07/14/2003 5:46 PM ET
Red Sox Stars always play to win
Garciaparra, Varitek don't need extra motivation
CHICAGO -- There is a perception held by some that because this year's All-Star Game counts we will see players put forth a greater effort to win the Midsummer Classic, but that line of thinking doesn't quite sit well with Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox.
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
These guys have one speed -- full throttle -- whether it's the All-Star Game or a Spring Training "B" game, so the new wrinkle to this year's Midsummer Classic won't change their game plan one iota and they cannot fathom the type of player who doesn't give his all on the field.
"It's always counted to me, whether I'm playing stickball in the streets or for the Red Sox," Garciaparra said Monday afternoon at the Westin Hotel. "I play to win, period. When you put on the uniform you go all out. You don't ever give less than your best effort whether it's an exhibition or the World Series."
The shortstop is making his fifth appearance in the All-Star Game and said he enjoys the break and the chance to play with and against the best players in the game.
"If you're any kind of competitor, you love the challenge," Garciaparra said. "You're going against the best in the game, so of course it's a challenge, but it's also a lot of fun and it's exciting."
Varitek won the etopps All-Star Final Vote with 3.2 million online votes to join teammates Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez on the squad though Ramirez later dropped out because of a tight hamstring. Like Garciaparra, Varitek will be going all out if he is summoned to play.
"You absolutely want to play your best because everybody in the world is watching you and you don't want to look bad," Varitek said. "I don't think [the fact that this year's game counts for home-field advantage for the World Series] will change anything about the way we play the game. The only thing I think it will maybe change is the way managers manage. They might subsitute a little differently than they would have last year or maybe leave a pitcher in a little longer. But for the players I don't think it's going to make any difference, we're still going to play hard and play to win."
Garciaparra ended the first half hitting .319 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs. Varitek entered the break in the midst of a breakout year, hitting .306 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. Both players said they are encouraged with the way the team came on towards the end of the first half and looking forward to a better showing in the final three months of the regular season.
"I like the way we ended up the first half, we were playing better, our bullpen was getting stronger and if things keep improving we have a chance to have a strong second half," Garciaparra said.
"Our pitching is really starting to come together," Varitek said. "That's exciting, and hopefully if we come together and play the way we're capable of playing it could be a fun second half."
Until then both want to help the American League come away with a victory Tuesday night, and who knows, maybe the home-field advantage for the World Series will be something that matters in Boston this year; the Red Sox are right on the heels of the first-place New York Yankees in the American League East Division race.
But don't suggest these guys needed the extra motivation.
"I want to win just as much as always," Garciaparra said. "But this is an exhibition, I don't think it should have a bearing on the championship season. It's crazy. Last year's game was one of the greatest games I've ever seen. So what if it ended in a tie? It was a great game, an exciting game, with everything any baseball fan could want to see."
To Varitek, the All-Star Game remains an exhibition and as such is not as important as the postseason, but he said it nevertheless is an honor to be selected and something he takes seriously.
"I owe it to the fans and people who voted for me to give it my best [effort]," he said. "And I think the other players feel the same way."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.