PHOENIX — Media guides are published annually by all major league teams for a genuine baseball fan-atic, they are a source of hours of enjoyment.
For instance, would you like to know how many hits your favorite player got when he was up with two outs in the ninth inning with the score tied and runners in scoring position in a night game on the road following a two-hour rain delay? It’s in there somewhere. Well, maybe not that particular piece of information.
However, the appearance of the computer in the press box has opened the door to all sorts of baseball minutia that in pencil-and-paper times would have never seen the light of day.
I do my best to read through this river of occasional relevance regarding the players with whom I plan to talk. For the most part, there is a sameness to it from player to player. Only occasionally does something jump out at me.
However, last week, as I was skimming through the notes and numbers on John Jaso, who just might be Oakland’s starting catcher in 2013, all sorts of little facts began lining up.
For instance, when John came up to the bigs with the Rays in 2010, he had more walks (59) than any other rookie in the American League that year. As they say at Little League games, “Good eye, John. Good eye!”
During that season with the Rays, John not only was the 14th rookie ever to be the primary catcher for a team who made it to the playoffs, he batted first in the lineup in more games than any other rookie catcher in history.
At the end of that same year, John and another rookie, pitcher Wade Davis, started and won game 4 of the 2010 American League Division Series. That was the first time in 63 years that two rookies had done that.
John was traded to Seattle between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and kept right on setting little records — especially with the catcher-hitting-leadoff business. On May 9, he started the game and hit leadoff for Seattle. It marked the first time in 34 years that a catcher had done that for the Mariners.
Two other notes from John’s Seattle year: He had more walks than strikeouts for the second time in his career, and he tied for first in the American League with game-winning runs batted in during the seventh inning or later.
Actually, John had a fine year in Seattle last year, collecting 81 hits in 108 games — including 19 doubles and 10 home runs. As far as he was concerned he was ready to settle down in the Northwest, which he dearly loved, and be the Mariners’ starting catcher for a good long time.
However, this was not to be.
On Jan. 16 John suddenly found himself to be an Oakland Athletic, having been a part of a three-way deal between Oakland, Washington and Seattle.
We talked before the game on March 4 about what it meant to not only be on a new team, but to be the catcher on that team and be expected to know as much as he could about the A’s pitching staff.
“Of course, I knew about some of them from having played against them,” he said of the A’s pitchers. “But I’ve been doing my homework, getting to know their statistics and pitching preferences as well as their personalities.”
Right now, the A’s have John and one other catcher with only 102 days of major league service on their 40-man roster. Four rookie catchers are in camp. But John, with his three years plus in the majors, certainly seems to be the man.
When I asked if that wasn’t the case, he acknowledged only that he had more experience.
John spent several years in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system and, consequently, did a number of springs in Florida. He seemed like the perfect person to compare the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League from a players’ perspective.
“By far, the biggest deal is the travel,” he responded. “You’re riding buses all over the state. There were some days when we would ride two hours to a game that would eventually be rained out, and have to turn around and ride two hours back home.
“Having all the games here in the valley is a really big plus.”
I asked about umpires, since catchers have a closer relationship — at least geographically — with umpires than anyone else in the game.
“I certainly want to get along with them,” he said. “It’s really good when I can occasionally say ‘Hey, you missed that call’ and have them be OK with that.”
John has always been a catcher. Pitched a little in high school in McKinleyville, Calif., but started catching at Southwestern Junior College and has never played another position. He had an offer to play ball at the University of San Diego but chose to turn pro, and signed with the Rays in 2003.
He started the game against the Angels later that afternoon. Actually, my “John Jaso Day” could not have ended more dramatically. The A’s were behind two-zip in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and the bases loaded, John came up for the second time. After fouling off a couple of pitches, he ripped a triple down the first-base line, clearing the bases and putting Oakland in front, where it stayed for the rest of the day.
John left the game after his big hit and Jan and I left the stadium a couple of hitters later.
He convinced me. I can hear it now, echoing through the Coliseum, “Now catching for Oakland, No. 5, John Jaso.”