New York Mets Free Agency: Can Pudge Be the Answer for Josh Thole?

Frank Gray@!/nyfaninsjerseyCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2011

Ivan Rodriguez is one of the greatest catchers to ever play. Josh Thole and the Mets would benefit from his experience.
Ivan Rodriguez is one of the greatest catchers to ever play. Josh Thole and the Mets would benefit from his experience.

The Mets have a young catcher in Josh Thole. He has not quite lived up to the hype yet, though. Many fans (I am not one of them) feel that he is never going to pan out. The problem is that this team has been blessed with exceptional catchers in their history. 

Names like Gary Carter, Mike Piazza and Jerry Grote have all become what we think of when we imagine a Mets catcher. Beyond that holy trinity, they still have players like Todd Hundley and Paul LoDuca who did an admirable job in their respective lineups. 

We are used to the position being one that provides offense. Most likely, Thole will end up being a Paul LoDuca as opposed to a Mike Piazza, but that's not bad, either. In his first full season, Thole hit .268 last year while catching 114 games behind the plate.

He is just getting the defense down at the MLB level, especially the art of learning to catch a knuckler like R.A. Dickey. He spent last season learning to call a game and take control of a pitching staff—all the little things that never go into the box score.

With that said, he may spend some of this year doing the same thing; however, he should have some help back there. The Mets need to sign a veteran catcher to back him up and teach him how to be that complete player the franchise knows he can be. 

There are several catchers still available on the market; however, one stands out as a perfect choice to accomplish this goal. His name is Ivan Rodriguez. Baseball fans know him simply as "Pudge." Rodriguez is as seasoned a veteran as they come.

He has spent 20 years in the big leagues, most of them with a competitive Texas Rangers team that had solid pitching and a stellar offense. He may very well go into the Hall of Fame when he decides to hang up his spikes.

There were rumors last week that the Mets were interested in his services for the exact reason I explained. There are three reasons that immediately stand out as to why this would be a good move for the Mets. 

First, he's an experienced catcher that knows how to take control of a pitching staff and how to call a game from behind the plate. He knows how to properly learn his own pitchers' weaknesses and strengths and those of the hitter.

This is something that he can and will teach to whoever he backs up next season. Why shouldn't that someone be Thole? Pudge can teach Thole how to improve on that .207 caught stealing percentage he posted last season. 

Secondly, he can help Thole learn to be a situational hitter as well. Rather than trying to pull the ball and over-swing, Thole can become the gaps hitter everyone knows he is. Pudge is a career .296 hitter.

While he has come nowhere close to that in that past few seasons, he still knows how to work a count and get the pitch he wants. He can teach an impatient Thole how to be more selective at the plate.

Finally, the tutelage of Ivan Rodriguez would be immeasurable for a young team. Everyone talks about the future of this pitching staff. With pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jesus Familia and Zack Wheeler all coming up in the next year or so, Thole needs to learn these things now. This season.

If the franchise decides it's trusting him with its most precious commodity, young pitching, it will have to give him the proper support. Other wise, he will crash and burn and the young dream staff with him.

While he may never be a Piazza or a Gary Carter, he can be happy just being Thole. If that Thole learns the nuances of the game from a great player like Rodriguez.


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