MLB Power Rankings: The Greatest Catcher in Each Team's History

Perry SchwartzCorrespondent IIIJanuary 31, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The Greatest Catcher in Each Team's History

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    Among the nine positions in baseball, the catcher is oftentimes the most overlooked.

    For every pitch, there is someone behind the plate ready to catch the ball. A pitch is not released to the batter until after the pitcher receives a sign from the catcher.

    Inning after inning, the catcher has the rough task of crouching in a very uncomfortable position that seems to take a toll after a while, as we see catchers traditionally regress late in the season.

    When catchers struggle at the plate offensively, they can get a bad rap. However, historically they tend to take more pride in the defensive side of their game.

    During baseball's long history, some teams have had more memorable catchers than others. Here we list the top catcher in each team's history.

Arizona: Damian Miller

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    Years With Team: 1998-2002
    Stats With Team: .269 BA, 48 HR, 194 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 33
    162-Game Average: .269 BA, 17 HR, 67 RBI
    Accolades: 2002 NL All-Star

    As one of the two youngest franchises in baseball, along with Tampa Bay, Arizona has not had a large share of good catchers.

    Chris Snyder and Damian Miller have very similar stats, and both played basically four full seasons as the catcher for the Diamondbacks. However, unlike Snyder, Miller was an All-Star for Arizona, as well as the starting catcher for their 2001 World Series club.

Atlanta: Del Crandall

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    Years With Team: 1949-1950, 1953-1963
    Stats With Team: .257 BA, 170 HR, 628 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 45
    162-Game Average: .257 BA, 22 HR, 86 RBI
    Accolades: 8x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove

    Del Crandall was a key member of a very nice Braves run from 1953-1964, highlighted by the 1957 World Series title. Hitting in a lineup that included all-time power hitters Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Crandall carried his own weight on the club, hitting double-digit home runs in nine straight seasons.

    Javy Lopez put up bigger numbers as the Braves backstop than Crandall but came nowhere close on the defensive side, with Crandall taking home Gold Glove honors on four occasions.

Baltimore: Chris Hoiles

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    Years With Team: 1989-1998
    Stats With Team: .262 BA, 151 HR, 449 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 28
    162-Game Average: .262 BA, 27 HR, 81 RBI

    From 1989-1998, Chris Hoiles was just about the most reliable Oriole on the team...well, except for Cal Ripken Jr.

    Hoiles peaked in 1993, hitting .310 with 29 HR and 82 RBI, while finishing 16th in MVP voting.

Boston: Jason Varitek

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    Years With Team: 1997-2010
    Stats With Team: .258 BA, 152 HR, 721 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 24
    162-Game Average: .258 BA, 20 HR, 79 RBI
    Accolades: 3x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove

    While Varitek is a very mediocre hitting catcher, he brings intangibles that have been invaluable to the Red Sox over the last 13 seasons.

    Along with Tim Wakefield, Varitek has been one of the few guys that have been on the Red Sox throughout their very successful run since 1998, which includes two World Series titles and 13 straight winning seasons. Varitek was appointed captain of the Red Sox and will surely be missed when he retires.

Chicago Cubs: Gabby Hartnett

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    Years With Team: 1922-1940
    Stats With Team: .297 BA, 231 HR, 1,153 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: N/A
    162-Game Average: .297 BA, 19 HR, 97 RBI
    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 1935 NL MVP

    The Cubs franchise has been around as long as any other team, and many great players have embraced Chicago and Wrigley Field over the years. However, at the catcher spot, only Gabby Hartnett was among the best in the league at his position.

    Hartnett scorched National League pitching in the 1920s and '30s, including taking home 1935 MVP honors, when he hit 37 home runs, knocked in 122 and had a .989 fielding percentage.

Chicago White Sox: Carlton Fisk

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    Years With Team: 1981-1993
    Stats With Team: .257 BA, 214 HR, 762 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 34
    162-Game Average: .257 BA, 24 HR, 87 RBI
    Accolades: 4x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger

    Although Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk is remembered mostly as a Red Sox player, he actually played close to 60 percent of his career for the White Sox. Playing for Chicago, Fisk was a four-time All-Star, hit 37 HR in 1985 and played all the way up until he was 45 years old.

Cincinnati: Johnny Bench

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    Years With Team: 1967-1983
    Stats With Team: .267 BA, 389 HR, 1,376 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 43
    162-Game Average: .267 BA, 29 HR, 103 RBI
    Accolades: 14x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove, 2x MVP, ROY

    Johnny Bench is not only the best catcher in the Reds' 129-year history, but he may also be the best catcher ever. With the exception of Mike Piazza, Bench was the best power-hitting catcher, topping 40 home runs twice and hitting at least 20 in 11 out of 12 seasons from 1969-1980.

    Just as relevant, Johnny Bench may be the best defensive catcher of all time with an astounding Caught Stealing (CS) of 43 percent. He won 10 Gold Gloves, while earning the nickname Pudge, which Ivan Rodriguez must feel honored to continue.

Cleveland: Sandy Alomar Jr.

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    Years With Team: 1990-2000
    Stats With Team: .277 BA, 92 HR, 453 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 30
    162-Game Average: .277 BA, 15 HR, 74 RBI
    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove, 1990 ROY

    Sandy Alomar Jr. was not only a very good hitting catcher in the 1990s but was also one of the most popular guys in the league. Even in many of Alomar’s weakest statistical seasons, he was still voted onto the AL All-Star team.

    His career was highlighted by the 1997 season, when he put together a stat line of a .324 BA, 21 HR and 83 RBI before proceeding to hit five home runs and drive in 19 runs in the postseason, helping the Indians reach the seventh game of the World Series.

Colorado: Joe Giradi

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    Years With Team: 1993-1995
    Stats With Team: .274 BA, 15 HR, 120 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 32
    162-Game Average: .274 BA, 8 HR, 64 RBI

    A franchise that has now been in the league for 18 years, the Rockies haven’t had a better catcher than Joe Girardi. Highlights for Girardi include becoming the franchise's first starting catcher, as well as helping to lead Colorado to a playoff spot in just the Rockies' third season.

    After being taken in the 1992 expansion draft, Girardi had a very respectable .274 BA during his three seasons with Colorado.

Detroit: Lance Parrish

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    Years With Team: 1977-1986
    Stats With Team: .263 BA, 212 HR, 700 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 39
    162-Game Average: .263 BA, 30 HR, 99 RBI
    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger

    Arguably the best catcher not currently in the Hall of Fame, Lance Parrish was a staple of the Tigers' successful run from 1978-1986. He topped the 20 HR mark six times in seven seasons at one point, including a career-high 33 on the Tigers' World Series championship team in 1984.

Florida: Charles Johnson

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    Years With Team: 1994-1998, 2001-2002 
    Stats With Team: .241 BA, 75 HR, 227 RBI 
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 39 
    162-Game Average: .241 BA, 21 HR, 76 RBI 
    Accolades: 2x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove

    From 1994-2002, Charles Johnson spent seven different seasons with the Marlins. Although Johnson hit just .241 in a Marlins uniform, he actually had a lot of success. Johnson managed to win a ring, become an All-Star and earn three Gold Gloves during his somewhat under the radar stint with Florida.

Houston: Brad Ausmus

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    Years With Team: 1997-1998, 2001-2008
    Stats With Team: .246 BA, 41 HR, 386 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 35
    162-Game Average: .246 BA, 5 HR, 50 RBI
    Accolades: 3x Gold Glove

    Brad Ausmus will without a doubt be remembered more as a game manager than as a hitter.

    From 1997-2008, Ausmus played 10 seasons with the Astros and did a tremendous job of playing defense. Perhaps more importantly, Ausmus handled the Houston pitching staff, helping the team make it to the postseason five times. Several top-notch pitchers, including Mike Hampton, Randy Johnson and Roy Oswalt, pitched for Houston during Ausmus’ tenure.

    Ausmus easily gets the top spot in Houston catching history, catching 342 more games than anyone else, acquiring three Gold Gloves in the process.

Kansas City: Mike Macfarlane

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    Years With Team: 1987-1994, 1996-1998
    Stats With Team: .256 BA, 103 HR, 398 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 33
    162-Game Average: .256 BA, 19 HR, 72 RBI

    Mike Macfarlane may not be much of a household name, but he just might be the best catcher in Royals history. Despite much success in the late 1970s and into the ‘80s, the Royals haven’t had a particularly rich history at the No. 2 position.

    Macfarlane was the Royals' primary catcher for 11 years and was a solid hitter year in and year out, hitting at least 13 home runs five different times in a Royals uniform.

Los Angeles Angels: Bengie Molina

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    Years With Team: 2000-2005
    Stats With Team: .273 BA, 65 HR, 362 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 31
    162-Game Average: .273 BA, 15 HR, 82 RBI
    Accolades: 2x Gold Glove

    Bengie Molina began his career as an Angel and was an integral part of their success from 2000-2005, which included a World Series title and three playoff appearances.

    Prior to Molina’s arrival, the Angels had not made the playoffs in 14 seasons and had very little success at the catcher position after Bob Boone’s departure in 1988.

    Molina enjoyed success right away, hitting .281 with 14 home runs in his rookie season, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. Molina was also awarded with two Gold Gloves during his time with the Angels and could have earned more if not for having to compete against Ivan Rodriguez during most of those years.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Roy Campanella

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    Years With Team: 1946-1957
    Stats With Team: .276 BA, 242 HR, 856 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 48
    162-Game Average: .276 BA, 32 HR, 114 RBI
    Accolades: 8x All-Star, 3x MVP

    Unlike so many other major league teams, the Dodgers have had several productive catchers in their history. For all-time Dodger catching honors, we could have instead gone with Mike Piazza, Steve Yeager, Mike Scioscia or John Roseboro, to name a few.

    Unfortunately for those guys, none of them have had a better career in a Dodger uniform than Roy Campanella. Other than Piazza, none of them are even close.

    In 10 career seasons, Campanella won six pennants, two World Series and was named MVP three times. He even drove in 142 runs one year, a staggering total for a catcher. Campanella was also voted into five Midsummer Classics and is truly one of the all-time greats.

Milwaukee: Dave Nilsson

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    Years With Team: 1992-1999
    Stats With Team: .284 BA, 105 HR, 470 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 23
    162-Game Average: .284 BA, 20 HR, 91 RBI
    Accolades: 1x All-Star

    After leaving the majors at the age of 29 to go back to Australia, Dave Nilsson’s career will always be overshadowed by questions of what could have been. Even so, Nilsson is the best catcher in Milwaukee Brewers history.

    Many players don’t reach their peak until the age of 30, so the fact that Nilsson had five solid seasons, despite retiring at 29, is impressive. Nilsson was an All-Star in 1998 with a .309 BA and 21 HR and actually hit .331 back in 1996, good for sixth best in the AL.

Minnesota: Joe Mauer

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    Years With Team: 2004-Present
    Stats With Team: .324 BA, 57 HR, 341 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 41
    162-Game Average: .324 BA, 15 HR, 92 RBI
    Accolades: 2x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove, 2x Silver Slugger

    After the Twins drafted Joe Mauer with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, expectations were very high. Mauer has met those expectations and then some. Whereas the catcher position is one that normally features players with less than stellar batting averages, the 27-year-old Mauer has somehow already won three batting titles.

    Joe Mauer is already one of the best catchers of all time, and he hopefully has another full decade of good baseball left in the tank. In 2009, despite missing all of April with an injury, Mauer won MVP honors, leading the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

New York Mets: Mike Piazza

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    Years With Team: 1998-2005
    Stats With Team: .296 BA, 220 HR, 655 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 23
    162-Game Average: .296 BA, 37 HR, 109 RBI
    Accolades: 7x All-Star, 5x Silver Slugger.

    Despite not being picked until the 62nd round of the 1988 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Piazza is considered the best hitting catcher of all time. Piazza split his time with the Dodgers and Mets, hitting at an elite level with both clubs.

    In eight seasons with the Mets, Piazza was a seven-time All-Star and hit at least 30 home runs in four different seasons. Piazza was a key contributor on the 2000 Mets that won the NL pennant, and he had a bizarre rivalry with seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens.

New York Yankees: Yogi Berra

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    Years With Team: 1946-1963
    Stats With Team: .285 BA, 358 HR, 1,430 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 49
    162-Game Average: .285 BA, 28 HR, 110 RBI
    Accolades: 15x All-Star, 3x MVP

    Perhaps even more so than the Dodgers, the Yankees have had a plethora of great catchers over the years. While Yogi Berra may be one of the most famous catchers of all time, his rank among all-time Yankee catchers is only slightly higher than Bill Dickey's.

    Berra was a key part of an incredible 13 pennants and 10 World Series championship rings, the most of any catcher all time. Meanwhile, Dickey won eight pennants and seven World Series titles with the Yankees, second most of any catcher. Dickey actually owns a .313 career BA but cannot compete with Berra’s three MVP trophies.

Oakland: Mickey Cochrane

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    Years With Team: 1925-1937
    Stats With Team: .321 BA, 108 HR, 680 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: N/A
    162-Game Average: .321 BA, 15 HR, 95 RBI
    Accolades: 1x MVP, Hall of Fame

    Mickey Cochrane was a career .320 hitter, which may have been a result of the era, considering the 1920s and 1930s were two of the best hitting decades in baseball.

    Along with teammate Jimmie Foxx, Cochrane was a vital part of the A’s teams that won back-to-back World Series in 1929 and 1930.

Philadelphia: Mike Lieberthal

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    Years With Team: 1994-2006
    Stats With Team: .275 BA, 150 HR, 609 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 30
    162-Game Average: .275 BA, 21 HR, 84 RBI
    Accolades: 2x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove

    Overshadowed by an era of great offense, Mike Lieberthal was a model of consistency for the Phillies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Lieberthal consistently put up solid numbers, highlighted by his 1999 season, when he hit .300 with 31 home runs while also earning Gold Glove honors.

Pittsburgh: Jason Kendall

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    Years With Team: 1996-2004
    Stats With Team: .306 BA, 67 HR, 471 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 30
    162-Game Average: .306 BA, 9 HR, 60 RBI
    Accolades: 3x All-Star

    During a time when home runs were at a surplus, Jason Kendall impressed the baseball world from 1996-2004 with his consistently high batting averages.

    In nine seasons with Pittsburgh, Kendall hit .306 and was a three-time All-Star. A true contact hitter, Kendall rarely struck out, fanning just 29 times in over 600 plate appearances in 2002.

San Diego: Benito Santiago

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    Years With Team: 1986-1992
    Stats With Team: .264 BA, 85 HR, 375 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 35
    162-Game Average: .264, 18 HR, 77 RBI
    Accolades: 4x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger, ROY

    As a rookie back in 1982, Benito Santiago captured everyone’s attention, winning both the Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger Awards while hitting .300 with 18 HR and 79 RBI. Unfortunately for Santiago, he never again had a season quite like his rookie year.

    Still, in seven total seasons with San Diego, Santiago was a four-time All-Star, won four Silver Slugger Awards and is still considered to be the best Padres catcher of all time.

San Francisco: Buck Ewing

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    Years With Team: 1883-1889, 1891-1892
    Stats With Team: .306 BA, 46 HR, 459 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: N/A
    162-Game Average: .306 BA, 10 HR, 101 RBI
    Accolades: Hall of Fame

    The San Francisco Giants’ history of catchers may have peaked early. In the midst of the Dead Ball era, Buck Ewing was the first great hitting catcher. Ewing hit over .300 eight times and helped the Giants win back-to-back championships in 1888 and 1889.

Seattle: Dan Wilson

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    Years With Team: 1994-2005
    Stats With Team: .262 BA, 88 HR, 508 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 34
    162-Game Average: .262 BA, 11 HR, 66 RBI
    Accolades: 1x All-Star

    From 1994-2005, the Mariners had many of their franchise's most memorable moments. Along with Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson was one of the few constants on teams that featured Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime, as well as Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro during some of their great years.

    In 1996, Wilson earned his only All-Star appearance, hitting .285 with 83 RBI.

Tampa Bay: Toby Hall

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    Years With Team: 2000-2006 
    Stats With Team: .262 BA, 44 HR, 251 RBI 
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 33 
    162-Game Average: .262 BA, 12 HR, 69 RBI

    In the short history of the Rays, formerly the Devil Rays, Toby Hall has spent by the far the most time behind the plate. Although not a great hitter, Hall quietly did his job for Tampa Bay. He put up decent numbers in his seven years with the club, peaking in 2005, when he hit .287.

St. Louis: Ted Simmons

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    Years With Team: 1968-1980
    Stats With Team: .298 BA, 172 HR, 929 RBI
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 34
    162-Game Average: .298 BA, 18 HR, 96 RBI
    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 1x Silver Slugger

    Ted Simmons was one of the most consistent hitting catchers of his day, batting at least .300 six times and hitting at least 20 home runs on five occasions. A true athlete, Simmons also played left and right field when necessary.

Texas: Ivan Rodriguez

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    Years With Team: 1991-2002 
    Stats With Team: .305 BA, 215 HR, 829 RBI 
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 47 
    162-Game Average: .305 BA, 24 HR, 91 RBI 
    Accolades: 10x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove, 6x Silver Slugger, 1x MVP

    One of the best hitting and defensive catchers of all time, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was perhaps the closest thing we have seen to Johnny Bench. Rodriguez started nine All-Star games as a Ranger, hit over .300 in eight consecutive seasons and took home the 1999 AL MVP.

    Also as a Ranger, Rodriguez won nine straight Gold Gloves, helped the team win three division titles and even stole 25 bases one season.

Toronto: Ernie Whitt

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    Years With Team: 1977-1989 
    Stats With Team: .253 BA, 131 HR, 518 RBI 
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 33 
    162-Game Average: .253 BA, 17 HR, 69 RBI 
    Accolades: 1x All-Star

    Battling against several great catchers like Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons and Gary Carter, Ernie Whitt did not receive much attention during his time with Toronto.

    Whitt was the starting catcher for the Blue Jays in 10 of their first 12 seasons, hitting at least 11 home runs in eight straight seasons from 1982-1989 and driving in over 50 runs six different times.

Washington Nationals: Gary Carter

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    Years With Team: 1974-1984, 1992 
    Stats With Team: .269 BA, 220 HR, 823 RBI 
    Caught Stealing Percentage: 35 
    162-Game Average: .269 BA, 24 HR, 89 RBI 
    Accolades: 7x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, Hall of Fame

    From 1975-1984, there was no better catcher in the game than Gary Carter. By most accounts the best player in Expos/Nationals history, Carter was a seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner. He also hit at least 20 home runs eight times and led the league in RBI in 1984.