Red Sox need Jason Varitek’s new deal to equal leadership

Feb 20, 2016; Lee County, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek (33) watches during workouts at Jet Blue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2016; Lee County, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek (33) watches during workouts at Jet Blue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Boston Red Sox catcher & captain Jason Varitek just signed a new contract to be more of a presence with the player & less of one in the front office.

With David Ortiz, the undisputed leader of the Red Sox, retiring at the end of this season, Boston’s most historic franchise was in need of some serious guidance. Sometimes, a team needs their manager to be a dominating figure to help move the youth of the club in the right direction. Big Papi’s presence now gone from the clubhouse, the Red Sox felt that another iconic figure was needed to help manager John Farrell to do the job.

Another familiar face to Red Sox Nation has just inked a new deal to be more hands on with the players than in more recent years.

CSN Report mentioned that Varitek “has served as a Special Assistant to the President of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox [Dave Dombrowski] most recently and can be seem in and around the Boston clubhouse at most home games.” The media platform added that “his presence around the clubhouse will be felt more frequently on game days — to what extent remains to be seen.”

Whatever the case, the switch-hitting catcher from Michigan definitely knows what it takes to lead a team to the promise land. In 15 seasons, from 1997 to 2011, the three-time All-Star hit a slash line of .256/.341/.435 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs, all with the Red Sox. He even won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2005, the year after Varitek helped lead the Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918. He did it again in 2007, with the captain’s ‘C’ over his heart, hitting .333 in the final series against the Colorado Rockies.

A man like Varitek led by example, wearing his heart on his sleeve and his leadership, literally, on his chest. That leadership is exactly what the youth movement in Boston needs right now.

Depending on how the catching situation plays out, the Red Sox will have five or six starting positional players going into only their second or third MLB season in 2017. That’s not counting the young backups, pitchers, and future prospects. Many of them got their first taste of the postseason a few weeks ago, only for it to end in a three-game sweep by the Cleveland Indians. Varitek could be that guiding hand on the field that those players need to learn from and ask for help.

With Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez fighting for the starting catcher role next season, Varitek might be needed more than ever. His prowess with the bat and the glove made him a force to be reckoned with, next to or behind the plate. While he didn’t throw too many base stealers out at second, Varitek’s range factor for nine innings (7.92) and fielding percentage (.994) were well above the league average among catchers in his career.

Varitek also handled his pitching staff very well, in the regular season and in some of the most tense moments in MLB playoff history. Names like Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling were under his wing, so pitchers like Eduardo Rodriguez and even David Price could learn a few things, as well.

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If Varitek can show Leon or Vazquez how to keep the pitching staff rolling, as well as give them pointers on how to keep a consistent bat in the lineup, the catcher who learns the most from him will end up the starter. The Red Sox desperately need Varitek’s leadership in that department, let alone the rest of the young players, to give them that grit that may be missing from the team. Nobody can replace Ortiz’s leadership, but Varitek’s brand should be what the Red Sox need for next season.