The Man Behind the Plate

ber0-011.jpgEstablishing a starting catcher has to be the most underrated position need in the game.  A solid catcher is integral to a team’s success, look at the Yankees with Posada and the Red Sox with Varitek.  Those guys have been with their respected clubs for a long time, they also know the ‘ins and outs’ of the system and the coach under which they play.

Probably one of the greatest catchers of our time, Yogi Berra (who helmed the plate for the Yankees from 1946 to 1965), is an excellent example of the importance of a catcher.  Yogi, when he first came up with the Yankees, was awkward, unsure of himself and didn’t know precisely how to command the position.  Pitchers constantly teased him and got outright violent with him sometimes, if he would ignore them and relay pitches from the manager in the dugout.  He didn’t know how to comprimise between the players and the managers, who both had their own agendas.  Yogi would eventually catch on and become more confident handling the position, but for a time, he demonstrated the crucial need for confidence and leadership in a starting catcher.  

A catcher has many responsibilities and many of them are imporant to being successful in any ballgame, here is an 11 point list of many important ones: 

1.  They are involved on every pitch and every at-bat.

2.  They prevent passed balls and wild pitches.

3.  Field bunts.

4.  Prevent stolen bases.

5.  Pick off runners.

6.  Must be able to accurately throw to all positions.

7.  They block to plate from runners.

8.  Takes hits and hold onto the ball.   

9.  Direct and lead defensive alignments.

10.  Call pitches and memorize signals.

11.  Have great awareness of pitcher’s strengths and batter’s weaknesses.

The position requires a great understanding of the game and all it’s strategic elements.  Jason Varitek wears a C on his jersey and understandably so.  The catcher is often looked upon for this kind of leadership. 

The backbone of a solid club, is a strong catcher that will stay with their team for many years.  Look what happened to Braves pitching after Javy Lopez or the Marlins after Pudge left.  

There are exceptions, but teams that have high turnover, at catcher, often fail.  The Jays, right now, are admist a catching dilemma between Gregg Zaun and Rod Barajas.  These guys are very similar, except Barajas packs more of a punch with his bat and Zaun will hit for a higher average.  Since Zaun came to the Jays in 2004, he has been an outstanding fill in; however, you never really got the feeling that he was our main guy.  Barajas needs more time with the team, but I really like his bat, considering the Jay’s recent power outage.  I think that he is due for some more playing time Gibby!  I’m still hoping that our ‘catcher of the future’ is in the minors Jeroloman, Arencibia, Diaz, Thigpen?????????

With that, I will end with my favorite Yogism.  “I didn’t say everything I said”.  Surprisingly, this can get you out of a lot bad comments you make to your girlfriend.  For that, I am forever greatful to you Yogi.  Got any other Yogism’s?  I would be delighted to hear more, if you want to share.

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