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Flaherty Clarity So the biggest
2003-03-30 20:47
by Mike Carminati

Flaherty Clarity

So the biggest issue in the Bronx is finally resolved...John Flaherty will be the backup catcher for the Yankees. Phew! It's nice to have such trivial problems like a superfluity of starting pitchers and a nip-and-tuck battle for backup positions by players who had been starters in previous incarnations.

This "race" was even a bigger fix than rotation, which may have been set by Joe Torre standing by his promise to slip Weaver into a spot. Torre made it abundantly clear in 2002 that he would rather use Don Zimmer as a receiver than Widger (21 games and 64 at-bats). Widger produced adequately when called upon, but Torre treated Widger's spring return like Roger Ebert viewing the latest Adam Sandler epic.

Torre said that it came down to defense, but looking at their defensive numbers, which I admit do not tell the full story especially for catchers, over at, both players look equally sub-par (Flaherty's 6.05 range factor compared to the league's 6.33 and Widger: 6.11 to the league's 6.58).

Neither catcher can be accused of channeling Josh Gibson, but both have hit as many as 14 home runs in a season as a starter. Widger is a bit handier with the bat with a slugging average 33 points higher than Flaherty. Neither gets on base more than 30% of the time though.

By the way, Flaherty is almost four years older as well.

Given the fact that Torre didn't let Widger catch some members of the staff I can't disagree with Widger's statements that he was predestined to be cut (But what about free will?):

"It just bothered me that they tried to play it off like it was wide open, and it wasn't."

This is again an example of Torre preferring role players due to apparently idiosyncratic reasons. His dislike for the little-used lefty reliever Randy Choate allowed heretofore-unknown Jason Anderson (who I keep on referring to as Jason Alexander) make the team. Torre likes backup catchers in the Joe Girardi mold. Widger didn't fit that mold. Neither did Todd Greene nor Bobby Estelella, both of whom have found new lives in other organizations.

So let's assume that Widger is superior to Flaherty--is this a bad thing for the Yankees. I think not. If Torre will use Flaherty and rest Jose Posada at least occasionally, Posada will have a little left in his tank for the inevitable Yankee postseason appearance. The same goes for Anderson. Maybe the Yankees will rely on more than three healthy arms this year. And if you're a Yankees fan, that's a good thing.

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