There comes a time when the veteran All-Star recognizes his skills have eroded to the point that he's no longer an everyday player. That's happening now with Ivan Rodriguez, and while his receiving skills are still well above average, he's recognized the inevitable and seems to be adjusting to the idea of backing up Wilson Ramos.
Rodriguez was originally signed to be a part-time player for the Nationals. The hubbub over his two-year, $6 million deal was more about paying a backup that kind of money than anything else. That he ended up catching more than 100 games was a result of Jesus Flores' lingering shoulder problems, and he posted a credible .266 average with 49 RBIs.
Ramos is the real deal behind the plate, and his offense thus far has been solid. I can't help but think of the late Earl Battey when I see Ramos. Battey, a four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, was a rock behind the plate, and a pretty good hitter, too, once hitting 26 home runs in a season (1963). He was a .270 career hitter and a .990 career fielder. Wear and tear ended his career at age 32, but he made his mark on the game.
Ramos is built similarly to Battey - almost a classic catcher's frame - and has an arm reminiscent of Earl's, as well. Battey was arguably the best African-American player to wear the Washington uniform pre-expansion, and he only spent the 1960 season with them, coming over in a trade for Roy Sievers just before opening day that year.
Earl Battey had three top-10 American League Most Valuable Player finishes in the 1960s. Ramos can bring similar leadership to the Nationals in due time, with help from Rodriguez, who's very much on-board with mentoring Ramos any way he can.
Getting out of Minnesota was a break for Ramos, who might have spent another full season in Triple-A ball waiting for Joe Mauer to change positions, or for Twins' management to hold out for more in return. Joe Nathan's injury opened the door for the Matt Capps trade, and Mike Rizzo maximized his assets in the exchange.
Ramos - with Flores and Derek Norris waiting in the wings - gives Washington enviable depth behind the plate. Catching shouldn't be an issue for this team for some seasons to come.