Gold glove? Check. That took two more years — along with a second batting championship.
American League Most Valuable Player? Yawn. Been there, done that.
Joe Mauer is still just 27 years old, and statistically hasn’t entered the prime of his career. But he has racked up four All-Stars, three Gold Gloves, three batting championships, two turtle doves and an AL MVP. That puts him on pace for a Hall-of-Fame induction in — say — 2026? In fact, it might put him on pace for even more than that.
If we were going to make a Mount Rushmore of baseball catchers — a Mount Catchmore — who would be there? Certainly, there are at least three spots taken:
You might know him for his clever jibberish, but he is widely regarded as the best catcher to ever play the game. He played in 14 World Series with the Yankees — not World Series games, mind you, but World Series. He won 10 championships, was a 15 time All-Star and won three AL MVP awards. For eight years, from 1950 through 1957, he never finished lower than fourth in the MVP voting.
Almost Yogi’s equal. He was named an All-Star 14 times, won two National League MVP awards and finished in the top 10 three more times. He won four NL pennants and two World Championships with Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. And he was recognizes as the best defensive catcher of his time.
Besides being one of the pioneers of integrating Major League Baseball, Campanella was named an All-Star eight times, won three NL MVP awards, participated in five World Series and led the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first championship in 1955. His MLB career was squeezed on the front-end by MLB’s segregation and on the back-end when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident at age 36.
I don’t think any baseball historian could reasonably argue that one of these guys DOESN’T belong on our Mount Catchmore. But who is the fourth?
That’s more debatable, so let’s look at the other candidates and what Joe Mauer would need to do to displace one of them.
Batted in the middle of a Yankees lineup that also contained a couple of shmoes named Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. To displace him Mauer needs to win championships — Dickey won seven of the eight World Series in which he played.
“Pudge” put up huge career numbers in part because he was such an ironman behind the plate. To displace him, Mauer needs to pull off a difficult exacta — stay healthy and stay behind the plate. Fisk is a good model — he tore several knee ligaments early in his career but played catcher until he was 45 years old.
He was the best hitting catcher of all time, though some would put “catcher” in quotes, as he annually gave up 100+ stolen bases with the Dodgers and Mets. But we’d love to have Mauer show the 30+ home run power that would fully eclipse Piazza from the discussion.
His raw numbers aren’t that impressive, but his reputation as a leader was recognized with two AL MVP awards. That included his work as a player/manager with the Tigers, when they won their first World Championship. That’s an interesting thought — could Mauer find himself managing baseball when his playing career is over? Or show the reputation for leadership that Cochrane earned?
With as many awards as Mauer has already accumulated, it’s easy to wonder what’s next. But history shows there are still plenty of catching legends he could emulate — and still a Mount for him to climb.
John Bonnes writes at TwinsGeek.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @TwinsGeek.