It must be hard to play baseball with a bunch of kids hanging off of you. But Rod Barajas
can do it. Here are some other potentially interesting things about the new Mets catcher:
- According to google translator, the Spanish word barajas translates into English as decks. So Rod Decks it is.
- Despite the fact that his name rolls off the tongue and that he played for Mexico in the 2009 WBC, Barajas was born and raised in California and thus subject to the MLB First Year Player Draft. He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks January 23, 1996.
- His rapid rise through the minor leagues is highlighted by his 1998 season at Advanced A High Desert when as a 22 year old he batted .303 with 23 HR and 81 RBI in 442 at bats. The DBacks made him a September call up in 1999 after his AA season with El Paso in which he batted .318 with 14 HR and 95 RBI in 510 at bats. Defensively in 1996 at Rookie Lethbridge he caught 51% of opposing base stealers (27 of 53). Before he reached the majors for the first time he never caught less than 32% of opposing runners.
- His 1st career home run came for the DBacks in the 5th game of his career and the last game of the 1999 season, a solo shot off starter and loser Heath Murray of the San Diego Padres.
- The following season he also hit only 1 home run. It was a 2-run shot that came as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning against the Atlanta Braves' Terry Mulholland on Sept. 16, 2000. The homer cut the Braves lead over the DBacks to 12-10 and resulted in John Rocker being summoned from the bullpen. Rocker struck out the next 3 batters for his 22nd save. That was 1 of the 9 times in 2000 that Rocker retired the side in order, but wasn't the most infamous time he did so.
- In 2001 Barajas hit .160 with 3 HR and 9 RBI in 51 games for Arizona. All 3 home runs came in April. Then on Nov. 1 he hit a solo shot in the 5th inning of game 5 of the World Series off the New York Yankees' Mike Mussina. That homer gave the DBacks a 2-0 lead but Byung-Hyun Kim blew his 2nd save of the series in the 9th inning and the Yankees won the game in extra innings to take a 3 games to 2 lead in the Series. That would be the last World Series game the Yankees would win in 2001. Overall for his post season career Barajas is 3 for 9 with 2 home runs, the other one coming off the St. Louis Cardinals' Andy Benes in the 2002 NLDS.
- The next home run Barajas would hit also came off Mike Mussina, a 2nd inning 2-run shot that gave the DBacks a 2-0 lead on June 12, 2002 in an inter-league game. At the time Barajas was batting .154 with no home runs and 4 RBI in 29 games. The DBacks won the game 9-5 and Kim even managed to save it with 2 scoreless innings.
- Later in 2002 Barajas began to display some of the confidence the Mets hope he brings to their team. In an Aug. 7th game against Greg Maddux and the Braves, Barajas homered and threw out 2 runners attempting to steal. After the DBacks win Barajas offered this quote: "These are big games," Barajas said. "These guys have the best record in baseball, and we want to let people now that we're still the team."
- In 2003 Barajas went on the Disabled List for the 1st and 2nd times in his career. The 1st stint was 22 days in April as a result of a strained left hamstring. His 1st game back he went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI. The 2nd DL visit was 18 days in July as a result of left wrist tendinitis. This time his return wasn't so glorious as he went 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts. The 3rd and only other time of his career that Barajas has been on the DL was a 29 day stay in August 2007 with a right groin strain.
- For 2004 he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. At age 28 he was now a starting catcher for the 1st time in his career. He responded with his best offensive season to date hitting .249 with 15 HR and 58 RBI. On May 24th he beat the Yankees by hitting a solo homer off Tom Gordon in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Associated Press noted: Rod Barajas won it with a one-out homer in the ninth inning, prompting an October-like celebration. Teammates and coaches came streaming out of the dugout as the ball sailed into the seats -- and nearly all of them crowded around the plate to greet him. "It's electric out there right now, a playoff atmosphere," Barajas said. "With the packed houses, it definitely makes it nicer."
- June 1, 2004 Barajas hit 2 homers, the 2nd of which was a solo shot in the top of the 12th inning to beat the Cleveland Indians 6-5. ESPN noted: Barajas, who also homered in the third, drove a 1-1 pitch from Rick White (2-1) into the Indians' center-field bullpen for his seventh homer and first career multi-homer game. "I wasn't thinking about hitting a homer," the Rangers' catcher said. "In that situation, you can't worry about what inning it is or how tired you might be. You just have to keep battling and try to get something going." 3 weeks later Barajas caught all 18 innings of a Texas win hitting 2 homers. Late in the 2004 season the much maligned Rangers rotation started to come together with Barajas behind the plate. He caught 34% of opposing base stealers (22 of 64) for the 2004 season and 34% is also his career caught stealing percentage entering 2010.
- In 2006 a finally healthy Gerald Laird emerged as a productive catcher in all phases of the game and he and Barajas split time. Barajas wanted to be "the guy" but he demonstrated that he understood the situation and had his priorities straight. MLB.com noted: The baseball part will work itself out, he likes to say. It always does. Barajas, 30, is a free agent at the end of the season. "Personally, the season has gone well but I'm not going to say great," he said. "I have not played as much as I have in the last couple of years, but I feel like when I have been in there I have been productive. I felt like I have done my job and helped this team out. I've put our pitchers in good situations and defensively, I feel like I am right there...It's all about the hard work and believing in yourself," he said. "Bottom line, if you let other people influence how you see yourself and let that get in your head, you will not succeed. I was told plenty of times that I was too slow and did not hit for enough power. I could have let that get the best of me and start believing that, but I was not going to let that happen. It went in one ear and out the other."
- A free agent after the 2006 season, Barajas had reached an agreement on a 2 year contract with Toronto but the deal fell apart suddenly, Barajas switched agents and instead signed a 1 year contract with Philadelphia. Barajas was signed by Philadelphia with the idea of his mentoring their young catcher Carlos Ruiz and apparently Barajas did an adequate job as Ruiz received the bulk of the playing time and remains the Phillies' starting catcher to this day. Whatever happened behind the scenes during the contract negotiations was apparently not irreparable as Barajas signed as a free agent with Toronto the following year.
- Barajas left Philadelphia when his 1 year contract expired and at last signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons as their primary catcher and while his batting average and on base percentage declined in both years his caught stealing percentage remained precisely at his career average of 34% by throwing out 22 of 64 runners in 2008 and 27 of 80 in 2009.
- Much to the delight of Met fans Barajas' two years in Toronto are highlighted by his inter-league games against the Phillies. May 17th, 2008 he hit 2 home runs and drove in 5 as the Blue Jays beat the Phillies 6-3. As ESPN noted: Rod Barajas heard the familiar sound of boos from unforgiving Phillies fans. Then he gave them another reason to dislike him. Barajas hit two homers, one of them a grand slam, to back a strong performance by A.J. Burnett and help the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 Saturday night. "In the clubhouse, I loved the guys and I had a good relationship with everybody," Barajas said. "On the field, it was a different story. It's almost like you have 40,000 people rooting against you. That's not what you want. As a home player, you like to have your fans behind you."
- The next day Barajas doubled and singled in 3 at bats, driving in the eventual winning run in the Jays' 6-5 victory over the Phillies. The game included a 2 hour rain delay which resulted in the Jays' starter only throwing 1 inning and a rare relief appearance by Roy Halladay.
- June 17, 2009 Barajas hit a solo homer and was behind the plate for Blue Jay pitcher Scott Richmond's 11 strikeout, 8 inning 7-1 victory over the Phillies. The next day, a day game after a night game, Barajas did not start but pinch-hit in the 9th inning of a 7-7 game and hit a solo homer off Ryan Madson for an 8-7 Blue Jays victory. "You try to give your best effort every time," said Barajas, an unpopular player in Philadelphia since playing here in 2007. "I have a job to do. If it's against the Phillies or the Royals, you have to produce." In 5 inter-league games against the Phillies since leaving them Barajas is 8 for 16 with 4 HR and 10 RBI.
- Against the Rays on Aug. 29th Barajas came up as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning with 1 out and the Rays leading 2-1. He hit a solo homer that apparently unnerved Rays' reliever J.P. Howell who promptly walked the next 3 batters then threw a wild pitch allowing the winning run to score in the Jays 3-2 victory. May his flair for the dramatic continue with the Mets.