On Monday, after 21 Hall of Fame-worthy years, Ivan Rodriguez will make his formal announcement that he is retiring from Major League Baseball. Rodriguez played field general for six teams (Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals), winning 13 Rawlings Gold Gloves, one MVP in 1999 and a World Series ring in 2003. Despite all of his accomplishments and being the best catcher of his generation, he is not my all-time number one catcher. Here are my top five backstops in MLB history.
5. Carlton Fisk- The original “Pudge” played for 24 electrifying years splitting his career between the Red Sox (11 years) and the White Sox (13 years). Fisk dazzled the American League as one its best-hitting catchers, most notably in his final at-bat of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. You know, when he willed the ball just to the right of the left field foul pole. Fisk’s only red flag is his 34% career caught stealing marks. He made it into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
4. Gary Carter- I’m a bit biased on this one, as Gary Carter is one of my favorite players of all time. However, Carter was no slouch behind the dish. He had an intensity and love for the game that went beyond most. His 11 All-Star appearances (two ASG MVPs in 1981 and 1984), three Gold Gloves and one World Series ring in 1986 made him stand out in the National League as one of the premier catchers of the 80s for the Expos and Mets. Carter made the Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Ivan Rodriguez—Yup! Rodriguez is the real deal. Aside from the stats that I ran off in the introduction, the big one that sticks out in my mind is the hit parade that he displayed throughout his career. His 2,844 base knocks are the most all-time for his position. The next closest guy? Ted Simmons, with 2,472. “Pudge” was also a stellar defender with a 46% caught stealing rate that puts him in the top five best of all time. Basically, expect to see him in the Hall of Fame real soon.
2. Johnny Bench- Where do I start? Rookie of the Year in 1968, two MVP awards in 1970 and 1972, 10 straight Gold Glove awards and two World Series rings. Clearly, the man has the hardware to back up his game. Bench personified what it meant to be a catcher in the National League. He could hit, hit for power and gun dudes out trying to steal. On top of that, he was an overall fantastic team leader. Bench made the Hall of Fame in 1989.
1. Yogi Berra- Good luck trying to dispute this one: he won three MVP awards (1951, 1954 and 1955), made 15 All-Star game appearances, caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and boasts an unprecedented 10 World Series rings. Berra was Casey Stengel’s “guy,” appearing as the one consistent player in his lineup. His career numbers: .285 BA, 2,150 hits, 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI. And, yes, he made it into the Hall of Fame easily in 1972.
Who do you think is the greatest catcher of all time? Tweet us @MLBFanCave.