Boston Red Sox: Jason Varitek receives a Hall of Fame vote


Don’t count on Jason Varitek being voted into Cooperstown, but one writer found room for the former Boston Red Sox catcher on his Hall of Fame ballot.

Jason Varitek will forever be an icon in the city of Boston for the contributions he made in a Red Sox uniform.

His accomplishments range from being behind the plate for a pair of World Series champions to catching a record four no-hitters. Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards rest on his mantle. He was named to three All-Star teams and for seven seasons he was called the Captain of the Red Sox team he proudly represented.

But a Hall of Famer? Don’t bet on it. He belongs in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, where he was rightfully enshrined earlier this year. It takes a lot more to get into Cooperstown, a place reserved for the greatest baseball players that have ever stepped on the field.

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I loved watching Varitek behind the plate. He commanded respect without being outlandishly vocal. He was known as one of the best game-calling catchers of his day, with an unmatched rapport with some of the greatest pitchers to ever take the mound at Fenway Park. He was a fantastic teammate, willing to offer words of encouragement behind closed doors or stick up for his pitchers in front of a stadium full of fans, even if it meant shoving his mitt into A-Rod’s face.

For all the amazing traits we recall from Varitek’s career, what he’s lacking are the numbers that most voters typically look for when filling out their ballots.

The long-time Red Sox catcher was a career .256/.341/.435 hitter that smacked 193 home runs over 15 seasons. Those are solid numbers for a catcher, but hardly among the best to ever play the position. His career 24.3 WAR ranks 61st all-time among catchers, per FanGraphs.

Much of the value Varitek brought to the Red Sox behind the plate and in the clubhouse can’t be captured by any metric, so he was far more important than any of these numbers suggest, but intangibles can only get you so far. Varitek was very good for many  years, but he’s not an all-time great.

Apparently not everyone agrees with that assessment. Full disclosure, I do not (yet) have a Hall of Fame vote. The Trentonian’s Jay Dunn does. Of the 40+ public ballots thus far counted by BBHOF ballot tracker Ryan Thibodaux, Dunn is the only one to put a check next to Varitek’s name.

Dunn must really have a soft spot for catchers, calling Ivan Rodriguez a shoo-in, while casting a vote for both Varitek and Jorge Posada. I concur with the former statement about Pudge, while respectfully disagreeing on the latter two. While we have a difference of opinion, credit Dunn for sticking by his choices, providing valid reasoning for his choices of Varitek and Posada.

"“Neither had Hall of Fame numbers and I don’t expect either to get a lot of support, but both of them are getting my vote,” writes Dunn. “Both of them were irreplaceable cogs to successful teams.“Varitek was the catcher when the Red Sox won championships in 2004 and 2007. He was an iron man on both teams, catcher almost every game not started by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Probably no one, not even David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, had more to do with the success of those teams than Varitek did.”"

There’s no doubt that Varitek was a vital part of those championship teams and you can even argue that the Red Sox don’t win either title without him. He was a leader, a steady clubhouse presence and the team captain, but he was never a superstar. Varitek was an elite caliber glue guy, a role every successful team needs, but those traits won’t get him to Cooperstown.

An aspect working in Varitek’s favor is that Dunn left players tainted by performance enhancing drugs off his ballot. If Dunn had no intention of selecting Manny, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or any of the other PED abusers, there are only so many options left to choose from on a ballot with 34 names. Voters don’t necessarily need to select 10 players if they don’t feel there are that many worthy of consideration, but at least being given the option to vote for up to 10 increases the odds for someone like Varitek to receive votes from writers that actively avoid those tainted by steroid allegations.

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Who else was he supposed to pick instead, Edgar Renteria? Oh wait, someone did actually pick Rent-a-Wreck. Clearly someone who didn’t watch him play for the Red Sox.

Personally, I wouldn’t think twice about putting Larry Walker or Mike Mussina ahead of Varitek and Posada. Edgar Martinez would be ahead of them on my list too and it’s interesting to note that the former Seattle Mariner’s designated hitter dropped off Dunn’s ballot after he voted for him last year. The tie-breaker for the final spot on Dunn’s ballot went to Tim Raines, who will become ineligible after 10 years on the ballot if he isn’t voted in this time. That seems like a fair way to decide for any writer who is torn over who to go with for that final spot, so I can’t quibble with that logic.

Being a good player on a great team doesn’t suddenly make them a great player, nor does being part of what was arguably the peak of the epic Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Varitek and Posada were key figures in that feud between baseball powerhouses, but it’s not enough to put either in the Hall of Fame.

Only about 10 percent of the ballots have been revealed so far, which means we may find more writers voting for Varitek before the the final results are announced. Despite Dunn’s compelling case, there is little chance of Varitek receiving votes on the required 75 percent of ballots to be elected. He’s actually at risk of falling short of the five percent needed to remain on the ballot next year.

If you’re clinging to any shred of hope that Varitek gets elected to the Hall of Fame, don’t hold your breath. He simply doesn’t fit the criteria most voters look for when filling out their ballots, but that hardly matters to Red Sox fans. We know what he meant to this franchise.

Next: Red Sox must hold onto pitchers

Varitek may never get to be a Hall of Famer, but here in Boston he’s known as something even better – a legend.