Baseball season is upon us! Personally speaking, baseball has always been near and dear to my heart. And as America's pastime, I believe baseball is an important component to our culture. It is fused with so many important milestones of the past century. From World War I and II to 9-11, baseball has served as the medicine of the masses; a chance to unplug and root, root, root for the home team!
Anyway, I thought that since the 2010 season is upon us, this might be a good time to introduce a new series on my blog: the top 10 best players at each position. And to start us off, let's look at the guys behind the plate:
10.) Bill Dickey
In the 30s and 40s, Dickey was the rock behind the plate for the Yankees. His durability and consistency were all overshadowed by the flamboyant Joe DiMaggio who stole all the headlines in New York. But Joe D. and the other Yankees would have been up a creek without Dickey. He finished his career with just under 2,000 hits, 202 home runs, and a career average of .313. He was also a force to be reckoned with for anyone wanting to steal 2B.
9.) Mike Piazza
Piazza was arguably the greatest hitting catcher of all-time. He finished his career with over 2,100 hits, 427 home runs, 1335 RBI and a career average of .308. So why isn't he ranked higher? Well, playing catcher is more than being effective with the lumber. One must be able to pin down base runners, and Piazza sucked at that.
8.) Gary Carter
During the 80s, the Mets were anchored by Carter's solid play behind home plate. His stick might not have been as good as Piazza's, but his glove and arm were light years ahead. Carter won three Gold Gloves during his time as a Met and was an eleven-time all-star.
7.) Carlton Fisk
Arguably the most durable man to squat behind a plate. Fisk holds the record for most games played by a catcher (2499). He also won 3 Silver Slugger awards and 1 Golden Glove. He finished his career with 2356 hits, 376 home runs and a career average of .269.
6.) Ted Simmons
Simmons is, in my opinion, the most underrated catcher ever. The switch-hitting catcher spent 21 years in the big leagues, and retired with more RBI than Johnny Bench, more runs scored than Gary Carter, more hits than Carlton Fisk, and a higher batting average than Yogi Berra. But like Piazza, he sucked at defense.
5.) Roy Campanella
This three-time MVP, Campanella was a dominant force for the Dodgers. Sadly, a car accident cut him short (a career that started late due to segregation), prohibiting his ability to further his awesome legacy. Campanella finished with 1,161 hits, 242 home runs and a .276 average. But he could have had MUCH more.
4.) Mickey Cochrane
Mickey was the quintessential "coach" on the field. In his day, Cochrane ran the pitching squad and controlled most of the on field issues. His bat wasn't amazing. He hit only 119 home runs but finished with a .320 career average. What Cochrane lacked in lumber he made up for with his arm and glove.
3.) Ivan Rodriguez
When it comes to defense, he was one of the best. Even the greatest base runners thought twice when Rodriguez was behind the plate. This eleven-time Gold Glove winner (he won 10 in a row), Rodriguez was a fourteen-time all-star and won the MVP in 1999. He finished his career with 2711 hits, 305 home runs and an average of .299.
2.) Yogi Berra
Berra was the epitome of consistency. As the MVP in 1951, 54 and 55, Berra anchored a dynasty that won him ten World Series rings. He also finished his career as the all-time leader in RBI's for a catcher (1430). When it comes to overall consistency, it's hard to find anyone better.
1.) Johnny Bench
No doubt about it, Bench was the best. As a ten-time Gold Glove winner, MVP in 1970 and 72 and fourteen-time all-star, Bench's resume speaks for itself. He finished his career with 2048 hits, 389 home runs and 1376 RBI. Bench's balance of consistent offense and defense was a rare mix for anyone playing catcher. Usually a catcher is good at either hitting or defense but not both. Bench, however, is the exception, which is why he was the greatest catcher of all-time.
Next installment: Top 10 Greatest First Basemen