The Chicago White Sox went to the World Series in 1959 for the first time in 40 years and lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Owner Bill Veeck decided there was a need for more punch in the Sox lineup and made two major trades:
He brought back outfielder Minnie Minoso to Chicago by sending Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano to Cleveland on Dec. 6, 1959. He acquired Roy Sievers from Washington for Don Mincher, Earl Battey and $150,000 cash on April 4, 1960.
Romano and Battey were both 25-year-old catchers at the start of the 1960 season. Sherm Lollar, the longtime catcher with Chicago, was 35 and now without two backups entering the prime of their careers.
Dwight Eisenhower had his last Presidential Opener on April 18, 1960, with the new catcher, Battey, homering and driving in four runs, and Camilo Pascual striking out 15 in a Senators 10-1 victory over Boston. Romano took over as the No. 1 catcher in Cleveland that summer.
Romano and Battey, representing the Twins, were both American League All-Stars in 1962. Romano made two of those teams and Battey four with the Twins.
This was true in 1960: If you have a pair of catchers who can receive, can hit and are major league-ready, do not trade both of them.
And this was true 50 years later: If you have a young catcher who can receive, hit and is major league-ready, do not trade him, no matter how strong is a front office’s faith in its No. 1 catcher.
July 29, 2010 … a day that can reside in infamy as a starting point for this miserable decade of how the Twins baseball.
On that day, the Twins surrendered Wilson Ramos, about to turn 23, for what at best was a modest upgrade of Matt Capps over Jon Rauch as the closer.
The Twins were a game out of first in the AL Central when the trade was made, wound up moving to as much as 12 games in front of the division, and eased into another playoff date with New York.
Result: Yankees, three wins to none.
Admittedly, the Ramos trade has been beaten to death in the media and by disgruntled Twins followers. And the defenders always will point out that Ramos had half of his six seasons in Washington waylaid by significant injuries.
True enough, but there’s also this theory:
This decade’s plummet that started in 2011 with injuries to Joe Mauer and others would not have been so severe with Ramos as Joe’s replacement. The Twins would have been in the wild-card game with Ramos as the catcher in 2015. The Twins would not have become the worst team in franchise history with Ramos as the catcher in 2016.
And the Twins would not be as deeply into the current mess if Ramos were the catcher.
Ramos is a free agent-to-be and presumably available. Someone asked recently if the Twins should trade for him.
Answer: It’s too late — as in, too late to do anything to rescue this putrid season, and too late for Ramos, 31 next month and wearing the tear of a veteran catcher, to be considered a several-season fix for the huge catching hole that exists in the Twins organization.
Through Twins history, the good runs — starting with Battey in the 1960s, ending with A.J. Pierzynski and Mauer from 2001-10 — have included catchers who could receive and could hit. And the bad runs generally have had a void of such catchers.
The void rarely has been more obvious than right now:
Jason Castro was batting .143 when injured. Bobby Wilson, 35 and signed to be a fill-in at best, is getting much of the duty — even though he’s 1-for-37 since his second at-bat on June 7.
Why is Wilson catching so much? Why not Mitch Garver?
Garver is not an adequate receiver. Nobody is expressing it, but it’s obvious the pitchers want to throw to Wilson and not Garver.
Take my word on this: There is no group that makes more excuses than starting pitchers, and now they have K Zones to blame umpires and pitch-framing analysis to blame catchers to support their complaints.
The Twins don’t have a catcher in the minors who can both hit and receive to big-league standards. They have Brian Navarreto, an outstanding receiver who can’t hit, at Class AA. They have Ben Rortvedt, a 20-year-old just reaching high-A at Fort Myers, who could arrive in three, four years.
The Twins need a team to trade them a 25-year-old Earl Battey this offseason. Or even better, they need a team to trade them a 22-year-old Wilson Ramos at the end of this month.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for either.