Gerald Laird (by Sam Hutcheson)

It’s November 16, 2012. In the last week or so, the Braves lost David Ross as a free agent signing to the Red Sox. Having lost Brian McCann to shoulder surgery earlier in the off-season, the Braves were suddenly reduced to considering Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt as legitimate Opening Day catching options.

Gattis, who can hit, can’t really catch, and Bethancourt, who can catch, can’t even hit at AA; and at the current moment the National League will not allow Atlanta to dress them both in the same uniform number and just pretend they’re one guy. So, that was a problem. To solve this sudden lack of a catcher — you need one of those or else you get a lot of passed balls — the Braves signed Gerald Laird.

Gerald Laird is a career backup catcher. Well, there were a couple of years there when teams tried him as the starter. Texas tried him as the full-time option for 120 games in 2007, an experiment that ended with them deciding they really needed to trade for Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead. (And Matt Harrison. And Elvis Andrus. And Neftali Feliz. But we’re not bitter.)

Laird spun out of Texas and landed as the starter his first year in Detroit, in 2009. 135 games later and they were quite ready to give Alex Avila a try instead. All of which is a long winded way of saying Gerald Laird is a career backup catcher.

He hits about like you’d expect from a career backup catcher, .244/.303/.359 for his career. Every year but one — his 26 year old season hitting in Texas — within spitting distance of that average. Throws about as well as you’d expect from a career backup catcher. In fact, if you go to Wikipedia and look up “career backup catcher,” it redirects you to Gerald Laird’s Baseball-Reference page. In high school, Laird was voted “most likely to be a career backup catcher.” The world “laird” is actually an old title of nobility from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth meaning “career backup catcher.” It’s all very eerie, actually.

All of this would bode poorly for the Braves, because generally speaking you don’t want to go into the season with the Platonic form of career backup catcher penciled in as your starter behind the plate, especially not when your fan base has been spoiled by David Ross, the Super-Friggin’-Awesome Backup Catcherman having held that role until very recently. But on the upside, all Laird really has to do is hold the fort for a month or so until Brian McCann returns from that surgery thing, and really, at the end of the day, the Braves did just win 94 games in 2012, all while McCann himself posted a meager .230/.300/.399.

Or, as we like to call it, “hit like a career backup catcher.”

83 thoughts on “Gerald Laird (by Sam Hutcheson)”

  1. Are you a vampire, Gerald Laird? Are you caught in that Transylvanian transvestite trance, Gerald Laird?

  2. I still don’t understand why we let Ross walk. I know the Braves refuse to pay anyone above slot and hate deals greater than 1 year for aging backups, but it seems to be a great case for overpaying. McCann’s return is uncertain (no matter what we’re lead to believe), his effectiveness after return is not guaranteed, and Ross has been the best back up catcher in baseball. Ross’s excellent defense and 150 point or so OPS advantage over Laird for the past 4 to 5 years should easily be worth over a million dollars in the current market! I guess I’ll get used to Laird and I won’t have quite the angst towards him I did towards Corky Miller, but it’s just crazy IMO.

  3. There’s a strong assumption that Ross wanted to return. I know he was friendly with the organization, but is it possible that his friendships in the clubhouse were with Chipper or something?

    Either way, he’s gone. Let her go man. She ain’t coming back.

  4. Ross is a back up catcher too. His numbers went down when McCann was hurt and he had to play more often. $2M for someone to play 32 games is like $8M for a starter.

  5. The 2yr contract given by the Red Sox is the same amount Ross earned from the Braves in FOUR YEARS. We got great value from Ross the past four years, but I am not angered by the fact that we are not paying big market price for a backup catcher who will be 36 years old.

    Great write up, Sam. Awesome.

  6. I agree, kc.

    As mentioned yesterday, Laird not only hits like a backup catcher, he’s beginning to throw like a hit-first catcher. 20% and 19% CS% in the last two seasons, after hitting 40% several times earlier in his career. Those extra bases likely account for his catcher’s ERA going from slightly better than team total prior to 2011 to slightly worse since then, leading me to believe that otherwise defensively he’s adequate but no more than that.

    And then there’s his name. Gerald Laird. Say it aloud, and feel the negative excitement!

    Ah, what the hell. If he does good things I’ll like him.

  7. Enjoyed your post as always, Sam. I’m ready for Wren to start amazing me with his free agent signings and brilliant trades.

    Thanks to everyone for keeping THE Braves Journal ali ve and thriving.

  8. After some due consideration, I believe I will henceforth refer to McCann’s 2012 as “the season Mac ‘got his Laird on.'”

    @12 – Only if the Bucs throw in Charlie Morton.

  9. If McCann wasn’t injured, I would be much better with swapping Laird for Ross. I expect Ross and Laird’s offense to be about equal in a few years and possibly not a whole lot different next year. Imo, Ross’s defense makes him worth the extra cash.

  10. My brother (a Vandy student) says there is a plan going around campus to march the goal posts up and down West End Ave tomorrow night and sing “Rocky Top.”

    I’ll be glad when the Dooly era is over.

  11. Excellent write up Sam. Very funny.

    @5 – More like millions of dollars. Or what @8 says.

    I second the complement to our writers. Wow, ya’ll are doing a great job.

    Wishing for a couple of good outfielders, wishing for a couple of good outfielders, wishing for a couple of good outfielders.

    So is Delgado on the market? What do y’all think? I say for the right player(s) yes.

  12. Wishing for a couple of good outfielders, wishing for a couple of good outfielders, wishing for a couple of good outfielders.

    1. BJ Upton
    2. Cody Ross (w/ Reed Johnson in LF)
    3. Martin Prado (with The Roadrunner backing him up at 3B)

    So is Delgado on the market? What do y’all think? I say for the right player(s) yes.

    The only players who are not on the market, barring “blown away by someone’s offer”, are Medlen and Heyward. And seriously, if the Marlins called and wanted Medlen in a package for Giancarlo Stanton, I’d tell the kid how much I appreciated his work and wish him luck in south Florida.

  13. On a completely unrelated matter, I’ve worked with a few folks on this “write things for the internets” gig, for a while now. And Alex is doing an excellent job curating and editing Braves Journal these days. And you don’t realize how helpful a good editor is until you don’t have one.

  14. So the Laird deal is for two years? Seriously? I guess the Braves weren’t balking at Ross getting two years… I mean, I hope they weren’t, anyway.

    To be honest, it seems to me as if someone dropped the ball.

  15. #17: That’s astonishing. Haven’t had cause to hate the Blue Jays for a couple decades. No more!

  16. Adam, Laird is three years younger than Ross, and Ross is likely getting more in one year than Laird gets in both of his.

  17. Got to think the Braves have more pressing issues to spend All The Money on than back-up catcher. Like somehow prying Wright away from the Mets and getting Bourn to agree to a below-market deal.

  18. @17

    The Blue Jays were like “How are we going to replace Yunels’ douchebaggery? Oh I know–let’s get Melky and his douchebaggery.”

  19. 19—Think Delgado has been definitively on the market since the Dempster almost-deal.

    18—I find that more than a little hard to believe, largely because it makes no sense. VU students tearing the goalposts down after beating a crappy team over whom we’re favored — and singing the opposition’s fight song? What?

    Don’t think enough students are really going to be around, anyway, given the holiday.

  20. VU students tearing the goalposts down after beating a crappy team over whom we’re favored — and singing the opposition’s fight song? What?

    Have to agree with Stu here. I’ve never met a Vandy grad who could muscle up enough to tear down a goal post.

  21. Sam, great write-up, thank you. Once again, I extend my offer toward using a donate button.

    I also have a question. How important is it to replace Chipper’s switch hitting? Are we OK if we just find a right handed outfielder, or do we lose something in the translation?

  22. Second question. If the Mets asked that the package for Wright includes Simmons, do we walk away, or keep talking?

  23. There might not be a dozen players in the majors for whom I would trade Andrelton straight up, personally. For the money he’ll be making over the next few years, he’s a significantly more valuable commodity than Wright IMO.

  24. sansho1’s list?:

    Trout
    Posey
    Strasburg
    Harper
    Cain
    McCutchen
    Stanton
    Francouer
    Wieters
    Price
    Votto
    Cabrera

  25. How important is it to replace Chipper’s switch hitting? Are we OK if we just find a right handed outfielder, or do we lose something in the translation?

    If you can get Albert Pujols or Miggy Cabrera, you don’t really sweat the fact that they’re not switch hitters, right? The production is the production.

  26. @37

    Lessee here…..yep, looks good to me!

    Seriously, no player who is either currently or soon to be paid commensurate with his abilities is as valuable to us as Simmons.

  27. Greetings from Minneapolis (actually, a Sioux casino 20 miles away in an unknown municipality)…

    Nice writeups, bledsoe & Sam.

    I keep Simmons & hang on tight. Forget about Wright. Let’s just hope he leaves the division, if not the league entirely.

    We got some young guys on this team that are really fun to watch & Simmons is right up there.

    FWIW, shouldn’t any Vandy football fan kinda keep it quiet until they actually beat Tennessee? What are they, like, 1 for their last 30 or so?

  28. 33—I took part in a goal-post tear-down my senior year when we beat a crappy UK team in the last game of the season for the only home conference win I saw in my four years on campus. Pitiful, yes.

    43—Who’s not keeping it quiet? I don’t know too many of my fllow fans who have a lot of confidence about this one. I’m just glad we already got to six wins.

  29. So are the Braves about to trade Ahmed? Both the AJC and the team’s official site have very recently written fluff pieces about him. That’s usually a sign, or at least it was with Andrus and Flowers.

  30. Ahmed and arms for Justin Upton plus signing BJ sounds like a plan to me, Dan, as long as the arms are within reason.

  31. I don’t think it’s irrational at all. Even if Simmons doesn’t advance at all with the bat, he’s a pretty safe bet to be a 2-3 win player with his glove alone, fantastic while he’s cheap. There are enough questions with Teheran for me that I’d rate Simmons higher on the org depth chart, something I wouldn’t have done at this time last year, that’s for sure. Not giving up on him by any means, but I think Simmons’ floor is a safer bet going forward.

  32. Me either. Love watching Simmons play (does he have a good nickname yet?) Tehran could end up Pedro or he could end up Hanson, ya never know with pitchers. A great glove man is bank.

    Let me add my kudos to all the new front pagers and Alex for driving the tractor. Y’all have really stepped up to the plate and, dare I say, both honored and improved upon The House That Mac Built. Well done.

  33. How many Vandy students does it take to tear down a goalpost?

    Two. One to mix the martinis, the other to call his grandfather’s construction company.
    ————————-

    Upton is the Joe Johnson of baseball.
    ————————-

    Someone is actually televising the UK / Samford FOOTBALL game.

  34. I was visiting my brother in Columbia when MIZZOU beat the University of Zero. I started a goal post chant in the last minute. No one joined in, but students rose to occasion and took goal posts away. Phil Bradley was QB in 10-0 win.

  35. Don’t worry Stu, if Vandy wins, Dooley will help pull down the goal posts. That’s how dumb he is.

  36. A friend of mine helped DeShields set up a recording studio in his Atlanta home after his playing career ended, as he had designs on being a hip-hop mogul. Then he wouldn’t answer his phone, and sent mean dudes to the door when my friend attempted to collect payment. So he had that part of the role down pat, anyway. Unpleasant guy, by all accounts.

  37. And @54, I gather you’ve not looked at the make-up of the VU student population in the last decade or so. For good or ill, it’s not really much of a rich person’s school anymore. Well, they aren’t rich coming in, anyway.

  38. I do not think Gattis’ D at C is that bad. Reports are that he is much improved.

    Moving off the position has been more about the Braves’ needs and a little of a durability concern.

  39. They’re probably touting Ahmed simply because there’s not a whole lot to get excited about in the system–position player-wise, anyway. Last season’s hpe machine went towards Terdoslavich and Drury. This offseason I expect Cunningham, Gattis, and Ahmed to get all the attention.

    Let’s just hope Bethancourt and Salcedo start to hit…

  40. Congratulation to Baylor and Stanford. All of a sudden UGA-Bama looks like a national semifinal again.

    As for Vandy, their opponent tonight probably couldn’t take Georgia Southern, Western Carolina, or Jacksonville State.

  41. Seriously, what happens if Florida beats FSU next week and ND loses to USC. We realistically could have Florida possibly getting in the NC game to play the winner of Bama/UGA

  42. If Florida somehow makes the national championship game, they will be by far the worst BCS title game entrant ever. They would make ’01 Nebraska look like the ’85 Bears. Hell, if they just beat Florida State, they’ll probably be the worst Top 5 team ever.

  43. I was wondering the same thing. It’s tempting to say that the play in game scheduled for 2014 would help things, but who knows what would happen then? It is hard to make an argument for KSU being in the top 4 after tonight’s performance.

  44. It’s hard to say Notre Dame isn’t worthy if they don’t lose a game, and Alabama’s certainly good enough to be worthy. Maybe not deserving, but certainly worthy. Maybe Flordia will show up next week against Florida State. They’ve pretty clearly mailed in every single game after the Georgia loss, basically assuming their season was over. Lucky for them they’ve won all of them because their opponents have sucked. I’m not convinced about Georgia, but a)they’re more worthy than Flordia, and b)nothing will come of them if they lose to Alabama, and if they beat them, they will have proved their worth.

  45. @77 I’ve watched both of Notre Dame’s overtime games, and they got handed both wins. I think K State, Oregon, Bama or Georgia would beat them.

  46. Notre Dame beat a great Stanford team in one of those games–they’re worthy. What I know is that Florida is not, and the SEC should be punished for that slate of cupcake games this late in the season. Ugh.

  47. Record against teams in the current BCS Top Ten:

    Notre Dame: 0-0
    K-State: 0-0
    Oregon: 0-0
    Georgia: 1-1
    Bama: 1-1

    For either Bama or UGA to make the BCS champ game, they will have at least one more win against this list (same with Florida, who is currently 3-1 against this list). The same cannot be said about the other three.

    Cupcake schools or not this week, the SEC schools schedules stand up pretty well in comparison.

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