Gammons: Varitek's contract status could become a problem

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This entry was posted on 7/9/2008 1:20 AM and is filed under uncategorized.

Here's another installment of Baseball Thoughts from Peter Gammons courtesy of his segment on the Mike Felger Show. This was from the end of last week, and so his comments came before Daisuke blanked the Twins and Manny started heating up again. But his comments about the Captain's contract status -- and the notion that the Sox could choose Brian Schneider over 'Tek for next season -- are both pretty interesting statements.

It's my understanding that Boras has been silent with the Sox over Varitek's contract for the balance of the baseball season thus far, and Varitek's latest statements that he wants to play for several more years make it seem like they'll be going for an unbelievable four or five years for his next deal -- a seemingly crazy notion for a 36-year-old catcher. If that's the case, the Sox would be will within their rights to move on to one of the imperfect solutions behind the plate, whether it's Schneider or a combo of a veteran and a youngster like Dusty Brown.

Anyway, here's Gammons.

Are the Sox going to start letting Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch deeper into ballgames as he gets more distance from the disabled list. [Haggs Note: This question was asked before Daisuke’s shutout performance against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.]
He’s only a few starts off a shoulder injury and anything too much over 100 is a little dangerous. What bothers me more is the question of whether [Daisuke] is willing to throw the ball over the plate against good hitters. Is he really afraid of American hitters hitting him?

That’s something the Red Sox have to ask themselves at this point, and I don’t see anything better about him now. If anything he’s regressed over a year and that worries me. I just don’t see him throwing his good pitches over the plate to good hitters, and it’s starting to get on my nerves. I say ‘what is it with this guy, and can he only pitch against National League teams.’ That’s something to watch. He doesn’t seem to change, make any adjustments or listen. We’ll have to see if he’s anything more than a No. 5 starter. You’d like to think he’s a three, but you have to wonder at this point.

I don’t panic about the ‘pen and you see that Manny Delcarmen didn’t allow a run for the entire month of June, so I know he’s good…but I’m not going to expect to just lock it down all the time. I didn’t like the look in Craig Hansen’s eye during the last road trip, though, but it could have just been a bad night in Tampa during the last road trip.
Hansen just needs to slow down. When you’ve got three guys that throw 98-mph in the bullpen – and Okajima has gotten Major League hitters out and he did go through a down period last year before finishing brilliantly – there’s still hope. My feeling is they could use a veteran guy who could give them some innings, but I don’t know where they find him.
I think eventually Masterson will be out there, but I think he’s going back down to the minors and then come back up when he’s polished some things. They could use a guy to give them some more innings. [In the Tampa game] once they got to the sixth inning it was like they were in the runaway truck lane and they were just going down the side of the mountain and you were going ‘Oh no, is this ever going to end.’

I actually thought the Rays were going to end up with 12 or 13 runs because it was so out of hand. A guy with a mediocre fastball right now gets Manny out, but that’s not going to continue. He’s been through these things before. I believe his slugging in the last 18 days [before the current homestand] was under .300, which is a pitcher’s slugging percentage. I am very worried about Varitek at this point.

Is Varitek above and beyond at this point?
Well, we don’t know. Where is he in his career? He’s a 36-year-old guy who has played his heart out for a long time. He was not exactly a gifted hitter. He really hasn’t had a good offensive year since 2005, so where is he at this point in his career. What worries me about this for the Red Sox is that this becomes ugly as it comes to the end of the year and he approaches free agency.

I know we have people saying you have to sign him no matter what, but if you have Jason Varitek for four years and $40 million or you have Brian Schneider for one-year and $3 million, there’s no question you take Brian Schneider for the $3 million in my mind.

As much as I really like Varitek, he’s at the point where you really worry about where he’s going to be. Two years at $7 million is fine, but I think that Scott Boras is going to convince someone out there that he’ll make the difference with the pitching staff. And you’ve always got the Mets. They offered Jorge Posada five years at the age of 36, which is one of the most laughable offers of all time. I think if they get down to the end of the year and there’s no progress and Scott is looking for those four years. Jason is a very loyal guy to Scott and it could create a chasm between Varitek and the club that could be a problem coming down the stretch.

Was Manny fined? What happened behind the scenes with the Jack McCormick situation?
They fined him and disciplined him. Boras, I’m told, was a great help as he usually is in these kinds of situations – as opposed to agents that can’t be found when their clients get into these situations. They’re like the Patriots.

They’re not going to create a public hanging. They took care of it with money. I think some sort of program and a lot of work as far as the apologies and making it up to the club. They took care of it as they should take care of it: privately. I know its frustrating for people in the media, but I never understood why any team would let its ego get in the way and make it up public and say ‘Well we’re really tough and we’re making this guy do this.’
You’re much better off just taking care of the problems and from what I’m told Boras and Manny were very amenable to the Red Sox coming down on them…which made the process a lot easier.

Interesting detail about Boras’ role in this and continues to show the team’s good relationship with him.
Let’s face it. Scott is very tough and he could make this Varitek thing very tough because he’s one of his most loyal guys. Varitek did get drafted as a junior and then went back to school and cost himself some money and years toward the big leagues by doing it. But he’s very loyal to him.

If you have a problem, and last year there was an issue – and it may have only been a medical issue with Craig Hansen – but talking to farm directors, if you say to Scott that you and I have a vested interest in this guy’s performance so help us…then he will work with teams and he’s really good. He does have 85 people working for him and he does have Harvey Dorfman working for him, and he’s one of the best sports psychologists in the game working for him.

He will do that, and I think he tries. What good would it do Manny to go off on a tangent and decide to sit? It’s part of Boras’ job to get his client to perform and get it straight with the club so that will make the club happy and make the client happy. They’ve put it in the past and moved forward, and I give the Red Sox a lot of credit for not giving in to the slings and arrows and screaming of the angry white minority and say ‘okay we’re really tough with Manny.’ I don’t think that does any good.

I think the team could have let us know they had taken disciplinary action against them for this event.
Well, they don’t tend to make it a public matter and I think they’re taking a page out of the Patriots book. They did take disciplinary action, and it’s my understanding in talking to players that there is some sort of anger issue or something going on – I don’t know exactly what the program is but he’ll get help in that way.
He’s done a great deal of work with Jack McCormick to learn that ‘guess what you can’t have all of the tickets that you want.’ And the players helped.

There’s a pretty good support system on that team and a lot of players that he looks up to like Mike Lowell and Alex Cora, who I think are the two players that have the most influence on Manny.
Of course they want the team to do well and they want Manny to do well and completely understand that this was completely wrong. I also think that Manny has been pretty contrite about this whole thing.


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