Current Red Sox laud Varitek on his day of honor


Current Red Sox laud Varitek on his day of honor

It might feel like the third time that Jason Varitek is being honored by the Red Sox for a highly decorated career in Boston.

But the last standing Sox captain finally gets his own day of recognition at Fenway Park prior to Saturdays tilt against the Toronto Blue Jays, and a grateful Red Sox Nation gets a chance to laud their stalwart backstop one last time. The current Sox squad could probably use an in-his-prime Varitek for his steadfast clubhouse presence and ability to wrangle his pitching staff into a strike-throwing force.

Or a mans man as current Sox manager Bobby Valentine called him during Saturdays pregame media session.

The pregame ceremonies to honor Varitek will begin at 6:30 pm and should be similar in scope and structure to the day honoring Tim Wakefield earlier this season.

Theres no doubt both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz remember Varitek fondly his the no-hitters he caught behind the plate for each hurler, but Sox designated hitter David Ortiz remembers him as the guy that held everything together. Hell be most fondly remembered by the media and fans as the no-frills captain and the guy that fed Alex Rodriguez a leather sandwich, but Big Papi thinks of much more.

Hes legendary; a lot of great success and a great career. Hes a good friend of mine. I saw the ceremony he went through in spring training and it was very emotional, said Ortiz, before breaking into a laugh and adding. Hes the kind of guy that wants to be a tough guy until you get behind closed doors.

It was Ortiz that earlier this season called together a team meeting and basically told the pitching staff to get things into gear, and the designated hitter learned that kind of leadership by watching the switch-hitting catcher.

When a ceremony like that goes down you do what youre supposed to. He gave it all for this organization, and Im proud of him, said Ortiz. He did his business very well. I caught on to a lot of things over the years being around him and watching him do his thing.

For guys like Buchholz and Lester, it was much more of a mentorstudent relationship in the early days that formed into the kind of tight bond thats unique to starting pitchers and their battery-mates. Varitek finished as the Sox all-time leading catchers in games played (1,488) and years of service (15), and was a two-time World Series champion along with the four career no-hitters caught.

But for the pitchers it was much more about the fingers he put down pitch after pitch in those daily battles. Now its about the pride theyll be feeling when the intense competitor is standing out on the Fenway field enjoying a half-hour ceremony celebrating his great career in Boston.

He was obviously a great baseball player. Somebody you want on your team and somebody you want in your clubhouse, said Lester. Its one of those deals where I was very fortunate to come up in this organization when I did. I learned a lot from him. He helped me out early in my career, and he helped a lot of guys out.

After my first year I got the courage to talk to him. I think sometimes he got lost in those scouting reports and wouldnt talk to anybody. Once you got past that initial fear that he was going to rip your head off you realized he was just one of us.

It speaks quite a bit to the legacy of Varitek that his former teammates speak so glowingly of their former leader, and perhaps there is a pang of wishing things could once again be as they were on Yawkey Way when he helped steer the ship. Instead the Sox continue to search for consistent answers within their current roster of 25 players, and continue to embrace the ghosts of World Series glory past.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.