Hall of Fame Hopefuls- Catchers

Catching is the most stressful and demanding position on the diamond defensively.  Accordingly, there tends to be less offense expected from catchers than from other players as long as they field well.  However, all that changed in the 1930’s with the advent of catchers like Mickey Cochrane, Gabby Hartnett and Bill Dickey who were very good hitters.  Cooperstown houses 15 catchers in the gallery, with the median score belonging to Buck Ewing, 24573.  Let’s see how some outsiders rank:

Should be definites:

1. Ivan Rodriguez

Score: 45073

Most similar to: Johnny Bench

Next Eligible: 2017 (BBWAA)

Suggested Team: Rangers

Synopsis: Bench may have been better overall due to his offense, but no catcher showed the endurance that Pudge Rodriguez did.  In over 20 seasons, all spent as a catcher, Rodriguez was worth more than 300 runs defensively, hit 311 homers and drove in over 1300 runs.  He’s trending well on the ballots right now, so hopefully he gets in on first crack, becoming just the second catcher ever to do so after Bench.

2. Ted Simmons

Score: 31431

Most similar to: Bill Dickey

Next Eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested Team: Cardinals

Synopsis: At a position where player’s body types typically result in power hitters, Simmons was one of the best pure hitters to ever play behind the plate.  He had a 116 wRC+ and 248 homers at a time where the average catcher would have been well below those values.  He wasn’t the best defensively, but his offensive resume should have made him an easy inductee.

3. Joe Mauer

Score: 24900

Most similar to: Ewing

Next Eligible: Still Active

Suggested Team: Twins

Synopsis: Before concussion issues forced him to change positions, Joe Mauer was the best catcher in the game for 10 seasons.  He was a strong defender and a great hitter, with a career wRC+ of 125 being brought down by his last few seasons of injury-riddled games.  Now at first base, and signed until 2018, it’s possible that Mauer could decline to the point that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but his early career exploits should be enough to keep him inducted.

4. Jorge Posada

Score: 24287

Most similar to: Ewing

Next Eligible: 2017 (BBWAA)

Suggested Team: Yankees

Synopsis: Posada was a key piece of the Yankees’ most recent dynasty.  With a 123 wRC+ and +55 defensive runs, Posada should be a definite Hall of Famer.  However, due to backlog and a potential anti-Yankee bias, Posada is currently fighting to just stay on the ballot for another year.  With the one-and-done balloting of Ted Simmons before him, it doesn’t look good for Posada this year.

5. Thurmon Munson

Score: 24264

Most similar to: Ewing

Next eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested Team: Yankees

Synopsis: Munson had a very short career due to his tragic death in 1979.  However, Munson was the best catcher in the AL in the 1970’s, a leader on the decade’s prime team, and an MVP candidate nearly every year of the decade.  With a 116 wRC+, nearly 100 defensive runs (in 10 seasons) and all of the intangible things that the BBWAA tends to love in catchers, it’s a shock that he hasn’t been inducted yet.  Let’s hope that the new Era Committees fix that egregious error.

Close but not quite:

6. Yadier Molina

Score: 18106

Most similar to: Deacon White

Next eligible: Still Active

Synopsis: Molina is one of the best catchers on the planet, and a tremendous leader and defender.  However, he hasn’t quite done enough offensively to warrant induction yet.  The next couple of seasons will be key for Yadi, who has had a few down years due to injuries recently and just had a great comeback season offensively in 2016.  If he keeps that up for another 2 years, he probably makes it into the Hall of Fame.

Not Gonna Happen:

7. Gene Tenace

Score: 11008

Most similar to: Ernie Lombardi

Next Eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Tenace hit for some power, but was a poor defender and split his career enough at first base that it hurts a lot of his value numbers.  A very good player, but not quite great.

8. Jason Varitek

Score: 10932

Most similar to: Roger Bresnahan

Next eligible: 2017 (BBWAA)

Synopsis: While he was a key cog on two World Series teams in Boston, outside of those two seasons Varitek was merely a good player, and will be a one-and-done player on the ballot this year.  So, why is he being covered?  Because, just like with Renteria, Varitek has already received a vote by one New England writer.  This is just another example of why the BBWAA needs to reform the voting pool.  If the writers are limited to only 10 votes, and they decide to toss a bone to a hometown hero, they hurt more deserving candidates like Posada or Larry Walker or Curt Schilling.  They’ve made some good changes lately to the voting procedure, so there is some hope for the future.

Stay tuned for the next update.

On deck 1/6/17: We begin a trek around the outfield with outside left fielders.

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