Varitek overwhelmed by "surreal" tribute


Varitek overwhelmed by "surreal" tribute

BOSTON -- Jason Varitek is quick to admit that hes not fully over his Major League Baseball career being over.

In fact he may never be over it. But that didnt stop the last standing Red Sox captain from fully immersing himself in Jason Varitek Day at Fenway Park, and enjoying all the gifts, standing ovations and thunderous appreciation that officially comes among with retiring as a conquering sports hero in Boston.

It was surreal for me. To absorb what just happened Im going to have to watch it, said Varitek, who was moving around adroitly without the ice bags that always seemed to accompany his battered body during his playing days. I tried to absorb it, but I dont think I could. In my mind Im there and thinking theyre doing this for you and I in turn wanted to say thank you.

Was it weird being on the Fenway Park grass in street clothes and a Sox jersey that had never been worn in the heat of battle?

Its weird. It was the weirdest when I had to retire in spring training, said Varitek. That was the hardest. I just think its different. Instead of preparing youre just in and out. This is a sacred place and a place you appreciate.

I probably never will come to terms with retirement. But Ill be all right.

Varitek said that no teams have approached him about potentially coming out of retirement. He also admitted that coaching or managing is a long-term goal to stay connected within the game of baseball, but hes not quite there yet while still pining for his playing days.

I watch the games. I dont want to detach myself. I do believe that I have some gifts to teach, and to be a part of things in those regards. But its still too early for me to make that decision.

I still have to get a little of that fire and vinegar for playing out of me. Whats most important is getting into my life and family, and being involved with some of the things that I had missed playing. Im enjoying those moments now.

There was an endless supply of gifts for the two-time World Series champ after a memorable, accomplished 15-year run behind the plate for Varitek: David Ortiz presented him with two Fenway grandstand chairs with their numbers on them as a warm-up.

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz presented Varitek with the Fenway home plate from his final game played behind the dish. The Red Sox presented him with golf clubs and a fully loaded Ford F-150.

Im going to enjoy that car the most, said a laughing Varitek. Youve got to remember Ive got four girls, a wife and two female dogs. Ive got my first man-car.

Then there was more applause and hugs from his three daughters before the Sox played a video montage of his career to You Raise Me Up from Josh Groban. There were video tributes from former teammates Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo and Nomar Garciaparra along with in-game video messages from Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar.

Finally Varitek threw the ceremonial first pitch to Tim Wakefield it was a knuckler, no less and did the media rounds while still trying to wrap his mind around saying thank you to Red Sox fans.

How do you say thank you for 15 years? said Varitek. How do you say thank you to a fan base thats been nothing if not supportive of you? A fan base that fit with my style of play because of what they demanded. I wanted to say thank you for that, and it was bothering me.

I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of emotions going into this.

Despite the swirling emotions Varitek managed to keep things in check while his three daughters made cutesy speeches thanking their father, and saved the biggest bear hug for bullpen coachcatching instructor Gary Tuck as he was being driven out toward the gate in center field.

While Jason Varitek Day at Fenway Park officially closed the door on the backstops playing career, one got the feeling the Sox catcher might someday again don the home whites in Boston.

That wouldnt be such a bad thing at all.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''