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Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek

Position(s):
C, DH
Nicknames:
Tek
Born:
April 11, 1972
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
230 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-24-1997 with BOS
Allstar Selections:
2005 GG, 2005 SS

Intro

A blue-chip collegiate player, Jason Varitek was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 14th pick in the 1994 draft. After a few years in the minors, he was dealt to the Red Sox along with pitcher Derek Lowe in 1997 for Heathcliff Slocumb. By the next season, Varitek was splitting time at catcher for the Red Sox, and in 1999 he hit 20 homers as he assumed the starting role behind the plate. A switch-hitter, Varitek topped the 20-homer mark again in 2003 and 2005, but most importantly, he emerged as the team leader in Boston. His take-charge attitude and gritty performance behind the mask endeared him to Red Sox Nation.

Unform Number

#47 (1997-1999), #33 (1999-)

Best Season

Varitek batted a career-best .296 with 18 homers and 73 RBI. His real value, however, came from his on-field leadership. In July, in a game against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Varitek confronted Alex Rodriguez, shoving his catchers' mitt into the slugger's face as he came out of the batter's box shouting at Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Both benches cleared, and the Sox came back to win a dramatic 9-8 victory. After the contest, Boston posted the best record in the American League, and despite losing the division title to the Yanks, they defeated them in the LCS and won their first World Series title in 86 years. Varitek belted a pair of homers against the Yankees in the playoffs.

Factoid 1

As a 12-year old, Jason Varitek played in the Little League Championship game. His team, from Altamonte Springs, FL, lost to Seoul, Korea.

Factoid 2

Jason Varitek caught a record four no-hit games, all with the Red Sox: Hideo Nomo in 2001, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007, and Jon Lester in 2008.

Transition

June 3, 1993: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round (21st pick) of the 1993 amateur draft, but did not sign. June 2, 1994: Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 1st round (14th pick) of the 1994 amateur draft. Player signed April 20, 1995. July 31, 1997: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Derek Lowe to the Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb. This trade, given the title that followed seven years later, has to go down as one of the best in Red Sox history. Both Lowe and Varitek were key factors in the Sox success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Interestingly, they were both born in Michigan. November 1, 2004: Granted Free Agency. December 24, 2004: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

Strengths

Calling a game. Here's a quote from Curt Schilling after he pitched to Varitek for the first time in April of 2004: "I know offensively he was the star of the game. But the game he called, I probably shook him off three times tonight. Once he wouldn't let me shake him off, but that was his game. We talked the last five days about how I thought things were going and it was good dialogue and it showed tonight results-wise. That's probably why he's probably as good as there is back there calling a game."

Weaknesses

Through 2005, Varitek had hit .237 with a .386 slugging percentage in Sep/Oct of the regular season during his career. In fairness, many catchers wear down as the season grinds on, but the numbers are weak.

Feats

On May 20, 2001, in Kansas City, Varitek belted three homers and drove in seven runs against the Royals... On April 22, 2007, Varitek hit the fourth of four straight homers off Chase Wright of the Yankees.

Jason vs. Jorgie

Born eight months apart in 1971-1972, Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek traveled vastly different paths to the big leagues, but they ended up battling each other in many of the most dramatic games in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, both wearing the tools of ignorance as switch-hitting All-Star catchers. Fans of both teams have debated the merits of Varitek and Posada since 1999, when Jason took over the starting job for the Sox. That season, Varitek hit 20 homers and posted .269/.482/.330, while Posada went .245/.401/.341 with 12 dingers in the pinstripes. But Jorge's Yankees won their second straight World Series, while Varitek's Sox finished four games behind. Starting in 2000, Posada posted better power numbers: slugging 28, 22, 20, 30, and 21 homers through 2004. Varitek was less consistent, going 10, 7 (injury-year), 10, 25, and 18. Playing a few more games each season, Posada also drove in more runs, topping out at 101 in 2003, when he finished third in AL MVP voting. Varitek received a few MVP votes in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Finally, in 2004, Varitek's team vanquished the Yankees in the playoffs, and his "in-your-face" confrontation with Alex Rodriguez in July was a pivotal point in Boston's season. Still, Posada owns more rings: four to one. Defensively, Varitek is universally considered to be the better catcher. However, Posada is no slouch. Though he's not known for his plate-blocking (Varitek is legendary at this facet of the game), Posada has a strong and accurate arm, and has done an admirable job catching a myriad of different pitchers in his years with the Bombers. Yet, behind Ivan Rodriguez, Varitek was the best overall defensive receiver in the AL, and in 2005, he finally snatched the Gold Glove from Pudge. Given the intangibles (Varitek is the captain and emotional field leader of the Sox), Varitek draws closer in comparison to Posada, who has been a superior offensive force during his career. Now 33 years old, an age when catchers start to rapidly decline, both Posada and Varitek's best seasons are behind them. But given Posada's diving SLG percentage in 2004-2005 (.481, .430), while Varitek continues to take advantage of Fenway Park (.482, .489 during the same span), Jason might post better numbers in the final phase of his career.

Notes

At Georgia Tech in 1994, Varitek won the Dick Howser Trophy, the Golden Spikes Award, and the Rotary Smith Award, as the outstanding collegiate player in the nation. His #33 is retired by Georgia Tech... He hit 57 homers at Georgia Tech, a school record.

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Tagged:
2004 World Series, 2007 World Series, Boston Red Sox, Gold Glove, Jason Varitek, Seattle Mariners, Silver Slugger Award

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