The worst catchers in the history of the Boston Red Sox tend to be guys who played a long time ago, or did not spend much time with the team. These guys are not incredibly well-known, like the best catchers are. See how many of the following names you know or remember playing. Since poor position players are harder to come up with than good ones, I am doing the worst three players at each position.
Marc Sullivan was a 2nd round pick of the Red Sox out of the University of Florida in 1979. Despite not demonstrating the ability to hit in the minors, Sullivan was able to find his way to the majors for a few seasons. Sullivan showed his first bit of promise in professional ball in 1981 when he hit .268 with 14 homers in the low minors. However, the next season in double-a he only batted .203 with a homer. Despite this dreadful showing, he got his first taste of the bigs that September. He spent the entire season of 1984 in the minors while struggling. In 1985 he managed to hit 15 home runs, but only batted .204. In his brief showings in the Major Leagues between 1982 and 1984 he was 5-12 at the plate.
By early 1985 Sullivan was up in the big leagues for good. Sullivan may not have deserved this honor though as he never even batted .200 again. As Rich Gedman’s backup in 1985, Sullivan batted .174. Backing up Gedman again in 1986, Sullivan raised his average to .193, homering just once and posting a .512 OPS. As a reward, he actually started more games at catcher than anyone else for the Red Sox in 1987. Gedman’s play fell off a cliff following his holdout, leading to the extra playing time. Sullivan hit .169 with a career low .435 OPS. He got on base at a .198 clip while slugging to the tune of .238.
Sullivan was at least solid behind the dish, throwing out 24 base stealers in 1987. He threw out 36% of runners for his career. This helped improve his career WAR too a -1.5. His career batting line was .186 with 5 home runs and a .236/.258/.494 triple slash.
Lopez wasn’t with the Red Sox long, but he was a big disappointment. Lopez is one of the better offensive catchers in baseball history. For his career he hit .287 and averaged 28 home runs and 93 runs batted in per 162 games played. Most of that production came for the Braves, where he is probably the best catcher in team history. Lopez had been playing with the Orioles since signing with them prior to the 2004 season. After a stellar first season there, Lopez had been okay between 2005 and 2006 when the Red Sox traded for him during the waiver trade period.
Following the injury to Jason Varitek, the Red Sox were looking to add a reliable catcher to pair with Doug Mirabelli. The thought was that Lopez would give the Red Sox some juice behind the plate until Varitek came back. Always a poor backstop, it was his bat that gave him value. Lopez proceeded to hit .190 for the Red Sox. He failed to homer in any of his 63 at-bats, driving in just four runs. With his measly two walks, Lopez posted a .215/.270/.485 batting line with Boston. The team fell out of contention and Lopez was ultimately released shortly after Varitek returned in early September.
Ryan was actually a pretty good defensive backstop. His glove and arm was all he really brought to the table. For the time period, he may have been alright as a backup catcher, but was miscast as the Red Sox main catcher for a couple of seasons. He managed to hit three home runs amongst his 17 base hits in 1965. Ryan then became the Red Sox top catcher for the 1966 season. That season he batted .214, the highest total of his career with more than 70 at-bats. Despite the poor offensive showing, Ryan did throw out 34 base runners.
Ryan started for most of the season during the Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season of 1967. He clashed with Dick Williams though, who wanted a better bat behind the plate and questioned Ryan’s game calling abilities. Mike Ryan batted .199 and was eventually replaced as the starting catcher when the Sox acquired Elston Howard. It was his final season in Boston as Williams didn’t want him around anymore.
In total, Mike Ryan batted just .201 with 7 homers and 70 RBI while with the Red Sox. His OPS was just .539 during that time. He did add value behind the plate, throwing out 61 would be base stealers over three seasons. His total WAR was -1.8.
Russ Gibson, Dave Valle, Bob Tillman