I love doing these time warp posts, to go back and find a player that fits a specific short term need and are thus relatively inexpensive, which eliminates a lot of the obvious candidates, thus allowing me to find hidden gems in Cardinals history.
Today we’ll flash back to last season: Yadier Molina got hurt and was out for a while, well what if that happened this season, say just after the all-star break. The injury would keep him out for the rest of the year, but he’s a sure thing to return next season. With all respect to Tony Cruz, what if you could time warp into the past and find someone relatively inexpensive to plug the hole for half a season?
One rule, I’m not going to choose guys early in their careers unless they were traded away or moved on to another team via FA, because that’d be a cop out. Plus guys that’d be too expensive to acquire or trade for based on their performance before coming to us. Sorry Ted Simmons. Same for Tony Pena, who came to us as a 4 time all-star and 3 time gold glove winner. that he didn’t do much with us doesn’t matter. That also leaves off Darrell Porter, oddly enough, as he’d been an all-star for 3 straight years for the Royals before coming to us.
Basically we’re looking for a catcher who can hold down the fort while providing good defense. Offense is optional.
A couple of options:
Del Rice, who I’ve barely heard of, but was our starting catcher from 1945 until 1954. He began his career with us before moving on to other teams. He made one ASG in 1953. According to the stats, he was only our full-time starter from 1950 to 1953, the only years in which he got more than 450 plate appearances. Since he was home grown, the only thing needed would be cash, and based on his record, he wouldn’t cost too much. His defensive numbers during his four full time years are a little inconsistent though, especially his caught stealing percentage. in 1950 he caught 28 percent of runners while in 1952 he caught 53 percent. This might be seen as natural progression, except he dropped down to 38 percent in 1953.
Mike Matheny, our current manager, is an interesting choice, as he didn’t do much before us but won three of gold gloves with us. He didn’t make any ASG’s with us, and his highest average was .261, so he’d be affordable based on his Cardinals years. as for acquiring him, he didn’t make any ASG’s or win any gold gloves with Milwaukee or Toronto, the two teams he played with before us, so he wouldn’t cost too much, especially as we signed him as a free agent, so no players or prospects were given up to acquire him.
Tim McCarver would seem like an obvious candidate, but it seems like he’s more of an offensive catcher, as his caught stealing percentages are inconsistent and he led the league in passed balls twice.
Jimmy Wilson played for us from 1938 until 1933 and has solid defensive stats, but his 4 top 20 finished in MVP voting might put him out of our price range.
Tom Pagnozzi, who played with us from 1987 until 1998, won 3 gold gloves and made one ASG with us. the third gold glove however was won in 1994 when he was a part timer, having only 266 plate appearances. in fact, Pagnozzi only had two years with more than 450 plate appearances. he also hit .264 or higher in 4 seasons, something Mike Matheny never did.
In hind sight, the plate appearances thing doesn’t matter as much, since this player is only going to be with us for a half a year until yadi returns.
I think Pagnozzi is the best choice, as he brings the best balance without being too well known, thus making him too expensive.
What do you think?
As always, thanks for reading.