I decided earlier this year, that if the Atlanta Braves were the Singles scene, Brian "Spanky" McCann would be the Wingman to Chick Magnet, Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur.
Some folks may see that as an insult, but not me. In the Young Man's World, there isn't a guy more revered than the Wingman. He rarely gets noticed by casual observers, but is devastatingly effective in ensuring the success of the mission. Even if it means taking a lesser wom...er...role. He brings the Most Valuable to The Player, if you will. In this Wingman's case, he probably IS the Braves MVP.
After yet another 2-3 night on Tuesday, Spanky is living up to his Masher-imposed nickname by hitting a cool .352 for the season. If not for an extended injury layoff back in May and June, he would be over 10 points ahead of his nearest competitor for the NL Batting Title. On top of that, he would present us with an unprecedented possibility - pure Catchers sweeping the 2006 National and American League Batting Crowns (joining Joe Mauer of the Twins). Only two true catchers have ever won a batting title, incidentally, the last being Ernie Lombardi of the 1942 Boston Braves. Of course, we can't forget Reds great Bubbles Hargrave winning in 1926 can we?! You bet we can.
Thanks, however, to McCann's aforementioned ankle injury (which I discussed when it occurred); McCann may not get that chance.
For the uninitiated, to qualify for a Batting Title, you have to average at least 3.1 plate appearances a, or 502 over a 162 game schedule. McCann currently sits at 2.9 (318 total), and thus needs to average a very un-catcher-playing-for-Bobby Cox-like 3.6 PA's a game over the last 51 games of this season. Sadly, the only way he may be able to get there is by the Braves falling so far out of the Wild Card race, that Cox throws caution to the wind and lets the kid play every day.
Despite that, you can't discount what he brings to the Braves. While Francoeur gets TV commercials, SI covers, and numerous cheering sections; McCann makes All-Star teams, and chases batting crowns. While Francoeur will someday surely perch atop hitting stats charts, and make All-Star rosters; McCann has already brought those accolades, along with a mature and consistent approach to the Braves locker room - one that is rarely seen in players his age. All of this, while his roommate essentially gives him the baseball version of a cock block.
Nonetheless, like a good Wingman should, he'll quietly and effectively do his job. Whether it's catching the latest journeyman they bring up to fill in for yet another injured starter, or resisting the urge to secretly re-inflict Chris Reitsma with ulnar neuritis, he'll take one for the team - so his buddy can live the dream. Wingmaaaaaayyaaaaannnn...
Editor's Note: Supposedly, there's a rule out there that would allow Spanky to win the batting title, even if he doesn't meet the minimum number of PA's. It essentially states that they count the remaining appearances to 502 as outs, and if he still has a higher batting average than the league leader, he would win the batting title. If anyone can confirm that this is actually the rule, let me know. Either way, there would have to be a massive gap between he and the leader for this to come into play.