Let me preface this post by making two statements.
- I don’t condone the use of P.E.D.s in sports.
- I love A.J. Ellis.
I’ve been following the offseason story of the Dodgers and their catching depth, and I’ve seen some interesting reactions to the signing of Yasmani Grandal. Some say that Yasmani Grandal/A.J. Ellis is not an upgrade from A.J. Ellis/Drew Butera, and I know that simply isn’t true. Some are balking at the idea that Yasmani Grandal could catch Clayton Kershaw instead of buddy battery mate A.J. Ellis, and I know that definitely will happen. Finally, some are skeptical about Yasmani Grandal because of his history with P.E.D.s, and I for one feel as though that is in the past.
Yasmani Grandal is now the Dodgers top catcher. That may be hard for many to accept right now, but I’m optimistically going into the 2015 season with the hope that Grandal will provide some increased offensive production out of the catcher’s spot in the lineup while adding an extra dimension and advantage to the pitching staff with his framing skills. After all, I want Clayton Kershaw and all the other Dodger pitchers to be as successful as possible, and highlighting their pitching with profitable framing can only add strikes in the long run.
It’s time to support Grandal this Spring, because after all he’s a Dodger now. Of course I look back at his connections to P.E.D.s with antipathy. Yet I still do have the naive belief that some P.E.D. users can quit and move on from bad choices in their past in order to reshape their career path toward the straight and narrow. While I don’t care or believe anything Alex Rodriguez says, I still say he should be able to play baseball after he served his long suspension. Of course any sort of relapse should be cause for a reevaluation in terms of being a part of the Dodgers (or any team) if multiple mistakes continue to tarnish the integrity of the team and sport.
What I’m trying to say, is that I think the punishment should fit the crime. Yasmani Grandal is now a Dodger and he should get the chance to be judged as a plays today not for the mistakes he made in the past.
I’m more concerned about prior injuries than prior P.E.D. drama. Like A.J. Ellis, Grandal has had knee surgery. He had to have his ACL and MCL repaired in 2013. 2014 was a healthy season for Grandal, and although he played in 128 games which was a career-high. Even though he only hit .225 (still higher than Ellis’s 2014 batting average of .191), Grandal showed that he still had some pop in his bat when he hit 15 homeruns. He also walked 58 times. With the loss of Matt Kemp‘s power from the lineup, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grandal hitting third or fifth.
Ken Gurnick reported from Camelback Ranch that “Don Mattingly and Andrew Friedman agree that A.J. Ellis won’t be the personal catcher for Clayton Kershaw.” Friedman hinted that Mattingly may platoon A.J. Ellis and Yasmani Grandal depending on hitting situations. Grandal has hit better against right-handed pitching. A.J. Ellis alluded to the fact that he is okay with not being the so-called starting catcher.
"“I don’t need to be titled the starting catcher,” he said. “I want to be the World Series champion catcher.”"
Spring Training has just begun, but A.J. Ellis has already said the most poignant quote I have heard in awhile.
Even though Clayton Kershaw would rather pitch to his friend A.J. Ellis, because they have a very harmonious relationship as battery mates, I also see Grandal catching Kershaw. Grandal should catch Kersh not only this Spring but at times during the season. Kershaw, the ace that he is, should be able to throw to other catchers with just as much success as he has with A.J. Of course, if I was pitching Clayton Kershaw in the World Series, you bet I would have A.J. catch him.
Call to the Pen
Having Grandal catch Kershaw this Spring is also important should A.J. Ellis succumb to disability at any point this season. The good news is that both Ellis and Grandal are healthy this Spring, and have both worked past knee issues.
"“Having two catchers is obviously very different from having two first basemen. There are a lot of games to go around. We have two guys in A.J. and Grandal who really complement each other very well,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “They give us that really well-rounded tandem behind the plate.”"
Grandal/Ellis is definitely an upgrade from last season. I do not want to see another last place showing in offense from the Dodger catchers this year (they hit a combined .181 and were dead last in the Majors). While Grandal may have some baggage, we should give him a fair chance to show that he is a contributor to this team and has a clean slate.
Another positive about Grandal catching a majority of the time in 2015 is that it gives Ellis some more rest in order to be stronger going into the postseason.
A.J. Ellis will always be the heart of the Dodger team. Perhaps now Ellis is heading the way of a Brad Ausmus or a Matt Treanor who both Ellis has learned from. Ellis may even be a great future major league manager. Let’s not let him go to the Angels this time (still upset about Mike Scioscia).
We tend to forget that not too long ago the Dodgers had to rely on Rod Barajas or Jason Phillips. The Dodgers finally have two decent catchers, and I’m excited to see how they can contribute to the offense and the pitching. Yasmani Grandal may allow a lot of passed balls, but we shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to welcome him to the Dodgers.