Dodgers vs. Cardinals: Face(mask) Off

The other NLDS features two of the most storied franchises in all of baseball: the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Surprisingly, looking back over the history of these two franchises has done little to sway my initial decisions.

L.A. Dodgers: Had it not been for my rules, this would have been a no brainer. As it stands, Roy Campanella isn’t eligible for this contest, which leaves us only two catchers to choose from, Mike Scioscia and Mike Piazza.

Mike Scioscia played his entire career for the Dodgers. From 1980-92, Scioscia was the everyday catcher in L.A. During his 13 year career, Scioscia had solid numbers: hitting .259/.344/.356, with 68 HR’s and 446 RBI’s. He was a 2x All-Star and was a part of 2 World Series Championship teams.   He was a very solid player for the Dodgers and would be a nice representative in this competition.

However, there was another Mike that was a backstop in L.A. whose career and importance to the team far outweigh Scioscia’s.

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1993 Flair #75, Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza was part of the Dodgers organization from 1992-1998. In those 7 years, Piazza become the most dominate catcher in the N.L. and is remembered as the greatest offensive catcher of all-time. During his time in L.A., Piazza had incredible numbers: .331/.394/.572 with 177 HR’s and 563 RBI’s. His prowess at the plate is proven by his 5 consecutive Silver Slugger awards and 5 consecutive trips to the All-Star game. He also won the 1993 N.L. Rookie of the Year. While Piazza spent the majority of his career playing for the New York Mets, Piazza was one of the two best catchers in baseball for most of his career, and the first 7 seasons of that career where with the Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals: Throughout the history of the Cardinals franchise, there have been a number of very good catchers. In their years as an MLB franchise, three catchers stand out above the rest: Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, and Yadier Molina.

While he is most known for his days spent as a broadcaster, Tim McCarver had a very respectable career. From 1959-69, McCarver was the everyday catcher for the Cardinals. During those 12 years, he was part of 2 World Series Championships and 2 All-Star games. His offensive production was above-average, as he hit .272/.329/.388 with 66 HR’s and 453 RBI’s in his time in St. Louis.

Ted Simmons is another catcher whose career deserves a lot more respect than it gets. From 1968-80, Simmons played for the Cardinals and was the everyday catcher in 10 of his 13 years in St. Louis. Over the course of his career as a Cardinal, Simmons put up good numbers: .298/.366/.459 with 172 HR’s and 929 RBI’s. He was a 6x All-Star and won a Silver Slugger award during his tenure with the Cardinals. While his defense was never a plus, he did catch two no-hitters: Bob Gibson’s in ’71 and Bob Forsch’s in ’78. Simmons overall career numbers are on par with a number of the catchers in the Hall of Fame.

While both of these catchers were fantastic in their own right, the third catcher on this list is just a bit more dominating at his position.

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2008 Bowman Chrome #162, Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina has played for the Cardinals since 2004, and in those 11 years, he has become the best catcher in baseball. However, he isn’t just the best defensive catcher, as some might suggest. His offensive production has been stellar the past 4 seasons. To give you an idea of his dominance over the other catchers, let us first look at his defensive production. So far in his career, Yadier has thrown out a staggering 45% of runners attempting to steal. In addition, he has earned 6 Gold Gloves, 2 Platinum Gloves, 6 Fielding Bible Awards, 2 GIBBY Awards for Defensive Player of the Year, and is a 6x All-Star. His offensive production is often overshadowed by his defensive prowess, but Molina has put up some good numbers: .284/.339/.402 with 96 HR’s and 584 RBI’s. In 2013, he earned his first Silver Slugger Award and came in 3rd in the MVP voting. So far, the Cardinals have won 2 World Series and played in a total of 4 during Molina’s career. His numbers in the World Series are even better than the regular season: .328/.395/.403 with 12 RBI’s.

Picking Molina wasn’t an easy choice. McCarver was great, but lacked the dominate skills that the other two possessed. Simmons was an incredible offensive threat, but he didn’t have any World Series appearances and his defense wasn’t great. Molina’s offense is overshadowed a bit by Simmons, but hands down, he is the best of the three Cardinals catchers.

The answer to “who will win the NLDS” comes down to Piazza vs. Molina. As much as I like the one and don’t care for the other, I have to pick Yadier Molina. Sorry Nightowl.

Winner of the NLDS: Yadier Molina’s Cardinals.

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