WASHINGTON – The Nationals finally found the right combination at catcher in 2019 as the tandem of veterans Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes helped guide a pitching staff to a Wild Card spot and then a World Series title.
A few years earlier, it appeared Matt Wieters may be the catcher to get the Nationals past the first-round playoff jinx.
But that didn’t happen, in part because of a strange inning with Max Scherzer on the mound one memorable October night.
Wieters agreed to terms with the Nationals on Feb. 21, 2017, after he had spent all of his previous Major League career with the Baltimore Orioles.
“On Tuesday, Wieters, who will play this season at 31, agreed with the Nationals on a two-year, $21 million contract with an opt-out after the first year, a source said. He will receive $11 million this season and $10 million if he returns in 2018, with $5 million deferred through ’21,” the Daily Curve reported when Wieters signed in 2017. “Despite signing Wieters, the Nationals already have two catchers, Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, and a third with promise, Pedro Severino. Their biggest need is still to find a closer.”
A standout at Georgia Tech, Wieters was a first-round draft pick of the Orioles in 2007. When he was called up to the majors two years later, the promotion got a ton of attention on social media – but not at the level of hype for Bryce Harper when he made his major league debut.
Wieters was an All-Star with the Orioles in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016.
Starting in 2011, he hit at least 22 homers in three straight years.
After the 2016 season, many predicted Wieters would sign with the Nationals and that eventually happened.
Wieters played in 123 games in 2017 with the Nationals and hit .225 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs.
The next season he played in 76 games and batted .238 with eight homers and 30 RBIs.
He was behind the plate at Nationals Park in the playoff game against the Chicago Cubs in October of 2017 when anything that could go wrong did with Max Scherzer on the mound out of the bullpen.
“Little of this was actually Scherzer’s fault. His catcher, Matt Wieters, had perhaps the worst inning behind the plate of all time. He failed to block a strike three-breaking ball against Javier Baez, which allowed Baez to get to first and keep the inning alive. In the process, Wieters threw wildly and pointlessly to first, allowing Addison Russell to race all the way home from second base during the play. Home plate umpire, Jerry Layne, realized that Baez had clipped Wieters with his follow through on the swing, but misinterpreted the rule and failed to call Baez out. Or, Layne simply missed what happened in the chaos of the moment and it wasn’t reviewable. Your guess is as good as mine. Dusty Baker plead his case, but was ignored as the umpiring crew plowed forward in ignorance,” Brandon Day of blessyouboys.com wrote.
The Nationals, of course, lost the game and the series to the Cubs.
Washington would have to wait until 2019 to get to the World Series.
By then, Wieters was a backup catcher for the Cardinals as he appeared in 67 games that year and then played 19 games for St. Louis in 2020.
Wieters didn’t play in the majors in 2021.
A native of South Carolina, he turns 36 in May. He has played in 1167 games in the majors with 146 homers.