So I tuned in to the Cards-Pirates game Monday evening just in time to see some James McDonald chin music knock down Yadier Molina. Something struck me as out of place, however. And it wasn’t that every player was wearing No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.
The problem with this picture was that Russell Martin caught the pitch. Martin catches a good game, I’ll give him that. And before Sunday, I would have been willing to give the Pirates the benefit of the doubt for starting a guy hitting .065 on the young season.
But Sunday, Pirates backup catcher Mike McKenry had the game of his career, blasting a pair of home runs in Pittsburgh’s 10-7 win over Cincinnati.
Admittedly, I have a sweet spot for McKenry. It’s for the same reason I detest Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp. As previously explained, in the old days, before Myspace turned into the flea market of social networking sites, Kemp shot down my friend request, and I haven’t liked him since. McKenry on the other hand was the first of many pro players to accept a friend request from me. He and I even had some correspondence early in his career, in which he told me he was working on developing more consistent power at the plate.
Mission accomplished for McKenry, who hit 12 home runs in part-time play last season. And it’s precisely that production that has me mystified as to why he wasn’t in the lineup again Monday. Fort McKenry – as he’s called in Pittsburgh – tends to hit his home runs in bunches. Last year on two separate occasions he hit homers in consecutive games. On two other occasions, he hit two separate home runs within a span of three games.
The Pirates have a lot invested n Martin, who signed a high-priced, two-year contract prior to the season. And sure, I appreciate the fact that Martin skipped an invite from Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic, even though it’s probably par for the course for a catcher who needs all the spring reps he can get while acclimating to a new club. But he honored his team commitment despite being ridiculed harshly in the media. So bully for him.
It’s important to note that McKenry has yet to establish himself as an everyday major league catcher. He has started just two games this year. But for a team that entered into play Monday dead last in baseball with .203 team batting average, the Pirates can ill afford to be sitting a guy after he goes yard twice in the team’s biggest single-game run output of the season.