Former Blue Jay Frank Catalanotto had a solid MLB career, but if the only pitcher he faced was Mike Mussina, he would have been a Hall of Famer.
One of the things I love most about baseball is that it’s a team sport that features a ton of individual match-ups throughout the course of a game. It’s pretty difficult to win a game on your own, but everyone gets a chance to make an impact.
At the highest level, one of the great joys of watching big league baseball is seeing the game’s best square off between the mound and the batter’s box. What makes things even more interesting is that in a battle of “may the best man win” during each at-bat, it’s not always the more talented player that comes out on top.
To that end, MLB.com’s Andrew Simon published an article yesterday that talked about “unlikely players who owned a Hall of Famer”, and the list included one former Blue Jay in Frank Catalanotto. Thank to Simon’s research, we know that Frank “The Cat” was able to slash .459/.507/.689 across 67 plate appearances against Hall of Fame right-hander Mike Mussina. That total was over the course of Catalanotto’s entire MLB career, so I thought it might be fun to see how he fared against “The Moose” while wearing a Blue Jays uniform.
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Thanks to baseballreference.com, it’s pretty easy to look up that sorta thing. Over the course of the 2003-2006 seasons that Catalanotto was in Toronto, Mussina had moved from from the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Yankees. With Catalanotto having played in Texas and Detroit for the first six seasons of his career, there had been plenty of meetings before, but now they were in the same division.
As you might expect, Catalanotto’s dominance of Mussina continued as a Blue Jay, as he slashed .417/.475/.527 across 40 plate appearances, adding four doubles and seven RBI throughout that time as well. “The Cat” was 15-36 while playing with “The Moose”, but funny enough, the latter ended up hitting him with a pitch twice in those 40 plate appearances as well. Perhaps it got to be a little bit frustrating to face him after a while.
Mussina was more than aware of his struggles against Catalanotto, having been quoted in the New York Times back in 2008.
"“I assume he’s going to get a hit. If it’s a lousy single up the middle or a ground ball to right field, I’ll take it every time, because I know he’s going to get a hit.”"
Catalanotto may not have been a Hall of Famer, but the man knew how to hit, with a career slash line of .291/.357/.445 across 14 seasons. He was even better as a Blue Jay, slashing .299/.361/.445 from 2003-2006. Although he wasn’t much on defence, the sweet-swingin’ lefty earned 6.9 of his career 14.5 bWAR in a Blue Jays uniform, with his best season being a 2.5 mark in 2005.
He couldn’t do much against the other Hall of Famers he faced off against over that time, as he hit just .125 against Pedro Martinez, and .167 against Mariano Rivera. However, for whatever reason, “The Cat” always had “The Moose’s” number.