In his 15 years in a Red Sox uniform, Jason Varitek has earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as players such as Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky and Jim Rice when discussing team legends. Winning two World Series, being behind the plate for four no-hitters and catching the most games in Red Sox history can do that.
However, despite being admired by fans and taking on a leadership role on the field, the Red Sox captain falls short in another conversation: The Hall of Fame debate.
Varitek will not get the call to be immortalized in Cooperstown due to his average offensive production. When it comes to Hall of Fame voting, position players are judged more for their skills at the plate than in the field, and compared to the 13 catchers currently in the Hall of Fame, Varitek ranks toward the bottom in every major offensive category including second to last in on-base percentage and third to last in slugging percentage. His 1,307 career hits also place him third to last, slightly ahead of slugger Roy Campanella, but the Dodgers catcher played five fewer seasons than Varitek while placing ahead of him in every major offensive category except runs. The advantage is small in that category, with Varitek leading 664-627.
Among Hall of Fame backstops, Varitek would place second to last in career batting average at .256, ahead of only Ray Schalk, who hit .253 while playing three more seasons than Varitek. Varitek never hit more than 25 home runs, drove in more than 100 runs or hit .300 in a season. Excluding Schalk, each of these 13 catchers accomplished at least one of those feats at least once in their careers.
One of the biggest threats to Varitek's offensive production was his high strikeout rate. In 5,099 career at-bats, Varitek fanned 1,216 times, which calcuates to striking out once in every 4.2 at-bats. Johnny Bench whiffed once in every six at-bats, Fisk in every 6.3 at-bats and Yogi Berra only struck out once every 18 at-bats or so. Varitek would rank last in this category among Hall of Fame catchers.
Fans must keep in mind that the Baseball Writers' Association of America do not vote based on popularity, which is what Red Sox faithful believe Varitek will ride on to the Hall of Fame. NESN.com took a poll in July of 2011 asking whether or not the captain was worthy of enshrinement in the Mecca of baseball, and although the outcome favored Varitek with about 54 percent saying yes, the results are biased.
Jason Varitek had a remarkable career with the Red Sox, and nothing should be taken away from what he accomplished. Varitek has an impressive resume that makes him one of the all-time greats in team history. Will he be enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame? Yes. Will ownership give him special treatment as they did for Johnny Pesky to retire No. 33 based on loyalty and popularity? Probably. But will Varitek become one of the baseball elites with his own plaque hanging in Cooperstown? That topic is up for debate, but his offensive statistics show he'll likely fall short of entering the Baseball Hall of Fame.