One of the battles that I'm constantly fighting over at my Twins-centric blog is trying to convince the average fan of just how rare it is for a catcher to put up big numbers offensively for long periods of time. Joe Mauer is the case study over there, but Ivan Rodriguez hitting his 300th career homer last night provides another example.
At this point in baseball history a 37-year-old player reaching 300 career homers is hardly worth noting most of the time, but that type of power remains special for a catcher. Here are the all-time leaders in homers by a player who saw at least two-thirds of his career action behind the plate:
HR Mike Piazza 427 Johnny Bench 389 Carlton Fisk 376 Yogi Berra 358 Lance Parrish 324 Gary Carter 324 IVAN RODRIGUEZ 300 Javy Lopez 260 Ted Simmons 248 Roy Campanella 242
Mike Piazza is the all-time leader in homers among catchers, yet his total of 427 long balls ranks just 39th in baseball history behind guys like Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, and Juan Gonzalez. There are 121 total players with at least 300 homers, but Rodriguez is just the seventh to reach that mark as a catcher and five of the previous six are either in the Hall of Fame or will be shortly.
Rodriguez is already the all-time leader in hits by a catcher with 2,637 and he's about a month away from moving past Carlton Fisk for first place in both runs scored and games played by a backstop. Toss in throwing out nearly half of all stolen-base attempts during the course of his two-decade career and Rodriguez is the epitome of a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my mind.
He's also a prime example of why putting on a bunch of gear and squatting for 1,000 innings per season should be a much bigger consideration when evaluating offense from catchers, whether that means putting a little extra thought into Jorge Posada's eventual Hall of Fame case, viewing guys like Mauer, Brian McCann, Victor Martinez, and Russell Martin in a new light, or keeping expectations for Matt Wieters somewhat in check.