HomeTeamsMetsGreatest Mets Catchers In Team History

Greatest Mets Catchers In Team History

The Mets have never had an organizationally homegrown catcher play 10 or more years for the franchise. There’s no Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra HOF catcher, (the Mets do claim HOF catcher Mike Piazza, but he came up a Dodger), who embodied the franchise and its success. There’s no Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, or even an Adley Rutschmann. This is in part because the Mets have never had sustained success like the Reds, Yankees, and Cardinals. But that’s not the primary reason. The Met’s catching history is littered with forgotten names and forgettable players.

In 1962 the Mets started the season with Chris Cannizzaro behind the plate. He came to the expansion Mets from the Cardinals as a highly regarded young player.  Cannizzaro played 59 games that season and only played 249 games in his four year Met career slashing .236/.312/.282. In 1966 the Mets brought in Jerry Grote from Houston, and he was instrumental in helping the Mets win the 1969 World Series vs. Baltimore, and reach the 1973 Series vs. Oakland. Grote is the franchise leader in games played by a large margin (Grote caught 1176 games to 826 games caught for Piazza).  He also is tied for the most years at catcher for the Mets with 12 seasons behind the plate. For his Mets career Grote did not slash much better than most Met catchers, at .256/.321/.329, but his defense was elite, and his contemporary Johnny Bench felt Grote was the best defensive catcher in the National League. Jerry Grote was the rock behind the plate for the Miracle Mets.

Grote was followed by John Stearns – fourth on the list in games caught for the Mets at 698. Stearns began by backing up Grote in 1975 and stayed with the team through the 1982 season. Stearns was a fiery leader for poor Met teams. He was an accomplished hitter and defender, as well as being a base stealing threat which was justas unusual then as it is today. He slashed .260/.341/.375 as a Met with a career OPS+ of 102. His defense was well above average, and Stearns posted a 5.3 bWAR season in 1978. Those Mets finished 66-96 under Joe Torre. Stearns one of three Met catchers to post a 5+ bWAR season, the others being Gary Carter and Mike Piazza.

By 1983 Stearns was gone and Ron Hodges, (sixth on the Mets list of games caught at 446), who had been with the Mets for 10 years, finally took over as the primary catcher. Hodges (no relation to Mets manager and HOFer Gil Hodges), caught the most games of his 12-year career all of which were with the Mets. Hodges is often forgotten because of his .240/.342/.322 career slash line in 666 games.

Gary Carter, beloved by Mets fans and for good reasons, joined the Mets in 1984 playing only five seasons for the team. In his Mets career, Carter slashed .249/.342/.454 with an OPS+ of 104. He was 31 years old when he joined the Mets, and his best baseball was behind him. A ‘plus’ defender and leader behind the page Carter drove in 100 runs twice and was a primary reason the Mets had their championship season in 1986.

After Carter left the Mets had good 1989 and 1990 seasons as a team but Barry Lyons in 1989 and Mackey Sasser in 1990 are not notable names in the Mets catching pantheon. It took the arrival of Todd Hundley in 1992 to excite Mets fans with the hope that they had finally found their catcher of the present and the future. Hundley (son of 1969 Cub’s catcher Randy Hundley, played 9 seasons for the Mets catching 745 games which is third in Mets team history. When Hundley hit a team record 41 home runs in 1996 and was an All-star, he was a fan favorite, albeit for some bad Mets teams. Hundley was again an All-star in 1997 for a good Mets team that fell short of making the playoffs.  Hundley’s Met career slash line is .240/.323/.438 with an OPS+ of 102. 

When Mike Piazza arrived early in the 1998 season that spelled the end of Todd Hundley’s Met career. Hundley had been tried in the outfield, but that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, and after 34 games he was sent packing to the Dodgers. 

Mike Piazza played eight seasons for the Mets, the most of any of the five teams for which he played. In his Met career, Piazza’s .296/.373/.542 slash line and Mets career OPS of 136, puts him far above any other Met catcher. Behind the plate, Piazza was known for his ability to call a game which overshadowed his inability to throw out base stealers. Mike Piazza is clearly the greatest Met catcher in team history.

Piazza left the Mets in 2005 and was replaced by former Dodger Paul Lo Duca who did a nice job for those good 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. He only lasted two seasons and was followed by a line of mostly forgettable catchers. Travis D’Arnaud probably is the best of them, but D’Arnaud only caught 407 games for the Mets during his seven seasons, only catching more than 100 games twice.

Current backstop, 22-year-old Francisco Alvarez is set to return from his hand injury next month. Alvarez is the type of talent and player who could be with the Mets for a long time and might just be that career Met catcher the Mets have never had.

Here’s my list of the top five catchers in Mets history:

#1 – Mike Piazza

#2 – Jerry Grote

#3 – Gary Carter

#4 – John Stearns

#5 – Todd Hundley

The above five are also the top five catchers in terms of games caught for the franchise. Carter died of brain cancer in 2012, Stearns passed away in 2022, Grote passed away last month. They are missed by all true Mets fans.

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.


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