The last few times the New York Mets brought in All-Star catchers, the team went to the postseason with them. Will Wilson Ramos have the same effect?
It is widely accepted that the most important position on a baseball diamond is the catcher. This player is the infield general and is responsible for calling pitches, throwing out baserunners, calming the pitcher down, and blocking and framing balls. The New York Mets know this well.
Due to the physical toll this defensive position puts on a human body, most catchers are below average with a bat in their hands. This makes solid hitting catchers all the more valuable.
In Mets history, success at the catcher position has directly correlated to team success.
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In 1986, the year in which the Mets won their last World Series title, the team was led by All-Star Gary Carter behind the plate. He was acquired by the team in a trade with the Montreal Expos in 1985 and he led the Mets to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years the very next season. That year, Carter drove in 105 runs and finished third in MVP voting.
Mike Piazza, the most recent Met to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was traded to the team by the Florida Marlins during the 1998 season. Similar to the Gary Carter situation, the Mets broke a long playoff drought the next year and made a World Series appearance against the New York Yankees the year after that. As a Met, Piazza hit .296 with 220 home runs and 655 RBI. In the two playoff years, his batting average was .313 and he clobbered 78 home runs. He is regarded as the greatest hitting catcher in MLB history.
Going into the 2006 season, the Mets made another trade with the Marlins to acquire the 33-year-old All-Star Paul Lo Duca. That season was one of the Mets’ best to date, making the playoffs for the first time since 2000, but losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. That year, Lo Duca hit .318 and was solid behind the plate. The Mets were also in contention in his last season with the team in 2007, up until the last game of the regular season.
Since Lo Duca, the Mets have used a number of different catchers, including Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole, John Buck, Anthony Recker, Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud.
This past offseason, however, the Mets agreed to a two-year deal with veteran catcher Wilson Ramos. Over his career, Ramos has a .273 average with 109 home runs and 426 RBI. He is a catcher who can hit, which is a valuable asset in today’s league, but he is also a great defensive catcher, something the Mets haven’t had in years.
In his career, he has a 31% caught stealing percentage, compared to the 28% league average in those ten years. He has a .994 career fielding percentage, a 3.50 catcher ERA and 5.4 defensive wins above replacement.
He had a great first spring with the Metropolitans, and he has shown no signs of slowing down through the first seven games of the season, hitting in each of them with an average of .478 and driving in five runs.
The pattern we see with the elite catchers in Mets history is that there is immediate team success following their addition.
In Ramos’ case specifically, success seems to follow him wherever he goes. In six seasons with the Washington Nationals, the team finished first in the National League East division four times. Last season, he played for both the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies, and each team exceeded expectations.
For these reasons, it seems likely that Ramos will be a major factor in whether or not the Mets will compete for a playoff spot in 2019. He is an obvious upgrade from last season and is the best, most established catcher the team has had since 2007.
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If Ramos can stay healthy through the entire season and perform to the back of his baseball card, fans have every reason to be optimistic about the state of this team.