“The Perfect Catch”
Those three words accompanied a 23-year-old Matt Wieters on the cover of Sports Illustrated in March 2010. The legend of Wieters was well known in Baltimore, but it was time for the world to know. Matt Wieters was going to be the best player in baseball. He would be just like 2009 MVP Joe Mauer.
But with power.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case. And it wouldn’t be the only Matt Wieters “fact” that later emerged as hyperbole.
As it turned out, the sun did not rise when Matt Wieters decided to wake up. He did not snack on batting doughnuts. And maybe, just maybe, sliced bread may have had a little more staying power than the South Carolina native.
Matt Wieters facts, while extraordinarily fun, proved to be little more than a tool elementary school teachers could use to encourage students to check their sources. Still, a stroll down memory lane can help explain why everyone was so high on the All-American from Georgia Tech.
The Orioles selected Wieters fifth overall in the 2007 MLB draft. After the young backstop made quick work of the Carolina League, Wieters made his way to Bowie. The switch hitter slashed .365/.460/.625 over 61 games at Double-A. The hype was there, and the hype was real.
Wieters began 2009 at Triple-A Norfolk, but earned a promotion to the show by May 29. The Orioles, as we all remember, were painfully deep into over a decade of losing. There was young pitching on the way, but their battery mate had arrived. Wieters went on to slash .288/.340/.412 over 96 big league games.
Wieters immediately established himself as a workhorse behind the plate. His numbers were solid for a young catcher, but failed to meet the unrealistic expectations that followed him to Baltimore. Nevertheless, a .249/.319/.377 accompanied by a strong arm that reminded hitters “never run on Matt Wieters” would do in 2010.
Wieters may not have established himself as the best player in the game, but he did stand out as one of the best backstops in the league. He was named to the American League All Star team in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. He never led the league in hitting, unlike Mauer in ‘06, ‘08 and ‘09, and then there was the matter of the “power.”
The man who shared Superman’s strength, but not his weakness, tallied 117 home runs over eight seasons with the Orioles. That’s good for 24th all time among members of the franchise. Former teammates Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Chris Davis are all ahead of Wieters on the list.
Matt Wieters, now under contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, currently sits at 146 career home runs over 11 seasons. Joe Mauer finished his 15-year career with 143. So at least there’s that.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to remember Wieters for what he was as opposed to what he wasn’t. He arrived in Baltimore early enough to feel the pain of the dark years, and the delight of resurrecting the team back into a winning baseball club. He brought Gold-Glove caliber defense to a crucial position, and did what he could with a young pitching staff that failed to live up to much lower expectations.
There’s a bit of a “what if” factor to Wieters time in Baltimore as well. He was off to a career start through 29 games before his arm gave out on him in 2014. Tommy John surgery derailed a promising .308/.339/.500 start and put an end to his season. It’s possible that Wieters may have benefited from a few more days off, but one thing was certain— no one would be running on Matt Wieters for the remainder of the year.
That season would later reveal itself to be the Orioles best chance at a World Series in the 21st century. Baltimore leaned on backups Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley until the club faltered against the Royals in the American League Championship Series. One can only wonder what a healthy Wieters would have brought to the team, especially after he began the year on a high note.
Wieters returned halfway through the 2015 season and made a successful recovery. Still, it’s difficult to sign any player returning from Tommy John to an extension. Wieters accepted a qualifying offer from Baltimore and was named an All Star once again during a contract season in 2016.
It stung a bit when Wieters elected to sign a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Orioles crosstown “rival” Washington. The deal included a player option for 2018 that Wieters eventually accepted. He spent last season backing up Hall of Famer Yadier Molina in St. Louis, and recently agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal to keep him with the Cardinals in 2020.
Matt Wieters was the starting catcher for the Orioles in one of their most successful runs in recent memory. He homered from the right side of the plate, and he homered from the left. He kept base runners honest, and never shied away from an opportunity to show off his strong arm (you know, until he met Tommy John).
If we found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic a decade ago, there are some that would have told you Matt Wieters could have put an end to it. After all, not even the sun waits for Matt Wieters.
Without a doubt, he’s one of the most talented catchers in Baltimore’s history. He was a smashing success as the O’s top pick in 2007. If there’s any doubt, take one look at the player selected one slot before him.
There’s his walk-off grand slam in 2013, his walk-off after two rain delays on Opening Day in 2016, and any time someone decided to ignore the sound advice of not running on Matt Wieters.
Should he be ranked higher, lower, or exactly where he’s at on our list? I’m sure you’ve got an opinion, so let us know in the comments. Feel free to toss in your favorite Matt Wieters Fact too.