Matt Wieters is:
(b) a switch-hitting catcher that Baltimore fans hope will be a cornerstone for a new Oriole dynasty
(c) an over-hyped prospect destined to fail in some critics eyes unless he wins the Rookie of the Year, MVP and triple crown
(d) a 23 year old kid from Goose Creek, South Carolina who may struggle from time to time as he adjusts to major league pitching
(e) all of the above
(f) all they above except a
So it’s time. The week began with a call up of one super-hyped prospect (David Price) and will end with the call up of young Mr. Wieters. The 2007 first round draft pick will join recent call ups Brad Bergesen, Nolan Reimold and Jason Berken Friday when he is scheduled to debut against the Detroit Tigers. If anything it should boost attendance for the last place club.
There was an argument that he could have made the club out of spring training. However, as Rays fans know from last year’s Evan Longoria saga, the extra month on the roster would have cost the O’s a year of control over Wieters thanks to the convoluted “Super 2” free agent / arbitration rules. Unlike Longoria I don’t foresee the young catcher signing a long term deal a week after he is called up. Why you ask? Scott Boras I would answer. The celebrity agent has made his feelings about long term deals prior to free agency well known.
Those conversations are best saved for discussions many years from now. Now we (O’s fans) get to see a line-up that has made us giddy thinking about it for over a year. A line up that includes Wieters, blossoming super star Adam Jones, old reliable Brian Roberts, Nick “the Greek God of Eutaw Street” Markakis and walk off superstar Reimold.
There really aren’t too many position players on the doorstep in the minors for the O’s so we’ll be seeing the players that will be making up the core of the team for the next few seasons. Following Wieters call up the only top 10 position player prospect left in the minors will be third baseman Billy Rowell. Aubrey Huff could be gone this season, used as trade material for more prospects. Melvin Mora, who is enjoying another steady season, will probably play out his contract and then Rowell should be ready to take over.
For Wieters, who signed a club record $6,000,000 bonus in 2007, the pressure will be immense. The days of a prospect getting called up and having a grace period with fans and critics are long gone. People will expect results from day one and won’t hesitate to call him a bust after his first 0-10 slump.
Not only will he have to worry about his hitting, he will also have to learn a pitching staff that is young. In the Detroit series the Oriole starters are David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jason Berken. The combined number of major league starts for that quartet is 75 which isn’t bad until you see that 67 of those starts are by Guthrie. He will also have to deal with a Japanese pitcher with a limited grasp of English once Koji Uehara returns from the DL.
It will be interesting to see how he is used once he is called up. Will Dave Trembley throw him into the fire and have him as the number one catcher day in and day out? Will he spot start him against weaker pitching? Will he keep Gregg Zaun as his number one catcher, but have Wieters DH?
Based on early comments from GM Andy McPhail, the dynamic young hitter is being called up to play every day. “The line up is up to the manger, but we didn’t bring him up here to sit.” The GM told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. That’s all well and good in theory, but how long will his leash be. If he starts off 2-20 with 10 strikeouts does Trembley keep running him out there?
At this point in the season he might as well. Despite their thumping of the slumping Blue Jays this week the O’s are still mired in last place. With their young pitching staff, and the stiff competition they face within their own division, they will probably stay in last place for the rest of the season. Disappointing for the fans and the players, but at least all of the signs are pointing to the future.
No longer are the O’s struggling to finish fourth with aging, middle of the road free agent signings. No longer are they trying to compete with clubs like New York or Boston on the free agent market, instead they are adopting the build from within strategies that have proved productive for clubs like Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Oakland. Even the offer they made to Mark Teixeira in the off-season hinted at appeasing the fans. They knew he didn’t want to play here and they didn’t want to pay the amount of money it would have taken to sign him. Instead they used that money on Roberts and Markakis.
So I know it’s not in the nature of the internet generation, but give the kid a chance. Don’t judge him on one game or one week or even one month. See where he is after 50 games or so. I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed.
Oh and the answer to the question is (f). After all, everyone knows Clapton is God.