Red Sox

McAdam: Varitek's true legacy will shine through in time

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McAdam: Varitek's true legacy will shine through in time

In the here-and-now, in the immediate aftermath of the instant-24-hour-news-cycle, there's a predictability to the reaction of Kelly Shoppach's arrival, and thus, Jason Varitek's expected departure.

About time! -- and that's one of the kinder responses from a fan base eager to be cleansed of everything associated with the dreadful finish to the 2011 Red Sox season.

The numbers -- and the anecdotal evidence -- will suggest that the end of Varitek's long Red Sox career was hardly some sort of noble swan song.

He hit just .221 for the season and almost one of every three at-bats concluded with a strikeout. Against righthanders, he hit just .200 for the season and in the second-half of the season, hit a paltry .176 against everybody.

The numbers only told half the story. As captain, Varitek appeared unable or unwilling to use his status to halt the team's poor play in the final month, to say nothing of the fraternity-like behavior in the clubhouse.

Argue if you will that Varitek's reduced role in recent seasons rendered him ineffectual and that he didn't carry the same authority as he did five or six seasons ago.

But Varitek also seemed powerless to reverse the slide of the team's pitching staff -- whose 7.27 ERA for the month of September epitomized the club's collapse -- when the Sox won just 7 of their final 27 games. On the final night of the season, with starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia slumping, former manager Terry Francona elected to go with rookie Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate rather than Varitek.

There's no escaping the fact that Varitek slipped -- both at the plate and behind it -- in recent seasons. In retrospect, perhaps the surprise is that he lasted through his 39th birthday in a Red Sox uniform.

But it's not fair, either, to evaluate a player solely by his twilight seasons. The fact remains that for much of his 14 full seasons with the Red Sox, beginning in 1998, Varitek was usually among the top handful of catchers in the game.

In his prime, he was dependable, durable -- exactly two trips to the DL from 1998 through 2009, for a fractured elbow in 2001 and knee surgery in 2006 -- and accomplished.

He won just one Gold Glove, but probably should have won more. From his first full season with the Sox through 2005, he threw out an average of 26 percent of opposing base-stealers -- not Pudge Rodriguez territory, but still, plenty good enough.

At the same time, he averaged an .806 OPS, a terrific number for a catcher.

Of course, many of Varitek's most critical contributions weren't on the stat sheet or the back of his baseball card. Pitcher after pitcher lauded him for his diligent preparation, his expert game-calling and his quiet leadership.

He caught four no-hitters -- a major league record for a catcher -- and did it with four different pitchers, some established (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe) and some not (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester).

(Varitek would have caught a fifth, but Curt Schilling ignored Varitek's suggestion with two outs in the ninth inning and lost a no-hitter when Oakland's Shannon Stewart singled to break up a no-hit bid in 2007. "I shook 'Tek off," said a regretful Schilling afterward, "and I get a big what-if for the rest of my life.")

In perhaps his signature moment in a Red Sox uniform, he famously gave Alex Rodriguez a face wash in July of 2004. Tired of ARod's complaining about being a target for Red Sox pitchers, Varitek intercepted him on his way to first base and shoved his catcher's mitt in his face.

It's an image that Red Sox' fans hold dear. At a time when the rivalry seemed altogether too polite and civil, Varitek supplied some good old fashioned animus from the 1970s. It didn't matter that, at the time, they shared the same agent or that it became unfashionable to dislike your opponent.

In a way, the Red Sox' comeback in the ALCS didn't start in the ninth inning of Game 4, but rather that summer afternoon when Varitek defended his pitchers and said, in no uncertain terms, that the Sox weren't going to be pushed around.

In the next 39 months, the Red Sox won their first two World Series since World War I. Varitek was the starting catcher in all eight World Series games, each one of them a Red Sox win.

With the proper time is passed, that -- and not the aging catcher who had trouble making contact or throwing out the slowest of baserunners -- should be Jason Varitek's legacy.

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK - Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and a made pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting New York's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

Sabathia allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer for the Yankees, who stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 Wednesday on 11 days' rest, likely against Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers Jr.

Back in the Bronx after a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings. Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

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Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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