McCann's peers salute his All-Star status
Braves catcher proves he's one of, if not the best backstops
ST. LOUIS -- Less than four complete seasons into his Major League career, Brian McCann has already gained four consecutive All-Star selections and the opportunity to serve as Team USA's catcher during this year's World Baseball Classic.
Still, as McCann gathered with the other National League All-Stars for a news conference in St. Louis on Monday morning, he was still that wide-eyed, humble youngster who seemingly hasn't grasped the reality that he truly has established himself as one of the game's top catchers.
"I don't put myself in any category," McCann said. "I'll let other people put me in certain categories. I'm going to go out and do my best every single night, and if people want to put me in that category, that's fine. But if they don't, that's fine, too."
While the fans haven't yet provided McCann the backing he's needed to gain his first All-Star start, fellow NL players and managers have certainly noticed the Braves catcher's talents and shown their support with the votes that have allowed him to experience each of the past four Midsummer Classics.
"I think he's one of the most underappreciated players in the game," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "To be able to do what he does catching-wise and still find a way to hit and be as productive as he's been, [it] says a lot about him. I don't think he's gotten the credit for what he's done."
Provided the always-loyal support of the St. Louis faithful, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina easily garnered enough fans' votes to start this year's All-Star Game. But based purely on offensive numbers, McCann was the clear-cut choice to be the Senior Circuit's starting catcher.
McCann leads all NL backstops with a .298 batting average and an .862 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) this season. The fact that he ranks second in homers and RBIs is a product of the fact that blurred vision in his left eye limited him to just 13 games before May 8.
"He hurts us," Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said. "He's obviously a good defensive catcher and he can swing the bat, so I do look at him as one of the best catchers in baseball."
Dating back to the beginning of 2006 -- his first full season in the big leagues, McCann leads all MLB catchers in home runs, slugging percentage, doubles, extra-base hits and RBIs. He notched his second NL Silver Slugger Award last year, and despite his early-season vision problems, the 25-year-old catcher has positioned himself to gain a third one.
"Whether it's a lefty or a righty on the mound, he's good," Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said. "No matter who is facing him in the box, he's comfortable and he has a great swing."
|"Nothing against our catchers, but if they're looking to trade him, we'll take him."|
|-- Mets third baseman David Wright, on Brian McCann|
All discussions concerning the game's top offensive catchers center around McCann and Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who plays his home games in a climate-controlled dome and gains another advantage via the American League setting that allows him to take a break from catching while remaining in the lineup as a designated hitter.
Since the start of 2006, Mauer has hit .332 with 44 homers, a .415 on-base percentage and a .487 slugging percentage. McCann's stats during this span include a .299 batting average, 73 homers, a .362 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage.
"I've faced them both, and what has surprised me is Mauer's power this year," D-backs ace Dan Haren said. "When I've faced him before, he's been more of a singles and doubles hitter.
"With McCann, you don't see many catchers hitting .320 or .330 with the power that he has and playing in a ballpark that's not really conducive to home runs. So he's pretty special."
As the first Braves player since Greg Maddux to earn four consecutive All-Star selections, McCann arrived in St. Louis late Sunday night with the understanding that he had been provided yet another great honor that should be cherished even more than the previous ones.
"This one hit me," McCann said. "This one really sank in. With my eye issue going on earlier this season and not knowing what was going on and being concerned about my future ... this one is special to me for sure."
While hitting just .195 through the 13 games he played before going on the disabled list in April, McCann found himself wondering if doctors were going to find a way to solve the reality that his vision had changed since he'd undergone Lasik surgery at the conclusion of the 2007 season.
Understanding that a repeat procedure was a last-resort option, McCann grew further frustrated by the fact that the original procedure had altered the shape of his eyes to the point that he couldn't comfortably wear contact lenses.
But with the prescription Oakleys that he jokingly says "makes me look like a nerd," McCann quickly regained the offensive prowess that has made so many of his division rivals wish that he was benefiting them with his multidimensional talents behind the plate.
"There are so many different qualities that he brings to a team," Wright said. "He's got to do his homework on opposing hitters, be a leader of a pitching staff and also worry about things offensively. It's pretty impressive to watch, and we get to see it on a firsthand basis throughout the year.
"Nothing against our catchers, but if they're looking to trade him, we'll take him."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.