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Jason Varitek joins Tim Wakefield in calling it a career

Feb 27, 2012, 6:18 PM EDT

Jason Varitek Getty Images

Among active teammates, only the Yankees’ trio of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada had been together longer than Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Now Varitek has joined Posada, the catcher he was so often compared to as part of the New York-Boston rivalry, and Wakefield in retirement.

Had Varitek played anywhere other than Boston or New York, he would have spent his career as an underrated player, a first-rate catcher without the eye-popping numbers that would have warranted a lot of attention. He never hit .300 or drove in 100 runs. He didn’t even become a regular until age 27.

In Boston, though, Varitek was “The Captain,” complete with the “C” on his chest. The guy who got into the fight with Alex Rodriguez. A key component on two World Series championship teams.

That reputation shouldn’t get Varitek anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but it’s worth remembering just how good he was at his peak. From 2003-05, he hit .283/.369/.494 with 65 homers and 228 RBIs. Among catchers, only Javy Lopez and Posada (with the same .863 OPS) were better offensively during that span, and Varitek had the best glove of that trio.

Alas, Varitek fell off pretty quickly from there, though it’s worth noting that he played quite a bit better as a backup the last two seasons than he did as a regular in 2008-09. Even at 40, he still projected as one of the game’s better offensive backups. Unfortunately, his arm has deteriorated to the point at which he just can’t stop anyone on the basepaths. That’s why there was no demand for his services over the winter.

Varitek finishes his career at .256/.341/.435 with 193 homers and 757 RBI. Among guys who played at least 80 percent of their games at catcher, Varitek ranks 16th in homers, 21st in RBI and 23rd in OPS (Posada, in comparison, ranks eighth, 10th and seventh in those categories).

Varitek also hit .237/.292/.452 with 11 homers and 33 RB in 63 postseason games. Looking at those who played exclusviely for the Red Sox, only Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Jim Rice had longer careers.

  1. Old Gator - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    I dunno, I just get this weird feeling that he’ll be back. Varitek (which sounds like a Japanese movie monster’s name anyway) always struck me as dumb and brutal enough to rise again as a third base coach.

  2. SmackSaw - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    The Bobby V. reign of terror continues unabated.

    • hammyofdoom - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:58 PM


  3. randygnyc - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    There you go. The black and white facts of what a not a hall of famer looks like. Let’s file this diary away just in case people forget in 10 years.

  4. teaspoon1731 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    It bothers me to know end that whether a person gets into the HOF or not is based almost entirely on offensive numbers. Varitek caught 4 no hitters, and is one of the most respected backstops and play callers of all time. Yet because he didn’t hit, he’s not HOF material? I’m sorry if I don’t respect that.

    • teaspoon1731 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      ugh, *no end

    • cogitobaseballergosum - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      Agree, the HOF should be about more than offense. However, I have a hard time thinking of Varitek as one of the all-time great defensive catchers. Above average among his contemporaries I can accept, but IMO calling him an all-time great is a stretch.

    • bigharold - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      “Varitek caught 4 no hitters,”

      Perhaps if he’d have thrown a couple he might have a chance.

      Hail and fair well Capt Sucker Punch!

  5. raycornwall - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    He won’t get to the Hall of Fame, but he’s in the Hall of Very Good, and he’ll never have to buy a beer in Boston again. Can’t beat that.

    • Old Gator - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:27 PM

      Why – are they too cheap to spring for lobsters up there?

      • bigharold - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:57 PM

        In a word Yes.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:47 PM

      Not sure if he even belongs in the Hall of Very Good. His contempory is Posada, and both rate stats and counting stats have Posada far ahead (not counting defense*). Matthew for some reason compares Varitek’s best three year stretch to the same exact years of Posada, never mind that Posada had years far better, and in fact Posada’s best three years are significantly better than Varitek’s.

      *Yes defense matters, but A, it’s extremely hard to quantify, and B, Varitek’s is highly overrated. His caught stealing numbers are atrocious, and all the talk of being “Beckett’s personal catcher” never stopped him from having bad games. It was a bunch of ex-post facto gibberish from the Boston beat writers.

  6. gatorprof - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    Shouldn’t this be retroactive to 2008?

    In terms of HOF talk, PLEASE… Based on what?

    He was a below average bat and a poor defensive catcher. A career CS% of 23% and having never cracked 30% is pretty poor at best. As a calibration point, Pudge has a career number of > 45%. If Jason wasn’t on the Sox, no one would even care if he retired.

    Aside from the classic photo of nailing ARoid in the face, not much else of note…

    • teaspoon1731 - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:54 PM

      so catching 4 no hitters is nothing of note?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:58 PM

        How many pitches did he throw during those no-hitters?

      • foodforthesoul28 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:09 PM

        churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged- he threw none of those pitches, but what he did do was call the best possible pitch to take down every batter in aiding those four pitchers to no hitters. Learn the Sport of baseball!

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:23 PM

        Please inform me about the sport of baseball foodforthesoul? And tell me, what happened in all those other games? What happened to his ability to call pitches in the perfect spot?

      • bigharold - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:01 PM

        “.. but what he did do was call the best possible pitch to take down every batter in aiding those four pitchers to no hitters.”

        Perhaps but assuming that he wasn’t shook off once in those 4 games he in fact executed none of those pitches.

      • quintjs - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:11 AM

        Being shooked off a couple of times doesn’t mean his contribution wasn’t there. A fun fact, Curt Schilling probably lost #5 no hitter because he shook Tek off in Oakland.

        Catching 4 no hitters doesn’t really mean much, it is a testament to his game calling, but luck is also heavily involved and that’s before you include the pitcher. Probably a better indication of his game calling is that basically every RS pitcher not named Tim Wakefield wanted to throw to him.

        Good player, decent bat at times, pretty good catcher (hurts that he was bad at one of the things catchers do we can accurately measure) though probably not as bad as people think, sometimes it seems physically impossible for a RS pitcher to hold runners where they are.

        Not a Hall of Famer, probably not even that close. For what he meant to the team, RS HOF without doubt.

      • gatorprof - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM

        It is something of note, but doesn’t equal a HOF career, period.

        He wasn’t even one of the top 5 catchers during his time. Heck, even Posada was a better catcher defensively and a better bat.

        He was a below average hitter and a below average defensive catcher, who happened to be on a couple of great teams.

        Put another way, remember how poor of a catcher Piazza was? He was basically tolerated because he had an incredible bat. Piazza CS % is also 23 %….same has Tek’s.

        Tek will be fondly remembered in Boston, as he should be, but much like Jorge in NY….no hall of fame career.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    dont let the door hit you on the way out jason

  8. humanexcrement - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    He should have done this a couple months back when the team was looking for a manager. I’ll bet anything Bobby V doesn’t make it 2 yrs in beantown, 3 at the most.

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