Here’s a neat article written by ex-Dodger GM Fred Claire. He called me and we had a nice 30 minute conversation about catching and the pitcher/catcher dynamic. Enjoy.
If you go to dictionary.com and look up the word battery, you will find the following information included:
“Baseball. The pitcher and catcher considered as a unit.”
That’s the way it’s supposed to work in baseball, the pitcher and the catcher working together to figure out how to get the opposition to post 27 outs in a nine-inning game.
In a couple of recent Major League games, you had to wonder if the pitcher and catcher were working together as teammates or ready to tear into one another.
This all happened in a three-day span, and made headlines from coast to coast.
On Saturday at Fenway Park, New York Yankee pitcher A.J. Burnett gave up a home run to David Ortiz of the Red Sox on a fastball and then went into a very public display of disgust.
With the FOX cameras running during a national telecast, Burnett turned his back to home plate and catcher Jorge Posada and, with his arms outstretched, seemed to be saying, “Why? Why would you throw that pitch?”
After the game, Burnett and Posada acknowledged their disagreements during the game on pitch selection.
It’s not the first time a pitcher and catcher have been at odds, but it usually doesn’t play out in such a public forum.
On Monday night in Anaheim, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and his catcher Gerald Laird engaged in a heated verbal dispute in the dugout between innings and once again the disagreement was captured by television cameras.
The two incidents demonstrate a couple of noteworthy points:
1. The relationship between a pitcher and catcher is the most important combination at play during a game.
2. When the weather and the pennant races heat up tempers can grow short.
Fortunately, these types of pitcher-catcher disputes usually blow over quickly because in five days the twosome may be back together and hopefully working in harmony.
The relationship between a pitcher and catcher has been chronicled through the years by some noteworthy quotes.
“Catchers have been designated as geniuses but I don’t think that’s the case,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. “No one knows the rigors of pitching better than a pitcher.”
Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra had a counter viewpoint, once stating “All pitchers are liars and crybabies.”
“I remember one time going out to the mound to talk to Bob Gibson,” recalled former catcher and present day FOX announcer Tim McCarver. “He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was it was hard to hit.”
When all is said and done on the subject, most pitchers and catchers will agree on the most significant point of all — the pitcher has to throw the pitch he has the most confidence throwing.
“I never pressed a pitcher to throw a pitch he didn’t want to throw,” said Rick Dempsey, a veteran of 24 Major League seasons and now an announcer for the Baltimore Orioles. “You can’t fight your pitcher. No one emphasized that more than [former Orioles manager] Earl Weaver.”
As feisty as Dempsey was as a player, he said he never had a disagreement with a pitcher that was on public display.
“The very best pitch a pitcher can throw is the one he throws with his heart,” said Brent Mayne, a veteran of 15 seasons and author of the book “The Art of Catching.”
“I had the ability to call a game and get along with pitchers and excel at that part of the game,” said Mayne. “That was definitely where I made the house payments.”
It isn’t likely that the Yankees and Tigers will put any of their pitcher-catcher disagreements on public display the remainder of this season.
It should come under the heading of a lesson learned.
Furthermore, the goal is to have your pitcher and catcher hugging after the final out of the season; not arguing.