The Yankees need to make sure Erik Kratz stays with this organization long-term … as a coach.
Carrying three catchers is a luxury the spiraling New York Yankees are struggling to afford right now.
One additional catcher means one fewer roster spot for a relief arm or potent bench bat, two things the Yanks could probably use, in an ideal world, instead of a 40-year-old catcher who’s spent time with every MLB organization in the encyclopedia.
But therein lies the issue: the ideal Yankees world right now, especially as the team scuffles to find its footing, definitely involves 40-year-old Erik Kratz, the primary steadying force on the roster, and the mountain of a man who most fans trust as a motivator more than Aaron Boone himself, at this point.
Kratz has come a long way since debuting as a 22-year-old catcher in 2002 with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays. He made his MLB debut in 2010 with Pittsburgh, has a career average of .208, and still has become an essential force in convincing Yankees fans that this team has the “it” factor it needs to succeed in the postseason.
After all, the veteran backstop with the bald head and lion headband has continued to find himself on some of the league’s strongest rosters, replete with intangibles, and it almost never seems to be a coincidence.
From the 2014 Royals and Blue Jays to the 2018 Brewers, Kratz is a harbinger of playoff success, and hit .292 in the only postseason in which he appeared — ’18 in Milwaukee.
But just because he didn’t play doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in the creation of other recent good vibes. You probably don’t recall, but Kratz attended the most recent unequivocally good Yankees postseason moment in person; he traveled with the team to Cleveland for Game 5 of the 2017 ALDS, as pictured above in utter triumph.
Kratz has earned a place in this locker room based on his competitive edge alone, but his tangibles are just as impressive — the man has bonafides when it comes to handling New York’s young, predominantly Latino pitchers. He’s learned the language, and he exudes comfort, becoming the “Padre” to Deivi Garcia’s “Hijo” over the past few years in Scranton.
An idealized version of this Yankees roster doesn’t include three catchers; the inflexibility that brings is a mess. But right now, the fanbase (and personnel) rightfully aren’t ready to say goodbye to Kratz.
Technically proficient enough to remain in organized baseball at the game’s toughest position for two decades, and socially potent enough to bring about good feelings amid the worst on-field disaster this team has experienced in years, Kratz would be an ideal bench coach or minor-league coordinator the very second he decides to hang ’em up.
Whenever that day comes, the Yankees cannot afford to let him fold up his pinstripes. He has to remain a part of the next generation of Yankee Baseball.
After all, everybody’s going to want to be the Padres this decade, right? So, if you had a Padre of your own, why would you let him go?