Goodbye to this fantastic beard.
Today the Mariners DFA’d Kelly Shoppach and signed Henry Blanco. The move is curious, and slightly bizarre, but unlikely to be related strictly to performance in my estimation. You may remember, I was a big advocate of the team bringing in Shoppach, but I am acutely aware that he was part of the faction that brought down Bobby Valentine‘s chicken and beer empire in Boston.
That’s not to say that Shoppach is an objectively terrible human being, but that he’s got a past incident in which he did something that stepped outside the normal chain of command. Eric Wedge being the oldest, grumpiest 45 year old man on earth, I presume, wouldn’t take kindly to such an incident. All the funky stuff going on at the catcher position for the Mariners in the past month, namely the ill-conceived landing of Mike Zunino in Seattle, seem to point to Shoppach not gelling with the rest of the roster, or the front office, or whatever.
Shoppach seems outwardly like a bit of a Type A personality. A guy that is an absolute perfectionist as it relates to himself. I personally believe that that’s why he grows the beard he does, it’s not that he’s naturally gifted in that area, but that he’s willed himself into a near perfect beard, a piece of facial hair that Mike Zunino’s goatee simply cannot, and shouldn’t have to compete with.
The reality is though that Type As – and please don’t consider me to be practicing amateur psychology here – can grate on their associates.
Of course, I don’t really know what is behind this move. I have no access to inside information any more than the next guy. Shoppach wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire at the plate, and he’s no savant behind it, though he is substantially better than Jesus Montero or the ghost of John Jaso. The joke being something along the lines of being better at free throws than Shaquille O’Neal, or better at not being old than Henry Blanco.
Which brings us to Blanco. Blanco is a particularly perplexing choice for the Mariners as a backup catcher. He’s 41 years old, only four years younger than Wedge, and is best know for being the personal catcher of Greg Maddux when Maddux was in Atlanta and Chicago. Maddux hasn’t pitched since 2008, and he hasn’t pitched to Blanco since 2006 when Maddux rejoined the Cubs, and Blanco was old then. In catcher years Henry Blanco is like 174 years old.
But with those catcher-adjusted 174 years, presumably comes wisdom. The Mariners may want some of that wisdom to rub off on Zunino. They may only care until Jesus Sucre is healthy again. Blanco may be a temporary solution to a temporary problem, or maybe he’ll be around for a while. It probably won’t be a long while, but maybe he’ll be around the rest of year.