Unblurring History: Ten Best Defensive Catchers In the History of MLB

Michael WCorrespondent IIApril 28, 2009

24 Feb 1998:  Ron Karkovice #26 of the Cleveland Indians at Spring Training at the Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Craig Melvin  /Allsport

Other than the Pitchers, the Catcher position is the most important defensive position on the field.

I will include a letter grade next to each Catchers name to show their offensive grade (the way I see it). They are all an "A +" defensively, obviously.

Here it is. History unblurred. The way it really is.

10. Jim Sundberg (1980s) offensive grade: C -

Sundberg was a catcher that rarely made mistakes behind the plate or throwing. He also "managed" the game brilliantly behind the plate.

He was a slightly below average offensive player for a catcher, but he pretty much got the job done offensively, not bad.

9. Lance Parrish (1980s) offensive grade: A

In a way, a lot of historians give Parrish a hard time because he had a lot of passed balls. Though, it seems like he only let balls pass if there were no runners on base. He seemed to have a different approach when there were men on base. Of course, I have no statistical evidence of this, it just seems that way.

But after most respected historians give him a hard time about his passed balls, they them proceed to grade him in the "A" range defensively overall, where he belongs. So don't be surprised if you read people talking about passed balls if you look into Parrish.

Cherry on top: an amazing offensive player for a Catcher.

An "A" offensively and an "A +" defensively, that makes him one of the 20 best overall catchers in the history of MLB.

8. Gabby Hartnett (1930s) offensive grade: A +  

Doesn't have much to do with his defense, but it's a neat historical fact: Hartnett was behind the plate when Babe Ruth "called his shot" during that famous HR.

An "A +" offensively and an "A +" defensively, that makes him one of the 20 best overall catchers in the history of MLB, also.

7. Gary Carter (1980s) offensive grade: A +

Carter had a great arm and he was brilliant behind the plate. Plus, he was magnificent at all the intangible things that a Catcher does, like calling the game and working with the Pitchers. Not many I'd rather have behind the plate than Carter.

Not many I'd rather have at the plate than Carter. He was an A+ offensive Catcher, too.

He's another "A +/A +" Catcher. He's one of the 10 best overall catchers in the history of MLB, in my opinion.

6. Ray Schalk (1920s) offensive grade: C +

A neat story about Schalk that doesn't have much to do with his defensive Catching abilities, but it's a neat fact about him that is sometimes forgotten: Schalk was the Catcher for the 1919 "Black Sox" team. He was obviously NOT involved in the throwing of the games. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie "Eight Men Out," but doesn't it severly downplay the greatness of Ray Schalk and Eddie Collins.

Schalk was the best defensive Catcher from the 1920s, by far. In my opinion, he was the best defensive Catcher during the first 60 seasons of MLB.

Schalk was slightly above average at the plate, got the job done.

5. Yogi Berra (1950s) offensive grade: A +

I'm trying to think of my favorite Yogi Berra quote, there's about 30 of them coming to mind, I can't cut it to one. I love his quotes.

Another "A +" offensive catcher and an "A +" defensive catcher.

He's 1 of the 5 best overall catchers in the history of MLB, in my opinion.

4. Ivan Rodriquez (1990s) offensive grade: A +

He's amazing behind the plate and he has a great arm.

Most don't, but some argue that he does NOT call a good game. I disagree, I think he calls a great game and manages the game with excellence. But some say he his too predictable with his pitch requests. They say, if it's a full count, Rodriguez will ask the pitcher for a fastball up almost every time.

I say, that is usually the correct pitch, so whats wrong with that. The truth is, those historians are few and far between. Most respected historians call him an "A +" or "A" defensively. I just thought I'd bring it up because I've actually run across some historians that are beginning to bad mouth him defensively.

Pudge is another catcher that is also an "A +" offensively. In my opinion, that makes him one of the 10 best overall catchers in the history of MLB.

3. Bill Dickey (1930s) offensive grade: A +

The great Catcher of those Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankee teams during the 1930s.

Again another "A +" offensive catcher that is also one of the five best overall catchers in the history of MLB, in my opinion.

2. Roy Campanella (1950s) offensive grade: A +

Other than Mickey Cochrane, Campanella is the best overall catcher in the history of MLB, in my opinion. An "A +" all the way around; offensively, defensively, intangibles, overall...what else can I say about him?

He doesn't get the reputation of some of the other greats when it comes to defense, but at the same time, most historians "quietly" rate him in the "A" range defensively. It's where he belongs.

1. Ron Karkovice (1990s) offensive grade: C

He's the best defensive catcher that the game has ever seen. They didn't get better than Karkovice, in my opinion. On defense, you name it—he did it as well or better than any other catcher in the game in the 1990s: throwing, glove, calling the game, managing the pitches, the intangibles, etc.

Some are hard on him offensively, but he was actually an average offensive catcher during the 1990s, and got the job done.

There it is. History unblurred. The way it really was.