In December of 2004, Red Sox veteran catcher Jason Varitek was named the Red Sox's team captain, the first captain since outfielder Jim Rice in the 1980's. However, fast-forward to 2010 and the 37-year old is now the back-up to Victor Martinez.
What has happened to Varitek in a period of six years? Could it involve off-field issues, such as the 2009 divorce between him and wife Karen? Is it simply old age? Whatever the answer, one only has to look to Varitek's stats to understand the magnitude of his rapid decline.
In 2004, Varitek batted .296 with 73 RBI's. His batting average plummeted 87-points in 2009 when he batted .209. Following the All-Star break last year, the veteran could only muster a batting average of .157, a shocking stat considering that this man not too long ago helped lead Boston to two world championships in 2004 and 2007.
Jason Varitek has still contributed to the team with his work with the pitching staff, an impact that cannot be understated. With the captain behind the plate last season, Red Sox pitchers had an ERA of 3.87. When Victor Martinez started at catcher, the pitching staff's ERA swelled to 5.11.
However, Varitek's strong arm has also become a thing of the past. Last season, he could only throw out 16 of 124 base-runners, which adds up to just a 13% percentage. Six of those throws were caught by pitchers, according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes.
The fact that Varitek was signed by the team for another year isn't entirely truthful. The Red Sox didn't extend the catcher's tenure in the Hub, declining his $5 million option this off-season. However, Varitek exercised a $3 million player's option.
The fact that Varitek will play back-up to Victor Martinez isn't up for debate. Manager Terry Francona has already said that the veteran will not be Boston's everyday starter this season. However, he can still contribute against left-handed pitchers, batting relatively well from the left-hand side of the plate.
Can anyone explain the demise of Jason Varitek, who is the only Boston player to catch 1,000 games for the Sox? Probably not. Will Varitek wear a Boston uniform in 2011? You can probably vote "Nay" to that question.
No one can underestimate Varitek's contributions to the Red Sox over the past decade. That is a fact. Unfortunately, it is also true that nobody can question the fact that Varitek's skills have severely declined in the last few years.