Jason Varitek remembered fondly as the man who ‘beat up Alex’
Jason Varitek is set to announce his retirement today, capping a 15-year career with the Red Sox that has made him a local legend in Boston. A career .256 hitter, Varitek will retire with all right offensive numbers, but his legacy will be more about the identity of toughness he brought the Sox rather than any impressive statistics. He never hit better than .300 in a season, coming closest in 2004 with a .296 average during Boston’s curse-breaking World Series run. He earned the captain’s ‘C’ by leading by example and handling the Boston pitching staff through one of it’s most successful runs in history. As new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine puts it, though, his most lasting legacy may be hitting Alex Rodriguez in the face.
“From afar, he was everything you want a guy who wears a ‘C’ to be…He was a man’s man, he was a big hitter when needed, he was the leader of the pitching staff. (Pause) He was able to beat up Alex, all that stuff. H was exactly what he was supposed to be.”
On July 24, 2004, the Boston Red Sox were hosting the New York Yankees. Things got heated and Varitek ended up pushing Alex Rodriguez in the face (pictured above) with his catcher’s mitt and bare hand, starting a benches clearing brawl and sparked a Red Sox rally 11-10. Boston rallied in the ninth inning of that game, scoring three runs off Yanks closer Mariano Rivera. This would prove to be a bit of foreshadowing as the Red Sox would later rally from a 0-3 hole in the ALCS against the very same Yankees using a tough, never-say-die mentality personified by their captain.
Jared Saltalmacchia will take over as the man behind the plate for Boston in 2012, and he’s made sure to soak up Varitek’s lessons like a sponge during his time with the Red Sox. Many project he’ll be able to fill in adequately and replace any lost production at the plate and defensively, where he has worked to improve since learning under Varitek, but it remains to be seen who will fill the leadership void once the captain hangs it up.