There is no doubt that Jason Varitek deserves his place in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
No doubt at all, if you for a second doubt it you’re wrong and I automatically hate you.
That said, does Jason Varitek belong in the baseball Hall of Fame? It’s an interesting question and one that may, or may not, be worth debating. There is no doubt that in his day Tek was an elite catcher and a solid hitter. He won the GG once, the SS once, and was a three-time all star in 16 seasons with the Sox while winning two World Series rings.
Oh and he caught four no hitters (ties a MLB record).
But is it enough to make it to the Hall of Fame?
Tek boasts a meager .256 career batting average and 193 home runs. His best seasons came in the meat of his prime from 2001-2005 where he averaged a line of .279/.360/.468 along with 19 homers and 72 RBI’s per season. Unfortunately for Tek, 2006 onward signaled a steep dropoff as his mid-late 30s proved tough on him offensively, and defensively; from 2006-2011 Tek hit just .230 while averaging 12 homers per season and 45 RBI’s.
Those are tough numbers to swallow as Tek seemed to be a true star from the outset of his career and turned into an automatic out at the plate who, after playing just 68 games in 2011 at the age of 39, bowed out gracefully.
Of the 217 MLB players enshrined in Cooperstown only 14 played behind the dish.
- Carlton Fisk .269/.341/.457; 376 career HR; 11 AS, 1 GG, 3 SS.
- Johnny Bench 17 seasons .267/.342/..476; 389 career HR; 14 AS, 10 GG, 2 MVP.
- Yogi Berra 19 seasons .285/.348/.482; 358 career HR; 15 AS, 3 MVP.
- Roger Bresnahan* 17 seasons .279/.386/.377; 26 career HR.
- Roy Campanella 10 seasons .276/.360/.500; 242 career HR; 8 AS, 3 MVP.
- Gary Carter 19 seasons .262/.335/.439; 324 career HR; 11 AS, 3 GG, 5 SS.
- Mickey Cochrane 13 seasons .320/.419/.478; 119 career HR; 2 AS, 2 MVP.
- Bill Dickey 17 seasons .313/.382/.486; 202 career HR; 11 AS
- Buck Ewing* 18 seasons .303/.356/.456; 71 career HR.
- Rick Ferrell 18 seasons .281/.378/.363; 28 career HR; 7 AS.
- Gabby Hartnet 20 seasons .297/.370/.489; 236 career HR; 6 AS, 1 MVP.
- Ernie Lombardi 17 seasons .306/.358/.460; 190 career HR; 7 AS, 1 MVP.
- Ray Schalk* .253/.340/.316; 11 career HR.
- Mike Piazza 16 seasons .308/.377/.545; 427 career HR; 12 AS, 10 SS.
* signals that the player played a majority of his career in either the 1800s/early 1900s where they were in the A) deadball era and B) all the awards we have today and/or All Star appointments weren’t given out
How does Tek stack up against those?
Now, Tek was one of the few from that list who played his entire career behind the plate, many moved on to first base to lengthen their careers. That’s the catch though; Tek only played 16 seasons.
Suppose Varitek played 18-20 seasons, kept his career average (or maybe even upped it to the .260s) but cranked around 220-250 homers, racked up a few more All Star appointments and maybe an extra Gold Glove award–then he’d make a very good case.
Basically, if Varitek didn’t drop off after 2005, but kept it going; if Tek switched to first base once his career took a nosedive at the plate, then he could be a sure lock for the HOF. Instead, he was our captain, tied a MLB record for no hitters caught, and established a sense of leadership and guidance behind the plate and the move to first was out of the question. He wasn’t the best catcher in the MLB every season, but he was our best catcher. He was our leader, the man commanding our team through two World Series wins and numerous playoff appearances which provides a great deal of intangibles to back his case.
The HOF isn’t about “ifs” and though intangibles help, it has a lot to do with what you did in your career and left the MLB with and frankly Varitek was a great catcher at times, but I’m not entirely sure if he’s a lock for Cooperstown. If he does make it, it will require a fair amount of generosity from the BBWAA along with plenty of nastolgia.