There are a number of interesting topics flying past on my RSS reader lately, as the Red Sox off-season gets into full swing, but I'm still stuck on only one: whither Jason Varitek?
I just can't move on to anything else Red Sox-related, apparently, until I know for sure that when he waved and gulped and blinked back tears at the end of that game on October 3, it really, definitely meant goodbye.
After Cyn clued me in to Red Sox Report's Varitek retrospective, which aired over the last couple weeks, I tuned in to see if it would hold any answers to those questions. It's not like we really need more writing on the wall -- but maybe a part of me was even hoping for an announcement right there in the special. I don't want to see him go, but right now, I am also growing desperate for closure.
That wasn't forthcoming from this show, it turns out, but more subtle signs did keep piling up as I watched. For me, the most important clue as to what it all Meant would be found in how the show left off. And when that time came, this was the final image:
Not exactly hopeful.
If the special, produced by NESN's glossiest magazine show, really is to be the official sendoff for Varitek, it could turn out to be a departure as gracious as any baseball star has had around here, especially when it's to put on another uniform. And I would be grateful for that, because Tek deserves our respect as fans, period.
But I guess a little part of me is miffed about all of it, too. This part is not rational, and does not care about what's cooking on the hot stove or all the cliches people usually summon about the game being a business. This part just keeps insisting that there must be some way not to separate this player from a town that so obviously worships the ground he walks on, when he could leave an intact and indelible legacy here by retiring at Fenway, with that C on his chest.
I know the game today is not played with such sentimentality, but sometimes, dammit, I wish it would be.
As a Red Sox fan of this era, I've gotten to see a lot of things fans of previous generations never got to experience. But the one thing I've never seen, and still hope to see within my lifetime, is a Red Sox lifer run the warning track, high-fiving fans, and even in leaving, assure the town that he's still theirs, has been and will always be theirs, the way that Carl Yastrzemski did.
I had envisioned such a day for Varitek, and now it seems that day won't come. What will most likely come instead, Varitek in another uniform, clinging to the twilight of his career in some incongruous place a la Wade Boggs in Tampa Bay, feels wrong. The thought that the enthusiastic but informal ovation he got last month was really his only chance to bid Fenway goodbye feels wrong. Whatever the colder calculations say, it all feels completely wrong.
And not just wrong, but frustratingly anticlimactic, as well. So disappointingly impersonal, after all the years I've believed, even amid all the mercenaries of the modern game, that this guy would always be here with us, and never with anyone else.