MARK’S ALL TIME BASEBALL TEAM

 

 

As baseball fans we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing “All Time” teams.  They are usually trotted out to mark an anniversary date of baseball’s or of a specific team.  They’re always fun to look at, in my opinion.  They always create an argument in my brain as to which players I would put on MY team.  Below I list my team and give you a batting order and starting pitchers.  Hopefully this spurs some lists from other guys and a fun and interesting league debate on players.  Also, unlike most “All Time” teams, I did not exclude players still currently playing.  That’s all part of the debate.  Here they are…

 

CATCHER

For my backstop I chose Johnny Bench.  As we all know he was the most complete player to play his position.  His defense was legendary, his offense prodigious for his position.  Not a great surprise in his selection here as he makes most lists.  Others considered were Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra.

 

FIRST BASE

The nod went to Lou Gehrig here.  A staggering career.  A wonderfully decent person.  Incredible offensive seasons.  Overshadowed by Ruth, but every bit his equal in output.  A career 340 BA and 447 OBP.  From 1927-’32 his RBI totals were 175, 142, 126, 174, 184 and 151.  The man consistently delivered for his Yankees.  Jimmie Foxx and George Sisler were my runner-up choices.

 

SECOND BASE

Manning the pivot for my squad would be Joe Morgan.   Joe, while a great player in his own right, makes my squad for his “team” skills.  He won 5 Gold Gloves, which are evidence of his solid defensive skills.  He finished 4th all-time in walks and 11th in stolen bases.  The combination of these skills made him a better selection than our runner-up choice, Rogers Hornsby.  Rajah was a great player, but even by his own admission, defense was not his focus.

 

SHORTSTOP

Ahhhhh…. Here is where the debate starts.  I pick my guy, Alex Rodriguez, to be the SS on my team.  I honestly think we are all witnessing the greatest SS in the history of the game.  It makes no difference to me that he is only 25.  His skills are incredible.  His rifle arm nails just about any runner.  He has range in the hole defensively.  But his bat, oh my goodness that bat!  He has 189 home runs already thanks to three successive 40 plus homer campaigns.  His 100 walks in the past season portend of even scarier offensive numbers.  Frankly, I think when it’s all said and done grandchildren will ask us about the great trio of our time; Alex, Jeter and Nomar.  Together they are an amazing assemblage.  Honus Wagner, unfortunately, is left off my team.

 

THIRD BASE

 This selection is in honor of my grandfather who has passed and my Dad who told me about the greatest 3B they ever saw- Eddie Mathews of their beloved hometown Milwaukee Braves.  Eddie is often overlooked in these debates, but I think he compares quite favorably to the usual selections of Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson.  Compared specifically to Schmidt, Eddie was a slightly better fielder (956 to 947 at 3B).  One could argue that Eddie might even be a bit better as the official scorers of Eddie’s day were not as “forgiving” and Mike got the advantage of a surer playing surface with the turf at Veterans Stadium.  Offensively, they are both regarded as better than Brooksie.  Compared to each other they are closer than most would think.  512 homers for Eddie while Schmidt knocked 548.  Mike also has the slight advantage in OPS, 907 to 885.  But Eddie was left-handed and when he was at his greatness it was every bit the measure of Mike’s. 

 

LEFT FIELD

My two favorite players on the team occupy the LF and CF positions and first up is Ted Williams.   The greatest HITTER to ever play the game, in my opinion.  This fact tells the most: in his 19 seasons of play Ted NEVER struck out more than he walked.  EVER.  Even when he batted only 10 times in 1952 you might think he would have slipped up, but he had 2 of each.  For his career Ted walked 2019 times to only 709 whiffs.  He sported a career 344 BA and an astounding 482 OBP.  His batting eye was incredible, as testified to the fact that after missing three full seasons to WWII his OBP dipped just two points from 499 to 497, but his slugging went from 648 to 667.  Amazing.   Not that I really considered anyone else for the spot, but Jimmie Foxx and Barry Bonds were/are also great players at the position.

 

CENTER FIELD

Well, Ted was my guy in LF.  Who’s in center, you ask?  My favorite- Ty Cobb.  I love everything about this guy.  He played the game as though it was a war. His demon-like playing style I personally love.  He would, and did, intimidate ANY player.  He would ride Ruth.  Carl Mays he would assail mercilessly after he beaned Ray Chapman.  Some call me callous and misguided in my enjoyment of the Great Cobb.  But what pitcher wanted to see him on the basepaths?  He’d be on third before they got the next hitter out if they weren’t careful.  What middle infielder wanted to see Cobb headed for second on a steal or infield grounder?  Can you say “spikes in the shin?”  But none of his play was reckless.  It all had purpose and that was to weaken and get his opponents frustrated and off their collective game.  His speed and defense were perfect.  Ty’s love of and ability to execute the intricacies of the game represent the type of player I want on my team.  295 triples, 892 steals (including 35 of home) and a career 366 BA top it off.  He was the greatest COMPLETE player of all time.  As with Ted, a runner-up wasn’t really considered, but Tris Speaker and Willie Mays were awesome centerfielders in their own right.

 

RIGHT FIELD

The toughest position to pick.  Babe Ruth of course comes immediately to mind.  And I’m sure with Ty in center, Willie would not mind sliding to right J Then there is Al Kaline and Mel Ott.  Duke Snider and Clemente.  Old timers like Sam Crawford and Paul Waner.  Heck, one of the best players who seemingly can not make any list, Frank Robinson, could play RF for my team.  The choice however goes to Hank Aaron.  Like my choice of Eddie Mathews, Hank makes it for some sentimental reasons.  No player meant more to my beloved city of Milwaukee when the Braves were heroes.  All stats aside, as they are legendary and rank with any player, the man makes the team because of his perseverance in the face of adversity.  The threats upon his life when he was climbing up Babe Ruth’s historical back are well documented.  I believe his quiet dignity and day in, day out skills would befit any All Time team.  And for this reason he makes mine.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

My pitchers were an easy lot to select.  They came to mind almost immediately.  Walter Johnson is our ace.  Christy Mathewson is our second horse.  Warren Spahn is our lefty starter.  Bob Gibson’s intimidation and power pitching fit nicely in the number four slot.  And as a deference to the more recent five-man rotation I select Greg Maddux to finish out the staff.  The first two could be easily swapped and often are by others.  Personally, I like Big Train more so he gets the Opening Day nod (who am I playing?).  Matty was also a GREAT pitcher in a time of great pitchers.  Spahn was a Milwaukee Brave, and that of course, helped his chances, but I could not ignore that he was the greatest lefty of all time.  Steve Carlton almost made our team, however.  Bob Gibson was an easy choice.  The man was a warrior.  He wanted the ball when things were tough.  He hated to lose and he hated to come out of games.  Perfect.  Greg Maddux was a clear choice from the pool of recent pitchers to make our staff as the #5 guy.  1994 and 1995 saw him post impressive 1.56 and 1.63 ERA’s in a time of mashing offenses.  But the best aspect of Greg that secured his selection is that he is indeed a PITCHER.  He commands the hitter.  He blows no one away, but he places his pitches perfectly.  His control is almost inhuman in this day.

 

While John McGraw, Connie Mack or Bucky Harris could surely manage this bunch, although Mack may sell some of them ;-), I would take the honors and here’s how my lineup card would look on Opening Day:

 

Cobb, cf

Morgan, 2b

Williams, lf

Aaron, rf

Gehrig, 1b

Rodriguez, ss

Mathews, 3b

Bench, c

Johnson, p

 

Also, all of my numbers come from a wonderful baseball site, baseball-reference.com.  It has all kinds of statistical goodies.  It is fast and it is free.  Check it out if you have not already.