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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Protect Joe Mauer from himself: eliminate the catching position.

On August 19 Joe Mauer got a single and double in four at bats against the Mets in Minneapolis.  Mauer caught the entire game.  He had 508 plate appearances (PA), more than the 502 required to lead a "league" in an average statistic like batting average (BA).  Mauer's BA was .324.  Mauer's BA is still .324.  That's because Joe Mauer has not played since August 19 and will not play again this season.  Major Baseball League (MBL) BA leaders through September 23, 2013:

1.Cabrera (DET).350
2.Cuddyer (COL).334
3.Johnson (ATL).327
4.Trout (LAA).325
5.Carpenter (STL).324
6.Mauer (MIN).324

In that final game against the Mets Joe Mauer was hit in the head twice by foul balls.  Mauer sustained a concussion.

Austin Romine of the Yankees had his season end the same way but since he is not among the leaders in any batting stat most fans are not aware of his fate.

Friday, September 19, 2008  Fool Proof Strike Zone

The catcher could be deployed elsewhere. The umpire could hand the pitcher a new ball. Ball boys/girls could keep the batting area free of loose balls. The metaphor for a catcher is backstop. A backstop is a wall. Who wants to play wall? It's easily the most ridiculous position in team sports. Most baseball players want no part of catching. Put that player in fair territory where he can do some good. How about next to the pitcher where he could field balls hit up the middle and still be close enough to cover home plate? I have already advocated that base runners may not take a lead until the ball is hit. That would speed up the game as the pitcher would have one pitching motion (no stretch position) and no need to check the runner and throw to the base. The new strike zone rule would eliminate the getting the sign from the catcher ritual. Throw the ball where the batter can hit it and judge that in a fair and simple way.

Saturday, July 4, 2009  Catcher: position of ignorance.

Cather's gear is called the tools of ignorance. That's putting it mildly. Baseball catcher is easily the stupidest position among the three American team sports. Only football center comes close. Catcher could be eliminated if MLB had any imagination. It's not like only a couple of baseballs are available for a game.

A few days ago Giant catcher Buster Posey was seriously injured when a runner smashed into him standing near home plate.  I thought it was revolting, the kind of thing that is becoming unacceptable in the NFL...  And put a damn screen in front of the pitcher before one gets killed with those blasts up the middle.

I am guessing that 99% of baseball fans and 90% of baseball players want no part of playing catcher.  I’m guessing that almost all parents and grandparents do not want young children whom they love to play catcher.  Let’s get started.

Extend foul territory 45 feet from home plate into what is now fair territory, a curved line from foul line to foul line.  This eliminates those annoying dribblers, especially bunts.  Put the catcher in fair territory where he can do some good.  Put a bull's eye behind home plate.  A pitched ball that hits it is a strike.  Simple and low tech...

No stealing. No catcher. No plate ump. Cool.

As with most things try to reverse the order and see if it makes sense.  Suppose that 150 years ago baseball had done things as I have described.  Now imagine someone suggesting that we eliminate this nice, safe, sure system and replace it with a human being squatting behind home plate, taking unnecessary punishment to perform an unnecessary task better preformed without a catcher.  And don’t forget the imaginary strike zone.  Add to that our intent to dramatically slow down the game with all the jerking around that has become modern baseball.  Who the heck would change to what we have deluded ourselves into thinking is the only way baseball can be played?  Baseball can be better than that.  So can we.

Malcolm Gladwell has been campaigning to get colleges to ban football...

You know, like the baseball catcher, the dumbest position among the three American team sports.  Why does it still exist?  Because baseball fans refuse to behave responsibly and demand that it be banned.  We would rather continue with a basic mistake in the game's development over a hundred years ago and continue a barbaric practice, much like football.  Catchers being pounded in the head by foul balls over and over and over is unacceptable.  It's ridiculous, especially considering that the position is stupid.

Eliminating the catcher as I have long advocated allows for the low tech sure strike zone: a round or oblong target with rounded corners.  The catcher can be moved out of his box, given a glove and allowed to position himself anywhere in fair territory.  Beside the pitcher probably makes the most sense but it's not mandatory...

Added bonus: all this should speed up the game significantly by removing most of the dead time between pitches that sucks the life out of baseball...

Think about the football question.  Then think about the baseball catcher.  Think.

Now here is the classic baseball fan reaction: they'll never do that.  Well not if you just sit on your fat ass and do nothing to make it happen.  Start by telling your kid's Little League coach that you think the catching position should be eliminated and that under no circumstances should your own kid be placed in harm's way at catcher.  Then start writing to media and MBL officials and express your support for eliminating the catching position at all levels of play


Glenn Craven said...

This blog is hilarious! ... Oh, wait. You're serious.

It's interesting you suggest that 90 percent of ballplayers don't want to be catchers. Do the math; that leaves just the right amount of players who DO want to be catchers -- 25 man roster = 2 catchers = 8 percent of all ballplayers.

Your simple strike zone idea is hardly fool-proof. The most effective pitchers in baseball would be eephus-ballers who could throw head-high lobs that sink enough in the (necessary) three feet or behind the hitter to clip the top edge of the target backstop. Unless you prohibited pitch angles that begin above a pitcher's head, and there'd have to be technology installed or a designated arbiter of that.

And think of all the all-time greats of which we'd have been robbed if catcher wasn't a position? The most recent no doubt would be Yadier Molina, a likely Hall of Famer.

Where would Yadier Molina play if not catcher? ... Maybe third base -- good arm, strong chest -- but his excellent offensive numbers (for a catcher) would be mediocre for career figures among "all-time great" corner infielders. ... And he isn't tall enough to play first base anyway. Or quick enough or fast enough to play middle infield or the outfield.

Catching gear has long been dubbed "the tools of ignorance," the implication (and yours) is that someone would have to be an idiot to play the position, yet catchers are frequently among the most intelligent and baseball-savvy players on the field.

Why do you think so many of them become managers? Though, as noted, catchers make up 8 to 10 percent of all ballplayers, currently 12 of the 30 MLB managers were former catchers; that's 30 percent.

Yes, it's a tough position. Absolutely you'll get hurt sometimes playing catcher. But the changes necessary to eliminate the position -- particularly the elimination of base stealing, the squeeze play and almost anything else other than permitting a base runner to go home on a clean hit, serious changes to the way pitchers would pitch and hitters would hit -- undeniably hurt the game.

I can't believe anyone has tried to make a serious case for eliminating the catching position. ... OK, that anyone was serious in trying to make a case for eliminating the catcher position.

It makes no sense. On any level.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Glenn, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Yes, of course I'm serious and I'm surprised that you insist that some little kid be required to play catcher in Little League.

I should have been more explicit: my guess is that 90% of players who are not catchers would not want to become a catcher.

As far are Yadier Molina, if he's not athletic enough to play a real position, then that's his problem. Yogi moved to the outfield, Bench to third.

I don't see anything in your comments that justify having a person pretend to be a wall.

Regarding trick pitches like a blooper, your suggestion about limiting pitch height would take care of that. Obviously, this would start as an experiment and such attempts to distort the intent could be dealt with as with any rule.

And as I said if there had been no catcher for a hundred years, no one would suggest replacing the "wall" with a person, especially a kid.

P.S. You'll love today's post.

Casey Graham said...

There's a reason that Baseball or perhaps NFL Football (during the last 40 years) is America's Game. Not Tennis, Swimming, Track and Field, or Bowling.

Most males have to repress 2 million years of genetic coding, and now sit in a cubicle and wear a tie 5 days a week, we have sport outlets to learn and release aggressive behavior and teach our little ones physical and aggressive mentality to defend our country and its interest when there is a need (or to unilaterally attack sovereign states under false pretenses). Catchers and the tools that they don for protection, are one of the clearest symbols of this. The fact that the majority of players don't want to play the position doesn't mean we are n't impressed with the position and don't respect it.

I have the high regard for NFL players skill levels. That doesn't mean I want to take a handoff from Peyton Manning in the SuperBowl. I'D GET KILLED! If I was capable of playing the position of NFL Running Back I would. I'm not foolish enough to think I am trained, or my pain threshold is high enough.

Another reason a lot of kids don't want to play catcher is that it APPEARS to be scary, and there's an innate fear of the unknown. Since there is only one position of catcher, and it requires so many skills, kids are intimidated by it. They only play the real position in organized baseball, rather than the playground. If they were to train in the position more often they wouldn't innately fear it as much. Guys that catch are a special breed. They're usually smart, leaders and the toughest guys on the field, though they aren't required to have tremendous foot speed which most of the other positions require. The position allows for a different type of athlete to participate, one with impressive skills however. Why would you wish to take that away? I suggest you read the latest Sports Illustrated front page article (3/31/14) entitled "Rare Bird" on Yadier Molina and his catching family. You might think twice about your comments.