Billy Ball: Varitek’s Struggles Continue on Both Sides of Ball


August 16, 2009

Billy Ball: Varitek's Struggles Continue on Both Sides of Ball There is no question that Jason Varitek will be a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Tek may even get a plaque in Cooperstown. But even with Hall of Famers, there reaches a point where it comes time to say goodbye. And we may have reached that point with the Sox captain.

We are past the point where we can consider Tek's struggles at the plate to be an anomaly. From the start of the 2006 season through Sunday, Tek has hit .235 with 55 homers and 211 RBIs.

There are those who would stick up for Tek's struggles at the plate by pointing out that he's made up for it defensively. But after watching the Texas Rangers run like they were wearing those illegal high-tech swimming uniforms, even his defense should be put under the microscope. Including the eight stolen bases Saturday night in Arlington, Varitek has thrown out just 15 of 107 baserunners attempting to steal this season. There's only so much that you can blame on the pitchers when you see those numbers.

Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have won 23 of 30 games. I point that out because I realize that no one Boston player is to blame for the Red Sox falling out of the divisional race. However, over that same span, Tek is hitting .169 with no homers and seven RBIs, with a .225 slugging average and a .280 on-base percentage.

The Sox signed Varitek right before the start of spring training to a one-year, $5 million contract that included options for 2010 — a $5 million option for the Sox or a $3 million player option. They signed him because they had no alternative and they hoped that Varitek might find a fountain of youth.

Early on, with 10 homers combined through April and May, it looked like he might have done just that. But his recent struggles suggest otherwise.

Now the Red Sox have Victor Martinez, and it has become clear that Tek has been no more successful in his quest than Ponce de León. The captain needs to be a part-timer for the rest of this season, and the Sox should pay him the $3 million in 2010 to be a roving instructor working with pitchers and catchers in the majors and minors.

The Red Sox have 11 home games in September, and the Nation should use every one to say goodbye and thank you to one of their greats.

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