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A Farewell (To 2009?) For the Captain

10.05.09 at 3:46 am ET

Jason Varitek‘€™s season had its moments, foremost in the first couple of months of the season, when he every time he connected with the ball it seemed to jump as if struck by a sledgehammer. But his performance waned as the season progressed, and so when Victor Martinez brought thump back to the catching position, Varitek saw his job description narrow.

Varitek’€™s playing time diminished, as the Sox worked to develop a rapport between Martinez and each of the four postseason starters. But the 37-year-old, who before this season signed a one-year, $5 million deal that came with a $5 million team option and a $3 million player option for the 2010 season, never made an issue of his decreased playing time.

‘€œJason Varitek has had a reduced role. He’€™s the captain of our team,’€ said Francona. ‘€œThere hasn’€™t been one instance where Tek has done anything except try to help make our team better.’€

As such, Francona felt compelled to give Varitek a moment to take a bow in Sunday’€™s season finale. After Clay Buchholz (who was working with Martinez) left the game, Varitek entered to work the middle innings. With one out in the top of the eighth, Dusty Brown entered the contest so that Varitek could leave the field to an ovation from the Fenway crowd.

Clearly, the ovation was about more than Varitek’€™s .209 average, .312 OBP and .703 OPS in 2009. Varitek received a salute from the crowd for his 1,439 games with the Red Sox, for the two World Series teams on which he was the defining clubhouse presence, and a career in which he has been focused solely on the betterment of his team, even if it came at the expense of personal goals.

Varitek expressed appreciation for the treatment, even if it might him slightly sheepish.

‘€œI get kind of embarrassed,’€ said Varitek. ‘€œIt was kind of a blur for me. I got caught kind of off guard. ‘€¦ I’€™ve been here a long time. I definitely appreciate it.’€

Of course, there is a chance that Sunday represented the final opportunity for Fenway Park to salute Varitek as a member of the Red Sox. Assuming that the Sox do not exercise their team option, it is conceivable that Varitek could decline the player option to seek a larger opportunity elsewhere, or that he could simply call it quits.

Right now, such scenarios are purely speculative. Varitek suggests that it would be inappropriate for him to discuss the 2010 season so long as his team is competing for a championship.

‘€œThat’€™s not a fair question to ask right now,’€ Varitek said of his plans for 2010. ‘€œWe’€™ve got the playoffs to think of.’€

Nonetheless, on Sunday, just in case 2009 becomes Varitek’€™s swan song with the Sox, it seemed an appropriate moment for the longtime backbone of the Sox to receive his due.

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