It’s going to take some getting used to, seeing Brian McCann in a Yankees uniform. The pinstripes look odd on him somehow. It must be the fact that until now McCann, a Georgia native, has spent his entire career with Atlanta, clad in the Braves red, white, and blue uniform. Before spring training 2014, he’d never worn another one.
McCann spent nine seasons with the Braves before signing with New York during the off season. In that time he emerged as a fan favorite, a perennial All-Star, and perhaps most importantly, a team leader.
After breaking into the big leagues in 2005, McCann quickly emerged as a key member of the Braves, serving as a personal catcher for John Smoltz. Though he only played in 59 games, he helped the Braves to their 14th consecutive division title. He even hit a home run in his first postseason at bat; off of Roger Clemens,no less.
After Johnny Estrada was traded, McCann became Atlanta’s starting catcher in 2006. He would hold the job for the next eight years, during which he would be named to the All-Star team seven times and win five Silver Slugger Awards. During his Braves career, McCann batted .277 with 176 home runs and 661 RBI.
But it was more than the stats. McCann was a leader in the clubhouse and on the field. He was the guy opponents had to answer to if they admired a home run a little too long, as he memorably demonstrated last September when he refused to let Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez cross home plate following a solo shot. However you feel about baseball’s “unwritten rules,” every team needs a guy to take up for his teammates.
After signing a five year $85 million contract in December, McCann joins a Yankees team that missed the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. Though his numbers have dipped a little over last couple of seasons, he should be an immediate upgrade for the team, as Yankees catchers combined for just eight home runs and 43 RBI in 2013.
He could also become a leader for New York, joining fellow veterans like Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran in the role. If the Yankees pitching comes around (C.C. Sabbathia is the only sure bet at starter) the team could return to the postseason in 2014. They should have plenty of offense, with McCann, Jeter, Beltan, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki.
Yes, McCann in pinstripes will take awhile to look and feel normal. But should he help lead New York to a successful season, Yankees fans will be happy to claim him as one of their own.