A tale of two catchers. And two DHs.

 

One thing that hasn’t been commented upon widely enough in local media about the Jays start to the season and Alex Anthopolous’ acumen is how he managed to avoid signing Manny Ramirez in the off-season despite the dread-locked (or maybe just “dreaded”) one’s many trips to the city and efforts to hook up with the Jays. Boy, doesn’t Alex look smart now!

It was little surprise that Manny would want to join the blue Jays; teams weren’t exactly banging down the door to get to him after a lacklustre 2010, it was widely known the Jays had interest in picking up a DH and he always exceled in Toronto, holding the single season home run record for an opponent in the Rogers Centre (9 in 2001) and being second among visiting players in lifetime home runs there. Nowhere offered him a better shot at reviving his career. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Certainly I felt a need for a solid hitting DH, and felt that Manny was capable of exceeding his puny 9 HR total of last year. Plus he was apparently going cheap. But, I also was hesitant of the idea given that even more than hitting homers, Manny was good at “being Manny.” the last thing the team needed was a moody prima donna who might just take a weekend off to party with the visiting team, or walk off the field in the middle of the game or any number of other “Mannyisms”. Nor, needless to say , break the game’s drug rules again and be suspended for over half the season.

Curiously, the one player I thought might have been worth investigating for the role was Carlos Delgado . I figured Delgado would be warmly received by the fans, and why not… he is still the club’s alltime doubles, homers and RBI leader, and might offer the mature, determined leadership for the youth corps that Paul Molitor did in ’93. alas, it wasn’t to be and Delgado’s ongoing hip troubles caused him to retire this week, unsigned. Too bad so few people noticed his honorable retirement amid the circus that is Manny.

No doubt 5 years down the road, Ramirez’s numbers will merit Hall of Fame honouring more than Delgado’s. But Delgado’s career should merit him more votes than Manny’s.

***

One broadcaster on a game I was watching last week haphazardly commented (while watching a highlight of a Braves game) that for his money , Brian McCann was the best catcher in the game. You could almost hear the collective mocking of a hundred thousand fans in viewerland saying “What about Mauer? Does McCann have an MVP? Does he tell me what shampoo to use?”

But here’s the thing. I think he was right. Yes, Mauer is good. No question about that at all. But McCann is a bit better, and , and more durable. If I was a GM, I’d like either one, but given the choice I’d opt for McCann. I would have made that call even before Mauer hit the DL again this week with “tired legs”.

Now I don’t know what’s up in Minny. Maybe Joe’s blown out his knee again, can’t walk and the Twins are trying to downplay it and not alarm their fanbase or cut into advance ticket sales but to me, and I’m sure to the ordinary people who deliver packages, stock shelves, teach kindergarten kids and chase bad guys – in other words, the people who pay the freight for Mauer’s hefty contract— “tired legs” sounds like a regular daily condition , not reason for taking two weeks or more off with pay.

Since the start of the 2009 season Mauer has caught 230 games. Very respectable. McCann, however, had been squatting behind the plate 276 games and counting (as of Friday). True, Joe’s average is better, no question (approximately .339 to .278 for McCann in that period), but McCann has the edge in homers and RBI (50/180 to 37/175), surprising given the Twins’ reputation and 50 odd more at bats. Mauer commits fewer errors, but then again , McCann gets in on a lot more plays (over 500 more total chances between ’09 and ’10). And, while not a precisely measurable factor (given different staff and leagues), anchors a team with more successful pitching . I’d wager that if the two traded places, Atlanta’s ERA advantage over Minnesota would be much slimmer than the .70 it’s been over the past couple of years.

Joe Mauer, baseball’s best shampoo salesman, and admittedly, a pretty darn good player. But Brian McCann, the best catcher.

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