Then & Now: Comparing The Catchers of '93 and '03

There are a lot of ways to compare players. Throughout the season, will bring you comparisons of players and the teams they played for. Comparing players – especially those from different eras – isn't an exact science. Even players from the same era may be tough to compare because of differences in the ballparks they play in and the hitters they have backing them up in the lineup. With all of that in mind, let's take a look at the catchers from 2003 and 1993.

On the surface, there are a lot of similarities between Darren Daulton and Mike Lieberthal. They were born almost exactly ten years apart and were drafted ten years apart by the Phillies. They were both catchers and both suffered through injuries. There are differences, too. Daulton was a left-handed hitter and Lieberthal is a right-handed hitter. Daulton was taken in the twenty-fifth round of the draft, while Lieberthal was highly touted and was the third overall pick in the 1990 draft.
Darren Daulton led the 1993 Phillies on and off the field. His off field partying fit in perfectly with the '93 team and teammates have credited him with being a true clubhouse leader who held the team together.
(Photo: Getty Images)

As the 1980 Phillies were working their way through the season that would finish with a World Series championship, very few people noticed when they drafted a kid out of Arkansas City, Kansas with their twenty-fifth round pick in the June draft. Before too long, that kid would be known to Phillies fans as "Dutch".

Darren Daulton was a big, strong kid with mid-western good looks and a smile that melted the hearts of female fans. He was also tough enough to be taken very seriously by teammates and opponents alike; a quality that would make him a natural team leader later in his career. Just when it appeared that Daulton's career was really, truly going to take off, a knee injury threatened his career. His toughness helped him through the long rehab and Daulton was back on the field and didn't seem to miss a beat.

Daulton was 31 when the 1993 season started. With a pair of questionable knees, the fact that he wouldn't have too much more time in his career was apparent. That bunch of players that came together for the '93 season was a perfect fit for Daulton. While he worked hard at keeping himself in shape, Daulton was known for wanting to have some fun off the field. He found a lot of willing accomplices on that team and they found a teammate who they could play with off the field and follow on the field.

As the 2003 version of the Phillies hit the field, Mike Lieberthal is 31 years old. Even before he was picked for his first all-star appearance in 1999, Lieberthal had endured injuries that could have derailed his career, including a pelvic injury that would flare up again in the spring of 2003. Just as everything seemed to be coming together for Lieberthal, more injuries hit, but he would always find a way to battle his way back to his team.

Mike Lieberthal isn't the vocal leader that Daulton was, but his quiet manner combined with his on the field leadership is an important part of the 2003 Phillies.
(Photo: Getty Images)

With the addition of Jim Thome and the presence of bigger names like Pat Burrell, Lieberthal didn't figure to be much of a team leader this season. The truth is that in his quiet, unassuming way, Lieberthal is one of the guys that players look to and respect. The fact that nobody pushes Lieberthal to be the team's leader only makes things better for his style of leadership.

While Daulton had arguably his best season in 1993, Lieberthal may look back on his career someday and say that 2003 was his best season. Through the first 18 games of the 2003 season, Lieberthal is hitting .327 with one homerun, eleven RBI and a .491 slugging percentage.

After that 1993 season, Daulton went on to play four more seasons, finishing his career with the Marlins and an elusive World Series ring. His trade to Florida for outfielder Billy McMillon in July of 1997 was a favor to Dutch from the Phillies. The Phillies were going nowhere and the Marlins had bought themselves a team that could be champions, even if it was for just one season. Daulton wanted a ring and Florida needed a catcher.

No matter how the Phillies finish this season, there are bound to be questions about Mike Lieberthal's future. Lieberthal should have a few more good seasons in him, but the rigors of catching may make those seasons tougher to complete. Of course, people were saying the same thing about Darren Daulton after Joe Carter ruined the Phillies hopes and dreams in October of 1993.

Career 162 game average1982.245.357.427162507
2003 (projected)999.327.433.491135504
*Career 162 game average2091.279.359.456162573

* Using projected numbers for 2003

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