This is going to be a long post. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.
While I was driving to Wichita today, I decided to create my all-time baseball team. The rules are of course not simple. This isn’t the player who is the best at each position, rather, this is a team I would create of players in history. To qualify, a player has to have played not only the position, but also the role in mind for at least one year. In other words, I can’t choose Jeff Bagwell to back up Lou Gehrig because Bagwell wasn’t really a backup in the majors. I am also saying that players who are currently extremely young can be chosen for backup roles, catcher will provide the obvious example for this rule.
Anyway, here it is. I suspect there will be a lot of differences of opinion on this. This list was not created from any exhaustive search so I’m sure I’m going to miss someone, but here it is.
I’m going to make an exception to my rule of each player fitting their role immediately at catcher, but I believe I can justify it. I’m picking Yogi Berra, but not just at catcher. I’m going to take advantage of his versatility and play him at C, 1B, LF and DH. In other words, he’s likely to be in the lineup most days, just not necessarily in the same position. This allows me to have another starting catcher in my mind because both will get enough playing time that they won’t complain. That other starting catcher is Pudge Rodriguez. I agree that Johnny Bench is probably better, but I chose IRod because I wanted to have one Texas Ranger on the team and because IRod has shown a wide variety of skills, including stealing bases. Since Berra provides so much versatility, I’m going to choose one more catcher. Since I like to load up and take advantage of platoon splits, I’d like a left-handed or switch-hitting catcher. While there are several choices, I’m going to take Joe Mauer who slides in because of the prospect exemption. Hey, my game, my rules, and I can futz with them if I want to.
We only need one first baseman, both because of his durability and because of Berra. This was one of the easier choices, and I’m going with Lou Gehrig.
This too was an easy choice, with Joe Morgan starting. He may have no clue what made him a great player now that he’s an announcer, but he was a tremendous top of the lineup hitter. As a backup, we’re going to select uberutility guy Jose Oquendo. He played nearly every position on the field, played them well, got on base, and had a bit of speed. What more do you want from a utility guy?
This is where the harder decisions start. This one was hard because it affected who I was going to choose at third, because this shortstop played third for at least a season as well. No, not ARod, who won’t make any time I control because of his disdain for his fellow players, but rather Honus Wagner, the best shortstop ever and one of the best third sackers as well. I almost put him at third, but I went another route. The presence of Oquendo, by the way, allows me to not have a backup shortstop.
Here’s a controversial choice. I’m picking Chipper Jones. I could have picked Mike Schmidt, who was a better player. I could also have picked George Brett, or ARod at short and moved Wagner here. I, however, picked Chipper because he’s a switch hitter who hits both sides well, has stolen some bases, and can play short in a pinch, not to mention left. Again, Oquendo frees me from the need to have a backup here, and Berra even played a game here once, so I should be covered.
Barry Bonds. Easy choice. I’m taking Ted Williams too, but I’m allowing myself a DH, and Williams is the ultimate DH.
Here is where I’m going to get controversial again. Mays is out there. Cobb, too. Rickey played some in center as well. No, I’m going with the guy who I want to lead this team off, and that’s Tim Raines. I believe that Cobb, Henderson and Raines all played enough in center to justify them playing there, so I could pick any of them. As hitters, Raines is certainly the worst of the three, but in my mind I want a switch hitting leadoff guy, and that’s Raines. It’s not like he’s chopped liver, either. My backup in center is Mike Cameron, who one year for the White Sox hammered lefties, played great defense in both center and right, and who can pinch-run.
I’m going to stretch a bit here and put Mickey Mantle here. I know I’m forgetting the Babe, but I like switch hitters and players who can run as well as hit. I also know I could easily put Mantle in center and instead of stretching a bit at two positions, be legit at center and stretch in right with Raines. Doesn’t matter really, an outfield of Bonds, Raines, and Mantle ought to get to most things. I am, however, going to completely stretch a bit by picking the Babe as the backup in right field. I figure he can pitch, pinch hit, rest Mantle’s knees, and do a bunch of things. In 1918, with the Red Sox, this was sort of his role, so I don’t think it’s a stretch.
Since I’m not really looking for versatility at starting pitching, I think I’ll just pick my top four, and then go with a couple of combo pitchers to provide the fifth starter and long relief. Anyway, there are a lot of great pitchers out there so I’ll go with my personal preferences. Kansas boy Walter Johnson is the ace, Lefty Grove gives me a lefty if you’ll pardon the redundancy, Greg Maddux is number three, and Pedro Martinez is number four. Pedro probably can make a case for three, but I’m thinking that if there is any advantage to starting different kinds of pitchers on consecutive days, then putting Maddux between the heat of Grove and Pedro should be good.
Basically, these are pitchers that can start and relieve. They’ll provide me choices at the fifth starter role, along with the Babe, so I’ll be able to mix and match. I’m a huge Johan Santana fan, and he’s a dominant lefty. He’ll actually do short work for me a lot, with the occasional start. To make sure I always have enough pitching, I’m picking the ultimate in workhorses, the kind of pitcher every team needs, a knuckleballer. I’m picking Charlie Hough because of his Rangers ties, though I know there’s probably a better choice out there.
First, I’m picking Eric Gagne. Who else would be the closer than a French-Canadian, eh? But I like having a second closer, and I’m picking Rich Gossage. The Goose could pitch 1 inning, 2 innings, 3 innings, and pitch at any point in the game. He may not like having been paired with Sparky Lyle, but he has been in this role. I’m going to use Santana primarily as the left-handed setup guy to finish a three headed monster closing games out. I’m also picking Mike Marshall as the other reliever, again, as a guy who did whatever was needed in the bullpen. Here I’m going to apologize to Ted and say that I’ve changed my mind. Originally I was going to have Jesse Orosco, but with the presence of the Babe I can have both 11 pitchers and 15 position players.
So, I have one position open. I think I need one more utility infielder. I’m going to stretch here a bit as well, because he was always a starter, but I want one more Ranger. This guy played over 1000 games at third, 800 games at short, and 200 games at second. He had a career OPS+ of 114. He was nearly a 30-30 guy when it was very unusual (1977). He wasn’t great at any one skill, but he was good at basically everything. Toby Harrah fills out my roster, which is:
c: Berra, IRod, Mauer
2b: Morgan, Oquendo
3b: Jones, Harrah
lf: Bonds, Williams
cf: Raines, Cameron
rf: Mantle, Ruth
sp: Johnson, Grove, Maddux, Pedro
utp: Hough, Santana, Ruth
rel: Marshall, Santana, Gossage
And here’s the lineup:
cf Raines (s)
2b Morgan (l)
ss Wagner (r)
lf Bonds (l)
dh Williams (l)
rf Mantle (s)
1b Gehrig (l)
c Berra (r)
3b Jones (s)
Yeah, I’d live with that lineup. Anyway, hope you liked my little flight of fantasy. I’m curious what players you all would choose. I know that there are a lot of players that I chose because of my heart and then found a way to justify them, but hey, it’s my team 🙂