After last night’s game, I feel a little better about my picks for the game between the Giants and Pirates. I was wrong with yesterday’s pick, and I hope to be wrong again tonight. To recap the rules:
1. For a player to be eligible, he must have played for the team a minimum of 3 years.
2. Only the stats and accomplishments of his tenure with that team will be looked at.
3. If the team has moved cities, previous locations will not be allowed. Players are only eligible that played at the current location.
Pittsburgh Pirates: This was tough. First I had to look beyond my bias toward Jason Kendall. He is, after all, one of my all-time favorite players. I grew up watching him, and during a time when the Pirates were terrible, he made them watchable. I already had to ignore him for yesterday’s picks; he played for both the A’s and Royals. I almost skipped doing any research, wanting to post about him once again. However, I respect the Pirates enough to spend a few minutes to look at their catchers, and when I did, I was surprised. I knew that they did not have a Hall of Fame catcher, there have only been 13 catchers to make the Hall of Fame, after all. In looking at the Pirates history, I did come across three other catchers that made this decision a tough one: Smoky Burgess, Tony Pena, and Al Lopez.
Smoky Burgess played for the Pirates from 1959-1964, and in those 6 seasons he was a major contributor to the success that Pittsburgh enjoyed. Over the course of those 6 seasons, Smoky hit .296/.352/.445, with 51 HR’s and 265 RBI’s. He was a 3x All-Star and helped the Pirates win a World Series in 1960, by hitting .333 and scoring 2 runs as the Pirates beat the Yankees in 5 games. The icing on the cake is his name: Smoky is a great baseball name.
Tony Pena played for the Pirates from 1980-1986, and in those 7 years he made quite an impact. He hit .286/.327/.411, with 63 HR’s and 340 RBI’s. 4 of the 7 years that he played in Pittsburgh, Pena was an All-Star. In addition, he was a 3x Gold Glove winner. The strike against Pena, is that he played for the Pirates in 80’s, during a time when the Pirates never made the playoffs. Now that doesn’t diminish his success, but having no post-season experience as a Pirate does limit his importance.
Al Lopez played for the Pirates from 1940-46, and his importance to the team was due primarily to his defensive skills. In his 7 seasons with the Pirates, he hit .254/.331/.309, with 10 HR’s and 196 RBI’s. He earned one trip to the All-Star game. Like Pena, he played for the Pirates during a time when they never made it to the post-season. It is worth mentioning that Lopez is a Hall of Famer, though he is classified as a manager, and while his plaque mentions his time as a catcher, his biggest success came as a manager.
After considering the success that each of these players had during their tenure with the Pirates, I decided to go with my original and biased choice: Jason Kendall.
2002 Topps #555, Jason Kendall
Kendall played for the Pirates for 9 seasons, from 1996-2004. During his time with the Pirates his numbers and awards stand up next to the individual accomplishments of the other catchers: .306/.387/.418, hitting 67 HR’s and 471 RBI’s. He was a 3x All-Star, and like Pena and Lopez, never made the post-season. However, what sets him apart from the other catchers was his importance to what little success the Pirates had. Kendall was the face of the franchise, while the other catchers were never considered the best player on the team. So maybe bias played a role, but I have chosen Kendall.
San Fracisco Giants: If we keep the rules in mind for this decision, we eliminate Giants players who played before the club moved to San Francisco; sorry Buck Ewing. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, and since that time, there has really been only one truly important catcher for the team, Buster Posey.
2010 Topps #2, Buster Posey
Posey has played for the Giants for the past 6 seasons and the impact that he has had in San Francisco is hard to define. In his short career he has won the Rookie of the Year, N.L. MVP, a Silver Slugger Award, the N.L. batting title, Comeback Player of the Year, and has twice been an All-Star. In addition, the Giants have won two World Series with Posey behind the plate. Currently, he is the best catcher in baseball.
Now it comes to down to picking which of these two catchers is better, and therefore which of these two teams will win tonight’s game. I think that there really isn’t much of a debate between these two. Buster Posey hands down, is the more important catcher. Therefore, my pick for tonight’s game will be the San Francisco Giants.
Now, Matt, before you get mad, let me point something out. Last night I picked the A’s to win and the Royals won. By picking the Giants I fully expect, and hope, that the Pirates win.