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McElroy: Chatting baseball with ESPN's Tim Kurkjian
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McElroy: Chatting baseball with ESPN's Tim Kurkjian

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ESPN baseball writer and analyst Tim Kurkjian joined me on the radio this week to discuss a medley of topics.

Question: We were having a discussion the other day about players in sports that are incredibly valuable but sometimes overlooked. When you hear that, whom do you think of in baseball?

Answer: I think the catcher is always overlooked in the big scheme of things. The catcher runs the whole game in so many different ways, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for the beating he takes back there and how he runs the pitching staff. Yadier Molina, of course, is the one guy who always stands out.

But just to make it a little bit more toward playoff teams, let’s just say Will Smith of the Dodgers. That guy is a really, really good player and one of the best hitting catchers in the game. So I always look at the catcher and say he’s totally unappreciated for what he’s doing, the beating he’s taking and his ability to hit really separates him.

Question: Who is the smartest catcher you ever came across?

Answer: Well, Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher, but I think Johnny Bench is also the smartest catcher because he recognized how the game is run better than any catcher I’ve ever been around, and the way he explained different situations was just fascinating to me.

Molina is second on that list. Years ago. We were in a catcher-pitchers meeting and one of the pitchers said to make sure we throw a slider to this guy and Molina said, “No, no, no. We did that. It’s, you know, three years ago in this spot, and he got a double down the right-field line.” He remembered just a random pitch from three years earlier and the exact count and the exact outcome. So for current players, current catchers, it’s Yadier Molina. All time. It’s Johnny.

Question: Who is a player you got to know and with his intelligence and love for the game, you’d swore he’d end up a manager but he didn’t?

Answer: Cal Ripken Jr. is still on that list because when it comes to being observant, being analytical, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a player quite like him, his ability to reason with situations, to understand situations, nobody’s better than him. And I’m surprised he hasn’t managed yet, but he’s still a relatively young guy. He’s got all sorts of other things going on with his minor league team and with Little League baseball with his son still playing. So there’s still time for Cal Ripken to manage.

I would be fascinated to watch him manage today with the game having changed so much. I think it would be a real challenge for him, but I think he would do a really good job, and I think someday he will manage, just not sure when.

Question: The offseason isn’t that far away. When things get finalized with the labor negotiations and CBA, what changes do you see happening next year and what changes would you like to see happen?

Answer: Well, I think we’re going to see the DH in both leagues and I think it’s time.

Look, I don’t care what they do; I just want the same set of rules in each league. It’s absolutely ridiculous to me that we’ve played by two different sets of rules since 1973. It’s ridiculous to me that the Red Sox play the biggest series of the season, the last weekend of the regular season and they’re not even allowed to use a DH because they’re in a National League park.

So I don’t care if the all the pitchers bat or none of the pitchers bat, just give me the same set of rules in each league.

Wes McElroy hosts a daily sports talk show at noon on 910 and 105.1.

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