Dan Wilson & not much since
The toughest guy physically on the field has got to be the catcher. Without question it’s the most taxing, mentally challenging, physically challenging and grueling position to play in Major League Baseball.
Don’t believe me? The easiest game to catch has to be when your pitcher throws a perfect game.
So say he only throws 90 pitches in that perfect game. For the next couple hours or so I want you to squat at least 90 times for a minute or so then get up and throw a baseball 60 feet.
Let me know if you are tired when you are done and that’s just a portion of the physical portion of the game. We haven’t even got to how smart a guy has to be to be an effective backstop or hitting.
Since Wilson played his last game in 2005, just 8 years ago, the Mariners have had 22 different guys on the roster at some level or another listed as a catcher. Let’s take a look at a few that actually played a few games.
Miguel Olivo backed up Wilson his final two years in Seattle in 2004-2005. At the time most people thought he’d take over full time when Wilson retired. Instead he was sent packing, but returned a few years later to become the M’s regular backstop in 2011-2012.
In his two seasons as the M’s starter Miguel hit .222 and .224. He did have 31 HRs across those two seasons. Other than that Olivo is remembered most for having a pretty good arm and throw to 2nd base. Nothing else stands out.
Kenji Johjima was an experiment of sorts for the M’s that worked out fairly well at first. As one of the first position players to come from the Japanese leagues, Johjima was made the starting catcher for Seattle in 2006.
In his rookie year Johjima hit .291 with 18 Homers and 76 RBIs. Any team would take that from a catcher at the start of the year without hesitation. Heck, he would have been the leading hitter on the team this year with those numbers! Kenji followed up 2006 with another solid year in 2007 hitting .287.
After 2007, being a 30+ year old catcher finally started to catch up with Kenji however. He hit .227 in his 3rd campaign and rebounded a little to hit .247 in his 4th and final season. Still, one could make an argument that he has been the most successful catcher since Dan Wilson for the Mariners.
John Jaso arrived in Seattle in 2012 and was a welcome, albeit brief, relief from suffering from Johjima’s final years and a host of younger players trying and failing to either play well at the position or stay healthy.
In his lone season in Seattle Jaso hit .276 and drove in 50. Good numbers from a catcher, numbers the Mariners would love to have in that position again, and soon.
Many, including me, had thought the catching savior had finally arrived when the Mariners dealt future ace SP Michael Pineda to the Yankees for prized catching prospect Jesus Montero.
At the time expectations were as high as Montero’s career MLB batting average of .368. Of course he’d only had 61 at bats for the Yankees in his career when that number was posted.
Montero got over 500 at bats for the Mariners in 2012 and all things considered did pretty well hitting .260 in his first full time duty in the show. He did struggle defensively though.
In 2013 Jesus got off to a slow start that was slowed even further by an injury. In just over 100 at bats to start the year Montero was hitting an awful .208 before being sent down and eventually getting hurt.
Things only got worse for Montero while he was on the shelf. His name got linked to the infamous Alex Rodriquez Biogenesis scandal. Eventually he was suspended for the rest of the year and it remains to be seen if he’ll ever be seen in a Mariner uniform again.
The Mariners made Mike Zunino the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Zunino was forced to the show far before he was ready due to a string of injuries that the Mariners experienced at the catching position in 2013.
With his feet barely wet in the minors Zunino was called up and hit .214 while appearing in 53 games before suffering his own injury that kept him out for most of the rest of the year.
I think you have to give Zunino the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his performance so far in the majors. Few players can get only 300 at bats or so in the minors and come up and be 100% ready.
Common sense and logic say the jury is still out on Zunino. It wouldn’t shock me a bit to see the Mariners keep him in the minors for all of 2014 barring another year filled with injuries at the season. He needs the time down there.
You got me.
The M’s will be in the market for a veteran catcher this off season for sure to at least serve as a backup to a younger player.
Let’s just hope it’s a guy than can hit .250.