"I want to be the guy. I want to be the guy in that spot.
That's the way I look at it. When the game is on the line,
I'm hoping it's me."
- Paul Lo Duca
(quoted from an unnamed source
...Opening Day, Shea Stadium, Flushing Queens, NY, April 3, 2006...
What is announced as the largest Opening Day crowd to date in New York Mets' history is in Shea Stadium to welcome in the '06 season and the Mets' NL East rivals, the Washington Nationals. An old friend of mine, a die-hard Mets fan, and I are still headed towards Shea. After nearly two hours of traffic on the Grand Central, we finally arrive at the game in the second inning of play.
Several hours later...New York leads Washington 3-2 in the eigth. Alfonso Soriano hits a leadoff single off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman. THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! Ryan Zimmerman doubles to left, Soriano rounds third...the relay throw comes in from Cliff Floyd in left to Jose Reyes who throws to Paul Lo Duca at the plate, Lo Duca drops it, Soriano slides in..."SAFE!" I scream, Lo Duca dropped the ball, but realizing the Umpire can't see it, Lo Duca picks up the ball and shows it the Umpire, who punches the air, "Yeeerrr...OUT!"
Everyone's heard people talk about some players being the kind of guy you hate until he's on your favorite team. It's in that spirit that Paul Lo Duca's welcomed to Washington after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Nationals this afternoon.
The thirty-five year old catcher, who originally hails from Brooklyn, New York, will be playing his eleventh Major League season in 2008, for his third NL East team after spending the last two seasons with the Mets, who acquired his services in a trade from the Florida Marlins in 2005, after the Marlins had acquired Lo Duca from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-player deal in July of '04.
Originally drafted by the Dodgers out of Arizona State University with the 690th overall pick in the 23rd Round of the 1993 Draft, Lo Duca spent six seasons in the Dodgers system before earning his first call-up in June of '98. In his first full season with the Dodgers in 2001, Lo Duca hit .320 with 25 HR's and 90 RBI's. (Still career highs).
In 10 Major League seasons, Paul Lo Duca has a .288 AVG with 213 doubles, 80 HR's, 466 RBI's, 19 steals, and just 284 strike outs in 3,719 AB's. In his last two seasons with the Mets, Lo Duca's hit .318 and .272 in '06 and '07 respectively while smacking 57 doubles, 14 home runs, and 103 RBI's.
The Nationals plan, according to mlb.com's Bill Ladson in his article on the trade entitled, "Nats continue activity, add Lo Duca" is to have Lo Duca, "...be the everyday catcher for Washington, while Jesus Flores will be the backup."
The Nationals traded catcher Brian Schneider, along with Ryan Church, to the Mets just a week or so back, necessitating the signing of Lo Duca as a veteran presence, since it doesn't make much sense to send Jesus Flores down with no stand-out prospect behind the plate in the system, and since Flores had never played above A-ball before last season's Rule 5 selection by the Nationals, from the Mets' system, forced the Nationals to keep Flores on their Major League roster all year.
While the Nationals are still trying to decide who will be the leadoff hitter on Opening Day in Nationals Park this April, Nationals fans can now be pretty sure who will be batting second. Paul Lo Duca rarely K's, which is perfect for Ryan Zimmerman in the three spot, who will find himself batting with more men in scoring position as a result of the contact Lo Duca's well-known for generating.
Is Paul Lo Duca an improvement over Brian Schneider? Certainly with the bat...Schneider's known as one the best defensive catchers in the game...(though whispers that he'd slowed a bit have surfaced in the wake of his departure from DC)...Does Jesus Flores need another year as a backup?...Is Washington GM "Trader" Jim Bowden done? Will Lo Duca be catching the Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Cordero in the ninth?
*Paul Lo Duca Links*
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Nats continue activity, add Lo Duca" at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
mlb.com's WRAP of the 4/3/06 Nationals/Mets game:
Paul Lo Duca's stats at thebaseballcube.com:
Paul Lo Duca quotes at thinkexist.com:
I quoted the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin from his interview on Charlie Steiner's XM Radio show last week, on which Mr. Sheinin warned that Elijah Dukes' personal history might not go over well in DC...Here's an article from Melanie Scarborough, at the dcexaminer entitled, "Nationals strike out with thug deal" that is most definitely not in favor of the trade, which proves Mr. Sheinin somewhat prescient...
And finally, since I was nice to Lo Duca, I'll end this post with the beginnings of a comedy pyramid I started at my old site>>>, which anyone can feel free to add to in the COMMENTS section below...
If I Had A Mets Blog I'd Call It...