Reed Johnson-"The Catch"

If you haven't seen it, watch it now. If you have seen it, watch it again. Do it now. It was that good.

In last night's 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals, Cubs CF Reed Johnson made one of the most amazing catches, nah, one of the most amazing baseball plays, hell...one of the most amazing athletic plays in organized sports, that you will ever see. I really don't feel like I'm exaggerating at all in saying that. It was that good.

The play came in Bottom 5 with 2 outs. The Nats Felipe Lopez was hitting with a 3-1 count and blasted an oppo gapper to left center field. ReJo, playing a straight up center field, got on his pony at the crack of the bat, ran in an all out sprint to the gap, leaped just as he reached the warning track and in a full on extension made the catch with the tip of his glove. Johnson's momentum carried him head first into the OF wall (thankfully, a padded wall and not the bricks and ivy of Wrigley). Johnson pops right up and, because of the collision with the wall, the bill on his cap is flipped up like a cyclist's. An amazing, amazing play.

What makes this all the more amazing is that Johnson really isn't even a center fielder. In Johnson's 598 career games played at the MLB level, he's only played CF 79 times. That's about 7.5% of the time. And 15 of those CF appearances came this year with the Cubs. Johnson is really a LFer playing out of position. Typically, this would mean that a guy like Johnson doesn't have "the range" to play CF, but I think he disproved any questions that might remain there last night.

Think back not too long ago to just before the season began. The Cubs were looking all over for someone other than Pie that could play CF. Fuku was discussed as playing there vs. LHPs with 4th OFer Matt Murton playing RF. The Cubs looked outside the organization at Cereal Boy Crisp. And then suddenly, ReJo gets cut by the Jays and Jim Hendry deftly swoops in and picks up Johnson. When we signed Johnson, though, the line was basically that he could play CF in a pinch. That ability led to The Big Murt getting sent back to Iowa and to Murton making the club as the assumed 4th OFer. But today, 23 games into the season, Johnson has 15 games at CF to incumbent starter Felix Pie's 16, and the PT pendulum seems to keep tilting towards ReJo.

Bottom line: Reed Johnson has made this club significantly better already. Without Johnson, the Cubs either would have Matt Murton playing one of the corner OF spots and have had to move Fukudome to CF, or would have taken a huge salary hit and lost some young talent to acquire the vastly overrated Coco Crisp. Johnson has allowed this club to not only survive, but thrive, when the $136 Million Dollar Man went down and in the midst of Felix Pie's slow start. Considering only Johnson's postional flexibility, the Cubs are a much better team with him. Factor in his ability to hit leadoff and his .355 OBP in that spot over his 6 games there and ReJo's value soars.

Welcome aboard Reed Johnson. I think by the end of the year we'll find that you were an extremely important "missing piece" to the 2008 Cubs. Let's hope it ends with you and your teammates hoisting the World Series trophy.

UPDATE April 27th: Reed Johnson's amazing catch from yesterday continues to reverberate around the league. Here's an article on "The Catch" from Cubs.com. And one with some good quotes from The Trib.

Comments (2)

Lionel

April 26, 2008 at 7:14 PM

My favorite part of this catch is DeRo. OK, so it's actually the ridiculous catch that ReJo made, but watch it again (as Jumbo suggested) and this time focus on DeRo. After ReJo dives and his hat goes all Jasper Parnevik, he pops up and starts running back to the dugout. Meanwhile, DeRo is still standing there in dibelief. The camera angle doesn't give us a clear shot of DeRo's face, but his stance and mannerisms tell the story.

jumbo

April 27, 2008 at 8:43 AM

I hadn't noticed DeRosa in that video before. That is awesome. He just freaking stands there with his jaw dropped trying to figure out what he just saw. And then when Johnson goes by him, he doesn't say anything, give him a hi five, get all juiced up and excited...he just stands there like he's afraid of what he just saw-afraid Johnson became some sort of All-Star alien CF. That is awesome.