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No Mistake: Marlins Have Quite a Catch

September 07, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

Think about all those forkballs in the dirt and rising fastballs and hurried throws to second base, all the nasty rudiments of catching.

Now think about this: Charles Johnson of the Florida Marlins, already a two-time Gold Glove winner at 26, has not made an error or allowed a passed ball in 107 games this season. He continues to extend his National League record for consecutive errorless games by a catcher, now 156, three shy of the major league record. He is also three shy of the league record for consecutive errorless games in a season.

"How many years have they been playing this game?" said an awed Darren Daulton in the Marlin clubhouse.

"It's almost ridiculous what he's accomplishing. Defensively, I haven't seen anyone better. For a big man, to move around like he does and block balls like he does is remarkable.

"At this point, you could take just about anyone off our roster and we'd still be OK, but we'd have a problem if we lost Charles. That's not to take anything away from anyone else, it's just the kind of impact he has."

Nine knee operations prevent Daulton from catching any more. He's a pinch-hitter, part-time first baseman, clubhouse leader and president of the Charles Johnson Fan Club, which has a sizable membership.

Besides those zeros in the error and passed ball columns, Johnson leads the league in throwing out base stealers, nabbing 45%.

And by opening his stance and shortening his swing, he has dismissed the good-field, no-hit label. He has hit almost .340 in the second half and has 18 home runs overall.

"Charles has a feeling now that he can contribute at both ends of the game, and that's lifted his defensive level even higher, to a point that it's fantastic," Manager Jim Leyland said. "I mean, for a big man [6 feet 2, 215 pounds] who's so slow as a runner, he's so agile behind the plate. He's the best at blocking pitches I've ever seen, and that means a lot to pitchers who don't have to worry about bouncing their breaking stuff."

Johnson was drafted out of the University of Miami in 1992, the first Marlin pick in their first amateur draft.

It was redemption for General Manager Dave Dombrowski and then scouting director Gary Hughes. They had held similar positions with the Montreal Expos when making Johnson, then a high school senior, the 10th player picked in the 1989 draft.

"Not signing Charles Johnson then was the biggest mistake I've ever made," said Hughes, now the Marlin vice president of player personnel.

"It came down to a small amount of money [a $25,000 difference over signing bonus], but it was a matter of principle. I regretted not signing him at the time, but I'm glad we didn't, for the Marlins' sake."


There will be no vote on the Dodger sale at the Sept. 16-18 owners meetings in Atlanta, but it may not have to wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting in January.

Acting Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to call a special meeting in November to consider the Dodger sale and, perhaps, an even more momentous development--the election of a commissioner. Jerry McMorris, the Colorado Rockies' owner and chairman of the search committee, confirmed that he hopes to conclude his work by the end of the World Series and have a commissioner in place by the end of the year.

"That continues to be my goal and I think it's realistic," McMorris said.

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