Last year I compared the Red Sox’ backstop to an oven-browned piece of bread. It wasn’t received entirely well. One commenter even used the dreaded "for shame" quip in taking me to task for my concise critique of our contracted catcher. As it turns out, my observations (of a player who, it must be noted, is one of my favorites) weren’t too far off, and Varitek skidded to a .238 average, .325 OBP, 87Ks in under 400 ABs. This isn’t an "I told you so", since I take no great pleasure in observing that 2006 was clearly a low point in Varitek’s career.
Returning to Fort Myers, we heard about what great shape Varitek was in, his health returned, his tank refilled. But this spring training the Captain has done very little to dispel fears of his waning skills, despite this supposedly rediscovered health. A .108 batting average. A .189 slugging percentage. One (yes, that’s right, ONE) extra base hit, a home run last week. So following up on last year’s dreadful campaign, a key player of the Sox enters the season with massive question marks. Say what you will about the unknown performances of Daisuke Matsuzaka and JD Drew in their new league or the unknown healthfulness of Jonathan Papelbon: my own biggest query rests with the captain of the team: will the 2002-5 Jason Varitek ever return, or are we in fact witnessing the steep and irreversible decline of a career, right before our eyes?