In a shocking move, the Atlanta Braves have decided to bench six-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann for Friday’s wild-card playoff game against the the St. Louis Cardinals. David Ross will get the start behind the plate.
While McCann has just endured the worst season of his excellent career, it’s still a huge surprise that he won’t be starting in the Braves’ one-game playoff. Other than third baseman Chipper Jones, McCann represents the heart of Atlanta’s franchise.
In 121 games this season, the 28-year-old backstop hit .230, with 20 home runs, 67 RBI, 44 runs, 44 walks, 78 strikeouts, and a career-low .699 OPS. For a guy who has traditionally been one of the best hitting catchers in baseball, those numbers are simply horrendous. His WAR of 0.6 was the lowest total he’s had since he played just 59 games as a rookie in 2005.
McCann has won five Silver Slugger Awards (2006, 2008-2011), but that wasn’t enough for manager Fredi Gonzalez to give him the nod over Ross on Friday in the biggest game of the year for the Braves.
Gonzalez did stress that this is a one-game benching and that McCann will play if the team gets past the one-game playoff:
“I think going forward Mac will catch, obviously in a longer series, a five-game series or even a seven-game series if we get that far. We’ll play the matchups.”
Gonzalez claimed he made the switch mainly for defensive reasons, as he believes Ross will give the Braves a better chance at stopping the Cardinals from stealing bases.
McCann has been slowed by a knee injury and a balky right shoulder all season, but the guy is a gamer. He has always been clutch and has stepped up in big spots for the Braves in the past.
If Atlanta loses on Friday Gonzalez may have a lot of explaining to do. It will also be a long offseason for McCann.