Rod Barajas Seizing The Moment
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
When Omar Minaya’s failed dalliance with Bengie Molina culminated in the late February signing of veteran backstop Rod Barajas, he hit on Black Jack, Number 21.
Barajas has not only provided long-distance service, from a previously power starved position, he should also be credited (and Henry Blanco) with gaining the trust of the young pitchers on the staff.
For a catcher, it’s all about the relationship he shares with the hurler. Can he motivate him-kick him or cajole him, and execute the game plan? Can he bring out the best and guide him through the many bumps in the road?
Conversely, can the pitcher have absolute confidence, in not only his pitch-calling, but receiving abilities? ”If I bounce the breaking ball can he block it?” That swirls often in the pitcher’s head.
(The less that runs through a pitcher’s mind the better chance at winning-its called, ”The “uncluttered mind”. Remove the road block named doubt and success follows.)
If you don’t think the new catching tandem hasn’t helped John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Mike Pelfrey immensely, you have been watching the American League too much. Think about the aforementioned trio in terms of personality; Maine’s bark (at himself) is harder than Mike Tyson bites on an ear of corn or flesh.
Perez is a pitch-by-pitch adventure, but when he can get in a groove and commands his repertoire, is capable of Monday night’s line: 6 innings, 6 hits, and 2 earned runs. The Mets will gleefully sign for that every fifth day.
Finally, his last start not withstanding (because the Phillies also torched Johan Santana) Big Pelf has been the Mets best starter this season, hands down.
By the way, Maine’s performance Tuesday night was his best of the year. The only noise maker a Brandon Phillips (love to have him at second base) first inning bomb. Nevertheless, the rest of his performance virtuoso; a four-hitter over six innings, and one earned run (and still kicking himself afterwords no doubt).
Getting back to the backstops. They have all nurtured the Mets pitchers, and don’t forget the lefty with the most upside-Jon Niese. Barajas’ lethal stick is a bonus.
His latest 9th inning blast was his team leading 7th, and kept the Mets out the extra frames that the Reds excel in. The drama was even kept to a dull roar when K-Rod greased the Little Red Machine to close shop.
After losing three straight, Hot Rod seized the moment and morphed into the catching version of the “stopper.” Say what you want about Minaya’s stewardship, signing Barajas was a stroke of blind luck.
So a season that looked to be dashed and trashed (sorry Clyde) two weeks ago has a modicum of optimism attached. The Phillies may be a powerhouse over the long haul, but the Mets can-and should contend for a Wild Card.
Barajas won a big pot on this road trip, but Minaya is the proverbial blind squirrel who found an acorn this winter, and 21 beats the house every time.
About the Author: Doug Branch
Doug has been sports writing since 1983. He first wrote about the Mets at spring training that year, and his first interviewee was surly catcher Ron Hodges. He currently writes for Mets Inside Pitch, among other magazines published by Scout Publishing-which is owned by Fox Sports. He began following the team during the Wes Westrum era, and redeemed many Borden milk coupons for free Saturday baseball. The night of Tom Seaver's imperfect game against the Cubs, he was in line to buy a ticket when the windows slammed shut and abject disappointment ensued.
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