All four managers who remain in baseball’s postseason grew up as catchers. Joe Girardi won two World Series as a catcher for the New York Yankees, the team he now manages. Jim Leyland toiled for seven seasons as a catcher in the minor league system of the Detroit Tigers, the team he now manages. Bochy spent parts of nine seasons as a backup catcher for three teams and was a manager by age 40. Matheny won four Gold Gloves at the position, three with the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he now manages, and one with the San Francisco Giants, who he manages against Wednesday afternoon in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
All of them say catching prepared them for the jobs they do now, which is nothing new, because going back to the days of Connie Mack, catchers seemed to naturally drift to managing. But in the National League’s case, Bochy and Matheny are also overseeing what might be considered a small renaissance at the position — or at least an opening of minds as to what might be possible for catchers when they take off all that gear.
Hitting fourth for the Giants on Wednesday night will be Buster Posey, a 25-year-old who just completed his second full major league season — he lost most of 2011 to an ankle injury — and won the National League batting title. Hitting fifth for the Cardinals will be his counterpart, Yadier Molina, who finished fourth in the batting race, has four Gold Gloves and four all-star appearances. They are both contenders for the National League MVP award, an honor not bestowed on a catcher since Johnny Bench in 1972.
“I know Buster has to have a lot of consideration as the most valuable player,” Matheny said. “But from where I sit, I don’t know how Yadier Molina couldn’t be in that conversation, as well.”
Matheny and Bochy each hit .239 during their major league careers. Bochy slugged .388, Matheny an even more meager .344. They were, back then, not expected to hit high in the order or be primary run-producers. They were expected to learn the game, to know the game, to think the game.
“I do think catchers have a slight advantage as far as making that transition from player to manager because, in essence, that’s what you’re doing,” Bochy said. “You’re having to handle a staff, 11 or 12 pitchers. Hopefully you have some understanding of pitching. You’re watching the game. You can’t drift mentally during the game at all. You’ve got to keep that focus for nine innings. [If] you’re out in the outfield, you can maybe think about that last at-bat.”