Tuesday, February 14, 2006

There's more to Lo Duca than you might think

Charlie Samuals used to staff the clubhouse with kids from the Bronx, and I doubt much has changed. Maybe only the burrough. Rich, distinctive accents will fill the place. The local dialect has a tendency to drive team lexicons and in New York, male names have a tendency to get a 'y' or an 'ie' on the end. Allow me another venture back to the late 1980's Mets here: Timmy, Sikesie, Ronnie, Dougie, Sidney, Stevie, Ellie, etc, and so on and so forth. You bet the idea. Only the iconic Hernandez escaped such things, although I once heard Arthur Richman refer to him as Keithie. It just didn't work.
The new Mets catcher will quickly be stuck with Paulie. And I'm sure Paul Lo Duca won't mind a bit. Afterall, he's from Brooklyn.
LoDuca spent a long time in the minor leagues before breaking in with the Dodgers. He soon became one of the leaders in the clubhouse. Like many, I'm still shocked the Dodgers traded him. You don't trade guys like that, and you don't often get guys like that either. Unless there's a fire sale like there was in South Florida again. Knowing what kind of player Lo Duca was, Omar Minaya put on hold the negotiations with Bengie Molina and swooped in and grabbed a player talented and loaded with things you can't measure.
David Wright is quoted today in the New York Post in a way which indicates that Lo Duca's clubhouse reputation precedes itself. But its some subtleties of the role that the catcher can play which will highlight his value.
Lo Duca has proved quite durable, catching in around 130 games the last four seasons. He's also played some games at first and in the outfield. And as many of you saw yesterday on MetsBlog many preliminary line-ups have him batting second. To be sure, Lo Duca has proved to be an accomplished number two hitter in his career. But where other significant value exists in him when he is not in the game.
Unlike many catchers doing the bulk of the work for their teams, Lo Duca has become exceptonally adept at coming off the bench. He's distinguished himself as a pinch-hitter and as a good situational hitter. He gives Willie Randolph another weapon on the bench, someone to use when the team is behind. And in particular, when on the road.
Although most attention will be afforded Lo Duca as a starter, it may be that some of his most memorable moments may come in late-inning comebacks when he began the game on the bench. Teams who win titles will win games like this and players like Paul Lo Duca are the one's who often deliver them.


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