When the Mets traded troubled prodigy Lastings Milledge this past winter to Washington for two 'average' veteran players, most fans scratched their heads in confusion.
And rightfully so. If your look at the statistics of the two players obtained by the Mets in the deal—Ryan Church and Brian Schneider—you will find very little to get excited about. Church is a platoon outfielder with above average defensive skills and some pop in his bat. Schneider is a below average hitter, but a beast behind the plate.
These trades sometimes take a awhile to pan out. Milledge basically burned every option made available to him by the club. He had to go. The only takers were the Nationals. Believe it or not, this trade helps both teams more than anyone was led to believe.
That aside, the Mets' fans and writers in Port St. Lucie this week were all anxiously awaiting the arrival of Johan Santana. He is, unquestionably, the big story. Little did they know, there would be another story of interest- Brian Schneider.
New Yorkers love tough guys. And Brian Schneider is the consummate tough guy. His nickname throughout most of his life has been "Hoops"—a reference to the famous stunt man movie "Hooper" with Burt Reynolds.
He is the type of player the New York fans will immediately embrace. At 31, and in excellent physical health, Hoops is third in games caught over the past three years (behind workhorses A.J. Pierzynski and Brad Ausmus) and has already impressed the Met pitchers and manager Willie Randolph with his observations and leadership qualities.
“He’s a real good take-charge kind of catcher,” Randolph said.
Schneider, who once flew in an F-18 with the Blue Angels, is also a stickler for detail. Before his arrival at camp, he studied hours of video of Mets' pitchers. When he got to camp, he was ready to give some constructive criticism right away. Needless to say, everyone was impressed.
From what I can see, this is only the beginning of Schneider's contribution to the club. The best may be yet to come. So far he's off to a flying start.
The people of Flushing just might have a new hero on their hands.
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