Varitek starts his new career with Red Sox

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Varitek starts his new career with Red Sox

BOSTON Jason Varitek wants to learn as much as he can in his new role as special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. But the former team captain wouldnt say if he sees managing in his future.No, Im still not . . . if I answer it either way right now, I wouldnt be giving myself the best opportunity, Varitek said in a conference call with reporters Friday morning. Im not in a position to make that a yes or a no at this point.The Sox announced Variteks new role on Thursday. The team planned to hire him in a front-office capacity from the time he announced his retirement in spring training, and -- after Varitek spent his first post-baseball summer with his family -- brought him on board this week.Im just going to be involved in a lot of scenarios to learn things, everything from meetings to player development, to things along those lines, Varitek said. On the catching side I'll be working with some people in the minor leagues and that kind of stuff, but thats a little farther ahead. But right now its just some meetings.Im trying to learn what I dont know and what I can help with and what I need to learn and where, maybe, I fit better to help with. So its a huge gray area where Im trying to learn as much as I can.Varitek, 40, has been part of the Sox organization since 1997, when he was acquired by former GM Dan Duquette at the trading deadline from the Mariners with right-hander Derek Lowe in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek and Lowe went on to be major parts of the 2004 World Series championship team.In addition to winning the World Series in '04 and '07, Varitek is the all-time team leader in postseason games (63) and at-bats (228). He is third in all-time postseason starts (58) and games at catcher (62), behind Jorge Posada (106, 119) and Yogi Berra (61, 63). He was selected as winner of the Jackie Jensen Hustle Award from the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA in 1999, and was the 2006 recipient of the Red Sox Heart and Hustle Award.The Red Sox' struggles over the past few seasons are among the reasons he is coming back to the organization."Its upsetting, more so for the organization, the fan base and what everything has grown to expect in a place like that. The ultimate goal is to get back to that same winning tradition," Varitek said."Thats why you do it. Thats why I never left this organization. Thats why you take part . . . I know a lot of the people still and Im not that far removed that if I can offer some help in some ways, then I want to be able to do it."In 15 major-league seasons with the Sox, Varitek caught a team-record 1,488 games. A three-time All-Star, he hit .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBI in 1,546 games. He also caught a major league-record four no-hitters. In 2005 he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, the first Sox catcher to ever win the batting award.Varitek was named the 18th captain in Sox history when he re-signed with the team on Dec. 24, 2004. A first-round pick (14th overall) of the Mariners in 1994, Varitek is the fourth-longest tenured player in Sox history who never played a major-league game for another team, behind Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19), and Jim Rice (16).Being away from the game this year for the first time was not easy, he said, but it had some advantages."That's literally a double-edged sword, he said. Yeah, its probably the first Fourth of July I didn't actually play a game. My kids let me know that. As far as, I think I came to rest with it immediately. But did I miss it? Absolutely. So I came to rest with it pretty easy right away."And now, the time was right to take on a new job.I had to get the foundation of my family set up, he said. I was having another child, getting to spend more time with my older children. This is just something we worked on and it just happened to fall later at the end of the summer."

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.