In his rookie season, Scott Hatteberg lived up to the expectations of a first round selection, hitting .277 with 10 homers for the Red Sox as their primary catcher. To make the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, you have to have a mix of potential and production, and Hatteberg was able to deliver both in 1997.
He had a brief visit to the big leagues in 1995, getting a hit in his first MLB plate appearance. Another cup of coffee came in 1996, but it was 1997 where Hatteberg got his first opportunity to make an impact at the big league level. He started the season as the personal catcher of Aaron Sele, but hit his way up from once every five days into a platoon with Bill Haselman, and eventually was the main man behind the dish. Haselman, who broke training camp as the presumptive starting catcher, finished the season playing in just 67 games to Hatteberg's 114.
Hatteberg was selected 43rd Overall by the Red Sox, a supplemental first round pick that the Red Sox were granted for losing Mike Boddicker to free agency. Hatteberg was one of the catchers for Team USA in 1990 for the Goodwill Games and the World Cup. He was a star for Washington State (where he first teamed up with Aaron Sele), and was the team captain. Once he was drafted by the Red Sox, the organization took their time to develop their young prospect. He would make quick work of the Rookie league and Single A level, but would repeat AA twice, then AAA two more times. But by 1997, Hatteberg was out of minor league options, and he was all but guaranteed a spot on the 25 man roster.
The timing for Hatteberg could have been better in Boston - just as he was getting a chance to be the man in Boston, an even bigger prospect was making his way through the ranks and would make his presence felt in 1998. Jason Varitek became the everyday catcher for the Red Sox by 1999, with Hatteberg playing in just 30 games. This was due in part to a serious elbow injury Hatteberg suffered which gave him nerve damage in his throwing arm. After a four month recovery period, Hatteberg was "back," but not the same. The book on Hatteberg was that you could steal bases against him - and that was before he had to re-learn how to grip and throw a baseball. His catching days (and by extension his baseball career) was in jeopardy. Despite this injury, the Red Sox continued with Hatteberg behind the plate for two more seasons. They even tried him at third base briefly in 2000, but his arm troubles were not improved by the longer distance. Following the 2001 season, the Red Sox traded Hatteberg to the Rockies for Pokey Reese. Two days later, Hatteberg was a free agent.
One of the reasons the Red Sox kept him around for so long with a bum elbow was that he could still provide value on offense. He would become the prototypical example of "Moneyball" strategy when Oakland signed him in the 2001 off-season. As detailed in the Michael Lewis book and played for comedic effect in the film of the same name, Hatteberg was going to be able to continue his MLB career by converting to 1st Base, and provide his greatest skill - getting on base. The Moneyball approach was to identify those players that were undervalued by everyone else, but provided something that few other players could. Hatteberg was ostensibly replacing the big bopper Jason Giambi, who signed with the New York Yankees. But GM Billy Beane was not asking Hatteberg to hit 38 homers and drive in 120 like Giambi did in 2001. Instead, he just wanted Hatteberg to get on base. His first season with the A's he did exactly that - his .374 OBP was a then-career high for a full season. He did provide some bonus power, as well - he had 15 homers in the 2002 season, including a walk-off winner that clinched the A's 20th consecutive victory early in September.
With Oakland, Hatteberg had some of his best offensive seasons, hitting double digit homers each year, a career high 82 RBI in 2004 and a .269/.355/.396 slash line across 3 seasons.
Like many players in their later seasons, Hatteberg had honed and perfected the skills that made him a big leaguer in the first place. He actually posted a higher triple slash in his final 3 seasons in Cincinnati than he had in his years playing for Oakland. His OBP improved even more as he would provide a valuable bat in the lineup. The Reds made room for Hatteberg at First Base, trading Wily Mo Pena and moving Adam Dunn to the outfield. In 116 games in 2007 he slashed a career high .310/.394/.474 with 10 homers. Hatteberg had 1,153 career hits and a .361 OBP. He walked more times than he struck out, and more times than he drove in runs. Despite a reputation as a less than stellar defender behind the plate, he retired with a .992 fielding pct as a Catcher and First Baseman combined.
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