Varitek concerned about team stability

Varitek concerned about team stability

BOSTON -- Between the white lines -- in the dugout and in the clubhouse -- catcher Jason Varitek is the leader of his team, and he even has the captain's title to prove it. As for the goings-on in the front office, Varitek knows he has no say over that.

However, he is disappointed that Theo Epstein is no longer the general manager of the Red Sox. During Epstein's three years, Varitek always had a great sense of security over what was going on in the front office. He knew the organization was headed in the right direction, and even has a championship ring to prove it.

Now Varitek admits that he's concerned about where things are going with Epstein and assistant general manager Josh Byrnes (hired as the GM of the Diamondbacks last week) gone. Varitek was also dismayed to learn that assistant trainer Chris Correnti, who worked extensively with the pitchers for the last several years, has been dismissed.

"It's frustrating as players," said Varitek, who won his first Gold Glove Award on Tuesday. "We're seeing a lot of turnover and a lot of things changing. We've lost our GM, our assistant GM, so we've got to find a way to right the ship. It's got to start from the top down.

"It seems like we've had a lot of changes in this organization for a team that has just come off a world championship and was able to work its way back into the playoffs. Obviously, it starts from the top down. They had a huge part in getting the right people here. Yes, it was a shock. I was really surprised that [Epstein] is not coming back. Hopefully, for him, it's the best decision for himself."

Varitek challenged upper management to act quickly in finding a successor for Epstein, in that this is a critical offseason for the Red Sox. Center fielder Johnny Damon is a free agent; Manny Ramirez and David Wells, according to reports, want to be traded. Second baseman Tony Graffanino, third baseman Bill Mueller, and the first base duo of Kevin Millar and John Olerud are also free agents.

"Given all the people whose contracts are up, we've got to get somebody in there," Varitek said. "I'm very upset that we're losing a guy like [Epstein]. [Byrnes] was also a very good baseball man. ... [Epstein's] done such a good job with trying to make this organization better. It's going to be very tough to see a guy like him go, especially at a time like this. I'm sure [Epstein and Byrnes] had things and plans ready to roll to deal with this team at hand."

At one point on Monday, Varitek was so sure Epstein was returning that he sent him an electronic form of congratulations.

"I was surprised. I was so surprised that I even sent him a text message congratulating him, because I read it across the screen on the TV," said Varitek. "A little while later, I found that to be wrong. That was pretty embarrassing for myself."

He later left Epstein a voice-mail after learning that his information was wrong.

Varitek hadn't talked to Epstein as of Tuesday evening, so he wasn't exactly sure what led to his departure.

The veteran just hopes that he is the captain of a stable ship when the Red Sox report to Fort Myers, Fla., for the start of Spring Training in mid-February.

"We need to find a way, organizationally, to get something done and figuring out what this team is doing," he said. "That's not our job as players. Our job is to play. But there's a lot of important people, like Johnny Damon, for instance, and Graffanino and Millar and Bill Mueller, that are there and have to be dealt with right now, and hopefully, they are."

Varitek has seen transition with the Red Sox be successful before, be it a switch in managers (Grady Little to Terry Francona) or the transfer to the current ownership, under which the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.

"Obviously, they've had great minds and have done this before," Varitek said of the brass. "They have a plan. Hopefully, the plan is to put out the best team and keep this organization and this team winning."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.