Ya Gotta Have A Catcher - PART 2

By tobajoma
Oct. 28, 2016

Jerry Grote became the Mets’ #1 catcher in 1966, while Greg Goossen hit 25 home runs at AAA Jacksonville, impressive since he had been promoted from short-season Class A to AAA, quite a leap. Grote was a take-charge guy who would help nurture the pitchers while providing excellence behind the plate. Goossen was a power-hitting prospect. So, it was hard to see how the Mets still considered catching as so much of a need that they would select high school catcher Steve Chilcott with the first pick in the amateur draft when Reggie Jackson was the consensus favorite to go number one.

There have been many speculative articles written about how M. Donald Grant didn’t want Jackson because he was dating a white woman and for various other non-baseball offenses, but then- GM Bing Devine relates that he and Casey Stengel scouted Chilcott at a High School game in California and decided he was the one to take. I can offer no insights into the real truth. All I know is that contrasting Chilcott’s career with Reggie Jackson’s will forever be regarded as a major Mets’ failure. Chilcott was injured and never played in the major leagues. Jackson went on to a Hall Of Fame career and superstar status.

It’s time to digress. Finding and developing catchers has been a challenge for almost every team - not just the Mets. Along with Chilcott, Danny Goodwin (twice), Mike Ivie, Ben Davis, Tyler Houston, Jeff Clement, Eric Munson, and Martin Cott were all catchers who were drafted no lower than third in the amateur draft who failed to make it. Then, there are those players who were drafted as catchers and moved to other positions before they enjoyed major league success. Among current players this list would include Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, and Neil Walker.

Besides Chilcott, other Mets’ first-round draft pick catchers include John Gibbons, Butch Benton, Alan Zinter, and Rich Bengston. Also worth mentioning is that in 1965, the Mets used their second-round pick on a catcher named Randy Kohn. 14 picks later the Reds chose Johnny Bench. Stupid Mets ? Well, between Kohn and Bench, 3 other teams drafted catchers. Anyone remember Ken Rudolph, Donald Johnson, or Dick Horton ? So, for every Buster Posey or Joe Mauer, there are a dozen or so catchers drafted with high expectations who never reach the majors. Good catchers are at a premium. Is there another way to explain how the Phillies in 1973 selected John Stearns with the second pick in the draft when they already had a talented young catcher in Bob Boone, and the next 2 picks were to be Robin Yount and Dave Winfield ?

And speaking of Stearns, there 's more about him in my next installment.