Captain Tangibles' Presser

TOP DIRT DOG

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(Boston Globe Staff Photo / John Tlumacki)

"Being a Red Sox, this city, it pulls a lot out of me, because I think a lot of my values are like a lot of the fans' values, and a lot of the guys that play here have the same values. They like to get dirty. Fans like us to get dirty." -- 12.24 Captain Varitek

Jason Varitek Press Conference Transcript

Theo Epstein’s opening comments:

“We could not be happier.  It’s not every day that you’re lucky enough to find a player who embodies everything you want your franchise to be.  And when you’re lucky enough to have that player, you don’t let him get away.  And you lock him up for as long as you can and you make him the rock of your franchise.  Jason has been the leader here for a long time.  We are lucky to have a lot of leaders -- Tim Wakefield is here supporting Jason today.  Jason is a special guy in the clubhouse and has had an instrumental role for a long time here and will for a long time to come.  We all know he’s a leader, but we actually have a little bit of a surprise here today.  We are going to formalize that role for Jason, and make you (to Jason) the team captain.” 

Jason Varitek’s opening comments:

“I’m extremely honored right now.  I don’t really know what to say.  You add all these things together with it being Christmas Eve, it turns into a special day.  To hold this honor in this city and this region for this team is something I’ll wear proudly.  But it doesn’t change much what I do.  I can’t really change what I do.  I’ll just continue to try to do the same.”

Q: Why is loyalty so important to you?

A: (Jason) “Well, I think it always has been.  But this has nothing to do with it besides two sides worked very hard together.  Scott worked very hard with Theo and went through many, many, many conversations and worked through a lot of things for this to happen.  They put their foot forward and wanted to keep me here and Scott knew how I felt and how I wanted to make sure we exhausted all avenues here.  And that’s why we’re able to remain a Boston Red Sox.”

Q: Was there a moment where you thought it might not happen?

A: (Jason) “Yeah, every day.  It’s an easy thing to think that way.  I just felt in my heart - just letting time in the discussions and letting Scott do his job for me -- I couldn’t be happier with the job they did, the two of them working together.”

Q: Is Tek unique as a client?

A: (Scott Boras) “Well I’ve known Tek since he’s 19.  Unique is something that his character is always going to be.  The conscience of the Varitek family is something that leads them, guides them.  One thing about Tek, I think he finds a way to improve himself every year.  When you negotiate for someone like that, you are in a very different position because you always want to make sure the character that they exhibit is at the forefront of what you do.  Certainly in the baseball marketplace, that makes a lot of other teams unhappy because I was not able to respond to a lot of situations that may have arose because Jason and Karen told me specifically that my job was to sit down and talk with Theo and go through this.  The great thing about working with people that do a lot of homework and examine and who are open and objective -- and I think we all worked with both sides because we’re all trying to understand that we’re dealing with something that is not a custom in baseball, to have a performer at Jason’s position and at his age, that plays at the level that he plays.  And I credit Theo and all the Red Sox, John Henry and everyone, because they certainly listened to us, they certainly looked at Jason not from a boilerplate perspective of what customary catchers do.  They looked at Jason Varitek. I think that allowed us to get this deal done. 

Q: How did you get past the no-trade clause?

A: (Theo) “I don’t want to go into too much detail about the contract because we’re not supposed to discuss terms, but we found a way to reward Jason and other Red Sox players who have no-trade protection in their contract.  If a Red Sox player serves continually as a Red Sox for eight uninterrupted years of major league service, then that player cannot be traded without his consent.  It’s very rare for a player to be able to reach that level -- Jason in fact has not reached it yet, but will very shortly – we feel that loyalty should be rewarded.  That’s good policy.  By definition, if a player is here for eight years straight, he has given up at least two of his free-agent years, if not more, to be here.  I think that was a worthy compromise.  It’s a credit to Scott, who initially came up with the idea.  The no-trade protection was probably the most difficult part of the negotiations, because we do have, and will continue to have, a policy against full no-trade clauses.”

Q: Is that blanket for all players in the organization?

A: (Theo) “It’s for players who have that particular language in their contract.  By definition, several other players now have that added to their language because they have clauses that stipulate that whatever no-trade protection someone else gets, they get that exact same language in their contract.”

Q: You’re locked in for four years, what’s going through your head right now?

A: (Jason) “Well, I think the biggest thing is just having an opportunity to develop another championship team here.  I think that’s first and foremost.  That’s what we do here and that’s what we’ve done.  To be able to do it the first time, we all know how long it took, so hopefully he have a foundation built big enough that we’re able to do this in succession.”

Q: Had it come to it, were you prepared to go to another team?

A: (Jason) “We never got to that point, so I don’t know.  I can’t answer that.”

Q: Have you studied the new guys yet?

A: (Jason) “I have, career, a lot of at-bats against Wells so I’m glad to actually have an opportunity to catch him.  Clement, you’ve seen on TV.  It’s a good thing I get to spend a little time with Michael Barrett here in this next month, who caught him this past year.  We do a lot of catching drills and we work out a little bit together so I’ll learn a lot about him (Clement) quickly.  Halama, I’ve played against him for years, so I have a pretty good idea.  Wade Miller is another new one, so maybe I’ll have to call Jimy Williams on that one.” (laughter)

Q: Talk about being the team’s captain:

A: (Jason) “For me, I can’t change.  I lead by my position, by what I do and what I believe in.  I can’t all of the sudden accept and do something different.  I think there are things that, through the course of time, exemplify you as a leader, but now all of the sudden this doesn’t change things.  I still have the same role of communicating – communicating between players, coaches, pitchers, position players – and that’s a huge part that won’t change.  Just my position, it demands it.  My position demands it.  I can’t really change what I do.”

(Theo) “Just to add, we’re not asking Jason to change at all by giving him this captaincy.  It’s more a recognition of what everyone in that clubhouse already knows and a demonstration to the rest of baseball of the role Jason plays on this club.”

Q: Were you surprised Pedro left?

A: (Jason) “That’s a difficult one.  Yes, I am.  But I wasn’t involved.  I don’t know what exactly was going on.  Once you play here and as long as he’s played here and the things that he’s achieved here, this is going to be something that’s very difficult for him.  He’s a tremendous player, everybody knows how I feel about him as a player and as teammate.  It’s going to be different going on without him for me personally.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount about pitching and competing just from him alone.”

Q: Do you think you were rewarded with this contract as much for how you approach the game as how you play it?

A: (Jason) “The way I think about it is that God has blessed me with the opportunity -- to really have an opportunity to glorify him.  With that, he’s allowed me personally to -- he’s given me the gift to be durable, to be strong, to be mentally strong.  It all comes from him.  Just pointing me in the right direction to allow me to have this ability to continue to play.”

Q: What didn’t we know about Pedro behind the scenes?  What made him so special?

A: (Jason) “He’s one of the best in the game, period.  He’s really a small guy that overachieved into a big guy’s body at his position.  With heart, with competitive drive, with great pitches, he had the success that he had.  He had a great ability to read hitters from the mound.  If you add that with his – everyone knows what a competitor he is – you have brilliancy.”

Q: Talk about having such a different starting rotation:

A: (Jason) “It’s going to change.  It’s my first day of it, again.  It’ll definitely change the face of this team because you don’t have those two at the top, especially to start without Curt.  The face of the rotation for the Boston Red Sox, at least for the last seven years, was Pedro Martinez, so of course that’s going to completely change.”

Q: Have you spoken with Terry Francona yet?

A: (Jason) “He left me a message.  It’s been a pretty hectic last 16 hours or whatever.  We were just trying to find a way to make sure that the two of us could get here and get back home to take our kids to church tonight.  That’s the important part, we want to have the opportunity to be able to share this evening with our children.”

Q: Why was it so important to remain with the Red Sox?

A: (Jason) “Being a Red Sox, this city just pulls a lot out of me because I think a lot of my values are a lot of the fan’s values and a lot of guys that play here have the same values.  They like to get dirty, the fans like us to get dirty.  We want to play hard and leave what we have on the field and that’s what they demand out of you here.  It was, for the longest time, to win a championship here, to win one.  Now we’ve won one, now it’s to give these people the same opportunity, the same chance to win another championship.”

Q: Why was the no-trade part so important?

A: (Jason) “It’s the same as what we were just talking about.  Sitting next to me, my wife, and my kids.  It’s the only time you have that opportunity in your career to make sure, or at least to try and make sure, that you can control a little bit what goes on.  My kids are starting school in a year and it’s nice to know exactly where you’re going to be for the planning purposes of your family.  People don’t always understand this – the blows that players’ families and wives have to go through to allow us to go out there and to play.”

Q: Would you have considered taking less money to come back to the Red Sox?

A: (Jason) “It’s hard to say.  I’m not going to glorify anything that never existed.  It never got that far to really have to entertain that.  I was thankful I didn’t have to.  We wanted to exhaust all avenues here first completely before we entertained it and took another step with anyone else.”

Q: How long did it take you to realize how important Tek was to this team?

A: (Theo) “I’ve told Tek this before.  When I first got here in 2002, I only knew him from scouting reports, from his track record, from seeing him play a number of times.  I saw a lot of him based on all those things, but I think it takes a while.  You have to be around the club every day, to see what the pitchers are like with Jason through the course of a year.  What he does for them, what kind of a stabilizer he is, not only to the pitchers, but to the whole clubhouse.  A lot of things in Boston make it difficult to go through the course of 162 games – the size of the clubhouse, the intensity of the fans, the volume of media that we have – so I think you need forces to counterbalance that.  Jason really counterbalances that.  He’s the ultimate stabilizer and makes everyone around him better.  It took me a few months, but by the end of 2002, I think I kind of recognized what we had here in Jason Varitek.”

Q: How did the captaincy come about?

A: (Theo) “It was not at all part of the contract negotiation.  I told Scott about it after we had already reached a deal and asked him to just keep it a surprise for Jason.  When mentioning the idea, John Henry instantly said yes, Tom Werner instantly said yes, Larry Lucchino instantly said yes.  We had about 10 seconds worth of discussion on it.  It seemed very fitting, the natural thing to do.  Jason has clearly earned it, he deserves it.  The “C” looks good on his jersey.  (To Jason) If you are really superficial and you don’t like the way it looks, you don’t have to wear it (laughter).”

Q: Have you been a captain at other levels?

A: (Jason) “Yes, at Tech, after my freshman year.  My sophomore year, along with some other guys, we had a co-captaincy.  But those are consistent every year, you have new ones that roll over and this is -- I am extremely honored, moreso because I know I would never even have this opportunity unless it came from your teammates really.  So my teammates, Tim and those people, really their buzz is what’s going to create something like this.  So, I just want to continue to be the same teammate to people like Tim and everybody else that I have been.”

Q: Will there be more pressure on you?

A: (Jason) “That’s the way I play.  What you see is what you get.  That’s pretty much all I have that day, whatever it is.  When that starts to change, I’m going to have to evaluate whether or not I need to still be playing this game.  That’s what drives me, is to be able to be consistent and do the same things day in and day out.  I think through the course of time, the longer you’ve been there, you have to accept that role anyway, with or without a letter on your uniform.  But just to have that, that’s an extremely big honor.  There’s nothing more you ask for than the respect of your peers.”

Q: Karen, what is your reaction to all this?

A: (Karen) “To tell you the truth, I just had the feeling deep down that we were going to be back.  We honestly never really entertained not being back.  But the busy lives with the kids back home and visiting with family, we were able to get through the days and kind of not really think about it.  And then it would come up and you’d put it in the back of your mind, so when we got the call from Scott the other night, we were thrilled.  Extremely thrilled.  We like it here and we’re glad to be back.”

Q: Why do you have such a strong relationship with this city?

A: (Karen) “I don’t know to tell you the truth.  It’s been a crazy ride.  When we got traded here in ’97, I don’t think we would have ever realized we’d be back for this long.  We’ve made a lot of great friends and the city has been good to us.  Jason, he just thrives here.  I honestly can’t see him playing in another city, to be honest.  I thought about it with the free agency, and I just don’t think he would fit anywhere else.  And obviously where he goes, we go. 

BDD is a feature of Boston.com. All posts are by Steve Silva unless otherwise indicated.

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