At some point, Jason Varitek's catching days are going to come to an end.
That end could come very soon, as well it should. Varitek has been a rock for the Boston Red Sox ever since the late 1990s, but he's going to turn 40 in April and he just isn't capable of that much anymore.
As it is, Varitek is a free agent, and the Red Sox don't have to bring him back if they don't want to, no matter how weird it would be to see a Red Sox team without Varitek on the roster.
Oddly enough, it sounds like Sox GM Ben Cherington doesn't quite know what to do, either. Here's what he said on WEEI radio on Thursday:
As far as Tek is concerned, we have incredible respect for Tek. I have incredible respect on a personal level. We, as an organization including ownership, have incredible respect for him and the contributions he's made. Our hope is that Tek will always be a part of the Red Sox in some way. As far as what that means immediately, what we want to do is keep talking to Tek and not discuss that in a public forum, but continue talking to Tek and [Boras] and figure out what’s best for the Red Sox and what’s best for him.
There's not much here in terms of what Cherington wants to do with Varitek. Indeed, the passage about Varitek being involved with the organization "in some way" is a little cryptic.
Personally, I like the way Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk translated Cherington's words: "I take that as code for 'if you wanna play baseball still you can go someplace and try it, but we’d really love to keep you around in a front office or coaching job or something if, like us, you come to realize that you really don’t have much of a future left as a player.'"
That was the gist I got too, though I don't think I could have put it so eloquently.
I will gladly piggy-back on the notion, though. Varitek doesn't have much to offer as a player anymore, but he has a ton to offer as a coach or scout or whatever. He has baseball knowledge coming out of his ears.
Methinks Varitek would work best as a coach. He just has the swagger of a guy who must be down on the field at all times, chewing sunflower seeds and telling the youngsters how it's done. He's also a natural leader, a trait reflected by the "C" he's worn on his uniform ever since the 2004 offseason.
In many respects, I find Varitek to be similar to current New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, though probably a little less intense. Like Girardi, Varitek was never really a superstar player, but he's always been widely respected around the game, and is universally praised for the way he's gone about his business.
It's high time these qualities were put to better use. After all, it's not like Varitek can catch full time, and he has virtually no bat speed left. Anything over 90 miles per hour is too much for him to handle.
This transition is such a no-brainer that the only thing that can stop it from happening is stubbornness on Varitek's part. He needs to see the writing on the wall, and accept the reality of the situation.
If he does that and stays on with the Red Sox in some other role, everyone will be happy.