Fan’s take: Top five catchers in baseball history

Just like the quarterback in football, the catcher is often seen as an extension of the manager on the diamond in baseball. Who is it that is asked to go to the mound and calm the pitcher down? Who is it that is responsible for calling the game to the pitcher's strengths?

These are just two of the many important jobs that a catcher has each game. So many all-time greats have been behind the plate over the years. Most managers will tell you that a great defensive catcher is even more important than a catcher who can hit the ball well.

Here's a look at my top five catchers of all time:

Top Five Catchers in Baseball History

5. Mike Piazza: I simply can't put Piazza any higher than this because of his defensive struggles. During his career, Piazza managed to throw out just 23 percent of attempted base stealers. While he wasn't good defensively, Piazza is arguably the best offensive catcher of all-time. He had a .308 batting average and 427 home runs in his career. He was named to the All-Star team 12 times.

4. Roy Campanella: Campanella had a chance to be even higher on this list if he had an opportunity to play a full career in the major leagues. He was named Most Valuable Player of the league three times in his first 10 years. Campanella was right in the prime of his career when an automobile accident left him paralyzed in 1958. Despite playing just 10 seasons, he racked up 242 home runs and an impressive .360 on-base percentage. What about his throwing arm? He threw out an amazing 51 percent of attempted base stealers!

3. Ivan Rodriguez(notes): The man they call "Pudge" has been a great catcher for many years. He threw out a record 60 percent of base stealers in 2001. He has led the league in throwing out runners in nine different seasons. He is a .296 career hitter, and he has been named to the All-Star team 14 times. While he isn't a true power hitter, he does have 311 home runs. Pudge has changed the modern game with this throwing ability. No other catcher can match his 13 career Gold Gloves.

2. Yogi Berra: The Yankee great slips into a very close second place on this list. Berra had a 19-year career, and he was named to the All-Star team 15 times. He was named the MVP of the league three times. Berra hit .285 in his career, and he slugged 358 home runs. He threw out 47 percent of attempted base stealers. While many people today think of Berra as simply a very quotable person, he is definitely one of the best to ever play the game.

1. Johnny Bench: The heart and soul of the Big Red Machine was Johnny Bench. Bench was one of the best defensive catchers this game has ever seen. He threw out 44 percent of attempted base stealers, and he won the Gold Glove 10 times. What about his offense? He led the league in runs batted in three different years, and he led the league in home runs twice. Bench was a two-time league MVP. Bench really didn't have a weakness as a player, and that is what puts him at the top spot on this list.

Sources:

Baseball Reference "Johnny Bench Statistics and History"

National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum "Roy Campanella"

More from This Contributor:

Top Ten Base Stealers in Baseball History

Top Five Most Loyal MLB Fan Bases

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Updated Thursday, Sep 29, 2011