Catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t played in a Grapefruit League game yet for the Washington Nationals. That’ll come soon enough, but for now he is getting acclimated with a new team, a new uniform, a new culture after signing a two-year, $21 million deal.
Earlier this week, we talked by phone to discuss Wieters’ unusual offseason of waiting, his ultimate decision to sign with the Nationals and his departure from the Orioles, the only club he has known as a pro.
We jumped around to various topics: What it’s going to be like to return to Camden Yards as a visitor on May 8; why a freak home accident he suffered caused his agent to have to adjust to a different timeline; how he tried not be impatient and relied on his personal faith; and what it meant to him to help build a winning atmosphere in Baltimore.
We also discussed the elephant in the locker room: the perception – aided by pitch-framing metrics – that Wieters’ defense has slipped. He discussed his thoughts about those metrics and how they seemed to dominate this year’s free agent market.
Wieters has long been one of my favorite players to chat with about baseball. He’s never going to grab headlines for his quotes – he’s too cautious and/or smart for that – but he considers each question and gives thoughtful answers every time.
I’m not suggesting this is a groundbreaking interview that’s going to answer all of your questions on the Wieters’ saga. But I think it is a fitting sendoff to Wieters’ Orioles’ career.
You can listen to the interview in its entirety – with the exception of a few small edits due to a brief phone reception issue – on this podcast.
You can also hear parts of it included in Tuesday’s “The Baltimore Baseball Radio Show” on WOYK 1350 by clicking here, going to the station’s website (woyk1350.com) or by downloading the podcast from iTunes or Google Play.
And here are a few quotes from the interview:
Wieters on whether his career change has sunk in yet:
“I think once we can get behind the plate in a real game, that’s when it will really set in, but it definitely has been a different change of scenery. But I’m enjoying getting to be on the same side of a lot of guys I’ve played against for so many years.”
On coming back to Baltimore in May:
“It will be different. There probably will be some emotions that will get stirred up for sure. All the time I spent in Baltimore, I always wondered what the visiting clubhouse looked like. I probably could have just walked over there to see what it looked like, but I never did. … It will be one of those games when you kind of know you are going to have some emotions and adrenaline going that you’re going to have to calm down.”
On when he realized he wouldn’t be an Oriole:
“Leaving last year at the end of the year, I just kind of had this feeling in my stomach that it was maybe the last time that I was playing — and maybe the last time I was going to be in that clubhouse — at Camden Yards. It was kind of an eerie feeling here last year, but I guess it wasn’t completely out of the question until Washington came around and really wanted me.”
On advanced metrics concluding that his defense has slipped:
“To me, I feel baseball has always been about statistics, but with the number of different statistics and analytics that we can draw up now, I feel like you can kind of find anything good and anything bad on really any player that you want to in the major leagues. It’s kind of whatever gets put out there, whatever is the hot analytic at the time is what everybody is judged on…. I feel like I’m the same catcher now (as) when I came in, with a little more experience and a little less youthful legs, I guess.”
On not finishing what he started with the Orioles:
“The dream career is you play in the same city your whole career and you win World Series titles and you ride into the sunset. But that’s not how it’s going to work for 99.9 percent of people.”
On his overall experience with the Orioles and the City of Baltimore:
“Baltimore … kind of will always (be) my home away from home. … It was an awesome experience for my whole family. I know they really enjoyed it … The unique experience of being able to come up with Adam (Jones) and play with J.J. (Hardy) for so long and play with Nick (Markakis) and play with guys who were such a big part of kind of the development of going from not-such-a-great team to a very good team is what I really take out of it. Because you can see hard work paying off throughout the years I was there, which kind of, to me, encapsulates Baltimore as a city. It’s a blue-collar town where you have to work hard to get where you want to (be).”