Varitek To Announce Retirement This Week

After spending more than 14 years donning the tools of ignorance, Jason Varitek is calling it a career. The veteran backstop will announce his retirement on Thursday according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, and he’s expected to remain with the organization in some non-playing capacity.

Varitek, 39, was the homegrown Red Sox player that didn’t actually grow up in their farm system. He was originally drafted 14th overall by the Mariners in 1994 and spent more than two years in their minor league system before being traded to Boston along with Derek Lowe in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb at the 1997 trade deadline. That has to be one of the most lopsided deals of the last 25 years or so. Unlike Lowe, Varitek never played a game for the Mariners, instead topping out at Triple-A.

After making his big league debut later in the season, Varitek broke camp with the Sox in 1998 and served as Scott Hatteberg‘s platoon partner behind the dish. His .310 wOBA and 0.2 WAR didn’t get him any Rookie of the Year love, but it did get him the full-time catcher’s job the following season. Varitek produced a .346 wOBA and 2.3 WAR as a 27-year old in 1999, clubbing 20 homers and starting 130 games at catcher. He battled injury and performance issues from 2000-2002 (.328 wOBA and 5.7 WAR), but emerged as one of the game’s top backstops at age 31.

From 2003-2007, Varitek hit to a .354 wOBA and produced nearly 15 wins more than a replacement-level catcher, helping the Red Sox to two World Championships. He made three All-Star Game appearances and received MVP votes all five years. His best season was that historic 2004 campaign(as far as the team in concerned), when he hit .296/.390/.482 with 18 homers and ten steals (.377 wOBA and 4.3 WAR) while starting 121 games behind the plate.

Age-related decline started to set in during the 2008 season, when a then-36-year-old Varitek managed just a .299 wOBA and 0.7 WAR in 483 plate appearances. Right-handed pitchers held him to a .278 wOBA with a 27.4 K%. He rebounded to a .306 wOBA the following season, but the Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez at the trade deadline and installed him as the everyday catcher down the stretch. Varitek’s days as the full-time catcher were over. He backed up Martinez in 2010 (when he wasn’t injured) and platooned with Jarrod Saltalamacchia last season.

Based on his performance in 2011, there was a little something left in the tank. Varitek put together a .308 wOBA with a .203 ISO overall in 250 plate appearances, hitting lefties better than righties (.333 vs. .310 wOBA) even though nine of his 11 homers came against northpaws. Defense had long been a problem however, as Varitek threw out just 12 of 85 attempted base stealers on the season (14.1%). From 2008-2011, he gunned down just 16.4% of attempted base stealers (53 of 324).

Varitek was a very rare breed. He is one of just seven switch-hitting catchers to rack up at least 3,000 career plate appearances during the expansion era — Jorge Posada, Todd Hundley, Alan Ashby, Gregg Zaun, Butch Wynegar, and Buck Rodgers are the others — and he actually produced from both sides of the plate:

PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% wOBA
vs. RHP 4143 0.248 0.334 0.423 0.170 10.7% 0.324
vs. LHP 1694 0.278 0.358 0.468 0.207 11.2% 0.367

Varitek ranks 40th among catchers with 24.8 WAR during the expansion era (276 qualifiers) and holds a much more prominent place in Red Sox history. He is in the franchise’s top ten in games played (1,546), plate appearances (5,839), doubles (306), and extra-base hits (513) while ranking 30th on the team’s all-time position player WAR list (1,327 players).

As a .256/.341/.435 career hitter with 193 homers, Varitek’s career falls well short of Hall of Fame caliber even when considering his position. He is certain to get some votes though, and will probably stick around on the ballot for an extra year or three because his defense and leadership skills were hyped ad nauseum. Varitek did have a long and very productive career however, one that made him one of the five best catchers of his generation.



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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


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Mr Punch
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Mr Punch
4 years 4 months ago

Varitek was touted for his “handling of pitchers,” which is a statistically problematic concept. The evidence that does support it is the number of no-hitters he caught, four, by four different pitchers – and he carried a couple more into the ninth, including Schilling’s nearly perfect game (26 outs, one error in first 27 batters).

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

You can’t use four outlier games produced by pitchers as evidence for anything.

Ayuh
Guest
Ayuh
4 years 4 months ago

Maybe not, but some credit should be given to the catcher, especially if the catcher is calling pitches.

Anyone know the most no-hitters ever caught by a single catcher?

Ayuh
Guest
Ayuh
4 years 4 months ago

Again, I’ll agree that’s the bottom line, but there’s reason to believe that a good catcher makes a pitcher better. And since, as you’ve pointed out, the catcher can’t throw the ball for the pitcher, there must be something within the battery that the catcher influences and should receive credit for.

Nilsilly
Guest
Nilsilly
4 years 4 months ago

He caught 5 1-hitters. Pretty sure his 4 no-nos “received” are a record. I think he’ll rightfully be in the Sox HOF but WELL short of the MLB HOF, the same as Wakefield. I just hope that if he catches the first pitch on Opening Day from Wake he gets a break and a nice fastball instead of a knuckler.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

If you want to give him credit for no-hitters and one-hitters you’d better also give him credit for the countless 10-hitters he caught as well.

Madoff Withurmoni
Guest
Madoff Withurmoni
4 years 4 months ago

He should definitely get some kind of credit for being smart enough to make somebody else catch Wakefield most the time for all those years. Can that be put into numbers?

DarthSader9
Member
DarthSader9
4 years 4 months ago

so varitek is done deciding between retiring and not having anywhere to sign?

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
4 years 4 months ago

He probably got a few offers to be a backup/ mentor, but decided it was the Red Sox or nothing. And why so snarky? He made it to 39 and had a solid career.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
4 years 4 months ago

agreed. its not like he simply grabbed a glove and went out to the field and was able to stand, or run, or trot. no, he had to gear up, multiple times a game (as catchers didnt bat with gear on afterall).. grab his mitt, crouch down, get hit a few times by stray bats and/or tipped balls, all the while havin some large dude almost layin over him calling balls and strikes. Oh, and, you are expected to stand your ground and block the plate or tag the runner that is determined to NOT have you do that, maybe with the game on the line. Heck, he may outweight you by 50-75 lbs. Do you wanna do that for 14 yrs, 140ish games per year?

gu03alum
Guest
gu03alum
4 years 4 months ago

As a Mariners fan, most trades that team made make me cringe, but that was the most cringe worthy trade of them all.

B. Arroyo
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Varitek’s glove in A-Rod’s face = + Fifteen hundred gigathousand bizmillion WAR.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 4 months ago

I think your figure is actually a little low.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Perspective is funny. To me, that incident resulted in me losing all respect for Varitek. What a coward he looked, shoving his gloved hand in Arods face while wearing his catchers mask. He looked terrified of Arod. Arod!

Ugh
Guest
Ugh
4 years 4 months ago

I have to agree, and I do not like Alex Rodriguez as a person.

I don’t know why people think otherwise, but A-Rod would destroy Varitek (and most other MLB players still) in a straight up fight. Dude is enormous.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 4 months ago

He was protecting his pitcher who may have weighed 160 lbs soaking wet.

A catcher wears a mask like most of us wear pants, we don’t think about it, and he probably did not think either in the heat of the moment.

Besides, all that juice should have allowed A-roid him to punch though steel.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Nonsense, catchers toss their masks instinctively all the time. Ever see a popup behind the dish? Watch a hockey fight to see how it is done with honor. Varitek was a coward in that instance and it showed.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 4 months ago

FBHOF HE WEARS THE C ON HIS CHEST!!!!!!!

GO SAWXX

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 4 months ago

It’s a forced retirement actually. Imagine losing your job to Kelly Shoppach who batted 176 despite pitchers having an ERA of 3.57 when Tek caught and the team going 44-22 in games he started, and after 14 years with the team, and 2 rings.

blovy8
Guest
blovy8
4 years 4 months ago

Maybe this will be the end of those hockey jerseys on baseball players.

Jon Anthony
Guest
Jon Anthony
4 years 4 months ago

This guy has surely had many inspirational ‘warrior’ moments and will be forever linked to the greatest Red Sox successes, but he probably should have retired 4 yrs ago. He had quickly devolved into an automatic out/embarrassment at times – especially for a catcher…and I hate to say it, believe me.

Josh KS nation
Guest
Josh KS nation
4 years 4 months ago

You can credit most of the reasoning for the no hitters to “TEK” the man did his homework and studied every pitch to every batter on every roster in the American league.. And he however knew exactly what should be thrown under any giving circumstance. He was a true Athlete and in some eyes At the “cathedral” a god in an iron mask!!! He is no Fisk … That’s right he’s Just TEK .. maybe he won’t get into Cooperstown .. Maybe he won’t have his number retired … He played as hard and well as any other player that has ever been blessed with the skills that it takes to cut it in the major leagues !!! Thank you TEK !! Bring on coach TEK ?!

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