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When I started this list thing, I really thought it would be enjoyable, you know, a walk down memory lane. Well memory lane isn’t so great, especially when it comes to the catcher position. The truth is, Kansas City has been a black hole for catchers. Sure, there’s been a couple of really good catchers, but for a franchise that is 51 years old, you’d think filling out a top five would be easy. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Have them be a catcher because evidently there is a serious shortage of great ones.
I had no idea that Brent Mayne stuck around the bigs for 15 seasons. Buck Martinez and Jamie Quirk hung on for 17 and 18 years respectively. Mayne had 20 career home runs in 15 seasons. Buck Martinez had 15 career home runs in his 17 years. Compare that to Mark Belanger who carved out an 18-year career as a great fielding, no-hit shortstop for the Orioles. Belanger somehow stroked 20 career home runs and was good for 41 WAR, while Mayne, Quirk and Martinez were good for a combined 9 WAR. I know that’s comparing apples to oranges, but I came away amazed at how weak the Royals have been at catcher most years.
Another issue that complicated matters is that three former backstops I considered (Ed Kirkpatrick, Jamie Quirk and John Wathan) also spent considerable time playing other positions for the Royals. I ran over the stats of 11 different catchers and amazingly, those 11 have caught most of all games the Royals have played. Well let’s get to the ugly.
Ed Kirkpatrick and Jim Sundberg. Sundberg had a fantastic career, good for 41 WAR. The problem was only 2 of his 16 years were spent in Kansas City. He played a huge part of the 1985 Royals winning the World Series. In the playoffs and World Series, he had timely hitting and expertly managed the young pitching staff.
5. John Buck
Buck was drafted by the Houston Astros in the seventh round of the 1998 draft. On June 24, 2004 he was traded to the Royals as part of the infamous three team trade in which Kansas City sent future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran to Houston in return for Buck, Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and cash. He made his Major League debut the next day at the age of 23.