Red Sox Legend: C Jason Varitek
The Number: 33
Much like Wakefield, the impact of Jason Varitek’s Red Sox tenure goes far beyond the numbers. From a statistical standpoint, Varitek’s resume does not indicate jersey retirement. Over 15 years with the club, he made just three all-star teams and never finished higher than 20th in the MVP voting.
His career OPS+ was an unimpressive 99, and while his defense was his calling, his large frame made him far from graceful behind the dish and limited him to only one Gold Glove award.
What the captain lacks in numbers, however, he makes up in leadership. Countless pitchers throughout his career have spoken about the unquantifiable impact he’s had on their career. In his autobiography, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez credits much of his historic success at the turn of the century to Varitek replacing Scott Hatteberg as his primary catcher.
Ace Josh Beckett, who had one of the most dominant stretches in postseason history during the Red Sox 2007 World Series run, also spoke highly of Varitek’s ability to handle a pitching staff. “Tek is the most prepared baseball player I’ve ever been around,” he said in the 2007 documentary “Champions Again”. “He’s very outspoken about what he thinks works, and he’s very knowledgeable because he does the legwork.”
Beckett’s claims can further be backed up by the fact that Varitek holds the record for most no-hitters caught by a catcher. He was the man managing the game for Boston’s four most recent no-no’s and his work ethic is a big factor in why they occurred.
Though David Ortiz rightfully gets most of the credit in the Red Sox 2000’s championship runs, don’t overlook Varitek’s contribution. During the 2004 and 2007 postseasons, Varitek started 26 of the 28 postseason games, coming off the bench only in the two games Wakefield started (Catching a knuckleball was just about Varitek’s only flaw).
He caught every inning in both extra-innings affairs in the ’04 ALCS, and the professionalism and mental toughness he brought to the ballpark every day no doubt set a tone for his teammates in the historic comeback.
Even after his retirement, Varitek has remained closely connected to the organization. He joined the club in a special assistant role in 2012 and moved to the dugout as a catching coach and gameplan coordinator.
Besides legends Johnny Pesky and Joe Cronin, no player can top Varitek’s 25 years working with the organization. With all Varitek has meant and contributed to the Red Sox during this unparalleled run of success, the least they could do for repayment is ensure there will never be another number 33.