Sox to shop Lugo this offseason with the anticipation of eating much of his remaining salary, two years at $9 mil per annum.
Former Sox prospect David Murphy is having a standout rookie season, leading A.L. rookies in RBIs, hits and doubles. All of that has made Murphy a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. But after a recent collision with Pudge Rodriguez at the plate, he's expected to miss two-to-four weeks with a knee injury.
Murphy would have added some punch to the Sox offense this year an every day outfielder. Coco Crisp, for all his defensive prowess, is still struggling to hit and his trade stock has totally plummeted. Crisp is batting a meager .247, with a .300 OBP, just 6 homers and only 29 RBI.
Though Murphy is a corner outfielder, imagine JD Drew in center, with Murphy in right, and Jacoby Ellsbury as the utility outfielder playing all three positions. That would have comfortably given each of the three outfielders days off, with time to recover from back-to-back night/day games and time to rest and recuperate from nagging injuries as the grind of the season wears on.
The downside of the Eric Gagne trade wasn't that he was a bust, it's that the Sox didn't get more for Murphy, Kason Gabbard and Engel Beltre, who may end up being the best player of them all.
One can only imagine now.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.