Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Greatest Moments of Captain Jason Varitek's Career
When looking back on the career of Jason Varitek, there are two very important names that come to mind: Heathcliff Slocumb and Dan Wilson.
Red Sox fans should be grateful to Wilson, the No. 1 catcher for the Seattle Mariners in the 1990s. Without Wilson's .285 batting average in 1995 and 1996, to go with 134 runs batted in, it is highly likely that Varitek would have spent his career in a Mariners uniform.
Thanks goes to Heathcliff Slocumb for being "good enough" to make the trade. Of course, he had gone 0-5 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP in 49 games for the Red Sox in 1997—if you consider that good.
History is always the greatest general manager there is. In this case, the trade of Derek Lowe and Varitek to the Red Sox is one that the Mariners wish they could have back hundreds of times over. While Slocumb was instrumental in the bullpen for the Mariners in their 1997 AL West division run, after that, he fell apart. He ended his career after 10 seasons, in 2000, having played for eight different teams.
Meanwhile, Varitek would remain a member of the Boston Red Sox for the rest of his career (to date.) While 'Tek has been extended an invitation to spring training with the Red Sox, the likelihood of him making the roster is slim, with three other catchers already signed with the team: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway.
Speculation of Varitek retiring has been circulating all over the Internet. Run a quick Google search and you'll likely run across a dozen or so pieces on the subject. With many fans ready to send Varitek off into the sunset, here is a look back at the 10 most memorable moments in his career.
Honorable Mention No. 1
Jason Varitek is one of only two men who can say that they have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series and Major League World Series. The only other one to do so: Ed Vosberg.
Paramount to that, Varitek can proudly say that he is the only player in MLB history to have done those things and, in addition, to have also played on the USA Olympic team as well as represented the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Pretty impressive items for his résumé.
Honorable Mention No. 2
On September 19, 2006, Varitek became the first catcher in Red Sox history to catch 1,000 games.
In addition to that feat, 'Tek holds the Red Sox record for most postseason home runs for a catcher, with 11.
Varitek also holds the team record for most postseason games played, with 63.
Last but not least, he also holds the team record for most Opening Day starts for a catcher, with 10, which ended in 2010, when Victor Martinez replaced him as the team's full-time catcher.
10. Oh Captain, My Captain
'Tek was named the Red Sox team captain during the winter between the 2004 and 2005 seasons, becoming just the third captain since 1923, following Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice.
Third captain for the Red Sox. Third active captain in baseball. The number 33. It's the little idiosyncrasies that get me through.
9. 2005 Was the Year of the 'Tek
Once upon a time, for those younger Red Sox fans who don't know, Jason Varitek was your number-five hitter.
I swear it's true.
Between 2001 and 2005, he was a fantastic combination of both offense and, to a lesser degree, defense. (The team doesn't slide step...so read into that as you will.)
2005 proved to be the best all-around year in Varitek's career. He posted a .281 batting average, drove in 70 runs with 22 home runs and scored 70 runs.
This season would see Varitek make his second All-Star team, win a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award and finish 21st overall in AL MVP voting.
It is worth noting that 'Tek had not previously, or since, won another Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award.
8. April 4, 2001 vs. Baltimore
In just the third game of the 2001 season, the Red Sox (1-1) would face the Baltimore Orioles (also, 1-1) in a matchup between the Red Sox Hideo Nomo and the Orioles' Sidney Ponson.
Varitek would be calling the pitches for a complete game no-hitter from Nomo, where the pitcher would strike out 11 Orioles and walk only three, while throwing 110 pitches.
Though Nomo would finish the season with a 13-10 record with a 4.50 ERA and 1.348 WHIP, on this day in Baltimore, Varitek would see to it that Nomo's ERA was a perfect 0.00 to start the season.
7. April 27, 2002 vs. Tampa Bay
It seems only fitting that the man Varitek came over from Seattle with also be a man he catches a no-hitter for. It was Tek's second, the Red Sox 17th and Derek Lowe's first.
Lowe would throw 97 pitches on the day, walking one batter and striking out six.
This would mark the second no-hitter that Jason Varitek would call for, just slightly over a year after his first one.
6. September 1, 2007 vs. Baltimore
Though just his second Major League start, Clay Buchholz would put together his most memorable pitching performance, throwing a no-hitter.
Buchholz would allow just three walks and rack up nine strikeouts in 115 pitches.
To Jason Varitek, this is just becoming old news. After calling his third no-hitter, Varitek would join the ranks of 15 other catchers in baseball history, the likes of which included players like Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella, to name a couple.
Forty-three other catchers have caught two no-hitters, while 132 other catchers have caught a single no-hitter.
5. May 19, 2008 vs. Kansas City
All of a sudden, Jason Varitek stands alone.
By calling Jon Lester's no-hitter on May 19, 2008, Varitek would become the only catcher in MLB history to have caught four no-hitters in a career.
Lester would walk just two batters and strike out nine, on 130 pitches, the highest pitch count of any of Tek's no-hitters.
It is worth recapping at this point, but in his four caught no-hitters, the pitchers averaged 113 pitches, two walks and a shade under nine strikeouts per outing.
4. 2007 World Series Champion
October 28, 2007 would mark the second time in four years that the Boston Red Sox would win the World Series.
Needless to say, the "drought" between 2004 and 2007 was a lot easier to take than the previous one of 86 years.
During the 2007 World Series, Varitek caught all four games. At the plate, he wound up going 5-for-15 with a double, two runs scored and five RBI. Though he did lead the team in strikeouts, with five, his offense and game-calling helped the Red Sox to sweep the Colorado Rockies.
3. June 7, 2007: Schilling Shakes off 'Tek
Curt Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter in 2007. Varitek had guided him through the game and the Sox were cruising on this day game in Oakland.
"We get two outs, and I was sure, and I had a plan, and I shook 'Tek off," Schilling said. "And I get a big 'What if?' for the rest of my life."
While it was not the first time during the game that Schilling shook off 'Tek, it was the most memorable. I remember listening to the game in my car on the way home from work, and I recall hearing Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione say, "Schilling shakes off Varitek," leaving me perplexed as to why, with two outs in the ninth, you wouldn't trust your catcher.
Sure enough, Schilling shook off Varitek's signal for a first-pitch slider to the Oakland A's Shannon Stewart and opted instead for a fastball. Stewart hit the pitch cleanly into right field for a single.
Varitek had called for first-pitch fastballs to both previous Oakland batters, Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall.
It was a hell of a called game, and an absolute shame to lose the no-no with two down in the ninth.
2. July 29, 2004
You knew this was coming up on the list.
In a game that widely could be considered a turning point for the 2004 Boston Red Sox, their catcher took matters into his own hands against Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
A fight broke out between the two clubs, after Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch. A-Rod took exception to it and started to mouth off to Arroyo while heading to first.
Varitek stepped in between Rodriguez and Arroyo. While A-Rod went on the record to state that Varitek was using language that was "strong and ugly," the two men didn't spend too much time chatting before 'Tek gave A-Rod the old "How's ya father?" by way of a catcher's mitt to the face.
Red Sox Nation cheered. Yankees called foul. Sox fans cheered louder. A captain was born.
1. 2004 World Series Champion
In just four games, the curse was reversed.
While Varitek did not help much offensively, once again, he did start each game of the World Series, and he was a huge contributor to the 2004 team that would end the 86-year drought in Boston.
During the season, 'Tek would bat .296 with a career-high .872 OPS, while driving in 73 RBI and scoring 67 runs.
While his 2004 ALDS against the Anaheim Angels and World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals were less than stellar at the plate, Varitek showed up big time in the seven-game ALCS against the New York Yankees. He would bat .321 with a .926 OPS. He would go 9-for-28 with seven RBI and two home runs.
At the end of the day, while as of late, Jason Varitek is underappreciated, the man has meant a ton to this city and to the game of baseball. He very well could be in Cooperstown one day. It may be time for him to retire, I can't argue that. However, I can say, it will be weird not seeing number 33 take the field in 2012.
Who knows? Maybe we'll see 33 joining the likes of Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk some day.