You remember Henry Blanco, right? In 2004, when Joe Mauer got hurt, Blanco -- expected to catch one day a week at most -- stepped in and Minnesota still managed to make the playoffs. (The Twins even WON A PLAYOFF GAME! Them was the days, huh?)
What you might not know is that Blanco -- a career .223/.288/.361 hitter who turned 33 in 2004 -- played another nine years. He was excellent at throwing out base runners and had a good rapport with pitchers; in New York and Toronto he was R.A. Dickey's preferred knuckleball catcher.
Blanco's currently on the Cubs' payroll as either a "quality control coach" or a "quality assistance coach," job titles which confuse me but I assume mean "cool, smart guy we want in the organization somehow." That's just about right. If I ran a baseball team, I'd want a survivor like Henry Blanco, too.
So let's look at the other Twins backstop backups since Blanco's day, and how they compare to the Grizzled One. Mostly in ability to stick around, but extra Blanco Points (BPs) are granted for general badassness.
Pat Borders (2004)
A deadline-deal pickup for the Twins, Borders would play one more season with Seattle. Rating:
Borders is almost a perfect Blanco. He played until age 42 -- just like Blanco. He was only a starter for four seasons in Toronto, and hit just well enough to stay in the majors. Loses BPs for having a boring name like a boring defunct chain bookstore.
Matt LeCroy (2000-2005, 2007)
LeCroy started 48 games as catcher in 2000, but almost exclusively as a last-ditch option thereafter. (Career caught-basestealer percentage? 17% -- 14% after 2000. League average is 30%.) LeCroy was so outmatched in one game with the Nationals (7 SB!) it made manager Frank Robinson cry. Rating:
Gains BPs for the following classic moment. In 2005, some local news channel did a fluff piece on Twins players' superstitions. Who puts their uniform on such a way before every game, etc. LeCroy told the reporter "after every home win, the next day, me and Mike Redmond get in the Mississippi River and swim to the Metrodome." The reporter actually asked for more details, and LeCroy went on for a while before the reporter figured it out.
Chris Heintz (2005-2007)
Played in a total of 31 games. Rating:
Barely gets BPs for making his MLB debut at age 30, but otherwise, nope.
Mike Redmond (2005-2009)
Never started more than half a season's games as, like Borders, he was a decent contact hitter with no power. Also backed up superstars Pudge & Mauer. Rating:
Jose Morales (2007, 2009-2010)
Played in 62 MLB games, 41 as a starting catcher. Another guy with a decent average and zero bat oomph (never hit a big-league homer.) Maybe needed some naked BP. Rating:
Gains BPs by playing last season for the Long Island Ducks of Central Islip, NY. Because the Ducks' roster this year includes player/coach Lew Ford. I s**t you not.
Ryan Jorgensen (2008)
Two games with the Twins, four apiece with Cincinnati and Florida. Hit two homers in his four Reds games! Rating:
Drew Butera (2010-2013)
Like Blanco, filled in for an injured Mauer (in 2011), without the same team success. Staggeringly long career for a guy batting .188/.244/.272. Hit a home run on his dad's birthday while dad (Sal, an ex-Twin) was in attendance. Rating:
Loses BPs because we had to watch him take 490 GODDAMN AT-BATS
Wilson Ramos (2010)
Four promising minor-league seasons and seven games in MLB was all the Twins needed to see. Rating:
Loses BPs because of MATT GODDAMN CAPPS. Gains sad, sad BPs because in 2011 he was kidnapped for ransom by Venezuelan thugs (later rescued.) Henry Blanco's brother was kidnapped in 2008 and killed. Money and fame aren't everything, folks.
Steve Holm! (2011)
Not another one! God, when will it stop? 59 career games, six with the Twins (six too many). Rating:
(tarantulas eating the crickets)
Rene Rivera (2011)
A second-round draft pick by Seattle in 2001, since, dammit, the best catcher in the draft had already been taken. Of course I mean Kelly Shoppach. Rating:
Loses BPs for having an un-Blanco-like season (OPS .751) starting a majority of games for San Diego in 2014. Gains BPs for starting the majority of games with Tampa Bay last year while OPS-ing .489. And he's still playing, with the Mets now.
Ryan Doumit (2012-2013)
Not really a catcher near the end of his career (just 32 when he left the Twins, but only played one more season with Atlanta.) Still started more games at catcher in '11-'12 than any other position. Rating:
Gains BPs for his first game playing LF as a Twin. The leadoff hitter wails a line drive to left, Doumit catches it, then turns around towards fans in the bleachers and spreads his arms as if asking "don't I get some love?" We applauded. Loses BPs for "Jaws II," "Jaws 3-D," "Jaws: The Revenge."
Chris Herrmann (2012-2015)
Basically Rivera's split zygote. Is currently having his equivalent of Rivera's 2014 season (6th in bWAR on the Diamondbacks.) Rating:
Loses BPs because he was part of the infamous Gardy "we need three catchers just because" obsession.
Josmil Pinto (2013-2014)
Remember when he was supposed to be good? Rating:
(rock lizards eating tarantulas)
Couldn't beat out Butera for a job. That's not good.
Eric Fryer (2013-2015)
Don't you wish Pinto had been good so you never had to watch Eric Fryer? Rating:
Gains BPs for somehow landing a job with the Cardinals after three years and 49 mediocre games in Minnesota. Well played, Fryer.
John Ryan Murphy (2016)
Juan Centeno (2016)
Eligible to be a free agent in six years at age 32, so the Twins better hurry. Rating:
Gains BPs because a few entertaining games is more than most of the Twins have provided this season.