A July 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal defined "glue guys" as "the players whose oft-overlooked performance quietly holds teams together — and without which, presumably, the team would fall apart."
Not every team in baseball has a glue guy, but most of the good ones do. The great teams have multiple glue guys. The Yankees have Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. The Phillies have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
The Red Sox are also fortunate enough to have two glue guys — Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. They may not be stars like Jeter, Howard or Utley, and they may not even see regular playing time this season, but their leadership will go a long way in determining how much success the Sox have in 2010.
Besides just being good guys to have around the clubhouse, the biggest way Varitek and Wakefield will help the Red Sox is by showing the rest of the club what it means to be a team player. They'll do whatever it takes to help the team win, and they won't complain about their personal playing time.
Why? Neither guy is interested in playing anywhere other than Boston or in wearing anything other than a Red Sox jersey.
If they did, they probably wouldn't be here right now. The Red Sox declined a $5 million club option on Varitek, and general manager Theo Epstein made it clear that he expects Victor Martinez to be the everyday catcher.
Yet, Varitek, 37, still decided to pick up his $3-million player option and return to Boston rather than seek more money and a chance at a starting job somewhere else.
Wakefield, 43, let it be known long ago that he planned to finish his career in Boston when he agreed to a $4 million, one-year rolling contract that gave the Red Sox the option to bring him back every season until he retired.
This offseason, however, he agreed to take a pay cut, signing a $5 million, two-year deal. Epstein told The Boston Globe the deal gives the club "a little more payroll flexibility than picking up the option." Again, Wake did what he could to help the team in any way possible.
So, Varitek and Wakefield want to be here and they're willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better. But what exactly will their roles be?
Varitek, who has captained the Red Sox for the last five seasons, will be the backup catcher. That seems all but set in stone. Besides catching every fifth day or so, Varitek will continue to work with the team's young pitchers and will continue to mentor Martinez.
Phrases like "calls a good game" and "handles a pitching staff well" have almost become cliché when talking about Varitek, but those qualities are hard to overlook when coaches and pitchers alike continue to praise his prowess.
Although he may not be calling as many games behind the plate this season, he can still help prepare the staff for each day's opponent and he can help teach Martinez how to make better in-game decisions. You'll see a lot of cutaways of Varitek talking to Martinez in the dugout between innings.
Wakefield, on the other hand, will have a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation during spring training. With Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester locked into the top three spots, Wakefield, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka will be left to battle for the final two positions.
If the 15-year Red Sox veteran doesn't get one of those spots, though, Wakefield has had no qualms about pitching out of the bullpen in the past. From 1999 to 2002, he made more appearances as a reliever than a starter. In 1999, he even racked up 15 saves.
The knuckleballer will also set a great example off the field, as evidenced by his seven nominations for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the player who best demonstrates "the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the values of helping others."
Varitek and Wakefield may not put up huge numbers this season, and they may not garner much national attention. But these glue guys will definitely play a big role in bringing and holding this year's Red Sox team together.
NESN.com will be answering one Red Sox question every day through Feb. 23.
Sunday, Feb. 14: Will Clay Buchholz stay on his upward trajectory?
Tuesday, Feb. 16: Who will be Boston's fourth outfielder?
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