Varitek retires

Another stalwart member of the Red Sox has hung them up – this time the great Jason Varitek.  There was always so much to like with Varitek.  He was the backbone of the team for so many years.  Varitek’s numbers weren’t HOF worthy (though he will be in the Red Sox HOF), but he had intangibles in spades.  Club record 1488 games behind the plate with the Sox.  He was widely regarded as one of the best receivers in the game, and pitchers loved how he called games (Beckett, it seemed at times, could hardly pitch effectively to other catchers).  Three All-Star appearances, 2 WS wins, and the epic and season changing mitt to A-Rod’s face that permanently altered the dynamics of that rivalry.

The enduring image of Tek will, I think, be him mashing A-Rod in the face with his mitt.  Bronson Arroyo hit A-Rod with a pitch and A-Rod took his sweet time taking his base.  Arroyo didn’t like it and started barking and A-Rod replied in kind.  Some tellings of the story have it that Varitek not only told A-Rod to cool it, but remarked that the hit was unintentional “since we don’t give bags to guys with as crappy an average as you have.”  Whatever Varitek said, A-Rod decided he wanted some and Varitek gave it to him.

About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.
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1 Response to Varitek retires

  1. Arod is one of those sports anomalies (Barry Sanders, Karl Malone are others) who clearly has a great physical skill set and potential but always seems to come up short except for his one good year with the Yankees a few years ago. Twice in a row he has basically ended their season at the plate, first looking against the Rangers and then leaning into a no chance pitch against Detroit. I think the way this last season started for him, or maybe the season before, was really indicative of Varitek’s dismissal of Arod and his struggles overall. I think he led his division in homeruns, which sound nice, but had a batting average below .150. Homeruns are cute, but if you aren’t getting on base then something is seriously missing. That year of the big Sox comeback, it was the difference between a team driven by star power versus a team that played together with grit, who looked history in the eye and shrugged to two World Series titles.

    Its amazing to me how a catcher can really have an impact on a game. There are the obvious tangibles like a good arm to stop a steal for second, and sure hands for a tag out or to ensure no wild pitches, but you also have management, the communication with the pitcher and other things. You mentioned Josh Beckett, and it was astonishing to see him go from one of the best postseason pitchers ever to “Josh Lost-it” in the words of Skip Bayless. If you aren’t Nolan Ryan, so much of pitching is in the head and the catcher is part of that. No doubt Napoli had a part in Holland’s epic performance that got the Rangers back into the World Series last year too, although it was clear the depth wasn’t there to go all the way.

    I’ve heard from other Sox fans how differently players seem to leave. You have those that leave in disgrace like Damon and Clemens, and you have those like Pedro who, when coming back playing for another team, get a standing ovation. If you give back respect to the fans, they remember it, and Varitek will be remembered for sure.

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