As we look at Josh Thole, I'd like to think that we have our catcher of the future. One who can call games, and before going out with his recent injury he was hitting the ball fairly well. Thole also seemingly improves on offense every year. Along with improving on the offensive end, his pick off skills on steal attempts since coming up to fill the catcher duties for the Amazins look to be coming along as well. Being a home grown player and only 25, hopefully we can presume Thole will be not just our catcher of now, but also the future.
Looking back at the Mets' past catchers we've had some pretty great back stops. One of my recent favorites use to be Paul La Duca and as a Mets fan how could you not be a fan of Mike Piazza. Not well known, but at one point we even had the Yankee great Yogi Berra holding the position (two games in 1965) and of course we also had the late great Gary Carter. Considering the Mets only became a ball club in 1962, marking this year as the 50th anniversary, for a considerable young organization compared to others around the league they have had some memorable catchers.
Here are my top 5 and what them special in Mets history in my opinion:
5. Paul La Duca – (Okay so this and only this pick is largely biased to my own opinion) though his time with the Mets was a short one compared the rest of the Mets alumni on this list, La Duca's intense and scrappy attitude matched that of the Mets' 2006 ball club. Squaring off with A-Rod as one example, La Duca brought a bit of swag and fight which to me helped to make that 2006 season a special one. Every meal could use a bit of a taste enhancer like salt.
4. Todd Hundley – At the age of 20, Hundley debuted the organization. He had a lot of publicity coming in he started of his career fairly slow offensively and faced a few injuries. In 1996, however, Hundley would break the record for catchers in a single season with 41 jacks, along with the league record he set it for the Mets ball club. Hundley played as a Met from 1990 – 1997, appearing in 745 games in orange and blue.
3. Gary Carter – The 'Kid' as he was well known was a part of the great 1986 team and the great 80's Mets teams. He played five seasons with the organization, from 1985 to 1989. In his first game as a Met Carter hit a homerun in the 10th inning on Opening Day in 1985 against the Cardinals to give the Mets the victory. He would also be instrumental of course in the 1986 championship season. Carter will forever be remembered for his excellent defensive skills, great offense, and toughness as a great baseball player, not to mention his character as a man.
2. Mike Piazza – This spot may come to as a surprise to many, either that he's not number one or that he's ahead of Gary Carter. When looking at Mike Piazza, you are arguably talking about the greatest offensive catcher to ever play baseball. During Piazza's time with the Mets they would make the playoffs in consecutive years (1999 and 2000) for the only time in club history. Piazza helped take the Mets to the 2000 World Series. Piazza has the second most games appearance as a catcher for the Amazins' with 826, only behind . . .
1. Jerry Grote – Upon his arrival as a New York Met in 1966, Grote made an immediate impact. Grote managed a young Mets pitching staff with his great defensive skill and helped the team avoid losing 100 games and finishing in last place for the first time in team history. Grote was also the only catcher to lead the team to two World Series' appearances. He was the second player in Mets' history, behind Ron Hunt, to earn a starting role in an All Star game, hitting over .300 combined with his amazing defensive skills in 1968. Grote would also be an instrumental and vital piece of the 1969 miracle Mets. Grote called every inning in their post season, and with his presence as a catcher to go with his calling of the games, the Mets would go on to dwindle the Orioles' hitting average to .146 for the World Series to help the team win their unbelievable first title.
La Duca and Jerry Grote being my personal favorites (of course I love the rest of them as well), I, the team, and most Mets' fans could only hope that the young Josh Thole can turn out on this list one day too.
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