Hall of Famer Mike Piazza knows a thing or two about catching. Sunday, the New York Mets legend called out the team’s backstops.
The New York Mets steadfast refusal to upgrade behind the plate has been a point of contention with fans for years. Sunday, former Mets backstop Mike Piazza called out Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, the team’s catching tandem for 2018.
“They’re very solid guys,” Piazza told Newsday‘s David Lennon. “They take care of themselves, they work hard. But there’s nothing wrong with looking at Travis and Kevin and challenging them to get better this year, to play better, to improve their performance.
“You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and say, ‘I want to play better this year.’ That doesn’t mean you haven’t been playing hard before. But there’s a difference between playing hard and playing better and getting results. I’m expecting more out of them and I think a team like this — especially with [manager Mickey Callaway’s] philosophy on pitching — there’s nothing with challenging yourself to take the next step.”
Entering his fourth full season with the Mets, d’Arnaud, 29, has yet to deliver on the promise that made him one of baseball’s most ballyhooed catching prospects years ago. He’s struggled to stay healthy, produce at the plate—evidenced by a career .245/.306/.406 slash line—and failed to control the opposition’s running game, throwing out just 22 percent of base stealers, six percent below league average.
For those d’Arnaud fans looking to use focusing on his catching duties as an excuse for his lackluster production at the plate, Piazza isn’t having any of it.
“I had a staff that would kick my butt if I went out there and after grounding into a double play, wasn’t focused on calling the game,” Piazza said in response to Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who asked him how he balanced his catching duties with his hitting duties. “With an organization that’s very focused on pitching, catching is the second most important job. So you’ve got to have cohesiveness. You have to have the same philosophy. It’s very important. So we’re kind of harping on that.”
A career backup thus far, the 26-year-old Plawecki, Plawecki, who had three RBI Saturday in the Mets’ 10-5 loss to the Cardinals, believes he’s got more to offer at the plate.
“I definitely know I’m a better player than I’ve shown so far. The type of player I was in September is the type of player I’ve been my whole life. Obviously, there’s a lot of growing pains coming up and over the last three to four years dealing with the kinks in my swing.”
Plawecki, who got fairly regular playing time over the final month of the 2017 season, hit .307 with four doubles, two home runs, and a .885 OPS over his final 27 games.
Whether Plawecki can build upon his hot finish to last season—or Piazza’s remarks can light a fire under d’Arnaud—is anybody’s guess.
But from the looks of things, Piazza could probably still outperform the pair, even as he closes in on his 50th birthday.