I’m expecting the same blowback for this one that I got for Carl Yastrzemski in part one, and I’ll preface it by saying the same thing as before: Jason Varitek was a very, very good player for the Red Sox and their best catcher since Carlton Fisk. He was a key member of two World Series teams and one of the most popular Red Sox players of the last twenty years (in large part for what he did to Alex Rodriguez as shown in the famous photo above).
However, Varitek would seem to fall more into the “all-time favorite” category of former Red Sox, not an all-time great. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that he was not overrated as a catcher, especially given the evolution of the position by the time he played, but rather he is overrated as an overall player by the majority of Red Sox fans.
The numbers certainly bear that out. Varitek finished his fifteen-year career (all with the Red Sox, as I’m sure everyone reading this knows) with a .256 average, 193 home runs, 757 RBI, and 1307 hits in 1546 career games. In the postseason, he was a career .237 hitter with 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 63 postseason games…not great numbers, but he did have several big hits.
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After coming over to the Red Sox in one of the greatest trades in team history in 1997, Varitek settled in as the everyday catcher in 1998. He was remarkably durable, catching over in 100 games in ten seasons (and 130 games or more in eight of those seasons). There are of course the intangibles, chief among them that Varitek was a great game caller; every pitcher that worked with him raved about it.
He is one of only two catchers in MLB history who has caught four no-hitters, he made three All-Star teams (2003, 2005, 2008) and won a Gold Glove in 2005. Varitek is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame and deservedly so. As I’ve repeatedly said, he was a very good catcher and one of the best Red Sox of the 2000s.
However, objectively, as a player, he is also overrated by a huge number of Red Sox fans. There are literally huge swaths of fans who believe the team should retire his number and that he belongs in Cooperstown (I’m not making this up, either…I’ve read it with my own eyes and even debated it with many of these folks online).
In the case of Varitek perhaps more than any other player, I mean overrated in the literal sense. I am not disparaging Varitek or his contributions in any way. Like what I said about Yaz, though, somehow I’m sure that far too many will miss that distinction altogether, react emotionally and attack the messenger instead of debating the points of merit. Such is life.