As the MLB season nears, I decided I would post an article every couple of days breaking down my top players at each position. My last article covered starting pitchers so this one will cover catchers. However, this article will only feature five cathcers simply because there are not many elite catchers in the game today. The catcher’s position is one where a superstar comes along once, maybe twice in a lifetime. Players such as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, or Carlton Fisk don’t come around everyday. Here we go.
- Yadier Molina- Molina has my vote for the best all-around catcher in Major League Baseball. He is a career .279 hitter, but he is most known for his defense. I tend to be very drawn to players like Molina, because there is literally nothing flashy about him. He is just fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. He consistently calls a great game, he blocks pitches in the dirt better than anyone in the league, and can gun down virtually any would-be base stealer. He is a classy player on and off the field, gets along with his teammates, and is a very coachable star. Basically the only downsides to Molina are his very poor speed and occasional baserunning mistake, but his positives heavily outweigh his negatives.
- 2. Buster Posey- Posey is arguably the best young player in the game today. With less than three years of total big leagues experience, he has already won himself two World Series rings. His 2011 campaign was brutally cut short by a broken leg due to a collision with a runner at home plate. In his short career, Posey has a .316 batting average, and he doesn’t tend to strike out all that much. Similar to Molina, Posey is a very solid fielder. He calls a great game, takes care of the pitching staff, and has thrown out better than thirty percent of base stealers in each year of his career. He also compiles a very small amount of errors every year. Posey’s three-year career has already rewarded him with the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award, and the 2012 Most Valuable Player Award. This may be a bold statement early in his career, but I think Buster Posey will have no problem getting into Cooperstown when he retires, barring any major setbacks.
- 3. Joe Mauer- Over the past six or seven seasons, Mauer has been arguably the most consistent player in the Major Leagues. Having played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins, he has posted a career .323 average, with his lowest being .287 during the 2011 season. Mauer’s career year came in 2009, when he put up a .365 average with 28 bombs. The main reason Mauer dropped to third on my list is because in recent years, Mauer has been switching between catcher, first base, and designated hitter. Albeit small, I think taking days off from catching gives him just a slight advantage over everyone else, as he has a little bit more time to relax and give his body time to rest. He puts together a great balance of aggressiveness and patience at the plate, and is nothing short of a solid defender. Mauer, like Posey, should have a good shot at Cooperstown if he keeps up his game for the next few seasons.
- 4. Brian McCann- Although McCann has dropped off over the last season or two, I still believe he is one of the best in the game. He hit .270 or above every season except for 2012, in which he hit a career-low .230. Since his first full season in 2006, McCann has been a steady complement to Chipper Jones in the middle of the Braves lineup. With 2013 being his first season without Chipper, look for McCann to have a bounce-back year while producing a large portion of the Braves offense. I find McCann to be a mediocre fielder, letting a decent number of passed balls through, and only throwing out about 23% of potential base stealers. That being said, he has made six appearances in the all-star game, proving that he is nothing short of a solid player. Look for McCann to have a good year, assuming the role of the Braves top hitter.
- 5. Matt Wieters- Rounding out my top five is the young catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Wieters is steadily developing into one of the most reliable catchers in the game today. While his offensive game is still developing, he has already proven himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the pros. He has only let up eleven passed balls in his four years in the majors, and has gunned out an impressive 32% of would be base stealers. Look for Wieters to steadily improve his game. I see him hitting around .300 this season.
Before comparing Eli Manning to his older brother Peyton, we must take a step back from the Super Bowl this week.
Eli Manning. What words do you immediately think of when you think of Eli? Perhaps you perceive Eli Manning as Peyton’s younger brother, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe you think of Eli as that guy who miraculously wiggled out of a sack three times in one play, scrambled outside the pocket, and launched a prayer down the field in Super Bowl 42 that was eventually snatched by some no-name, obscure wide receiver with the help of a helmet and some stick ‘em glue. Or maybe you think of Eli Manning as Archie Manning’s son.
Perhaps, just maybe, it’s time for you to think about Eli Manning as a 2 time Super Bowl Champion, 2 time Super Bowl MVP, the most successful quarterback in road playoff games in NFL history, future hall of famer, and the best Manning to ever play the game of football. Yeah, I said it.
Eli’s brother, Peyton, is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. There’s no other quarterback that’s ever played the game that I would rather have than Peyton Manning if the goal were to go 13-3 every year and earn the number 1 seed in the postseason. Under Peyton’s reign, the Colts set an NFL record by winning 12 or more regular season games for 7 consecutive seasons.
But the goal isn’t to own the regular season, fill up the stat sheet, and set a myriad of statistical records. The goal, as in every sport, is to be the last team standing at the end of the year with the title of champion. Period. Just look at Dan Marino. If Marino were able to bust through just once and hoist the elusive Lombardi Trophy, he would likely be regarded as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
During his illustrious NFL career, Peyton Manning has played in 19 playoff games, all as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. His record in those games in 9-10, hardly anything worth significant merit. Manning has a career postseason passer rating of a pedestrian 79.7.
While the Colts did breakthrough to win the Lombardi trophy in the 2006-2007 season under Manning’s direction, Peyton had a mediocre showing in the postseason. During the Colts run to the title in the ’07 playoffs, Manning threw 7 INT’s and only 3 TD’s. He sported a passer rating of an underwhelming 61.7.
Manning and the Colts again reached the Super Bowl in 2009 after a record setting 14-2 season. However, Peyton failed to win his second ring as he threw a crucial interception in the waning minutes to seal Indy’s fate.
Manning did have an exceptional 2009 postseason (9 TD’s, 1 INT), however many believe Peyton choked in what many dubbed as the most important game of his career. If Peyton doesn’t throw the pick to Tracy Porter and the Colts win Super Bowl 44, Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time.
Eli, on the other hand, seems to shine brightest when the pressure is on. Eli boasts extremely impressive career playoff numbers (21 TD’s, 7 INT’s) and is 8-3 as a starter in the postseason. He’s also tied for most game-winning drives in NFL playoff history with the great Joe Montana. Oh, and he’s won the Super Bowl…twice, both times against the mighty Patriots.
This is Eli at his finest. Notice under 2 minutes left in fourth quarter.
Not only is Eli one of the most clutch players to ever play the game, he’s one of the most consistent players in the NFL today. The Giants have not had a losing season since Eli Manning has been the starting quarterback for New York.
There is no doubt in my mind; Peyton Manning is a first ballot hall of famer. No questions asked. However, he doesn’t have the hardware that his brother Eli does. Before you make your decision, I’ll ask you this: who would you rather under center with two minutes left in the game, trailing by 4? To me, the answer is obvious: it’s Eli.
Jonathan Zinser: Giants 24 Pats 14
Sam Young: Patriots 24 Giants 20
Chris Caffrey: Giants 24 Patriots 20
Zac Hardwick: Patriots 24 Giants 21
Spencer Montgomery: Patriots 31 Giants 24
Tyler Howard: Patriots 27 Giants 24
Blase Capelli: Giants 24 Patriots 21
Briek Pauwels: Patriots 31 Giants 21
I’ve got to get something off my chest. My last predictions had some flaws in them, and I apologize. Regardless, I still have four of my six predictions alive, and 4/6 equals 2/3 which is two times 1/3 which happens to be the number of predictions Blase got right in last weeks round of playoff games (Boom). Because of this, I strongly advise you to read this over Blase’s predictions. So, for this round of playoff games, I thought I’d bring in my expertise and give you a proven experts opinion on these games.
Patriots vs. Ravens, Sunday 3:00 pm
This game has quite the odd vibe to it. On one hand, you’ve got the Patriots who had an extremely impressive win against the Broncos and on the other, you’ve got the Ravens who struggled to get by the Texans who was quarterbacked by T.J. Yates. Based on conventional wisdom, one should conclude that the Pats should win, but conventional wisdom is often predictable and under thought. So, I compare the thoughts of the average sports fan with my thinking.
Conventional thinking: Wow, this is not going to be a game. God’s nephew vs. T-Sizzle? T-Sizzle, wait a minute, isn’t that Taylor Swift’s rap name? I mean God’s nephew did make the Mile-High Messiah look like Harold Camping (the guy who predicted the world was going to end last May), so Brady will probably make Flacco look like some hillbilly with a hideous Fu Manchu… oh wait. On top of all that, they’re playing in Foxboro, which makes the Ravens chances of succeeding similar to Charles Barkley’s chances of losing weight. The only thing shocking about this matchup is that the Patriots are only 7 point favorites. This will be a blowout.
My thinking: Wow, this is going to be a great game. God’s nephew vs. T-Sizzle… Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Cheeseburger (Ngata’s nickname for Terrence Cody) and, of course, Ray Rice. Brady has put this team on his back for so long that he probably has some form of chronic back pain that I’m sure one of the Ravens’ defensive menaces will bring out by the end of the game. The Pats may be 13-3 this year, but they haven’t beaten anyone with a winning record all year (even the Broncos finished 9-9). They only played two playoff teams (besides the Broncos, but their hardly considered playoff caliber) during the regular season (Giants and Steelers) and lost them both. Also, their defense is awful. People (including Ed Reed) have been giving Flacco beef all week for his inability to score against the Texans last weekend, when really no one has been able to score on the Texans all year. The Texans have given up the 4th fewest points all year only behind the Ravens, Steelers, and 49ers, and only 12 points more then the Ravens. I still don’t think the Ravens will light up the Patriots offensively, but I can easily see them scoring over 30 points which will be more then the Ravens are going to give up to the Pats.
49ers vs. Giants, Sunday 6:30 pm
What’s not to like about this matchup. Two premier franchises, each led by two back-to-back #1 overall draft picks, going head to head in one of the most historic stadiums around today with stellar defenses on both squads. Just thinking about it gives me a quarter-chub, and if you think that’s weird, you’re right. As you may know from reading my previous article, I have been on the Giants bandwagon for quite some time now, and when I should be saying, “Told you so,” I’m saying “Get me off this bus.”
Last weekend, I sat down to watch the Packers-Giants game in my basement and something felt really out-of-place. It was a similar feeling to watching Two and a Half Men with Ashton Kutcher instead of Charlie Sheen. I knew something was up and then when the Packers kicked that onside kick in the second quarter, it all clicked. The 15-1 Packers, and #1 seed in the NFC, were playing like they were underdogs. Onside kicks in the second quarter are only acceptable in two situations: a) you’re trying to surprise a team that has been called better then you by everyone all week(i.e. the Saints vs. Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl) or b) you’re clinically insane (there are still no examples of this occurring in the NFL). After doing some research, I figured out that Mike McCarthy isn’t insane and that the Packers were the favorites in the game, so it wasn’t any of those situations. But I thought some more and can now say that the Packers kicked an onside kick because Mike McCarthy is kind of insane and people were kind of saying the Packers might lose. As a result, the Giants were able to beat the former world champions without much of an effort. To most, this was a very convincing win, but to me it just didn’t seem right.
The 49ers, on the other hand, had a very impressive win last weekend. Alex Smith finally looked like the Steve Young that everyone expected him to be as the #1 draft pick back in 2005. On top of that, they beat the Saints, the team that I predicted to win the Super Bowl. Going in to the playoffs, we all knew that the 49ers could play defense. All they needed to become Super Bowl contenders was solid play from Alex Smith, and I saw more than that last week.
In the end, I think the 49ers win this game because of the other Smiths, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith on the defensive line. These two feed of the success of the secondary and likewise for the secondary. If the secondary, lead by sudden stud in Carlos Rogers, is blanketing the Giants receivers, you know one of the Smiths will get to Eli, whereas if the Smiths apply pressure on Eli, their secondary is more then capable then picking off a hurried throw. Because of this, I give the edge to the 49ers.