The Sox’ announcement that they’ve signed prodigal son Kelly Shoppach to a one-year deal seems to indicate the end of the Jason Varitek era in Boston. As you might expect, it’s a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, over the last couple of years, nothing filled me with more dread and remorse than the sight of Tek with a bat in his hand, strolling toward the plate. Although I’m sure the actual numbers will prove me wrong, it seemed to my untrained eye that the Cap’n grounded into roughly 284 double-plays per game, and he was almost unparalleled in his ability to snuff out a rally. He didn’t do much for me behind the plate either, as opposing runners got their Jessie Owens on with wild abandon.
But in his heyday, before age and crouching and the delirium that likely comes from working alongside Doug Mirabelli for an extended period of time took their toll, Tek was Red Sox Nation’s resident Jedi knight: tough as nails and ready to throw down to protect his teammates as necessary, but also filled with knowledge and seasoned insight that made him “The Pitcher’s Catcher.” He made our pitching staff even better, they’d tell us, as they pulled at their lapels and strutted out to their limousines. And they may have been right.
All I know is that in July of 2004, Tek fed his glove to A-Rod and the Red Sox never really looked back. It was an iconic moment, an image that became the 2004 team’s mission statement in many ways, and it cemented the catcher’s place in Red Sox lore.
If this is the end, I’ll miss the guy’s stand-up-itude; his unwavering commitment to truth, justice and the American Way; and, of course, that squeaky-ass voice that just didn’t seem to match up with his hulking body.