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The coronavirus pandemic has put Major League Baseball on hold indefinitely. We don’t know when — or if — it will return in 2020, which has made us appreciate the game all that much more.
It has also given us time to go back and appreciate some of the legends who laid the foundation for what baseball is today. Of course, any look back into baseball’s history creates strong emotions and even stronger debates. Particularly when determining which players or era did it best.
We’ve embraced that reality by sifting through the annals of baseball to determine each current franchise’s best ever player at each position. From there, we’ve ranked each team’s best. Hey, the more there is to debate the better, right?
We’ve already done it with each team’s best starting pitcher. Today, we focus on the catcher.
The only caveat being that the selected catcher must come from the current incarnation of each franchise in order to be ranked. But don’t worry, we’ll throw in bonus players when warranted as well.
Without further ado, the catchers.
1. Yogi Berra — New York Yankees
With Yankees: 18 seasons
Best season: 1956 (6.2 WAR, .298/.378/.534, 30 homers)
Over 18 seasons with the Yankees, Berra won three MVP awards, earned 18 All-Star selections and was part of 10 World Series championship teams. Very few in sports history can match that level of individual and team success. Beyond that, Berra’s quirky personality won fame that transcended sports and helped him attain icon status in American history.
2. Johnny Bench — Cincinnati Reds
With Reds: 17 seasons
Best season: 1972 (8.6 WAR, .270/.379/.541, 40 homers, MVP)
Like Berra, Bench's list of accolades is almost too long to mention here. He won every award, from Rookie of the Year to MVP to Gold Glove. Also like Berra, he was a star off the field, appearing on multiple television shows and never looking a bit out of place. Most importantly, he revolutionized the catcher position, making it a legitimate source of offensive production.
3. Iván Rodríguez — Texas Rangers
With Rangers: 13 seasons
Best season: 1999 (6.4 WAR, .332/.356/.558, 35 homers, MVP)
"Pudge" was an absolute monster during his career and has the accolades to back it up. He's a 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove winner, MVP and Hall of Famer. The only real question is where he truly ranks among MLB's greatest catchers. We have him third. Let the debate begin.
4. Roy Campanella — Los Angeles Dodgers
With Dodgers: 10 seasons.
Best season: 1953 (6.8 WAR, .312/.395/.611, 41 homers)
MLB's first black catcher was also among the greatest to ever play the position. Aside from Berra, he's the only catcher to win three MVPs. And it wasn't just because of his offense. Campanella threw out 57.4 percent of potential base stealers, which remains the all-time league record.
5. Carlton Fisk — Boston Red Sox
With Red Sox: 11 seasons
Best season: 1977 (7.0 WAR, .315/.402/.521, 26 homers, All-Star)
The Hall of Famer actually spent more time and put up equally good numbers with the Chicago White Sox, but Boston is where it all started and also where his signature moment happened. Of course, we're talking about his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Only Iván Rodríguez has caught more games in MLB history.
6. Mike Piazza — New York Mets
With Mets: 8 seasons
Best season: 1999 (4.3 WAR, .303/.361/.575, 40 homers, All-Star)
Some think of Piazza as a Dodger first because that's where he started and put up his best all-around seasons. He was actually with the Mets longer and had some monster seasons there, hitting 220 of his 419 career home runs en route to the Hall of Fame. Piazza won NL Rookie of the Year in 1993, earned 12 All-Star selections and won 10 Silver Slugger awards.
(Bonus) Gary Carter - Montreal Expos
With Expos: 12 seasons
Best season: 1982 (8.6 WAR, .293/.381/.510, 29 homers)
We couldn't let our technicalities omit 'The Kid' from this list. He's a Hall of Famer. An icon. Some might even say he was the heart and soul of baseball in Montreal. Certainly, he was one of a kind.
7. Joe Mauer — Minnesota Twins
With Twins: 15 seasons
Best season: 2009 (7.8 WAR, .365/.444/.587, 28 homers, MVP)
There's no other choice. Mauer's list of accolades is endless. He earned six All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards and an MVP. He's also the only AL catcher to win a batting title — a feat he would pull off three times, for good measure. His next stop might be Cooperstown.
8. Gabby Hartnett — Chicago Cubs
With Cubs: 19 seasons
Best season: 1930 (5.1 WAR, .339/.404/.630, 37 homers)
Known best for his 'Homer in the Gloamin,' which helped propel the Cubs to the NL pennant in 1938, Hartnett was the toast of Chicago for nearly two full decades. Hartnett was a six-time All-Star, which is impressive considering there were no All-Star games until his age-32 season. He won the NL MVP in 1935 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
9. Buster Posey — San Francisco Giants
With Giants: 11 seasons
Best season: 2012 (7.6 WAR, .336/.408/.549, 24 homers, MVP)
Despite the Giants long and illustrious history, Posey is the only possible choice. His 52.7 WAR is the most among Giants catchers. He owns an MVP and a batting title, the latter being the first for a NL catcher in 70 years. Most importantly to Giants fans, he was the backbone of World Series championship teams in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
10. Yadier Molina — St. Louis Cardinals
With Cardinals: 16 seasons
Best season: 2012 (7.2 WAR, .315/.373/.501, 22 homers. All-Star)
In terms of longevity and consistency, few can match Molina. The nine-time All-Star is still putting together quality seasons for St. Louis when his health allows. The question now is whether he'll be Hall of Fame bound.
11. Bill Freehan — Detroit Tigers
With Tigers: 15 seasons
Best season: 1968 (6.9 WAR, .263/.366/.454, 25 homers, All-Star)
Mickey Cochrane and Lance Parrish are also in the discussion, but Freehan was a star for a long time in Detroit. In fact, he earned 11 All-Star selections over his career while blasting 200 home runs and winning five Gold Gloves. Freehan might be one of the most underrated backstops in MLB history.
12. Ray Schalk — Chicago White Sox
With White Sox: 17 seasons
Best season: 1914 (4.2 WAR, .270/.347/.314, 24 stolen bases)
After giving Carlton Fisk the nod for Boston, another Hall of Famer slides into the top spot for the White Sox. Though Schalk hit few homers (only 11 for his career) he was a consistent force behind the plate, throwing out 52 percent of base stealers over his career.
13. Brian McCann — Atlanta Braves
With Braves: 10 seasons
Best season: 2008 (5.5 WAR, .301/.373/.523, 23 homers, All-Star)
It was a tough choice between McCann and Javy López. McCann's 24.5 career WAR with Atlanta edged out López 23.4. That proved to be the ultimate tiebreaker. Joe Torre was in the conversation as well, but his peak actually came in St. Louis. McCann was a seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger for the Braves.
14. Terry Steinbach — Oakland Athletics
With A's: 11 seasons
Best season: 1996 (3.4 WAR, .272/.342/.529, 35 homers)
Steinbach was never the "star" while playing alongside Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, but he was a darn good player. Some would call him the glue that held the high-powered A's together during the late 80s and early 90s. Steinbach was a three-time All-Star and a World Series hero, driving in seven runs in 1989's sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
15. Salvador Pérez — Kansas City Royals
With Royals: 8 seasons
Best season: 2013 (4.2 WAR, .292/.323/.433, 13 homers, All-Star)
Still only 29, "Salvy" has been a franchise cornerstone for Kansas City throughout his career. He's already a six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner and a World Series champion.
16. Gus Triandos — Baltimore Orioles
With Orioles: 8 seasons
Best season: 1958 (3.0 WAR, .245/.327/.456, 30 homers, All-Star)
Some people might favor Rick Dempsey here because of his long tenure in Baltimore (12 seasons) and MLB in general (24 seasons). We favor Triandos due to his impact. He earned three All-Star selections and hit 107 home runs over his first five seasons with the O’s. Dempsey was never an All-Star and hit 96 homers for his entire MLB career.
17. Darren Daulton — Philadelphia Phillies
With Phillies: 14 seasons
Best season: 1992 (6.9 WAR, .270/.385/.524, 27 homers)
A true fan-favorite in Philadelphia, "Dutch" put the Phillies on his back in the post-Mike Schmidt era and nearly led them to a World Series title in 1993. His peak was short, but impactful. In 1992, he became one of only four catchers to lead the league in RBIs.
18. Victor Martinez — Cleveland Indians
With Indians: 8 seasons
Best season: 2005 (5.2 WAR, .305/.378/.475, 20 homers)
It's a tough decision between Sandy Alomar Jr. and Victor Martinez. Indians fans favor Alomar. We like Martinez because his 19.3 WAR in eight seasons with Cleveland is higher than Alomar’s 13.3 over 11 seasons. Both were good. Martinez made a stronger impact.
19. Benito Santiago — San Diego Padres
With Padres: 7 seasons
Best season: 1987 (3.4 WAR, .300/.324/.467, 18 homers, Rookie of the Year)
What a fascinating career. Santiago's best all-around season came first. His 34-game hitting streak set a rookie and catcher record. He won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers in San Diego, which secured his spot on this list. After San Diego, he played for eight different teams over 13 seasons.
20. Ernie Whitt — Toronto Blue Jays
With Blue Jays: 12 seasons
Best Season: 1983 (3.4 WAR, .256/.346/.459, 17 homers)
Whitt was with the Jays during their inaugural season in 1977. He remained through 1989, playing the sixth-most games in franchise history. His best season was 1983. His lone All-Star appearance came in 1985, which was also Toronto's first division championship season.
21. Charles Johnson — Miami Marlins
With Marlins: 7 seasons
Best season: 1997 (4.4 WAR, .250/.347/.454, 19 homers, All-Star)
One more season in Miami may have tipped the scales in J.T. Realmuto's favor. As it stands, Charles Johnson's role in the Marlins' first World Series championship in 1997 is the difference-maker. That was Johnson's best season in MLB.
22. Bob Boone — Los Angeles Angels
With Angels: 7 seasons
Best season: 1982 (3.5 WAR, .256/.310/.337)
It's not an impressive group to choose from. Boone was going on 34 when he arrived from Philadelphia and his best seasons were behind him. But his 12.1 WAR with the Angels beats out fan-favorite Bengie Molina's 7.4.
23. Jason Kendall — Pittsburgh Pirates
With Pirates: 9 seasons
Best season: 1998 (5.6 WAR, .327/.411/.473, 12 homers, All-Star)
Manny Sanguillén had a longer tenure and was part of some memorable teams in Pittsburgh, but Kendall was a shining light during dark times. Kendall was a three-time All-Star and is the franchise’s leader in WAR (30.7), hits (1,409), homers (67) and steals (140) among catchers.
24. Jonathan Lucroy — Milwaukee Brewers
With Brewers: 7 seasons
Best season: 2013 (6.4 WAR, .280/.340/.455, 18 homers)
It's tough to leave a Hall of Famer like Ted Simmons off this list. Unfortunately, during his years in Milwaukee he didn't match his production while in St. Louis or the production of Lucroy some three decades later. In fact, Lucroy owns the top four seasons in Brewers history for a catcher, according to FanGraphs.
25. Dan Wilson — Seattle Mariners
With Mariners: 12 seasons
Best season: 1996 (3.4 WAR, .285/.330/.444, 18 homers, All-Star)
Wilson was a stalwart for Seattle, spending 12 of his 14 MLB seasons with the Mariners. He was the starting catcher on all four of their playoff teams (1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001) and his 1,251 games are the most for a Mariners catcher.
26. Miguel Montero — Arizona Diamondbacks
With D-backs: 9 seasons
Best season: 2012 (4.5 WAR, .286/.391/.438, 15 homers)
Would you believe only Paul Goldschmidt and Luis Gonzalez have posted a higher career WAR in Arizona than Montero? It's a limited pool of players, sure, but that speaks to the impact he made between 2006-2014.
27. Wilson Ramos — Washington Nationals
With Nationals: 7 seasons
Best season: 2016 (3.0 WAR, .307/.354/.496, 22 homers, All-Star)
Ramos has been the Nationals' lone catching standout since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. He reached double-digit home runs in five of seven seasons while serving as a strong defensive backstop.
28. Alan Ashby — Houston Astros
With Astros: 11 seasons
Best season: 1981 (2.2 WAR, .271/.356/.369)
Brad Ausmus seems to be the sentimental favorite among Astros fans, but he also had a negative WAR in four of 10 seasons with Houston. Ashby, while never an All-Star, was more consistent.
29. Chris Iannetta — Colorado Rockies
With Rockies: 8 seasons
Best season: 2008 (3.2 WAR, .264/.390/.505, 18 homers)
Rockies fans will side with Yorvit Torrealba because he was part of several big moments in 2007 and 2009. However, Iannetta's 3.2 WAR in 2008 was higher than Torrealba's entire Rockies career (1.0). Iannetta was the better player, even if he ultimately fell short of expectations.
30. Toby Hall — Tampa Bay Rays
With Rays: 7 seasons
Best season: 2005 (2.8 WAR, .287/.315/.368)
The Rays haven't been around long, but Hall was the main man during most of their early existence. He leads the franchise in games caught (586) and ranks top 10 in hits (538), RBIs (251) and doubles (112).
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