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Mea culpa on Varitek column

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  December 12, 2008 12:20 PM

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In retrospect, I overreacted, overstated, or both. It's one thing when people read your opinions and get annoyed. It's another when you read them yourself and feel the same way.

Yesterday, my intention with my column (you can read it here) was to suggest that the Jason Varitek negotiations are reaching an especially delicate stage -- they were delicate from the start -- and that the Red Sox need (and have needed) to approach them cautiously given Varitek's longstanding importance to the team. I believe that. What I do not believe is that the Red Sox thus far have mistreated Varitek in any way, that they are pushing their respected captain out the door in the wake of what was, indisputably, a terribly substandard season.

If that is the message that came across, that is one person's fault.


Do I believe the Red Sox should bring Varitek back for 2009? Yes, preferably with a slightly reduced role that will allow him to serve as both the team's starting catcher and invaluable mentor to his heir apparent, be it Jarrod Saltalamacchia or anyone else. Theo Epstein himself called that scenario "desirable." The ultimate question here is whether Varitek will get a better offer from another team on the open market and whether the Red Sox ultimately will match it to keep Varitek in Boston.

Until that happens, we really do not know how the Red Sox feel about the future value of their catcher and captain.

During the season, Sox officials themselves privately acknowledged that the Varitek negotiations were going to be "tough," and there are still those in the Boston organization who greatly value Varitek's leadership and analytical skills. He doesn't just know how to catch; he knows how to pitch. The latter is what makes him more valuable to the Sox than anyone else, which is precisely the problem Varitek encountered on the open market four years ago.

No one was willing to pay him more than the Red Sox were.

Independent of all that, writing can be a tricky business. As much as Epstein has said that the club refrains from making "snapshot evaluations," our job is to take those pictures. Sometimes we do a better job than others. One of the biggest complaints about the old media is that we are not accountable for what we dispense, something I do not necessarily agree with. Fans, readers and (especially) subjects always have been able to express their displeasure with writers, be it in person, on the airwaves or through the US postal service.

What you have not been able to do, in many of those instances, is know that you have been heard and that the message resonated.

Roughly three months ago, when we created this little corner of Boston.com, our hope was to merge the best elements of old and new media, namely the access and credibility of the ancient media world with the interplay of the modern. Thanks to the boundlessness of cyberspace, we can do that much more effectively when the situation calls for it. Clearly, this one of those times.

As any reporter or writer will tell you, we're not just responsible for what we write or say. We're also responsible for how we write or say it. In this case, true sentiments were not conveyed accurately, and it's tough for anyone in this business to point fingers at anyone else when we effectively put our signatures on everything we write.

Several years ago, when he played for the Red Sox, pitcher David Cone explained his success in media relations by noting that reporters generally wanted two things: accessibility and accountability. He couldn't have been more right. Nobody likes to see or hear people hide or make excuses, be they athletes, executives or reporters. Part of the reason people distrust (or despise) the media is because we rarely admit our mistakes as forcefully as we make them; in this, with regard to Varitek, the mistake was forceful enough to promote impassioned responses from readers and Sox officials alike.

I messed up here.

All I can tell you is that I'll try my best to do a better job next time.

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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