Maybe it’s just me but I can’t remember any backup catcher in the fabled recent history of the Atlanta Braves franchise that was really a tough one to lose. In fact, most of the time it hasn’t even felt like a loss. The team would just need someone else to catch Greg Maddux if we are talking about the 1990’s. After that era also there was just no big deal if the backup catcher left. Now however with the contract David Ross signed with the Boston Red Sox, some Braves fans look at it as a shocking loss.
Allow me to ease those troubles. Its not. If you look at his numbers, Ross put up some decent ones last year and the years before. He has been as large of a part of the team as any backup could be. But was it him or was it Brian McCann? I know it sounds crazy but I think its something to pay attention to. No disrespect to Ross but I think Gerald Laird, the Braves newly signed backup catcher, will be just as much a factor as he was. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Ross’ numbers fell off significantly this year when proportionally compared to his years with the Braves.
Think about it, could it really be a coincidence that his numbers jumped while backing up McCann? Laird might not bring a fuzzy feeling to your stomach if you are a Braves fan looking at his numbers. If you look at his numbers compared to Ross’ numbers before joining the Braves, you might get a different outlook.
Maybe McCann is such a great player that it brings the best effort out of the one backing him up. I think it’s clear that while McCann is a horse for the team, he cannot play any more of the games than he does and remain healthy for many more years. So a great deal of pressure falls on the backup.
Javy Lopez was never the clubhouse leader that McCann is. McCann is stepping into the team captain shoes of Chipper Jones and feeling pretty spiffy in them. If you were backing him up wouldn’t you feel more pressure to perform better? Ross was driven to play his very best and Laird will be driven to do the same. I predict a series of career years in the way of clutch hits and big pinch hits for Laird. If it happens Laird should definitely get most of the credit. But some should go to McCann also. He is the reason Ross will not be missed in the lineup as much as most think. Can Laird perform as well as Ross did? Actually I think he might even do better.