Buck on Wieters: 'Times like this you realize how much Matt means to this club' - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Buck on Wieters: ‘Times like this you realize how much Matt means to this club’

Wieters_Matt_hr and celebration_46
Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The first homer was blasted, landing in the second deck beyond right field at Yankee Stadium.

The second home run, though, that’s the one that caught our attention.

Not because of where it landed – a 370-plus foot shot to left – but for the statement it made.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters isn’t going away quietly.

You know the narrative by now. Wieters, signed in 2007 with the fifth overall pick out of Georgia Tech, was supposed to be the best big league catcher since Johnny Bench.

Instead, he’s been steady. Behind the plate, at the plate, in the clubhouse. He has his flaws, he’s had his injuries, but, all things considered, he’s been a pretty solid contributor during the Orioles’ recent renaissance. He never carried the team, but he’s led it in the right direction at times.

It was expected that his tenure in Baltimore was over last offseason, when the Orioles finished a middling 81-81 and the pending free agent pushed through a year of on-the-job rehab after elbow surgery in 2014. But the Orioles offered him the $15.8 million, one-year qualifying offer, and he accepted it, keeping him with his original franchise for another campaign.

It hasn’t been a banner season for Wieters; he finishes it hitting .243 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs. But he stayed healthy, and proved he could be a full-time catcher again as he readies for another shot at a free-agent bonanza.

He’s also delivered some clutch moments this year, batting .267 with 44 RBIs in 100 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Crushing to the tune of .429 in 16 plate appearances with the bases loaded. In “late and close” situations, he hit .329 with six homers.

Maybe Sunday, however, was the biggest moment for him in 2016, certainly in the biggest stage so far this year. You can tell there’s additional motivation.

In six playoff games in 2012, Wieters had just three hits in 24 at-bats (.125 average). He didn’t get a chance to redeem himself in 2014, watching from the sidelines after surgery while his teammates made it to the ALCS.

With the Orioles’ backs against the proverbial wall Sunday, needing a win to advance to the playoffs, Wieters came through. He drove in four of the Orioles’ five runs and became the first Oriole since Roberto Alomar in 1996 to homer from both sides of the plate in one game.

“A home run from both sides of the plate?” Orioles closer Zach Britton said. “He’s been doing a great job behind the plate for us, but it just shows what kind of guys we have. In big moments, they step up to the plate and deliver.”

Wieters isn’t one to reveal his innermost feelings, but you could tell how much it meant to him to return to the playoffs, especially if this is it for him as an Oriole.

“I didn’t know going out of last year what the future was going to hold for me this year,” Wieters said during the Orioles’ post-game celebration Sunday. “I can’t imagine anything better than this right here, except for doing it after a World Series with these guys.”

All these Orioles are motivated.  All of them want to get to the World Series. But even manager Buck Showalter admits that Wieters is seemingly taking it to another level.

And there is an obvious reason for that: The clock on his Orioles’ career could be ticking.

“Matt has had that competitive edge for about 10 days. Not that he doesn’t have it (usually), it’s just been more,” Showalter said. “Keep in mind, he just caught a night game, day game, and when I asked him (Sunday) how he was feeling it was like, ‘Really? I’m playing.’”

Maybe Wieters will be in Baltimore for several years to come. Or maybe he just played – and homered twice – in his final regular season game as an Oriole.

We won’t know for a few more months.

But, if this is it, it looks like he’s going out with a flourish.

“I think when you get in times like this, you realize how much Matt means to this club and to this organization,” Showalter said.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 3, 2016 at 7:37 am

    I mentioned in last week’s rant that although I didn’t know the numbers, it seemed to me that Wieters was the only player with the clutch gene on this team, and seemed to hit with a higher average with men on base than otherwise. Thank you Mr. Connolly for providing those numbers.

    So now we face losing one of the backbone pieces of this team. Without question the best backstop this franchise has ever known. Mr. Clutch. And why is it that the O’s may not be able to afford him? Well, I know this isn’t the only reason, but Crush Mendoza and his albatross of a contract is part of it.

    Other than that, good Monday Mr. Connolly and Orioles Nation! We will be playing Tuesday night once more in the Queen City. Win that games, and I’ll feel like the team made the playoffs. Lose, and it was simply that last game of the year.

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 3, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Wait. Gotta call you out here Boog. You just called Weiters the best Oriole catcher ever, thus slighting the 1983 World Series MVP and best dressed man in Baltimore, old number 24. Did anybody catch Dempsey’s Maryland flag themed tie and pocket square combo the other night on the pre-game show? That, my friends, was true greatness.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 3, 2016 at 10:44 am

        World Series MVP, rain delay entertainer and fashion sense not withstanding, I stand by my assessment of Matty Wieters. Let’s not confuse word ‘best’ with most beloved.

  2. Dante

    October 3, 2016 at 9:26 am

    What a day for Matt Wieters!

  3. Steve Cockey

    October 3, 2016 at 9:27 am

    I was 100% against making Wieters the qualifying offer early in the season (assuming a new CBA isn’t reached before the time comes), but I think I’ve changed my mind. Would $16.7M for one year of Matt Wieters be an overpay? Absolutely. But what’s the alternative? Sisco isn’t ready defensively, Caleb can’t be handed the job after the year he had, and there are few/no other starting-caliber catchers on the free-agent market. If Matt and Boras are truly seeking a McCann-type deal like they say they are (5 years, $85M), then make him the offer and make him turn it down. If he does, you shrink his market and get a draft pick if/when he signs elsewhere. If he doesn’t, you’ve got your catcher back for another year. And while it will be expensive, for the most part, there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal.

    • Diane J

      October 3, 2016 at 9:44 am

      I didn’t realize there’s a possibility of another 1-year deal. Why would Matt sign another 1-year deal at this point, Steve?

    • ubetonit

      October 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      How many of us wish that we had Chris Davis on a one yr deal? #biddingagainstourselves

  4. Bancells Moustache

    October 3, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Things must be on the up, as Boog has stepped away from the ledge of the Legg Mason building and is once again singing “Here Comes the Sun”, orange colored glasses firmly affixed to his smiling face.

    Weiters, I think, suffered a little unfairly the burden of high expectations. At no point did he himself ever claim to be the next Johnny Bench, or ‘Mauer with Power’ yet that’s what we all demanded. It’s a pretty tall order expecting a guy to be the equivalent of the greatest catcher of all time coming out of college, no? He’s given the Orioles a far higher rate of return on their investment than a large number of their high round draft picks. how about this; since 2011, outside of Posey, Molina, Salvy Perez and maybe Russell Martin, who would we rather have?

  5. Diane J

    October 3, 2016 at 9:36 am

    I hope his past injury history will keep his free agent price within range for the O’s. We’ve heard the rumors that he and the O’s are far apart at this point. Unless he’s voted the MVP of the World Series this month, I don’t see the O’s meeting his demands. I so hate this part of the sport! Maybe Davis would give back some of his deal to keep Wieters…:-) That $160M has put too much pressure on Davis this year, and it shows every time he slumps…

  6. ubetonit

    October 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Dan, i’m curious how many times has Wieters homered twice in one game? And when was the last time? Thank you

    • bigdaddydk

      October 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Seven times in his career he’s gone yard twice in a game, the previous most recent having been September 12 versus Detroit.

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