11 years after being drafted, Kelly Shoppach belatedly replaces Jason Varitek


When the Red Sox made Kelly Shoppach their first pick in the 2001 draft, the thinking was that he might someday take over for Jason Varitek behind the plate in Boston. Of course, then GM Dan Duquette probably didn’t see it happening 11 years and two Red Sox World Series championships later. Nor did he know that it’d be his last draft at the helm of the team.

Shoppach, a polished catcher out of Baylor, was selected 48th overall in 2001 after Boston lost its first-round pick for signing Manny Ramirez. He proved solid right away, hitting .271/.369/.432 in high-A ball in his pro debut in 2002.

Varitek turned into an institution in Boston, but at the time, he was a 29-year-old with only one really good season under his belt. He hit .269/.330/.482 with 20 homers and 76 RBI for Boston in 1999, but he fell off to .248/.342/.388 with just 10 homers in 2000. His 2001 season was ruined by a broken elbow suffered just two days after the Shoppach pick was made. Varitek returned in 2002 and had another modest season (.266/.332/.392, 10 HR) before really coming into his own and making his first All-Star team in 2003.

Of course, the story from there took a dramatic turn. While there was much speculation in the 2004 postseason that Varitek and Pedro Martinez might be playing their final games for the Red Sox, Varitek got a four-year, $40 million to stick around. It was a choice made easier by Shoppach taking a step backwards in his first year in Triple-A. Shoppach rebounded in 2005, hitting .253/.352/.507 with 26 homers for Pawtucket. He was then shipped out as part of the much ballyhooed Andy Marte-for-Coco Crisp swap with Cleveland, a move that proved a letdown on several levels.

Now Shoppach is back in Boston, pushing the soon-to-be 40-year-old Varitek out the door. It should be an upgrade, though Varitek was just fine offensively in his two season as a backup for the Red Sox. Boston, however, needed a catcher capable of throwing out a basestealer every once in a while, and Shoppach is a big plus there.

Of course, Varitek will be missed. The Red Sox eased their restrictions to retire the number of a non-Hall of Famer three years ago, when they put Johnny Pesky’s No. 6 up on the wall. They may want to consider doing the same to Varitek’s No. 33 someday, because while Varitek won’t sniff Cooperstown, he had a terrific ride.

Major League Baseball finds insufficient evidence to discipline Miguel Sano for sexual assualt

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In late December Betsy Bissen, a photographer for the Minnesota Twins website, Twins Daily, alleged that Miguel Sano assaulted her a few years ago. Bissen offered a detailed account of the incident.

In the account she said that in 2015 Sano was at an autograph signing at a store at which she volunteered. After the signing, she alleged that Sano grabbed her wrist and forced her to accompany him to a nearby store, attempted to force her through a doorway near the restrooms, tried to kiss her multiple times and continued to hold her, forcibly and painfully, by her wrist, in an effort to get her into the bathroom with him. She said the struggle lasted for 10 minutes, and her screams for help went unanswered.

Major League Baseball announced that it was investigating the matter. A few moments ago, it announced its findings and that it was declining to discipline Sano:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has completed its investigation into an assault allegation made against Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. The comprehensive investigation included interviews of more than 20 individuals, including Sano and the complainant, as well as a review of available documents, including communication records.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the Office of the Commissioner found that there was insufficient evidence to support a disciplinary determination against Sano, due to conflicting and inconsistent witness accounts and the absence of contemporaneous substantiation. Barring the receipt of any new information or evidence, the Office of the Commissioner will not impose discipline on Sano in connection with the alleged incident.

Based on the text of the statement, one may conclude that the league did not find Bissen’s claims to be credible.

This is first investigation of this type, or pursuant to its domestic violence policy under the umbrella of which this investigation presumably falls, which has not resulted in discipline of some kind. At least investigations of which the public was aware.