You're The Inspiration 

Last week the Giants quietly announced the winner of their annual Willie Mac Award, a players' vote for the most inspirational squad member. Little surprise: Mike Matheny was the man.

The object of much scorn all year (mine and others'), Matheny proved one of the best offensive catchers in the big leagues, and, according to this measurement, the best defensive player in the bigs. Not the best defensive catcher -- the best defensive player bar none.

Matheny also posted the 12th best offensive Win Share total among ML catchers, not far behind Jason Kendall and ahead of Ramon Hernandez and A.J. Pierzynski.

(My apologies to the site that first led me to these numbers; I've retraced my steps but can't find the original reference.)

Top win share totals for ML catchers: Victor Martinez, 23; Joe Mauer, 22; Mike Matheny 20; Jason Varitek, 19.

So what lessons can we learn from this, other than I'm a big pendejo?

1) For the $1.5 M Matheny earned in '05 (according to this site), the Giants got a tremendous bargain. Unless Bill James's favorite baseball metric has gone horribly awry, Mike Matheny was one of the game's best overall catchers this year.

2) We can't evaluate Matheny's contract until it runs its course through 2007 and a total payout of $10M-plus, but so far, what seemed like one of Sabean's worst signings has in fact been one of his all-time best.

3) All through the first half, when the Giants hurlers were collectively among the worst in the majors, we ridiculed the idea of Matheny as a great staff-handler. We took great cynical pleasure in labeling him "Run-Saver" whenever he let a wild pitch spin to the backstop. But the Giants' staff turned things around in the second half with ERAs of 4.28, 3.25 and 3.53 in July, August and September. Could this partially be due to Matheny getting to know pitchers better? Just a thought.

4) As with all player acquisitions, luck has played a part. Luck that Matheny stayed healthy all year, and luck that he hit .311/.398/.528 with runners in scoring position.

5) Did I mention that I'm a big pendejo?


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