The year Jason Varitek first played for the Red Sox, Bill Clinton was sworn in for his second term.
The first color photograph appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Steve Jobs returned to a badly struggling Apple. I connected to the Internet via dial-up modem.
Since then, Jason Varitek has hit 186 homers for the Red Sox, 11 of which came in the postseason. He has crossed home plate 651 times, and has driven in 738 runs.
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In 1,439 regular-season games, he has 5,466 plate appearances, which have resulted in 1,232 hits, 1,114 strikeouts and 583 walks. He’s been hit by a pitch 57 times. And it may surprise you to learn that he’s only grounded into 124 double plays. He has caught more games than any other Red Sox player, ever.
Along the way, he became The Captain, commanding the faith of fans and pitchers alike. His preparation and game-calling skills became so legendary that he had to tell the rookies it was OK to shake him off sometimes — even if they were only pretending, to mess with the hitters.
Then … life happened. Age happened. Some of the snarkier, more statistically-minded writers started calling him “Captain Intangibles” and wondered if pitchers wouldn’t be happier getting their signals relayed from the dugout to a catcher who could hit his weight.
Bill Clinton is now the husband of the Secretary of State. I downloaded the Times app to Steve Jobs’ iPhone and don’t have a landline anymore. In 12 years, the Red Sox have paid Jason Varitek more than $60 million. This winter, they declined to pay him $5 million more — so he exercised his $3 million player option. That’s surprising for a player represented by Scott Boras, who always loves to test the market, but $3 million may still be better than he could have commanded elsewhere. After all, Victor Martinez’s bat was worth 13 runs to Boston’s offense, according to Fangraphs, even though he was only with the team for half a season. Over a whole season with the team, Varitek’s offense wasn’t even close.
It’s hard to imagine Jason Varitek playing for, say, the Pirates, and without that C on his chest. It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox without him. And for at least one more season, we won’t have to.
But for the 37-year old catcher and the fans who still love him, the future’s getting awfully close.
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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