Friday, March 29, 2013

Unknown Heroes Pt. 26: Doug Mirabelli

I know that I am not the only one who became a big fan of Doug Mirabelli.  He just always seemed like a regular guy who happened to play baseball.  He did not really look like a ballplayer, he was a little pudgy.  But he did play baseball and for a few years, he was one of the best backup catchers in baseball.

Mirabelli was acquired in a trade with the Rangers in 2001 for Justin Duchscherer when Jason Varitek went down with an injury and Scott Hatteberg could not throw out baserunners to save his life.  Mirabelli basically took over the catcher position that year and hit pretty well, .270/.360/.518 with nine home runs.  Boston traded Hatteberg away after the season signifying that Mirabelli would be there to stay as Varitek's backup.

The next couple of seasons were fairly typical for a backup catcher.  He posted low batting averages and on-base percentages, but he had a little bit of pop in his bat.  His job quickly became the personal catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.  His fielding statistics were never terribly impressive after that, because it is very hard to be a good defensive catcher while catching knuckleballs.

In 2004, he had the best year of his career for the World Champion Red Sox.  He hit .281/.368/.525 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.  He combined with Varitek to form the best offensive catching tandem in the game that year.

He was back to normal in 2005, and at 34 years old, he was starting to look like he was going to be done soon.  After the season, Boston traded him to San Diego for Mark Loretta, who made the All Star game in 2006 as a starter for the Red Sox.  It was a decent trade.  But, when new backup Josh Bard proved completely incapable of catching Wakefield's knuckleball the Red Sox rushed into a trade with the Padres, packaging Bard and relief prospect Cla Meredith to re-acquire Dougie.  Mirabelli was able to get Wakefield back on track, but other than his power, his hitting was atrocious.

2007 would prove to be Mirabelli's final season in Boston.  He once again put up poor offensive numbers and at the end of the year it was clear Boston was looking at other options.  Kevin Cash was given an extensive tryout and proved capable of catching the knuckler as well.  Mirabelli played only one game in the postseason as Wakefield was injured for much of it.  That would be the last time he played in the Major Leagues.

Mirabelli reported to the Red Sox in 2008 but was cut before the end of Spring Training.

1 comment:

  1. Good ol' Marabelli. I remember watching the first game he caught in after that rushed trade...they had a police escort for him from the airport so he could make it in time to catch for Wakefield. Desperate times call for desperate measures.