Toward the end of a HBP-filled affair between the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks in June of 2011, Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos hit a three-run home run to left field in Chase Field, taking D-Backs' right-hander Aaron Heilman deep for a 4-0 lead in what ended up a 9-4 Nats' win.
Ramos slowed as he rounded first and watched the ball soar into the stands. He took a total of twenty-nine long seconds rounding the bases in his home run trot and as he reached home, then-Diamondbacks' coach Matt Williams could be seen on the television broadcast screaming from the third base dugout for the catcher to pick up the pace.
Jayson Werth stood up on the top step of the Nationals' dugout and shouted back at Williams in return, backing Ramos up. The Nats' catcher admitted afterwards that he intentionally took his time.
"'I didn’t feel bad,'" Ramos told reporters after the game. "'I wanted to see those guys angry.'"
So, of course, that was one of the first things brought up in Williams' introductory press conference after he was named the Nationals' skipper this past winter.
"Thanks for that question, I appreciate it," Williams joked.
"There’s another guy that’s in this room who was involved in that altercation as well," he said, referring to Werth, who came to Nationals Park that day for the new skipper's introduction.
"I haven’t spoken to Wilson since," Williams admitted. "But I can tell you this – on any given day, in any given city, at any given time, something like that can happen. I love that Jayson Werth stood up in the opposing dugout and yelled at me, because that means that he competes. I love the fact that Wilson Ramos was upset that a couple of their guys got hit and took exception. I love that fact. Does it mean I don’t like the man? No. That’s competition. That’s baseball. That’s the way we play the game. Just because Jayson’s yelling at me doesn’t mean he doesn’t like me. He plays for the other team. Now, I’m fortunate and I’m pleased that I’m on his team – and we’re going to have a lot of fun."
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Over the last two months of Spring Training, Williams has gotten a chance to know the 26-year-old Nationals' catcher. He told reporters this week that he likes what he's seen from Ramos at and behind the plate.
"I just see a guy that understands how to hit," Williams said. "One, he's got power, but he also understands how to drive a run in. There's an art to that. He's got the innate ability to bounce the ball back through the middle. That's how your RBI totals go way up. His best power is the other way which gives him an advantage of staying on the baseball and he's one of our main cogs to this team and he's going to be a guy that's presented with a lot of situations to drive those runs in."
Defensively, Williams said, Ramos, who recovered from knee surgery in 2012 and dealt with hamstring injuries last season, has been agile and focused on preparing for the 2014 campaign.
"He's a big man," Williams explained. "It's not easy for him to move around back there because he's so big, but he takes pride in it. He takes pride in his defense, takes pride in his throwing ability and his game calling as well is very important to him. Probably the most important. So, you put all those things together and he's a pretty good player."
Through 11 games this spring, Ramos is 11 for 31 (.355/.355/.516) with two doubles and a home run in Grapefruit League action.
After coming off an extended DL stint for the second of two hamstring injuries he dealt with last season, Ramos posted a .276/.307/.477 line over the final 64 games of the season, hitting six doubles and 14 HRs in 251 plate appearances from mid-August through September in what ended up being a +1.8 fWAR campaign.
In what will be his fifth year in the majors, can Ramos stay healthy, stay in the lineup and put together a full season of plate appearances for just the second time in his career?