Catchers manage, all right
Leading, handling of pitchers make backstops good skippers
Don't look now, but this catchers-as-managers thing is catching on.Of the 30 current Major League managers, 12 have squatted behind a plate and called a game at some point in their playing careers, and that number would have been 13 if Tony Pena didn't resign from the Royals earlier this season. A few of these men only got a catching cup of coffee, but a couple got the whole pot and then some. One thing most of them agree on is that catchers see enough, do enough and learn enough during the course of a game, a season and a career to have what it takes to run clubs once their playing days are over. The facet of catching that they say lends itself the most toward managing later on is the basic fact that a catcher sees more of the field than any other position player. "Catchers are probably the closest to a manager," said Yankees skipper Joe Torre, a five-time All-Star catcher in the 1960s who is grooming former Yankees catcher and current New York bench coach Joe Girardi to be a manager. "Pitching is such a huge part of the game, and catchers are so important to pitching. They're the only player on the field that doesn't have to turn around, because it's all in front of them. They get to see the game develop. ... It gives you a lot more insight into the game, because you don't just recognize the playing part, but also the pitching part." "Catchers are forced to watch a game the way a manager does," added Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who caught for seven different teams in a 10-year big-league career. "They are the only position player that deals with the pitcher on an every-pitch basis. They have to know the opponent. They have to know their pitcher. They have to know what signs the manager is giving to counteract whatever running-game things are going on. "Unless he thinks along with the manager, he's going to have a tough time running the game on a consistent and timely basis." Padres manager Bruce Bochy, a catcher for the Houston Astros, New York Mets and Padres from 1978-87, agreed with Melvin. "In essence, the catcher is running the game out there," Bochy said. "He's one guy who faces everything. He knows all the defensive plays, hopefully he understands the pitchers, and he works with 10, 11 different personalities on a pitching staff."
|Bruce Bochy||Padres||Nine MLB seasons|
|John Gibbons||Blue Jays||17 MLB games|
|Clint Hurdle||Rockies||22 MLB games|
|Ken Macha||A's||Four MLB games|
|Lloyd McClendon||Pirates||50 MLB games|
|Jack McKeon||Marlins||10 Minor League seasons|
|Bob Melvin||Diamondbacks||627 MLB games|
|Dave Miley||Reds||Seven Minor League seasons|
|Mike Scioscia||Angels||13 MLB seasons; 2-time All-Star|
|Joe Torre||Yankees||903 MLB games; 5-time All-Star|
|Eric Wedge||Indians||Six MLB games|
|Ned Yost||Brewers||214 MLB games|
Bochy's current boss, Padres general manager Kevin Towers, pitched to Bochy in the Minor Leagues in 1988 and said he could tell then that Bochy had what it took to manage a club."He was a backup catcher, so he spent a lot of time in the bullpen, talking to pitchers, talking to coaches and managers," Towers said. "Catchers see everything. It's all in front of them. You're learning about what pitchers throw in certain counts, how long they last in games, everything. It's like you almost become an advance scout when you catch. "The toughest thing about managing, I think, is managing your bullpen, knowing when to take starters out of a game and how to use your relievers. He knows because he's seen all of that. Catchers have a big advantage when it comes to that part of the game. They're the field general back there. They should be in control." But according to Bochy, managing a team has other intricacies that catchers might pick up on quicker than other players. "I think when you're a player, especially a catcher, you think about running the game and dealing with the players more," Bochy said. "The one thing I'd like to think I've always tried to do as a manager is just that -- managing your people. There's so many different personalities on a club and you have to get them to work together. You have to communicate. As a catcher, you're doing that at times." Some managers who used to be catchers prefer to downplay the now-popular assumption that being a catcher prepares you better for management. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a two-time All-Star backstop who caught the most games in Los Angeles Dodgers history, points to the percentages. "I almost take the contrary opinion [that catchers make better managers], because there's a lot more managers that weren't catchers," Scioscia said. Indians manager Eric Wedge, who caught six games at the big-league level, seems to agree that this line of thinking might be a bit overplayed. "There've been a lot of good managers who weren't catchers," Wedge said. But when pressed, both agree there has to be some connection. "One thing that you have a little edge early on is with the pitcher-catcher relationship, because you've lived it and you realize how important that is to a winning club," Scioscia said. "But that's nothing that Dusty Baker or [other managers] haven't learned." Added Wedge: "I think at this point in time, for whatever reason, there are a lot of catchers as managers. I think one advantage of that may be the fact that, as a catcher, you've got to be involved in every aspect of the game and be aware of it. I think it's a leadership position, and that plays into it as well." Milwaukee Brewers skipper Ned Yost, who caught in more than 200 games at the Major League level, summed it up pretty well from a personality standpoint. "You have to pay attention and know the subtleties of the game," Yost said. "A lot of it as a catcher is being able to stay positive with your pitcher -- get them through an inning, through the game. "It's psychological. Managing is a lot like that. That's a big part of it, getting players to feel comfortable in their environment."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Mark Feinsand, Steve Gilbert, Justice B. Hill, Adam McCalvy and Mark Thoma contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.