Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hanging Them Up

Today yet another longtime Red Sox announced that his playing days are over. Jason Varitek joined Tim Wakefield on the list of “former Red Sox players.” It’ll be the fist time since 1997 that the Sox will open the season without both of them on the roster. That’s pretty amazing, really.

Not that this was really a surprise. Varitek’s roll has been diminishing quite a bit in recent years. He went from full-time starter, to splitting time with Victor Martinez, to losing the starting job to Jarred Saltalamacchia. There was really no place for him on the 2012 roster. Rather than go to another team, he decided to hang them up. I think it was a great call.

I don’t pretend to know the minds of major league ballplayers. I don’t know how their thoughts and desires go. I can only look from the outside and imagine what I would be thinking. Varitek thinks he can still play. He’s probably right. I have no doubt that any number of teams would want him on their roster. He needed to decide if it’s worth it. Is being exclusively a Red Sox something that’s important to him? It looks like it is. It sounds like a lot of players who are known for one team seem to regret holding onto that one last year. It tarnishes their legacy a bit, without much gain. Dwight Evans has said he wished he hadn’t gone to the Orioles. Did it diminish his legacy in Boston? Maybe barely. If nothing else, when he’s announced at special events, they have to say he played his entire career in Boston…except for those 101 games at the end. Does that matter? I dunno. But, I would think it’s a nice feature to be able to hold onto. A legacy with one team, one city, and one fan base. I think that’s a nice thing.

But, it’s tough to give up playing. I think it was Wayne Gretzky who corrected someone who said he was retiring after playing for so many years. It wasn’t 20 years of hockey he was giving up. He’d been playing hockey since he was 3. And, that’s what it is. Jason Varitek isn’t giving up on 13 years of playing baseball. He’s giving up on, what, 33? He’s been playing baseball at the highest level available since at least Little League, when he made it to the world series. Now, will he ever pick up a bat again? In an old-timers game? Red Sox fantasy camp? That’s not exactly the same thing. So, it’s over. That’s not easy.

So, it was a tough call. He decided to retire as a Red Sox player. He’s a mainstay of the organization. He can make a nice little niche for himself if he wants. It leaves a lot of options for him. There are plenty of people who will want to thank and celebrate him in the years to come. Starting now.

Thank you Jason Varitek!

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