Can you believe it? I had actually already planned on writing this one today. I'm amazing.
...yeah. I wouldn't believe me about that either.
Dougie...doing what else? Goin' deep. Source: MLB.com
Back in the saddle again, children. Another year of Dougie. I think the real problem we all have with Dougie is that he made our expectations so high. He's been around for awhile, remember.
Since the trade from the Rangers in 2001, he's played only 14 games outside of a Red Sox uniform (obviously, I'm referring to his stint in San Diego, .535 OPS, during which he probably spent most of his time pantsing Kevin Towers and forcing his teammates to buy tickets to the gun show.).
How did he do this? Raise our expectations, I mean, not pantsing Towers. Well, for a number of years, you couldn't have asked for a better backup catcher:
2001 (54 games): 126 OPS+
2002 (57 games): 88 OPS+
2003 (62 games): 92 OPS+
2004 (59 games): 124 OPS+
2005 (50 games): 87 OPS+ (2 SB)
Especially given that his defense is a negligible drop (if that) from 'Tek, we couldn't have been more thrilled. Then. Well. You'll get the idea.
2006 (59 games): 52 OPS+
2007 (48 games): 63 OPS+
And we were all calling for his head on a platter, or at least for the Sox to get together and throw him a retirement banquet, with nothing but chicken parmesan on the menu.
It's been voiced here and elsewhere, that it doesn't make sense to commit two roster slots to one man: Tim Wakefield. And I agree. However, two things give me pause before grabbing a torch and pitchfork (minds edit: OUT of the gutters, people). 1) (And this is sentimental, so bear with me) Wake deserves to go out on his own terms. 2) With Dougie around he's still capable enough to give us a significant number of quality, league-average innings, for $4M per year. Would you rather we dump the both of them and sign Carlos Silva to do the same job? Sign Kyle Lohse to do worse? Expect both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to be healthy, successful, and throw 180-200 innings apiece?
This is a question I kind of know the answer to, but who out there was better? I've seen advocates for Kevin Cash. Great, but if your problem is with Dougie's bat, then Cash is really going to piss you off. Miguel Olivo wasn't interested in signing on to strictly be a backup. Who else was out there? Trade market, obviously, had some possibilities, but when the job consists of blocking/catching a very elusive pitch, you need someone who can give you premium defense. I didn't see any rumors of guys who might've fit that bill, other than Brian Schneider, I guess. (Who, btw, OPS+'d 77 last season in the NL, mostly batting 7th or 8th in front of pitchers or weak hitters. I'm not sure he'd actually have been that big an upgrade.)
I think his defense is as good as it has always been. Considering the fact that he caught mostly for Wake, whose delivery and "arsenal" give runners plenty of time, I find it astounding that he was still able to throw out 22% of attempted base stealers. Compare that to 'Tek, who caught mostly FB-guys, and got 23%.
Also, what team out there is going to be successful if they're relying on offensive contributions from their BACKUP CATCHER? What 'Belli has given us in the past was a nice bonus, but every time he plays there'll be 8 guys in the lineup who should be able to score more than enough runs. He'll still contribute his 5-6 bombs and ML-best (among backups with more than 100 PAs) 4.2 P/PA. That's good enough for me, considering the dearth of options out there, either short or long-term.
Here's to Dougie goin' deep again in 2008.