Why don't I have a Reed Johnson jersey again? Number 9 should probably be a best seller. Johnson does nothing but work hard and contribute in impressive fashion to this Cubs team. If he didn't get a bonus, a trophy or at least a great seat on the bus back from Milwaukee for swiping that 99.9% game-tying grand slam away from Prince Fielder, the Cubs organization should be ashamed. If I'm Ryan Dempster, I'm buying him a nice steak dinner.
The great outfield catch, especially when it's over the outfield fence, is probably one of the most underrated plays in baseball. Not in the sense that they're not appreciated when they do happen, but when they don't, nobody thinks about them. When Fielder massacred that ball last night, nobody was thinking about the possibility of the 5'10" Johnson leaping up and grabbing it: they assumed it was gone. The catch is simply not part of our baseball outcome schema, we don't account for that kind of defense. That's what makes Johnson's catch so special, and as a Cub fan, even more special. That kind of luck/skill doesn't grace the Cubs, ever. It was almost as if Johnson scaled the wall and stabbed a billy goat.
Coming out of a season-opening road trip against division rivals with a 4-2 record is very satisfying. If Johnson doesn't make that catch, we're looking at a different game and most likely a respectable, but unexciting 3-3 record. That's one heck of a catch.
Imagine if you will, the Cubs don't replace a ginger Milton Bradley in that game. I don't think a guy with injury questions who spent all of last season as a DH jumps a wall and catches a would-be home run. If Fukudome can continue his everyday starter pace, Johnson will undoubtedly spend a lot of time spelling Bradley on double switches later in games.
Now let's talk about Johnson behind the plate. This season, he's 2-for-6 with a walk and an HBP. In 2008, Johnson appeared in 109 games, around 2/3 of the season. He posted a .303 BA and had 101 hits. 50% of those hits, on average, resulted in an RBI. For a bench player, that's production. Add to that his 1 error in 99 outfield appearances and you have a keeper. Remember that standing ovation he got last season when he returned to Toronto? That's respect ... or it just says something about Canadians.
Provided the Cubs get their home opener off this afternoon against the Rockies, Johnson is penciled in to play right field. You can bet that the rain and beer-soaked RF bleacher bums will be giving him his due.