"There are more big turf parks in the National, while all the American League parks but Kansas City are home run havens." says Miller. "Without the DH, you have many more close games, so speed is more important. So there are catchers in the American League who couldn't play in the National."
"There are players who steal in the American League but can't in the National." says one scout. "Alfredo Griffin is a good example. He stole 26 in 1987 for Oakland. He stole seven for the Dodgers in '88. There's no Santiago in the American League who absolutely intimidates everyone." Santiago's arm—described by McCarver as "the best I've ever seen"—accounted for eight of the National League's 22 catcher pick-offs last season. He threw out seven attempted stealers from his knees.
But as great an arm as Santiago has, he is not yet considered to be a superb all-around catcher. "He needs to learn to handle pitchers and to call a game, and he has a long way to go blocking balls, learning to frame pitchers and deal with umpires," says Steve Boros, who is a scout with the Dodgers. McKeon, Santiago's manager, says. "Benito has to do a lot more than hit .300 and throw out runners to be considered a real good catcher."
But the other managers aren't shedding any tears for McKeon. With all the junkyard refugees and converted DHs out there masquerading as major league catchers. McKeon should be thankful that he's starting the 1989 season with a fresh young talent like Santiago. Remember, the two best catchers in the American League are older than five major league managers.