All-Time #MLBRank: Counting down the list of greatest catchers
Orioles’ Matt Wieters and Giants’ Buster Posey weigh in on their choice as the top catcher of all-time. (0:55)
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Do you want big names? Big numbers? Big personalities? Welcome to All-Time #MLBRank, our ranking of the top 100 players in baseball history.
To create our list, an ESPN expert panel voted on thousands of head-to-head matchups of 162 players, based on both peak performance and career value.
The top 100 will roll out next week. This week, we bring you the top 10 at each position. Thursday brings the top 10 infielders by position of all time, followed by pitchers and catchers on Friday.
TOP 10 CATCHERS
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10. Gary Carter
AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine
Montreal Expos (1974-84, ’92), New York Mets (’85-89), San Francisco Giants (’90), Los Angeles Dodgers (’91)
11-time All-Star (1975, ’79-88), three Gold Gloves (’80-82), two-time All-Star MVP (’81, ’84), five Silver Sluggers (’81-82, ’84-86), Hall of Fame (2003)
1 — New York (1986)
.262/.335/.439, OPS — .773, Hits — 2092, HRs — 324, RBIs — 1,225
He’s remembered as a leader of the 1986 Mets, but Carter’s best seasons came with the Expos, when he was the best all-around catcher in the majors in the post-Johnny Bench era. He had a tremendous throwing arm, power and an enthusiasm for the game that earned him the nickname “Kid.” It took him six years to get elected to Cooperstown, but he should have gone in right away as one of the top 10 catchers ever. –– David Schoenfield, ESPN senior writer
“The Kid” was always true to his nickname, playing baseball with as much sheer joy as you’d expect in a kid. He was a heck of a catcher, too, with the sixth-most homers and fourth-most games caught of any catcher. — Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN senior writer
Gary Carter was a great hitter and a great defensive catcher, whose time at the position took a major toll on his knees. I’ll remember Carter for his clutch hits — he had a walk-off home run in his first game with the Mets, a game-winning hit in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS and Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS, and hit two home runs in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series, and got the hit that started the Mets’ 10th-inning rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. If you needed a hit in a big spot, Gary Carter was a guy to turn to. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information
Carter’s career trailed Bench’s in every sense: His started in Bench’s wake, he was a great hitter but not quite as great; a superb receiver but not quite as good. What set him apart was his obvious joy for the game, because that smile and his energy as a receiver were signatures you could read from the nose-bleediest of seats. You can make the case that his 1982 season was the single greatest put up by a catcher, in any era. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN MLB writer
9. Mickey Cochrane
Philadelphia A’s (1925-33), Detroit Tigers (’34-37)
Two-time MVP (1928, ’34), two-time All-Star (’34-35), Hall of Fame (’47)
3 — Philadelphia (1929-30), Detroit (’35)
.320/.419/.478, OPS — .897, Hits — 1,652, HRs — 119, RBIs — 830
One of the most beloved players of Depression-era baseball, Cochrane was the catcher on the 1929-31 Philadelphia A’s dynasty and then the player-manager for the 1935 Tigers, the first Detroit team to win the World Series. He hit for high averages (.320 career), although he played in a time of high averages, and drew a lot of walks while rarely striking out — he fanned only eight times in 1929 in over 600 plate appearances. He assumed GM duties as well in 1936 and suffered a mental breakdown, and then a beaning to his head in 1937 ended his playing career. The Tigers fired him in 1938 and he oddly never got another opportunity to manage. His legacy has diminished, but his peak value makes him an all-time top 10 catcher. — Schoenfield
When you’re a player-manager who wins the pennant and the MVP award, all in one season (1934), what’s left to win? Well, the World Series as a skipper, but Cochrane did that the next year, and already had two titles as the A’s catcher in 1929 and 1930. Cochrane was already throttling back on his playing career when he was nearly killed by a pitch in 1937, leading to an order to end his playing days at 34. Front of the second rank, and a solid choice to include here. — Kahrl
8. Buster Posey
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
San Francisco (2009-present)
Rookie of the Year (2010), MVP (’12), four-time All-Star (’12-13, ’15-16), three Silver Sluggers (’12, ’14-15)
3 — San Francisco (2010, ’12, ’14)
.309/.374/.483, OPS — .857, Hits — 935, HRs — 113, RBIs — 489
*Stats through July 10, 2016
We’re only in mid-career, but Posey has already checked off everything except career longevity: Peak value, three World Series rings, and an MVP Award. He’s 29 and still going strong, although Joe Mauer would have ranked similarly at the same age. The Giants have been careful about his workload, mixing in games at first base and DH, so he should age well into his 30s and settle in as a Hall of Famer. — Schoenfield
Buster Posey isn’t quite the Tim Duncan of MLB, but he’s in the discussion. He puts up high-end All-Star numbers with consistency. He’s great at the little things, like pitch-framing. And even though he has the commercials, I feel like your average human being is unaware of Buster and just how good he is. — Simon
It’s a good thing Buster Posey doesn’t pitch, or he’d probably win the Cy Young. That’s the only award I can think of that isn’t sitting on the mantel of Posey’s home. He’s an All-Star starter every single year who has been a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, a Silver Slugger. Heck, he even has been the comeback player of the year. And the most amazing part is: He hasn’t even turned 30 yet. — Dan Mullen, ESPN.com senior MLB editor
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Buster Posey is “winning.” He has 3 World Series titles, a rookie of the year award and an MVP. Now more than ever, it is difficult for a team to achieve sustained success, and Posey has done just that. — Kenneth Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information
He began his career hailed as the next Johnny Bench. How did he respond? In his first five full seasons during 2010-14, Posey won three World Series titles, a Rookie of the Year award, and an MVP award. Bench won rookie honors and 2 MVPs in that span. Only two catchers in the Hall of Fame have as many World Series rings as Posey has. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information
Barring the kind of catastrophes that seem all too common for catchers, the man we’ll be ranking No. 1 when we repeat this exercise in 20 years. — Kahrl
7. Mike Piazza
Sporting News/Getty Images
Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-98), Florida Marlins (’98), New York Mets (’98-2005), San Diego Padres (’06), Oakland A’s (’07)
NL Rookie of the Year (1993), 12-time NL All-Star (’93-98, ’99-2002, ’04-05), 10 Silver Sluggers (’93-02), All-Star MVP (1996), Hall of Fame (’16)
.308/.377/.545, OPS — .922, Hits — 2,127, HRs — 427, RBIs — 1,335
The best-hitting catcher of all time, Piazza owns three of the top five individual seasons by a catcher based on OPS+ (including the top two). A 12-time All-Star with a .308 career average, he hit .362/.431/.638 in 1997, when he somehow failed to win MVP honors. Yes, he didn’t have a strong arm (although it should be noted he caught a lot of good staffs and played for a lot of winning teams), and there will always be accusations about his steroid use, but his rise from 62nd-round draft pick to Hall of Famer remains a great story. — Schoenfield
Mike Piazza was a home run-on-demand kind of hitter, an honor bestowed to very few players of a given era. But he was the kind of guy who when he came to the plate, you said “please hit a home run.” And more often than not, he did. — Simon
He was a 62nd-round pick, drafted as a favor to his father who was friends with Tommy Lasorda. He became the best-hitting catcher ever, slugging his way to Cooperstown. He was an All-Star every year during 1993-2002 and received MVP votes in all but one of those seasons. His power was captivating, and every at-bat, it felt as if there was a chance it would be unleashed. — Langs
A case where the career value is piled up almost entirely on the offensive side of the ledger (with a position-leading 65.9 offensive-only WAR and a record 396 home runs as a catcher), but his home parks hurt him — he has a career road OPS of .960. If not for merely adequate defense, we’d talk about him in the same breath as Bench. — Kahrl
6. Ivan Rodriguez
We’re counting down the greatest players in baseball history. ALL-TIME #MLBRANK
Who are the greatest catchers in MLB history? We count down the top 10 on All-Time #MLBRank.
Sometimes, you need to go back, to go forward.
Dismantling the failed goat catcher
Another thing on the to-do list accomplished!
The pen we threw together to try and catch the visiting goat was finally dismantled. Which never did work. 😀
The “door” end was already trying to make its escape. 😀
The straw I hoped the goat would use for bedding went onto the little garden near the old kitchen; another area we’re trying to build up the soil with layers of organic matter.
The chicken wire belongs to the goat’s owner, so that’s all rolled up and, along with the containers he brought to try and lure the goat with food, it is set aside and ready to be returned.
After what happened when I walked the goat over to his place, I don’t particularly want to see him, or even go to his place, so I might just drop them off at the end of his driveway when we have the chance.
The frames are just set aside for now. I plan to take them apart and will likely use them to make trellises for the squash. Before I do, I will have to snag one of the girls to help me get that table saw out of the shed so we can test it out. If it works, I’ll be able to cut straight ends to the pieces, and even *gasp* have matching lengths to work with. 😀
If it doesn’t work, I’ll see what I can manage with the circular saw.
For now, though, it’s done. We no longer have a pen in the middle of our south yard! 😀
Another thing on the to-do list accomplished! The pen we threw together to try and catch the visiting goat was finally dismantled. Which never did work. 😀 The "door" end was already trying to make its escape. 😀 The straw I hoped the goat would use for bedding went onto the little garden near the…