We naturally tend to talk offense first when it comes to evaluating position players.
That shouldn’t be the case with catchers. Defense should always be the first order of business.
That’s why the Cubs’ signing of Dioner Navarro hasn’t been a headline grabber–he’s no Buster Posey at the plate. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of the signing or the fact Navarro can upgrade the Cubs defensively.
The catching position has been an area of weakness on the Cubs for several years now. Geovany Soto steadily declined from his Rookie of the Year Award season in 2008 and all else can be summed up with two words: Koyie Hill.
That’s actually a critical fault when you consider catcher is not only the toughest position to play, but arguably the most important position on the diamond.
From learning to handle an entire pitching staff, to working the individual game-plans, to controlling the running game and all the way down to simply framing pitches, it’s a crucial part of a winning team. If a catcher can hit some, all the better. But it’s what he does behind the plate that truly counts.
It would be wonderful if Welington Castillo reaches the potential the Cubs’ organization believes he can. Epstein has tabbed Castillo a potential core-player in the rebuild. Dale Sveum envisions him as a future Gold Glove Award winner.
Obviously, we hope both projections turn out to be true. But what if Epstein and Sveum (and myself included) are all wrong about Welington? What happens if he succumbs to a sophomore slump like Soto did in 2009, or worse, suffers another injury like he did last season (sprained right knee)? Then who will the Cubs turn to?
Until the arrival of Navarro, that would’ve been Steve Clevenger, still an unproven and inexperienced catcher–both at the plate and behind it. Navarro, however, has caught 600-plus games in the big leagues (including 3 seasons catching Matt Garza), was the starting catcher for the pennant winning Rays in ’08 and even earned an All Star nod the same season.
There’s a reason Navarro’s managed to have an 8-year big-league career despite being a career .245/.306/.357 hitter; he can do everything needed behind the plate of a back-up, big-league catcher.
So before being critical of Navarro’s lack of offensive production or the Cubs’ willingness to pay him $1.75-million, it’s worth reminding ourselves how important upgrading the catching position was given Castillo and Clevenger are still unproven.
Spending less than $2-million to ensure there’s a solid Plan B at the most important position on the field wouldn’t appear a poor investment.
Navarro isn’t that prominent ‘headline’ signing Cubs fans are waiting for this winter, but he could turn out to be one of the more important signings the Cubs make this offseason—even if he doesn’t hit a lick.
To trade or not to trade for Matt Garza? The right-hander is 27-years-old and a five-year veteran.
Last three seasons in Tampa Bay: -(34-31), 3.86 ERA. -Started 30,32,32 games. -Tossed six complete games. -Threw 200+ innings twice (’09-’10) & 184 IP in ’08. -Struck out 467 vs. 201 walks. -Started five playoff games going (2-1) with a 3.48 ERA.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Garza is close in similarity score to John Danks (977 out of 1,000) and Mike Pelfrey (967).
He’s similar through age 26 to Kip Wells (982), Steve Trachsel (982), Brad Penny (972), Jason Marquis (971) and Darryl Kile (970).
Is Garza worth a package of young Cub prospects? You tell me.
For selfish reasons I hate to see Griffey’s $16 million option declined by the White Sox.
And unless Griffey accepts a deal with Chicago that would pay him slightly above the league minimum, I’ve seen the last of my favorite ball player as a regular on Comcast Sports broadcasts.
Of course, I’m not surprised by the move, Sox’s GM Kenny Williams is far to savvy to keep a player who’s closer to the finish line than we might think.
So, my hope now is for Junior to return to Seattle, where he belongs, and where he’ll be appreciated by the hometown fans.
That being said, it’s no secret that Griffey is a father first and a ballplayer second.
And while playing for Seattle appears to be the happy ending fans want for Junior’s career, it also means he’ll once again be thousands of miles away from his family home in Orlando.
Thus, Seattle just doesn’t seem like a move Griffey is willing to make.
The way I see it, Junior ends up with Tampa Bay in 2009.
The Rays can utilize Griffey two fold: first, by Tampa declining its option on the left-handed hitting Cliff Floyd, Junior not only replaces Floyd’s veteran leadership role, he also moves into the vacated DH spot in the lineup.
Most importantly, however, Griffey appears to have a much greater chance at a World Series ring with Tampa than he would playing for the Mariners.
A two for one deal will be hard for the Rays and Griff to pass up.
There’s no better drama on television than AMC’s Mad Men.
It’s right on par with the Spranos, perhaps even better.
And Mad Men was the perfect escape to a rather boring Game 4 of the World Series, a 10-2 drubbing by the Phillies.
So, what’s the chance Tampa Bay rallies for a Game 6 with Cole Hamels – (4-0) 1.55 post season ERA – on the mound for the Phils tomorrow?
Let’s just say not likely.
And so, this isn’t exactly the series I was pulling for in this Fall Classic.
Sure, there has been some drama, last night’s walkoff dribbler, Utley and Howard’s back-to-back jacks, Joe Blanton’s bomb and an occasional flare from the Rays too, but this series is now largely in favor of Philadelphia.
The Phillies are already talking about its victory parade through downtown Philly, their confidence sky high with a 3-1 series lead.
And why not, Pena and Longoria are still hitless for Tampa Bay, the Rays are playing spotty defense and the once sleeping giant Ryan Howard is wide awake at the plate.
Oh, and did I mention Cole Hamels is throwing tomorrow?
Sorry Tampa Bay, you’ve been a wonderful Cinderella, but the shoe doesn’t fit.
I’ll take Dennis Quaid who did a fine job with his portrayal of Jim Morris in The Rookie (2002).
Plus, Dennis is a natural lefty and has some resemblance physically to Hamilton as well.
Not to mention, Quaid, like Hamilton, also battled his own addiction to cocaine in the early 1990s.
My runner up is Edward Burns (27 Dresses & The Gift).
Not sure what Ed can do on the baseball diamond, but I think he can pass for Hamilton in Hollywood.
Anyway, thanks to Hamilton’s national breakthrough in tonight’s Home Run Derby, poor Justin Morneau will simple be a foot note in the contest by next year’s Mid-Summer Classic.
And, 10 years from now (if that) naming the winner of tonight’s derby will be an easy bar bet for those who can remember the actual winner of the contest.
Jesus shows his approval of Hamilton's 28 HRs during the first round
What’s also interesting is Morneau admitting his participation in last year’s derby threw off his timing at the plate during the second half of the season: 24 bombs before the break and just seven afterwards.
This is eerily similar to what happened with Bobby Abreu after his immortal performance in the 2005 derby at Comerica Park in Detroit: 18 home runs before the break and just six the remainder of the season.
Furthermore, a year later the Mets’ David Wright finished second in the derby and then capped off the second half of the season swatting a mere six home runs the rest of the way.
So, is Hamilton in for a power outage during the second half? Who knows?
Instead, my money is on Hamilton winning the MVP honors tomorrow night.
After all, it’s an even numbered year meaning a Rangers’ player is due: 2004 MVP – Alfonso Soriano & 2006 MVP – Michael Young.
Notes: Hamilton has a stolen base in a career-high three straight games.
Wednesday night Hamilton hit his first career walk-off home run against the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez.
He also ranks among the AL leaders:
Tied for 1st with 9 sac flies and multi-hit games (38)
2nd in total bases (208)
Tied for 2nd in HRs (21)
Tied for 4th in hits (117), extra base hits (46) and slugging percentage (.588)
And he became the first player in AL history to win the league’s Player of the Month Award (April & May) for each of his first two months in a season.
“I remember seeing him taking BP with the Devil Rays in 2000 during spring training, and I was like, Who’s that?” “He was 18 years old and hitting balls farther than anyone else. I went up and introduced myself, and I said, ‘That’s one of the greatest swings I’ve ever seen.’ I don’t think I’ve ever done that [with anyone else] my whole career.” – Boston 1B Sean Casey
“The ball just sounds different coming off his bat, almost like a gunshot,” “You watch him track down a ball, you watch him throw a guy out at third. Then he hits a ball down the line and gets a triple, and it’s like, The guy can run too?” – A’s LHP Greg Smith