Tag: Tim Wakefield

Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek joins Tim Wakefield in calling it a career


Among active teammates, only the Yankees’ trio of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada had been together longer than Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Now Varitek has joined Posada, the catcher he was so often compared to as part of the New York-Boston rivalry, and Wakefield in retirement.

Had Varitek played anywhere other than Boston or New York, he would have spent his career as an underrated player, a first-rate catcher without the eye-popping numbers that would have warranted a lot of attention. He never hit .300 or drove in 100 runs. He didn’t even become a regular until age 27.

In Boston, though, Varitek was “The Captain,” complete with the “C” on his chest. The guy who got into the fight with Alex Rodriguez. A key component on two World Series championship teams.

That reputation shouldn’t get Varitek anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but it’s worth remembering just how good he was at his peak. From 2003-05, he hit .283/.369/.494 with 65 homers and 228 RBIs. Among catchers, only Javy Lopez and Posada (with the same .863 OPS) were better offensively during that span, and Varitek had the best glove of that trio.

Alas, Varitek fell off pretty quickly from there, though it’s worth noting that he played quite a bit better as a backup the last two seasons than he did as a regular in 2008-09. Even at 40, he still projected as one of the game’s better offensive backups. Unfortunately, his arm has deteriorated to the point at which he just can’t stop anyone on the basepaths. That’s why there was no demand for his services over the winter.

Varitek finishes his career at .256/.341/.435 with 193 homers and 757 RBI. Among guys who played at least 80 percent of their games at catcher, Varitek ranks 16th in homers, 21st in RBI and 23rd in OPS (Posada, in comparison, ranks eighth, 10th and seventh in those categories).

Varitek also hit .237/.292/.452 with 11 homers and 33 RB in 63 postseason games. Looking at those who played exclusviely for the Red Sox, only Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Jim Rice had longer careers.

Jason Varitek is leaning toward retirement

varitek ap wide

Tim Wakefield just officially announced his retirement and it appears as though his longtime teammate Jason Varitek is finally close to making a decision about his future.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe was told by a friend of Varitek as the Wakefield presser that the veteran backstop is leaning toward retirement.

Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras, told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald earlier today that his client has “not made any decisions yet” about his plans for this season. Still, with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington saying earlier this evening that he doesn’t anticipate making any additions prior to the start of camp, all signs are pointing in the direction of retirement.

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, batted .221/.300/.423 with 11 home runs, 36 RBI and a .723 OPS over 68 games last season. The three-time All-Star owns a .256/.341/.435 lifetime batting line over major league 15 seasons to go along with 193 career home runs and 757 RBI.

Will Jason Varitek follow Tim Wakefield into retirement?

Jason Varitek Tim Wakefield Getty

Boston offered minor-league contracts and spring training invitations to both Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Wakefield opted against battling for a roster spot at age 45, announcing his retirement today, but the 40-year-old Varitek is apparently still trying to make up his mind.

Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras, told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that the catcher has “not made any decisions yet” about his plans for 2012.

By signing Kelly Shoppach to back up Jarrod Saltamacchia the Red Sox are seemingly set at catcher and Varitek wasn’t linked to many other teams during the offseason. It’s possible he could draw interest from teams if a starting catcher goes down with a spring training injury, but Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall are also available if veteran-ness is the only qualification needed.

Varitek hit .221 with a .300 on-base percentage and .423 slugging percentage in 250 plate appearances last season, which is actually above-average production for a catcher, but it’s tough to live with his defense at this point. He threw out a measly 14 percent of steal attempts last season.

Tim Wakefield ranks with Red Sox legends

Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield would never be quite so good again.

He debuted with the Red Sox on May 27, 1995, pitching seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Angels. Three days later, he used his knuckler to shut out the A’s for 7 1/3 innings in a win. Five days after that, he allowed an unearned run over 10 innings in a win over the Mariners. His incredible run concluded on June 9, with a three-hitter in another win over Oakland.

Wakefield started his Red Sox career 4-0 with a 0.54 ERA. He ended up being the biggest reason the 1995 Red Sox won the AL East (the last time they’d do so until 2007), finishing 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA. None of the team’s other starters had an ERA under 4.00.

The 45-year-old Wakefield announced his retirement Friday after 19 seasons, the last 17 coming with the Red Sox. Depending on how one wants to look at it, he was the active leader in victories with 200 (Jamie Moyer, who is trying to make a comeback after missing all of 2011, does have more).

It’s true that Wakefield was never again great after 1995. He had a sub-3.00 ERA once more, but that was in a 2002 season in which he made 15 starts and 30 relief appearances. He finished his Red Sox career with a 4.43 ERA in 430 starts and 160 relief appearances. He actually had a better ERA in his two early years with the Pirates.

But Wakefield was a rock, one always willing to do what was asked. He saved 15 games for the club in 1999. That was the first of four straight years in which he never really knew his role. Restored to the rotation on a full-time basis in 2003, he went on to win 63 games over the next five seasons. His ERA was always over 4.00, but that was nothing to be ashamed of during the era. His weakest ERA+ during those years was 100, so he was always a slightly above average starter.

While Wakefield’s numbers are a testament to longevity, his durability and consistency — even with the game’s most inconsistent pitch — played a big role in the team’s ability to contend for postseason berths every year (it also helped a bit that he was always willing to take less money from the Red Sox; Wakefield never earned even $5 million in a season). Wakefield ended up third on Boston’s all-time wins list at 186 and second with 2,046 strikeouts.

Obviously, Wakefield is far from a Hall of Famer. But as a person, he rates right up there. His charity work earned him the Roberto Clemente Award from MLB in 2010.

It used to be that the Red Sox would only retire the numbers of Hall of Famers, but they broke away from that in putting Johnny Pesky’s No. 6 on the wall in 2008. Wakefield’s No. 49 should join it at some point within the next  few years. 17 years of service warrants it.

Tim Wakefield retires after 19 seasons and 200 wins

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox

Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement during a press conference tonight, calling it quits after a 19-season career in which the knuckleballer won 200 games despite not making his big-league debut until age 25.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino revealed last week that the team had offered Wakefield a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, but the 45-year-old right-hander didn’t have an obvious fit on the roster after posting a 5.12 ERA in 155 innings split between the bullpen and rotation last season.

Wakefield pitched 17 of his 19 seasons in Boston after being released by the Pirates in the spring of 1995 and has the third-most wins in Red Sox history behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens, earning $56 million along the way.

He signed a contract extension in 2006 that gave the Red Sox a perpetual team option for $4 million per season, which they picked up three times before negotiating a new deal with a lower annual salary. At the time Wakefield was 39 years old, yet he went on to throw 934 more innings with a 4.74 ERA and made his first All-Star team in 2009 at age 42.

In addition to ranking third among all Red Sox pitchers in wins, Wakefield also ranks first in starts and innings and second in games pitched and strikeouts. Not bad for a guy whose average fastball during the past decade clocked in at 74.1 miles per hour.