August 14, 2008

Method to Mather's Madness


When someone is said to be climbing the walls, it's usually not a good sign. And if someone does so on a regular basis, you might say he's mad. But when you suddenly realize after an eye-opening event that there may have been a method to such madness, it might make you nod your head in agreement and tap your lips with an index finger while sounding: Hmmmm.

Joe Mather's sensational catch in last night's ball game that took away a home run from Luis Gonzalez of the Florida Marlins just may have been the proof that there is a method (and a result) to what seemed like madness, and may have actually been a well-rehearsed play for the rookie outfielder.

Through the season, Cardinal Nation has probably watched more fly balls leave the park while the Redbirds were on defense then anyone would like to admit. And not that the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, and Rick Ankiel have done something wrong in their travels through the outfields, but Mather does something a lot more than they do that may have trained him to make great catches like the one seen at Dolphin Stadium last night.

There have been times when fly balls to left field (where Mather normally plays) have hit the wall, landed on the warning track, just made it over the wall, and have carried pretty far over the wall or fence, as the park may be.

But here's the thing: Mather attacks every one as if he is going to make the catch, even if the ball is well out of reach. This rookie outfielder has taught himself how to approach, attempt, and make catches on all types of wild fly balls that may or may not be headed out of the park.

What might seem goofy looking to see him running up the wall on a home run that is twenty rows up actually becomes the best training on fly balls that might not quite make it. Knowing how to handle the walls and fences and judging the fly balls just can't be accomplished without, well, trying it out.

Success on fielding tough fly balls that would otherwise skip over the top of the wall or narrowly make it over is within reach of the outfielder that knows how to make a bonafide attempt. Learning this can feature some embarrassing bumbling miscues, but those are quickly forgotten after a few grabs like Mather made last night.

To be sure, all the Cardinals' outfielders are quite talented out there, maybe the best group of outfielders in the league.

But now, we know that when Mather goes up, an out may come down.
photo by Iscan