The Cubs yesterday finally did the inevitable, trading catcher Michael Barrett to San Diego for catcher Rob Bowen, and minor league outfielder Kyler Burke.
Barrett was known as a “good hit, no field” catcher. This is not how you win the World Series. In fact, it’s not how you get to the World Series, either.
Yet Barrett has lots of defenders in the clubhouse and in the press, mostly saying things like “sure his defense wasn’t great, but it was good enough” and “he’s a great guy in the clubhouse” and “he’s a great hitter”. Mmm hmm, that’s nice. All that plus $3 gets you a big cup of overpriced, burned coffee at Starbuck’s.
I’d love to see the list of teams that have won the World Series with guys like Barrett at catcher. I’ve been watching baseball for 40 years now, and I can’t ever remember one. Sure, maybe some good catchers who could also hit, like Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, etc. But no marginal catchers who are only in the big leagues because of their bat.
I’ll say it again: you don’t win the World Series by “settling” re: quality defense, especially at catcher. The catcher’s main job is to catch everything thrown his way, including balls in the dirt, and to call a good game, and to be unafraid to kick a pitcher in the arse once in a while if they need it.
Barrett, while a very good hitter, was clearly not that guy. And this year, even his offense had been struggling, including numerous baserunning mistakes. He was also a free agent next year. So by holding onto him all year, Jim Hendry as the GM would have been saying either (a) we don’t care about winning it all, or (b) we think we can win it all with a hitter for a catcher. And of course Barrett had some recent fistfights with both teammates and opponents, and was clearly a bit of a hothead. You can bet that had something — maybe alot — to do with this trade.
It would say more about the leadership of the team if the real reason was poor defense.
UPDATE 17 July: The Cubs have now won 16 out of 21 since the day I wrote this. Just last night, they traded Bowen and a minor league pitcher to Oakland for catcher Jason Kendall. So bascially they traded Barrett for Kendall, who is a high OBP guy and a quality catcher. Bowen was good too, just not much of a hitter, at least in the short time he was here. But it didn’t seem to hurt them much, did it?