HOUSTON — A Red Sox-Braves World Series would be a Fall Classic of reunions.
Boston’s two original ball clubs, reunited.
And the Mets’ original two catchers, reunited.
OK, if you want to get technical, other people donned the tools of ignorance in a Mets uniform before Travis d’Arnaud did so in 2013 and then Kevin Plawecki in 2015. It just felt like that duo was there forever, though, right? They occasionally flashed potential (both were first-round draft picks), yet never sustained it.
You know that d’Arnaud has earned his bona fides. The Braves didn’t wait until the end of their first two-year commitment with the 32-year-old before extending him for another two years, through 2023. And Saturday at Minute Maid Park, as the Red Sox tried to knot up the American League Championship Series with the Astros, they paired up Plawecki with their ace Nathan Eovaldi, their standard operating procedure.
For sure there’s an audit to be conducted on why the Mets couldn’t get the most out of this duo during their major league wonder years. Yet the more I watch this crazy sport, the more convinced I become that not everyone can emerge from the womb and thrive on the Big Apple griddle. Many guys simply require time, and perhaps a change of scenery as well, to reach their ceilings.
Take Plawecki as the latest submission.
“Tremendously. Tremendously,” Plawecki said, when I asked him how much his New York experience contributed to his current productivity with the Bosox. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help me. … I learned during my time in New York not to get caught up in any of it. When I got out of New York, it was a breath of fresh air going to Cleveland [in a January 2019 trade], obviously. Not even close to what it was like [in New York]. And I thought I’d never play for a big-market club again.
“Then, a year later, I decided to come to Boston. It was a different vibe when I came here. I knew what to expect more. I knew what to not pay attention to. I think I went into it with a better mindset, understanding what comes along with it. You kind of tell yourself not to listen to certain things, stuff like that. It really helped me a lot.”
Plawecki had a slash line this season of .287/.349/.389 in 64 regular-season games, totaling 173 plate appearances, a nice follow-up to the .341/.393/.463 he posted in the COVID-shortened 2020 season after signing with the Sawx that January.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Plawecki: “He’s always had ability, going back to the draft. His bat, especially for the position, is good. He puts together a good at-bat. He’s short to the ball. And we saw him as a guy who had a lot of different components that could add up to success and they just hadn’t come together. So we thought we might have runway to try to put those together.
“What’s happened is he’s had good success on the field. He’s also become a real big part of our clubhouse.”
You want the Queens kicker to this late-bloomer story? Plawecki, who was selected 35th overall in 2012 as one of two compensatory picks the Mets received for free agent Jose Reyes’ departure to the Marlins (the other, 71st overall, brought in Matt Reynolds), credits his former Mets hitting coach, Kevin Long, his fellow Arizona resident in the offseason, for helping him figure out things at the plate.
“I was hitting a lot of groundballs, as you know in New York, a lot of weak contact,” Plawecki said.
The key, he explained, was opening up his stride, which allowed him to “drive pitches on the inner half and recognize pitches on the outer half that I would usually swing at crossing over because they looked good to me. Striding open, those pitches that I would normally swing at and roll over don’t look as good to me. … That was the last little thing that Kevin thought might help me.”
In 2016 with the Mets, Plawecki hit grounders 56.6 percent of the time (thanks, Baseball Savant). This season? He was at 40.2 percent.
He has figured some things out under Boston’s bright lights, thanks in no small part to his time in the Big Apple. It’s a painful truth for both the Mets and Yankees, a continuing puzzle left for them to solve: Easing that learning curve when the learning is considerable.