Jason Varitek’s career comes to a close

This is what I wrote about Jason Varitek 3 months ago.  Since he is officially retiring in a little less than 3 hours I thought it would be appropriate to re-post.

Varitek celebrated two world championship in Boston

He was the captain and the emotional leader of the Red Sox for each of the 14 seasons that Jason Varitek wore the uniform.  Since 2004 he has served as the captain of the Red Sox, the first since Jim Rice in the 80’s, and donned the captain’s C on his uniform.  He unofficially held the role long before that.  Varitek started every opening day for the Sox from 2000-2009.  He was a three-time American League All-Star and won the American League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award in 2005.  He was the starting catcher for two World Series winning teams and started all but one of the eight games the Red Sox played in the 2004 and 2007 World Series’.

Tek will forever have a place in Red Sox lore.  He played in 1,546 games for the Red Sox from 1997-2001, that’s good for 9th all time behind Rico Petrocelli.  His 306 career doubles rank 8th all-time, right behind Dominic DiMaggio.  His 513 extra base hits rank 9th all-time in club history, right behind Manny Ramirez.  And of course there are the lasting images of Varitek that will have their place in Red Sox lore.  The slamming of A-Rod’s face with his glove that led to a bench-clearing brawl in 2004, a moment that many point to as the turning point of the Red Sox eventual Championship season.  Then of course is the end of that year when Sox closer Keith Foulke jumped into Tek’s arms as the Sox celebrated their first World Series victory in 86 years.  Then three seasons later it was new closer Jonathan Papelbon who urged Varitek to jump in his arms of their second World Series victory.

Now I can go all Dan Shaugnessy and express disappointment in Tek’s role, or lack thereof, in the debacle of last September but I see no reason for that.  After all Tek was the Red Sox captain, not a father to a bunch of late twenty and early thirty somethings.  He can tell grown men how they are supposed to act but he certainly can’t make them.  His role and effectiveness had dwindled over the past few years and as such it would be harder to have the same voice in the clubhouse as he once had, much like it was for Carl Crawford to have the same voice that he had in the Rays clubhouse since he didn’t produce like he did in Tampa last year.  The fact of the matter is that one month will not take away from the years of leadership that Jason Varitek gave to the Boston Red Sox.

As Bobby V. said "he beat up Alex"

There are still some people that will have you believe that Jason Varitek can still play, including Jason Varitek himself.  The sad truth is that Tek’s time has passed.  Maybe he’ll sign with another team and end his career at the bottom of someone else’s roster much the way Dwight Evans did at the end of his career.  The fact is he was a liability at throwing runners out and that was a deadly combination with a host of Red Sox starters who aren’t particularly enamored with holding runners on base in the first place.  The Sox needed someone who could keep runners on first base when Jarrod Saltalamacchia was on the bench.  Kelly Shoppach is a much better option than Tek at this point in their careers and Shoppach has been around the block enough that he can still mentor Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, who is raw as a defensive catcher.

It’s kind of appropriate that at the end Varitek will be replaced on the roster by Kelly Shoppach.  Shoppach was the first in a long list of potential successors that Varitek outlasted until Jarrod Saltalamacchia took over as the Sox primary catcher last season.  Shoppach was traded before the 2007 season and the Sox went through Josh Bard, George Kottaras and Victor Martinez, among others, before settling on Saltalamacchia as Tek’s heir apparent.  It’s sad that it will end for Varitek in Boston the way it did, with an epic collapse, but we’ll always remember what he did in 2004, 2007 and everywhere in between when he was the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox.

Added 3/1/2012

Varitek was a great player in his day but the drop off was so pronounced in the past few season that you knew the end, at least in a Red Sox uniform, was near.  Still in a day and age when anyone can get a few million dollars to show up at the ballpark and play a few games you need to commend Varitek for not taking a 1 year deal for a few million and wearing another uniform for a pointless season at the end of his career.  Dwight Evans regrets the year he spent in Baltimore to this day.  It’s rare to see a guy go his entire pro career in the same uniform, especially when it’s a Red Sox player.  Guys like that don’t come around too often.  The last guy that wore a Red Sox uniform for at least 10 seasons and never played for another team in his career was a guy named Jim Rice.  He retired 23 years ago.  What’s Varitek has done over the past 15 seasons has been pretty damn impressive.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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