CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: G... (05/29)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (05/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Fant... (06/01)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Weekend R... (05/31)

May 29, 2009

Prospectus Today

The First Coming

by Joe Sheehan

Los Angeles (BP)-No one has ever seen anything like this. No one, you have to think, ever will.

Unless he does it again next year.

Capping the greatest story in baseball history... no, sports history... the Baltimore Orioles became World Champions last night, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-1 to complete their sweep, and extend their winning streak to 129 games, a stretch that dates to May 25, four days before catcher Matt Wieters made his major league debut.

"Unbelievable," a champagne-soaked Nick Markakis said. The Orioles right fielder repeated the word, eyes glassy, jersey half-on, half soaked, wearing a black cap with the improbable words "2009 World Series Champions" stitched in orange. Markakis would have been the MVP of any other Series, with his .429 average, two home runs, and Game Three-saving catch in the right-field corner. In this one, though, his performance was a footnote.

No, it was the rookie catcher from Georgia Tech who took the hardware, the same way he's taken everything else from the day he arrived in Baltimore. Joining a last-place team whose goals were long-term, he played the kind of baseball last seen depicted by Robert Redford, with a dash of Bugs Bunny. Wieters hit three home runs in his major league debut, the last a majestic shot off of the warehouse to break a 9-9 tie in the 11th inning, making him a legend before he'd taken his first MLB shower.

"If he can top that, we'll have something." That was Brian Roberts' line in the postgame gaggle that night, the usual veteran taming of the rookie's ego. What we didn't know then was that Wieters would top it, first with a game-winning grand slam off of Mariano Rivera on July 21, then a 39-game hit streak that ended in controversy, when Joe Maddon intentionally walked Wieters in his last four plate appearances on September 14. Wieters' final stat line looked like something achieved using A and B buttons and a really good cheat code: .391/.520/.910, 31 homers in 312 at-bats, 81 walks, 38 intentional, including intentional walks in 13 straight games at one point.

Wieters' Strat card won't begin to describe his impact, though. He changed Orioles baseball, American League baseball, even the game itself. Every ticket in Camden Yards has been sold since June 9, a run the team hasn't had since Cal Ripken Jr, was their star. The Orioles' success extended the Yankees' stretch of missed postseasons to two, as the Bronx Bombers finished third in the division despite winning 91 games, amidst Hal Steinbrenner's calls for realignment. The Wieters Rule, implemented on September 1 by Commissioner Bud Selig, sought to diminish the player's impact by mandating that switch-hitters bat solely from one side of the plate in any game. That slowed Wieters down to the tune of a .433 batting average-his highest monthly mark-after the rule change. Sources inside the commissioner's office indicate it will be quietly retired this offseason.

If the targeted rule bothered Wieters, you couldn't tell from the smile on his face as he accepted the Series MVP trophy and a hearty handshake from Selig. With characteristic brevity, Wieters thanked his teammates, Orioles fans, and then, choking up a bit, invoked the name we all waited to hear.

"Sally, I'm bringing this to you. Never stop fighting!"

Sally Radigan's story will be what we remember from 2009, long after we've forgotten Manny Ramirez and Zack Greinke and even Matt Wieters and 129 straight wins. The nine-year-old was down to 43 pounds and expected to die within days when Wieters dropped by the pediatric oncology ward at Johns Hopkins in early July. Charmed by the girl's encyclopedic knowledge of the O's, he made a deal with her: she would watch the Orioles win every day, and she would get a little bit better every time they won. Upon leaving the hospital, Wieters issued a challenge to players and fans alike: one dollar for every hit, with every dime going directly to fight cancer.

"Singles for Sally" became an international phenomenon, with donations coming in from 109 countries, including the Republic of North Korea. At last count, the program had raised $84 million for cancer research. Sally kept up her half of the bargain, climbing back to 88 pounds by the end of the regular season, and going into remission a week later, all of which allowed her to accompany the Orioles to their pennant-clinching win at Boston almost two weeks ago. The sight of Sally throwing out the first pitch of the World Series, a perfect strike to Wieters himself, was time-capsule perfect.

If Sally stands as a symbol for everything that Wieters did off the field, right-hander Adam Eaton represents his work on it. Released the week before Wieters arrived, Eaton accepted a job at Triple-A Norfolk when no MLB team came calling. On July 5, Eaton was asked to step in for Brad Bergesen after the rookie pulled an oblique on his throw day. Working with Wieters for the first time, Eaton threw seven shutout innings and credited the catcher for spotting a mechanical flaw that made all the difference. Having carried an 8.56 ERA to the minors, Eaton made 16 starts for the Orioles after his return, posting a 1.92 mark and allowing just five home runs in that period. Eaton started the clinching games in both the ALCS and World Series.

"He saved my career, man," Eaton said as he dodged bubbly and beer in the clubhouse after the game. "I don't know how he saw it-we'd never worked together-but he set me straight. I'm never leaving Baltimore. I'll retire before I'll pitch to someone else."

He's not the only one. Lefty Jamie Walker, a candidate to follow Eaton out the door before Wieters arrived, credits Wieters for his improved breaking ball. "I just let it fly, and I know he'll get to it." Walker allowed just one hit to a left-handed batter after Wieters' promotion, and retired all 17 batters he faced in the postseason. Left fielder Felix Pie, meanwhile, says that his second-half surge was entirely due to working with Wieters in the cage. "He just knows hitting, and he knows people. Like with that little girl... he knew just what to say. He's our leader."

For his part, Wieters is uncomfortable with his influence, and deflects all of his teammates' praise. As he put it on the podium, "All 25 guys get rings, and none are bigger than the others. These guys won a lot of games before I got here, and in baseball, no one guy can win by himself."

Wieters demurred when asked about Apple, saying again that he just liked the computer, and that he didn't mean to start anything. Since the ESPN profile showed Wieters using a MacBook in his pregame study of pitchers, the company hasn't been able to meet demand, while at the same time its stock price jumped 116 percent in the four days after "Outside the Lines: The New Orioles Streaker" aired. Wieters continues to insist that he had no kind of deal with Apple, no promotional contract or agreement. An investigation by both MLB and the SEC turned up nothing, but Wieters remains wary of a repeat performance. Two hours after the game, he sipped a beverage from a plain paper cup, steadfastly refusing to identify it.

Wieters, it seems, is only beginning to understand his awesome power, both in the batter's box and outside of it. Hyped as much as any prospect in the game's history, he exceeded expectations in every way, and in doing so, discovered that being a great baseball player gives him unwanted credibility in many areas. If that knowledge wearied him, he never showed it, merely taking greater care to keep his preferences private, while continuing to be the best player in baseball.

"I just play baseball. I play for these guys, and the fans in the stands, and everything else just... happens," Wieters said. "I don't think I'm better than anyone else."

He is looking forward to one perk, however.

"Next time we take the field, I'm not a rookie any longer," Wieters said with a smile. "Someone else can carry the pink backpack."

Wieters will be too busy carrying a ring.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  The Streak,  Matt Wieters

67 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

pure payne

Looking forward to Dontrelle Willis giving up at least two of the three homers tonight. Your satire makes a Tigers fan like myself a little uneasy. Lets see how Wieters fares against a 101mph Joel Zumaya fastball. I am excited that I get to see his debut on my local FSN station in HD, not on my crummy computer and MLBtv.

May 29, 2009 08:08 AM
rating: 0
 
jrfukudome

Does Zumaya still throw 100 mph?

May 29, 2009 08:14 AM
rating: 0
 
pure payne

yes, often.

May 29, 2009 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Lassaller

You do know Weiters throws 101 mph to second base.

From his knees, of course.

May 29, 2009 13:09 PM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

No, it's from the crouch - he doesn't have to move at all.

He can slow down the runner just by lookin' at him, too.

May 29, 2009 15:38 PM
rating: 3
 
BottomoftheNinth


It's World *Series* Champions, Joe. You don't see Barcelona FC going around saying they're the World Champions of club soccer, do you?



As the new starting catcher of both my fantasy leagues, I hope you're only 80% joking.

May 29, 2009 08:11 AM
rating: -1
 
bflaff

Joe, you left out that he dates the world's most interesting women and (inexplicably) only drinks Dos Equis. And that he had transformed Baltimore into the most glamorous East Coast city in the nation. And that he crashed Tweeter b/c so many people were subscribed to his Zen koan pearls of wisdom: "Bats and balls are like trees and acorns. Plant them in soil."

You almost make him sound like Derek Jeter.

May 29, 2009 08:35 AM
rating: 3
 
Mike W
(830)

C'mon, Joe. Everyone knows it was Derek Jeter who ignited the sun and hung the stars in the sky, not that Wieters interloper.

May 29, 2009 08:36 AM
rating: 3
 
Mike W
(830)

Hey, does Wieters by any chance wear a three wolf moon t-shirt under his uniform?

May 29, 2009 08:39 AM
rating: 7
 
iddscoper

We'll all forget about Wieters anyway after Strasburg throws 30 straight no hitters to begin his big league career :)

May 29, 2009 08:43 AM
rating: 6
 
John Geer
(44)

Sadly, there are those who believe this column to be satire.

May 29, 2009 08:47 AM
rating: 15
 
TGisriel

Loved your article, Joe.

A lot of this kind of humor has been going around Baltimore the last few days.

A dispute broke out on talk radio on whether, on his way to Baltimore, he walked across the Chesapeake Bay, or parted the waters.

May 29, 2009 08:52 AM
rating: 2
 
fireorlime

In either case I heard the female crab population has doubled since Matt's trip from Norfolk to Baltimore, saving countless fisherman jobs.

May 29, 2009 11:14 AM
rating: 3
 
greenie55

Best Wieters line so far...

Sliced better - the best thing since Matt Wieters.

May 29, 2009 08:54 AM
rating: -3
 
greenie55

sorry -- I always blow the punch line...it's "Sliced BREAD - best thing since Matt Wieters." Sins of multi-tasking.

May 29, 2009 09:02 AM
rating: -1
 
Leitch

Matt Wieters can make an omelet without breaking any eggs.

In case anyone hasn't seen it: mattwietersfacts.com

May 29, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
edulus

my favorite:

A pitcher shook off Matt Wieters, Once.

May 29, 2009 11:17 AM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

Matt Wieters can drown a fish.

Matt Wieters can open a revolving door.

Matt Wieter's calendar goes striaght from March 31 to April 2 - you can't fool Matt Wieters.

May 29, 2009 15:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Lighting round for the commenters: at what spot in the lineup does Wieters hit tonight?

May 29, 2009 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Ligh*n*ing round. The BP depth chart has him in the 6-spot.

May 29, 2009 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
17843

Could be as low as 8th depending on who plays. I'd guess Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Huff, Mora, Scott, Reimold, Wieters, Izturis

May 29, 2009 11:16 AM
rating: 0
 
baserip4

Trembley likes breaking guys in at the bottom. I'll bet 7th...

Roberts
Jones
Markakis
Huff
Mora
Scott
Wieters
Reimold
Izturis

May 29, 2009 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
fireorlime

Winner winner chicken dinner! Trembley just said Wieters will bat 7th tonight.

Holy crap I'm excited. Merry Wietersmas everyone!

May 29, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 3
 
fireorlime

We've got God on our side.

Go O's!

May 29, 2009 11:12 AM
rating: 1
 
mcbmd2

John Geer, so sad but so true.

May 29, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

You forgot to throw in a mention of "Switch-Hitting Jesus" for Wieters...

May 29, 2009 11:40 AM
rating: -1
 
ashitaka

Excellent recap Joe. But you forgot that Weiters also managed to break Earl Webb's single-season doubles record with 69 two-baggers.

May 29, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 0
 
jepson

He once swung and missed...just to see what it feels like.

May 29, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: 6
 
Jivas
(649)

Great article, Joe. I'd keep laughing, but I need to go look at Wieters' PECOTA card again.

I echo the sentiments of someone above that a mention of Wieters' ability to turn around the city of Baltimore would have been a nice touch; I'm sure a reference or two to The Wire could have been thrown in. :)

May 29, 2009 11:57 AM
rating: 0
 
drdrip

For long suffering O's fans let me say, if he plays as well as Adam Jones, who should be the AL starting CF in the All Star Game, we will be happy.

May 29, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: 0
 
dtower

Wieters once had a staring contest with the sun- and won.

May 29, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: -1
 
Schere

Man, it is POURING down rain in dowtown Baltimore right now. Maybe he starts with the light-tower destroying homer?

May 29, 2009 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

G-d is just cleansing the air of any pollutants, so that Wieters can perform his wonders in the best possible environment.

May 29, 2009 12:30 PM
rating: 7
 
dianagram

Wieters is so good, Zaun and Moeller begged him to take their spot in the lineup, stating that they weren't really worthy of playing on the same field as him.

In fact, no one on the Orioles felt worthy, and thus, Wieters will pull a Bugs Bunny and play all nine positions against the Gashouse Gorillas, the Tigers, and all other comers.

May 29, 2009 12:28 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

Amusing article, Joe, but I think you're underselling Wieters a bit.

May 29, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: 4
 
rudnicki33

This is the most anticipated Baltimore debut since Brother Mouzone came to town.

May 29, 2009 13:02 PM
rating: 10
 
tlpc78

Well played. The only Wire-related comment on here so far???

May 30, 2009 18:44 PM
rating: 0
 
AZMEL

As a proud alumnus, I'm disappointed no one's mentioned his intellectual prowess, having attended The Georgia Institute of Technology, usually referred to as the MIT of the south.

May 29, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: -1
 
WaldoInSC

After Wieters, MIT is the Georgia Tech of the north.

May 29, 2009 14:38 PM
rating: 6
 
deep64blue

Absolutely brilliant, the tears were running down my face as I read this.

May 29, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: -1
 
fawcettb
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Great 20th century sport-writing. Trouble is, this is the 21st century...

May 29, 2009 13:29 PM
rating: -12
 
Corkedbat

My co-workers repeatedly looked at me as I laughed. "Singles for Sally" baby!

May 29, 2009 13:37 PM
rating: 1
 
zstine1

as someone at johns hopkins doing a little cancer research, should i be concerned that i will lose my job as quickly chad moeller?

as far as legends go, wieters is only a beard away from being chuck norris.

May 29, 2009 14:28 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Best article ever.

May 29, 2009 14:32 PM
rating: -2
 
Joe D.

Outstanding, Joe. You might be selling Wieters a bit short, but entertaining nonetheless. Hell, the last time PECOTA was this enthusiastic about a rookie, Alex Gordon trounced the league in 2007! Ah, I remember that season well -- I couldn't decide whether to be more impressed by Gordon's .385 batting average or the 60+ doubles he mashed.

"Matt Wieters took batting practice yesterday. There were no survivors."

May 29, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 1
 
wilk75

When Matt Wieters gets hit by a pitch. The trainers rush out to check on the ball.

May 29, 2009 15:02 PM
rating: 3
 
T. Kiefer

You got the Sally Radigan story wrong though. Sally was cured of her cancer when Matt laid his catching glove upon her. You also forgot to mention the time when Camden Yards had only a dozen hot dogs and several buns left due to a vendor mishap, they had Weiters man the concession, and he was able to feed not only the entire sold out stadium, but also had plenty left over to feed the poor outside. Is the rumor that when he was a child he had turned water into Bud Light at a local minor league game?

We'll have to see if his playing garments have similar healing powers, like the Shroud of Turin. (The "Jersey of Baltimore"?) When he breaks his bat, Splinters from the True Bat will be given to kings, queens and presidents, and will be deposited in churches across the globe.

May 29, 2009 15:36 PM
rating: 0
 
TGisriel

I really like the "Splinters of the True Bat"!

May 30, 2009 09:01 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Hunter

Flying into a double play is no way to start a career, he stinks.

May 29, 2009 17:01 PM
rating: 2
 
elferguson80

Wieters is so good that he went 0-4 -- on purpose.

May 29, 2009 20:24 PM
rating: 2
 
Byron Lescroart

so wieters wastes zero time in joining his first big major league "club:" the 4000 club!!! for the uninitiated that is a club for the elite players of MLB who enjoy going 0-4 with 0 runs and 0 rbi's as frequently as possible. the fact that sir wieters was able to accomplish this feat while his team dropped a 7-spot is all the more impressive! chairman pat burrell gives wieters a handshake from the DL, welcoming him to this prestigious group...

all this said, i will jump on with the previous post - he probably did this on purpose just so he could be in as many "clubs" as possible ASAP

finally, does strasburg topping out at 98 tonight scare anyone? and does it scare hitters everywhere that this is even a question?

May 29, 2009 21:01 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Hunter

Absolutely not. The 101-102 numbers are probably pretty fast guns/ him maxing out.

Keith Law never had him in triple digits and he only hit 99 twice for him.

May 29, 2009 22:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Sam Rothstein

Matt Wieters' tears cure cancer, too bad he never cries.

May 29, 2009 21:01 PM
rating: -1
 
Joe D.

I was going to say, "Hello Billy Jo Part Deux," but at least Billy Jo Robidoux had two walks in his first start.

May 29, 2009 22:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

When Matt Wieters was born, the gynecologist got poked in the eye.

May 30, 2009 07:39 AM
rating: 0
 
tooci4

Can Matt Wieters create a black hole so dense, even he can't escape it?

May 30, 2009 14:43 PM
rating: -1
 
Wyrm22

I've never looked at his PECOTA card before.... YIKES!!

May 30, 2009 17:36 PM
rating: 0
 
russell

How have you managed that feat?

May 30, 2009 18:49 PM
rating: 0
 
yanks2009

When Matt Wieters hits a home run, the bat is placed in a climate controlled case inside the National Archives next to the Declaration of Independence. In order to meet public demand, the Archives opens 24/7 and calls in Delta Force to protect the bats. Eventually, the Declaration and the Constitution are moved into storage to make room for the bats.

May 30, 2009 21:24 PM
rating: -3
 
Richard Bergstrom

When Matt Wieters is alone in the woods and no one else is around to hear, a tree falls.

May 31, 2009 01:13 AM
rating: -1
 
poldytow

You forgot to mention the time when Wieters took Sept call up Hal Finch (Sid's son) deep on a 145 mph fastball. That was something.

May 31, 2009 09:09 AM
rating: -1
 
jrmayne

Wieters is currently hitting .222. I think this sample size is sufficient to conclude that Sally Radigan will have to undergo more chemotherapy, the Orioles won't win the pennant, Wieters will be selling insurance by next Friday, Jamie Walker will still suck, and humans will continue to die.

The apocalypse begins.

--JRM

May 31, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Matt Wieters will eat that sample size with a side of the apocalypse.

Jun 01, 2009 01:37 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

. . . and a nice Chianti .....

Jun 01, 2009 08:50 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I love you people.

Jun 01, 2009 15:21 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Go in peace, sayeth the Wieters.

Jun 01, 2009 21:31 PM
rating: 0
 
fireorlime

What people don't realize is that Matt's "struggles" are a preconceived test of faithfulness.

Haters beware, you will pay for your doubting come judgment day.

Jun 04, 2009 08:38 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: G... (05/29)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (05/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Fant... (06/01)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Weekend R... (05/31)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article My Model Portfolio: Framing Decisions Around...
Fantasy Article Dynasty Dynamics: TINO Does Arizona, 2015
Pebble Hunting: The Case For Shaming the Cub...
Every Team's Moneyball: Texas Rangers: Short...
Every Team's Moneyball: Atlanta Braves: Shor...
Prospectus Feature: All Spin Is Not Alike
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: The Most Important Player ...

MORE FROM MAY 29, 2009
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Going Places
Premium Article Future Shock: 2008 Draft Review: NL
Premium Article Under The Knife: The Undiscovered Recovery
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Offensive Rookies

MORE BY JOE SHEEHAN
2009-06-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A New Age of Reason?
2009-06-02 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Debate Continues
2009-06-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Fantastic?
2009-05-29 - Prospectus Today: The First Coming
2009-05-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Guillen Number
2009-05-27 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Bergesen Tour
2009-05-22 - Prospectus Today: NL All-Stars
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TODAY
2009-06-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A New Age of Reason?
2009-06-02 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Debate Continues
2009-06-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Fantastic?
2009-05-29 - Prospectus Today: The First Coming
2009-05-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Guillen Number
2009-05-27 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Bergesen Tour
2009-05-22 - Prospectus Today: NL All-Stars
More...