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So Long, Machete

Yes, it’s irrational: I really like Martin Maldonado.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s trade with the Angels makes sense in many ways. The Brewers get younger and gain a few years of control at the back-up catcher position, there shouldn’t be a starting catcher controversy, they save some money this year (although it may perhaps be a good idea to spend a bit of that extra cash at some point, Slingin’ Man), and perhaps there is a bit more offensive upside coming back to Milwaukee.

The metrics say that Jett Bandy is the Machete’s equal (or close to it) defensively, but I don’t buy it. Maldonado’s arm was every bit as much a threat to the opponent’s running game as the best base stealers were to the Brewers. He was usually very quick with his release, very accurate, and totally unafraid. Runners at any base had to be continually aware of Maldy trying to pick them off, and that kept them closer to the base than any other catcher I’ve watched over the past several years.

Martin also took it upon himself to work hard with the pitcher to get them to concentrate; if he saw something lacking he wasn’t afraid to bark at the pitcher, throw it back with a bit extra (I was occasionally concerned that he might hurt somebody that way), he worked very hard at working the umpires, and had a firm grasp of how to pitch - how to work a batter to get his timing off. The Brewers team ERA was considerably better after the Jonathan Lucroy trade, and while there are many factors involved there, one of them was Maldonado.

Of course, Martin never hit enough to start. There were moments, 5/31/15. (I’d forgotten about those dead mice adds.) (And it was the D-Backs.) His occasional power was always a pleasant surprise; he seemed to save it for tougher pitchers and important moments. He occasionally drove me to distraction with his bunting for hits, but he probably had about the same success rate doing that as he did just swinging away.

But what I really like about Martin Maldonado is that he so obviously cares about what he is doing, about winning baseball games. Or fights. (I still don’t know how Gerrit Cole wasn’t disciplined in that one.) I know “grit” is a four-letter word for many, and is thrown around too easily, but Martin Maldonado makes his teammates better because they don’t want to let him down. He is a gritty player.

I’m not using statistical analysis to support my position. Well, a little, but I’m sure it will be much easier to show that it is a good deal than not. I will not be convinced.

So even though Angel fans aren’t thrilled with this deal, they will come to know how much Martin can mean to a team. I wish him all the best, and hope that he has great success with the Angels. It will be hard to convince me that the Brewers “won” this trade.