Friday, March 22, 2013

What Makes the Best Catcher?

I recently read an article with the following (URL: http:/ Blogs network) and basically the writer is miffed that Buster Posey is seen in a better light than Yadier Molina.

Here is what he had to say about Buster Posey: Buster Posey still has a lot of work to do on his defense. No catcher has gotten his pocket picked more than the Giants young backstop this season, which may have something to do with his ankle injury from a year ago. He's a little bit slow getting out of his crouch in ordr to make a snap throw to 2nd, and base runners have taken that as a license to run wild. He may just be the best offensive catcher in baseball, but until Posey improves on defense any thoughts of him winning the MVP award are a little far-fetched.

Who won the 2012 MVP? Furthermore, one thing you must understand when you look to the traditional statistics or advanced metrics that something has to be said about a pitcher who is incapable of keeping the runner within a reasonable distance from first and second by the time he lets go of his pitch.

Is this news? We all know that for the most part the Gold Glove Award goes to the most productive player at his position with fielding a close second. A player would have to absolutely stink out loud to win a Gold Glove award and those who voted would have to get called out when made aware of his floundering fielding percentage. But I think the year when Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove award and played no games in the field is appalling. In 1999 Raffy was a designated hitter. Look it up! He has no fielding statistics for that year and yet, he got the Silver Slugger and Golden Glove. Which, once and for all, proves that the Golden Gloves usually goes to the best hitter for that particular position. I feel for those first-basemen who were scooping balls du jour, in 1999, and like Palmeiro's stats it just didn't happen. What those voters- whose duty it was to vote for the gold glove that season- did was shameful. They chose not to vote and presto Palmeiro is handed a Golden Glove award. Why were those cursed with the choice not held accountable?

So I can understand the author's angst. Catcher is a tough position because of all that goes into it. Blocking pitches, blocking the plate as you prepare to get slammed into, the constant up and down, twisting and turning with gear (that you can't go lightweight on because there is a reason for the thickness of the stuff. It is worn to protect you from foul tips or any accidental play where the ball glances off of something into you. Don't wear the hockey mask without the padding or you may end up with a premature exit like Mike Matheny. I contend that Matheny may still be playing if he didn't switch to the less-padded hockey mask.)

AND you have to be on the same page as your pitcher. The two of you (known as the battery) have to be simpatico (being on the same wavelength) so as to not allow the opposing team to perhaps steal your signs due to your body language or communications running amok. You have to give the other team the impression you are ON to their game and you know exactly how to get them out. Those of us who have played the game, at any competitive little league level, know when you get the batter to over-think his/her approach with each at-bat that there is a really good chance he/she will not be at his/her best when stepping up to the plate. Because when you get the opponent to question what they are doing you have WON the battle and that's when you trust your pitcher to do his thing. This is also where the catcher can shoot a little casual conversation into the matter. Some heartfelt stuff like, "You don't seem to be yourself today, is everything okay?" Or to bring a little levity to the situation, because, afterall, you're on the winning side and it's time for laughs. "What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?" or "Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice?" Sometimes it's worth the effort in that he spills the beans. Or he may just as well rip off expletive after expletive taking himself further out of the game to which you and your batterymate go for the jugular. Either way it seems like a win-win to me.

(thanks to MLB Blogs Network for the inspiration for this opinion)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, March 1, 2013

All-Time Hits and Home Run Leaders Thoughts

Every now and then a baseball fan needs to take the time to look up the numbers their favorite players put up and compare them to others thought to be great. And with the infusion of the performance enhanced age of baseball you can see how the more current ballplayer surpassed those greats from yesteryear.

To fully appreciate these numbers you have to be a historian because when a World War was taking place chances are your favorite player was serving the country so his numbers won't be a bloated as those thought to have used PEDs. (And unlike former President Bill Clinton, if a ballplayer crossed the Canadian border to dodge-an artful device to evade, deceive, or trick being in the war, Major League baseball would have blackballed that player for life. I am not sure there IS a book on such a topic but if there was a book I would have to log onto and see how much they would be charging for the book. Only I wouldn't know for sure what the contents of the book were because this site doesn't do a decent job on informing you of the book's contents. In the words of Don King, "Only in the United States.")

When you look at the All-Time Hits leader you see Pete Rose in first place with 4,256 and Ty Cobb second with 4,189, and Hammerin' Hank Aaron in third place with 3,771. All three of these players did not miss any time due to military service.

Surveying the All-Time hits list and the All-Time Home Run list I couldn't help but see some of the most heralded names surpassed by players not nearly as decorated (i.e. as legend has it or by awards received). And my initial feeling that maybe the voters of who gets into the Major League Hall of Fame are onto something didn't waver a bit because nobody could ever convince me Barry Bonds wasn't the greatest hitter I ever saw no matter what he did to his body to elevate his game. I never saw Babe Ruth or Ted Williams so I can only go by those accredited writers' words I have read as to their interpretation what the Babe or Ted Williams did. I did see Hank Aaron and let my biased opinion of Willie Mays blur the vision that was Hammerin' Hank. Because when it was all said and done Aaron is right up there with the greatest hitters of all-time, even if he didn't miss a day due to the military service or played in bandboxes his entire career.

Speaking of missing time due to the military service this is something that cannot go unnoticed. Hank Greenberg missed 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944. In 1941 he did play in 19 games. In 1945 he played in 78 games, long enough to drive in 60 runs. Ted "the Splendid Splinter" Williams missed 1943, 1944, 1945. In 1950 he played in 89 games. In 1952 he played in 6 games. In 1953 he played in 37 games. And look up his numbers. He hit .400 three times in his career even if it was during a shortened season you can see that he did not waste any at-bats. Furthermore, when you see that Frank Thomas and Willie McCovey are tied with the Splinter at 521 career homers you must understand why.

You see a player like Joltin' Joe DiMaggio whose numbers appear shrunken you must realize that he too missed 1943, 1944, and 1945 due to WWII. Joltin' Joe ended his career with 2,214 hits just 3 ahead of the beloved Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. Or that one-time Giant Darrell Evans had more hits than DiMaggio with 2,223 all-time hits.

Then I see Louis Henry Gehrig finished his career with 2,721 hits. Fans of baseball know it took a dreadful disease, one named after Larrupin Lou, to get him off the field. You know who is right behind him? Rusty Staub, also known as Le Grande Orange. A player who made his career playing solid baseball on expansion teams. From the Houston Astros to the Montreal Expos. This guy finished his career as a solid pinch-hitter. Nobody ever accused Le Grande Orange of cheating. And if anyone has any dirt on him please don't share it with me.

Currently Albert Pujols is tied with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell with 475 homers. I never read anything about Wilver Stargell supplementing his diet to benefit his performance and recalling his look as a player I'm sure the word diet was used often. But his only obstruction to more stardom was the unfriendly confines of Forbes Field. When the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium that's when #8's career got going. Stan "the Man" Musial did miss the 1945 season but other than that had a stellar career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols, nobody has accused him of using PEDs but can anyone really be sure. I mean because he was the polar opposite of Barry Bonds, a man those with pen and paper abhored, it's hard to say whether he was guilty or not guilty of taking PEDs. I'm not sure a hack would keep such information on someone he/she liked a secret or willingly spill the beans on someone they detest. I, like many other people, can only speculate. I mean what ethnic background is Pujols? Who are the guys getting busted left and right by major league baseball?

(People banned under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
After Landis died in 1944, there was a long lull before the next banishment; indeed, during Bowie Kuhn's tenure (1969–1984), only three players (or former players) were banned for life.
• Ferguson Jenkins of the Texas Rangers was banned in 1980 after a customs search in Toronto, Ontario, found 3 grams (0.11 oz) of cocaine, 2.2 grams (0.078 oz) of hashish, and 1.75 grams (0.062 oz) of marijuana on his person. (Jenkins missed the rest of the 1980 season, but was reinstated by an independent arbiter, and retired following the 1983 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.)
• Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, both retired and both in no way involved in baseball anymore, were banned in 1983 after they were hired by casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as greeters and autograph signers.[3] (Kuhn opined that a casino was "no place for a baseball hero and Hall of Famer"; Mantle and Mays were reinstated by Peter Ueberroth in 1985, and Mantle died in 1995.)

(Although all were reinstated it is interesting to note that with all the talk of baseball and integrity how Ferguson Jenkins who, judging by the goods he was caught with, looked like he was set up for some kind of PAR-TAY! still got the support of those hypocritical writers to make it into Cooperstown.)

(Thanks to ESPN. provided some of the facts for this opinion)

Kevin J. Marquez