Wieters has case for best catcher in Orioles' history

Wieters has case for best catcher in Orioles' history
November 20, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Matt Wieters has suddenly become a lightning rod for Orioles fans. That’s pretty funny for people who know him. Wieters is a most pleasant person to deal with, and he’s often great with a funny remark or two.

In just five seasons, Wieters has built a convincing case as the best catcher in the team’s history. He’s the only Orioles catcher ever to win the Gold Glove, which he’s won twice.

The Orioles have been blessed with lots of great players. For most of their 60-year history, they’ve had great shortstops. Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada, and most recently J.J. Hardy.

But, they haven’t any Hall of Famers behind the plate. They’ve only had five All-Star catchers.

Gus Triandos was the Orioles’ catcher from 1956-62. (He played mostly first base in 1955.) Triandos hit 30 home runs in 1957, the first of his three All-Star seasons.

Triandos was long gone by the time the Orioles won the World Series in 1966. Andy Etchebarren succeeded him and made the All-Star team twice, in 1966 and 1967, though he batted .221 and .215 those years.

Elrod Hendricks was the catcher for the three World Series teams from 1969-71. A popular player and coach, Hendricks never made the All-Star team.

Nor did Earl Williams, who provided some offense, but no defense for two years in the 1970s.

The most enduring catcher in team history, Rick Dempsey, was the regular catcher from 1977-86, playing more than 1,200 games with the Orioles. He won the Most Valuable Player award in the 1983 World Series, but was never an All-Star.

The Orioles did have an All-Star catcher in 1987, Terry Kennedy, who caught 142 games.

Mickey Tettleton’s 26 home runs got him an All-Star appearance in 1989, but Chris Hoiles’ eight effective seasons in the 1990s’ didn’t make him an All-Star. Charles Johnson was an All-Star before and after he played with the Orioles, but not in his nearly two seasons in Baltimore.

Last decade’s regular catchers included Brook Fordyce, Geronimo Gil, Javy Lopez and Ramon Hernandez. Lopez and Hernandez were All-Stars before their Orioles’ days.

Triandos, who died last March, played mostly before my time, but I’m familiar with the others. Noted for using the first oversized catcher’s mitt to work with knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, Triandos caught Jim Bunning’s perfect game in June 1964, the first regular season perfecto in 42 years. He also caught a no-hitter for Wilhelm, becoming the first catcher to receive no-hitters in both leagues.

Triandos, Etchebarren, Dempsey and Hoiles were all fine Orioles catchers, but none compare with Wieters.

NOTES: According to a report by MASNsports.com, the Orioles have reached agreement with right-handed pitcher Edgmer Escalona, who was 1-4 with a 5.67 ERA in 37 games with Colorado. The Rockies designated Escalona for assignment shortly after he pitched twice in Baltimore. In 78 games, all with Colorado over the last four years, Escalona is 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA.

The Detroit Tigers hired Matt Martin as the team’s “defensive coordinator.” Martin was let go last month after one year as the Orioles’ minor league infield instructor, but gets a major league coaching job under new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.