Hot take: 5 best catchers in Nationals history

December 2nd, 2021

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only!

Here is Jessica Camerato’s ranking of the top five catchers in Nationals history.

1. , 1974-84, '92 (Expos)
Key fact: Carter played outfield early on in his Major League career before becoming a Hall of Fame catcher.

Carter, who manned the plate for the Expos for 12 seasons, leads the list of the franchise’s all-time catchers. By the time his tenure with Montreal concluded, he had amassed 1,427 hits, 823 RBIs, 220 home runs and 707 runs, with a slash line of .269/.342/.454 over 1,503 games. He also earned seven All-Star selections (six consecutive as an Expo), two All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Awards, three Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards with Montreal.

Carter sits atop the team’s fWAR for catchers at 53.8. When it comes to his place among all of the franchise's players, Carter ranks first in overall WAR among position players (55.8 compared to Tim Raines’ 49.2) and first in defensive WAR leaders (21.6 compared to Tim Wallach’s 11.7). He is fourth all-time in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits, and fifth in hits and runs.

“He played the game with a passion,” said F.P. Santangelo, a former Expo (1995-98) and Nationals television analyst. “He was always a fist-pumper, always smiling, played with enthusiasm. He had tremendous talent -- obviously, the numbers bear that out. He was a leader. I think when you think of the catching position, you can look at all the WAR and numbers you want, but catchers have to be leaders.”

Carter’s storied career spanned 19 years. He went on to play for the Mets, Giants and Dodgers before returning to Montreal to play his final season. Carter appeared in the fourth-most games at catcher (2,056), behind only Ivan Rodriguez (2,427), Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. Carter passed away in 2012.

2. Wilson Ramos, 2010-16 (Nationals)
Key fact: With a .268 batting average, Ramos ranks just behind Carter (.269) for the second-highest average among the team's catchers.

Ramos began his tenure with the Nats batting .267 and reached .307 (ninth among National League players) in his final season with the team. That year, he earned an All-Star Game selection and a Silver Slugger Award.

Defensively, Ramos finished second in putouts among NL catchers in 2015 and '16, second in NL catcher fielding percentage (.997) in '16 and third in NL catcher assists (77) in '15.

Over 578 games with the Nationals, Ramos recorded 566 hits, 320 RBIs and 83 homers while slashing .268/.313/.430. He ranks second among Washington’s catchers with 11.3 fWAR.

3. , 2019-21/, 2012-13, ’19-20 (Nationals)
Key fact: The veteran duo helped the Nats win their first World Series championship in 2019.

It’s not the number of seasons Gomes and Suzuki have played for the Nationals, but it’s what they accomplished in that time that earns them a spot on this list. In the postseason, they combined to catch 153 innings and were charged with a total of just two errors while Nats pitching posted a 3.47 ERA. During the 2019 World Series against the Astros, Gomes and Suzuki worked closely with pitchers to communicate five different sets of signs.

“They won a ring,” Santangelo said. “Sometimes it’s harder to catch a great staff than it is a bad staff because you have such great talent out there that you take it so seriously when you’re behind the plate. You don’t want to let Max Scherzer down by not knowing the game plan or calling the wrong pitch. You don’t want to let Stephen Strasburg down. You don’t want to see him drop his shoulders and step off the mound because you’re not thinking with him. … There might even be more responsibility, I believe, as a catcher when you have a great staff.”

4. Darrin Fletcher, 1992-97 (Expos)
Key fact: Fletcher was named to the All-Star team in 1994.

After playing his first three seasons with the Dodgers and Phillies, Fletcher donned an Expos uniform for six years. He hit .266/.322/.422 with 61 homers over 643 games, and his .744 OPS ranks second among the franchise’s catchers only to Carter. Fletcher is also fourth among Expos/Nationals catchers with 6.4 fWAR. Santangelo described Fletcher as a “quiet, calm leader” whom players gravitated to on the Expos.

“I remember him in general as being a wonderful person, a wonderful teammate,” said Santangelo, who played with Fletcher from 1995-97. “[He had] a really dry, funny sense of humor that caught really good games, that framed really well, that was dangerous with the bat. He could hit you a home run when you needed one.

“He was the first guy I talked to on the bench as a rookie after my first at-bat. I grounded out to third in my first game. I came back and said, ‘How’d I look?’ He’s like, ‘Man, you hit hard. You looked good.’ He was just one of those guys that was always there for you as a player.”

5. , 2010-11 (Nationals)
Key fact: Rodriguez was behind the plate for Stephen Strasburg's Major League debut on June 8, 2010, when the then-21-year-old fanned 14 batters.

Like the No. 3 selection of Gomes and Suzuki, Rodriguez is on this list for his impact in such a short period of time. Rodriguez played for the Nats in the final two seasons of his 21-year Hall of Fame career. In his age-38 and 39 seasons, he spent time with a young Strasburg, imparting his long history of wisdom to the pitcher.

“Stephen always points to Pudge as being really influential in his early career,” Santangelo said. “You hear stories about how Pudge kind of took charge with the phenom. So you’ve got a guy like Pudge Rodriguez, toward the end of his career, Strasburg’s coming up, leaning on a future Hall of Famer -- that’s really valuable as far as your development goes. … Pudge had a lot to do with Stephen’s early success.”

In 2010 -- his 20th season -- Rodriguez ranked fifth among NL catchers with a .995 fielding percentage. He contributed 133 hits and 68 RBIs over 155 games.

Honorable mentions
was a member of the Expos/Nationals for the first eight seasons of his Major League career (2000-07). He owned the highest caught-stealing percentage among NL catchers in '03 and '04, and he ranked in the top three among NL catchers for double plays turned from '03-'05. Schneider caught 133 games in '04 (second in the NL), and he made the second-most plate appearances by the team's catcher (2,608).

• Mike Fitzgerald caught for the Expos from 1985-91. He hit .238/.331/.359 with 416 hits, 241 RBIs and 180 runs in that time. Fitzgerald ranks fourth in games (633) and fifth in plate appearances by an Expos/Nationals catcher (2,036).