Over the years, the Mets have had some of the best catchers in baseball history when you consider both Gary Carter and Mike Piazza wore the orange and blue. Add in All Stars like Jerry Grote and John Stearns as well as the 40-homer season of Todd Hundley and you quickly realize the Mets have always had a strong presence behind the dish.
The past few years the catching position was a real weakness as there were grumblings from both the pitching and coaching staffs that the lack of defensive prowess cost them games. It's not as if guys like Brian Schneider and Omir Santos made up for shoddy game-calling with a huge offensive contribution. So, Omar Minaya decided he would search for some depth and experience at the catching position in the off-season.
After being rebuffed by Bengie Molina, he reeled in both Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas and his pitchers could not be happier. “Henry Blanco really is a student of the game,” says Met pitcher Mike Pelfrey who is off to a 3-0 start, “and it has meant the world to me. He is also a meticulous preparer as he will tell me what hitters in the lineup lunge on 0-2 counts, for instance, and it has already helped me on numerous occasions. Blanco also possesses the ability to cut down base stealers and in two instances this year, has short-circuited potential big innings with absolute laser beam throws nailing potential thieves.
Barajas has also received kudos from the pitching staff and that goes for every pitcher on the staff, including the ace. “Most times when you work with a new catcher there is a period of adjustment,” says Johan Santana, “but we were on the same page from Day 1 and I do not think people realize how rare that really is.” The veteran catcher has also hit three early season home runs giving the staff offensive support.
The Mets' starters are off to a good start with Mike Pelfrey being the poster child for that turnaround and do not minimize the role both Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco have had in his development. Much like the great catchers in the team’s past, these two players will play a huge role in measuring the success of the Mets. It is early in the season but so far their presence alone had made the pitching staff better and has erased the bitter pill of losing out on Bengie Molina.