Jason Varitek’s Time in Boston is Over
The Red Sox and Jason Varitek have had a long, beautiful marriage. There were good times like in 2004 when Varitek posted a nice .296/.390/.482 line. He also delivered a glove full of cowhide to the face of Alex Rodriguez during the middle of that summer, an image that is forever engrained in the minds of New Englanders. The Red Sox, in case you didn’t remember, won the final game they played that year, something they hadn’t done in 86 years. Like all long-term relationships, there have been bad times. Unfortunately, the valleys have occurred more often than the peaks recently for the soon-to-be 40 year old. Last season, in 68 games, Varitek put together a notably terrible .221/.300/.423 line. Things that were once sweet are now sour. The kids have moved out, and there really is no reason to stay together.
And that’s okay.
Nevertheless, there is not a single plausible reason why Varitek should be a member of the 2012 Red Sox. At the same time, I understand the arguments that fans will put forth as to why Tek should be back this season. Let’s go through each one of these points as a way of illustrating the utter stupidity it would be for the Red Sox to even entertain bringing number 33 back in any capacity.
The team owes it to Varitek to let him go out on his terms.
The Red Sox have paid their longtime catcher over $67MM. They do not owe him anything. If Tek wants to make an agreement similar to something Nomar Garciaparra did in 2010, that’s fine with me. He can even throw out the first pitch on April 13 at Fenway. I’m all for recognizing a guy who has had one heck of a career, but he should not be on the roster.
Varitek still calls a great game.
At this point, I’m not even sure what this means. I understand that Varitek does a tremendous amount of homework on opposing hitters. His bookshelves probably look similar to Curt Schilling’s. When Tek throws down a sign, the guy on the mound not only tends to throw that pitch (instead of shaking it off), but he truly believes in that given pitch at the point it leaves his hand. There is something to be said for that, but the success of the Red Sox staff is dependent upon Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz—three veteran pitchers who are making a ton of money. They are seasoned arms who could all finish in the top ten in Cy Young voting in 2012, with or without Varitek. If the Red Sox were heading into the season with a staff full of Daniel Bard‘s, I would say that it may not be a bad idea to bring Varitek back to continue as an supervisor of the staff and a tutor to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That simply is not the case, however. Varitek’s mere presence perpetuates a false dependency for members of the pitching staff. We will return to this point later.
He is the captain of the team. He shouldn’t just be let go.
Varitek’s legacy as a captain and two-time World Champion is precisely one of the many reasons why he should retire, but if he truly does want to continue playing, it cannot be here. Can you imagine the captain of the Boston Red Sox having to compete for a job in Spring Training? Neither can Bobby Valentine. In reality, Varitek would not even be competing. Instead, he would be collecting dust, waiting for an injury to occur to Saltalamacchia or newly signed Kelly Shoppach. That sounds like more of a distraction than a captain.
Josh Beckett is coming off of a successful year that ended tumultuously. It would be best to keep him as comfortable as possible, and Varitek is his personal catcher.
Beckett and the rest of his staff-mates were not nearly as poisonous as the media portrayed them following the all-too-well publicized September collapse. They were comfortable. Way, way too comfortable. For Beckett, Varitek has been the biggest part of his comfort zone since arriving in Boston. I don’t blame him either. Number 33 is a knowledgeable catcher who any pitcher would love to have as a backstop, but the pacifier needs to be removed. Management should not be concerned with placating Beckett. Like I alluded to before, he is a veteran who does not need his hand held every fifth day.
Varitek is the catcher I spent the majority of my childhood watching. He signed a ball for me before a game at Fenway against the Orioles when I was still in Little League. I’m not a hater. I am someone who believes that a 40 year old who brings nothing offensively to the table and serves as more of a caddy than a catcher to a high maintenance pitcher should not be a team that does not deserve to have certain little luxuries. If you listen to someone who believes that Tek should be on team, count how many times his or her arguments invoke the past tense. He has become a guy whose points of success are no longer in the present or the future. Varitek was an excellent catcher who was a major part of two teams that won two World Series.
It is simply no longer his time.
Saltalamacchia is ready to be the everyday catcher, and Shoppach is there to serve as a backup. Ryan Lavarnway will be waiting in Pawtucket. Varitek should look no further than to his counterpart from the Bronx. Go out with grace like Jorge Posada. You will always have a place in Boston, just not on the 2012 Red Sox.
Thank you to baseballreference.com for the statistics used in this blog.