By RONALD BLUM AP Sports Writer
The Boston Red Sox are going to need a new captain.
Catcher Jason Varitek has decided to retire after 15 seasons
with the Red Sox, a person familiar with the decision told The
Associated Press on Monday night. The person requested anonymity
because Varitek had not made an announcement.
The Boston Globe first reported Varitek’s decision.
Varitek is expected to make it official Thursday at Boston’s
spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
A first round draft pick in 1994, Varitek came to Boston in a
trade from Seattle in 1997 and spent his entire big league career
with the Red Sox. He caught four no-hitters, made three All-Star
teams won two World Series titles, all the while endearing himself
to the team’s demanding, blue-collar fan base with his unyielding
work ethic and a refusal to back down.
Varitek surpassed Carlton Fisk for most games caught in a Red
Sox uniform back in 2006 and finished with 1,488 games behind the
plate. He has a career average of .256 with 193 home runs and 757
RBIs. His best statistical season came in 2003, when he hit .273
with 25 homers and 85 RBIs, giving the Red Sox the luxury of having
some offensive punch from the catcher position.
But it was always about more than numbers with Varitek.
His icy stare, rugged beard and crew cut hairstyle was the
perfect look for a rag-tag group that helped end decades of
inferiority to the hated Yankees with a magical run to the World
Series title in 2004. He caught no-hitters from Hideo Nomo in 2001,
Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Bucholz in 2007 and Jon Lester in 2008.
He was chosen captain two months after they won the World Series
in ’04, becoming just the third Red Sox captain in since 1923 _
joining Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice and cementing
his status as a cornerstone of the franchise.
“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody in there who has
played with him who says they’re not going to miss him,” Red Sox
ace Josh Beckett said last week when asked about the possibility of
Varitek hanging it up. “If `Tek doesn’t come back, he’s going to
be missed, severely, both in the clubhouse and out in the field.”
The news of his retirement should come as little surprise.
Varitek’s production dipped in recent seasons, and he was
supplanted as the everyday catcher, first by Victor Martinez and
then by Jarrod Saltalamacchia last season. He hit .221 with 11
homers and 36 RBIs in 68 games.
GM Ben Cherington put the writing on the wall when he signed
Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach to one-year deals this winter to
do the catching. As a show of respect for all that Varitek has
accomplished with the franchise, Cherington offered him an
invitation to camp to try and win a job. But the Red Sox had been
practicing for more than a week without him.
“He was one of the greatest players in this organization, in my
opinion,” Shoppach, who got his start in Boston in 2005, said last
week. “I think that everybody learned from him. The brief time
that I was with him years ago, there are still some things that I
do in my everyday routine and my preparation that you know can’t
help but rub off from him.”
It truly is the end of an era for the Red Sox, who also saw
knuckleballer Tim Wakefield retire after 17 seasons with the team
just before spring training started.
AP Baseball Writer Jon Krawczynski in Fort Myers, Fla.,
contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)