Greg Myers – 1997 Pinnacle

December 1, 2010

“There’s One For The Scrap Heap!”

I am on a posting frenzy. There’s only one reason for this…

(Yeah, you have to go to Youtube to watch it – but you’ll get over it…)

The Blue Jays had prospects flying out their kiester in the 80’s. Many of them, of course, were duds, like Eddie Zosky (he’ll come up one day in here), Sil Campusano, Matt Stark (another catcher), Lou Thorton, Randy Knorr (yet another catcher), Webster Garrison, Jeff Hearron (still yet another catcher), Augie Schmidt, Brent Bowers, etc.

Myers was another semi-bust. Groomed to be in the catching picture with Pat Borders, Myers had one so-so year with Toronto as the semi-regular and then was traded early in 1992 with Rob Ducey (oh, yeah, another bust, forgot him above) for Mark Eichhorn.

Instead of jumping on the pile for the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 – he barely played for the Angels in 1992 (injury?) and then was the semi-regular for a bad 1993 Angels team. He got some playing time in a catching troika with Chris Turner and Jorge Fabregas (wow, memories…) and after 1995 signed with the Twins.

Since Myers batted lefty, he was always looked on favorably to any team that needed a platoon catcher. His main skill was batting average. He had a few homers in him, but didn’t walk much, ran like a catcher (he stole three bases in his career – all in 1993 – and was caught 12 times, and he only hit seven triples in his career), and didn’t field all that well. But he kept sticking around, thanks to being a left handed hitting catcher that could get jammed, as the card shows above.

(For the longest time I thought Myers was holding a croquet stick as well as his bat – my eyes are gettin’ old or my mind’s playing tricks on me.)

Late in 1997 Myers was traded to Atlanta after September 1 so the Braves could have some catching depth. Javy Lopez had been dinged up earlier in the year, and Myers and Tim Spehr were added to back up Lopez and Eddie Perez down the stretch.

Thus begins Myers’ career as a traveling backup catching show.

1998 – Signs with the Padres, backing up Carlos Hernandez. Starts Game 2 of the WS. Smacks a two-run blast in the NLCS in game 5, chasing Kerry Ligtenberg. Ligtenberg didn’t pitch again until 2000.

1999 – Backs up Hernandez again, but with the Padres rebuilding and Lopez injured the Braves trade for him. He plays in every WS game, but the Braves get swept.

2000 – Signs with the Orioles, backs up Charles Johnson and then Brook Fordyce when Johnson is traded.

2001 – Starts with the Orioles, backs up Fordyce but with Fernando Lunar waiting in the wings, he’s released though he’s hitting .270 with 4 home runs in 82 ABs. Well run franchise, those Orioles. Oakland snaps him up quickly but he slumps as he backs up Ramon Hernandez.

2002 – Backs up Ramon Hernandez again. His average is suffering but is getting some power into his arsenal as he swats six dingers in 170 ABs.

2003 – At age 37, he signs with his old friends in Toronto. And wonder of wonders, Myers sets a career high in G, AB, R, H, HR, RBI, BB, K (well…that was expected) and…um…GIDPs. I don’t know if that’s a record, but that must be very unusual for a 15-year vet to set all of those career highs. It’s a great season – Myers hits .307 with an over .500 SLG and an OPS+ of 125.  He splits time at catcher with Tom Wilson but DHs for 22 games.

Then, as soon as he peaked, he basically vanished. In 2004 and 2005 he barely played, as he got hurt in April 2004 and tried to come back but was DFA’d in 2005. And that was that.

He finished where he started, an incredibly long career for a player of his ability. That’s not a knock on Myers, it’s resilience.

Another amazing thing is that he only played catcher or DH in the majors. Sometimes, backup catchers have to play elsewhere in an emergency. Mike Redmond played three games at first and one at third. Javier Valentin also played some third and first. So did guys like Bill Plummer. But Myers was pure. Just a catcher.

It also teaches us all a lesson. If you have talent just a bit above the replacement level, either be a left-handed pitcher, or a catcher that bats left-handed. You may not be a star, but ten years at the major league level ain’t hay…

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