When Should A Good Player Retire?

Paul StevensContributor IFebruary 9, 2009

It is always hard for a player to admit that it might be time to retire.

No one wants to admit that they are coming to the end of their playing days. Sometimes, the mind is still fresh and the knowledge and experience is still at full throttle. The body on the other hand, is just not as reactive as it used to be.

I am not saying that Jason Varitek is done as a player. Yet, history proves that the game of baseball is very humbling, especially for a catcher.

As Red Sox fans, we will always have the best of memories of the Sox captain. We owe him a great deal. He has had many clutch hits, played well defensively and no one calls a game any better than he does.

It is painful to see the best of players get older and sometimes play too long. One thing we do not want to do is to watch fans get tired of this Sox hero.

So the question arises: When is the right time for a player to call it quits?

I remember watching John Havlicek play for the Celtics. He had a career that very few could ever match. He has scored more points in Celtic history than any other player.

When he decided to retire, he was still able to score with the best of them. Everyone was saddened to watch him go. He left the game with the fans desiring to see more.

Carl Yastrzemski was one of my favorite heroes of all time, playing for the Red Sox. No one was more clutch than Yaz. He played the green monster with grace, holding many hits to a single. He hustled on every play.

One day, he was rounding second and heading for third. He fell to the ground two-thirds of the way, got up, and stumbled again. It was his last year playing.

His mind was still great, but his body was getting too old to play, and he knew it. He had a good year for most players, but it was not a typical year for him. When he retired and took his last trip around Fenway, there was hardly a dry eye in the place.

We all knew it was the right thing to do, but he left as a favorite giving us a lot of great memories.

The Iron Man: Cal Ripken, of the Baltimore Orioles was another great example of a player that knew his time was coming to an end.

I interviewed him many times and I remember him telling me that he knew his body well. It was telling him it had enough. He too, had a pretty decent year to end his career with. No one was anxious for him to leave.

So, here we are with a player that most fans would agree has done a lot for the Boston Red Sox. He has caught three no-hitters. His knowledge of the game has been passed along to some young pitchers, as well as veterans that have shown the deepest respect for him as a catcher.

He has given us his very best. His mind is telling him that he can still do it, but his body's reaction to a fastball is telling all of us that he has seen his better days.

Can he still be productive as an everyday player? Maybe. Truthfully though, he might be better as a mentor for younger catchers.

I would hate to see our captain get booed by the fans because he just can't provide what is needed in a game. He is too good for that. It would be horrible to see him go from such greatness to a proud man that cannot admit he would be more valuable watching than playing.

There is not much for catchers available at this time. He is probably the best option Sox have this year. I just hope we remember him for the best of times.

May it not get so bad that someone needs to say, "you really need to retire."

Good luck Jason and thank you for coming back. If you play, you belong in a Red Sox uniform. May you have a great year. If not, hold your head up high, but please do not wait until it is beyond your productive playing days to realize that it is over.

You mean way too much to the Red Sox Nation. We all will be cheering you every step of the way.