All-Time Greatest: San Diego Padres

The Padres have been a part of the city of San Diego as far back as 1936.  Though, not in their current form.  The original San Diego Padres were a minor league team in the PCL.  They were led to the 1937 PCL championship by an 18-year-old San Diego native named Ted Williams.  In 1969, San Diego was one of 4 cities that debuted expansion franchises (others included the Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers), Montreal Expos (Washington Nationals), and Kansas City Royals).   They have had very little success in their 45 seasons. In fact, they have had more seasons in which they finished in last place (17), than seasons in which they even finished with a winning record (13).  They have 5 playoff appearances in their history (’84, ’96, ’98, ’05 & ’06), and can lay claim to 2 National League pennants, but were handily defeated in both World Series appearances (only 1 win in 9 games).  To this date, they also are the only team in all of MLB to have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter, and are one of just two teams (Marlins) to have yet to have a player hit for the cycle.

Perhaps a lack of overall success is a part of the oddity that is their uniform.  I don’t mean that their current uniforms look strange, but the curious tour they took to get to where they are today.  In just 45 years of existence, the Padres have had six different logos, and four different color combinations.  In fact, since 2001, the team has undergone 5 different changes to their uniforms, color scheme, and/or logo.  One might could interpret this as a continuing struggle for an identity, as the team historically has had very few star players that they were able to keep around long enough for the fan base to identify with.  But, that’s really a discussion for a different post.  In their history, the Padres have fielded 1 MVP, 4 Cy Young winners, and 2 Rookie of the Year winners.  And while there is only one player in the HOF who spent the majority of his career with the Padres, there is one other player with a Padres hat on his plaque.  But, we’ll discuss them momentarily.  For now, let’s consider the 5 greatest Padres of all time:

5. Jake Peavy (’02-’09) – from 2004-2008, it looked as though Peavy was going to be a premier pitcher in the league for a long time.  Over that period of time his average ERA was 2.95 (leading the league twice), his average WHIP was 1.14 (leading the league once), and he averaged over 200 K’s per season (leading the league twice, and finishing 2nd once).  But, injuries have taken their toll (everything from ankles, to ribs, to back muscles), and today he is a fraction of the pitcher he was with the Padres.  But, his time with the Padres was impressive.  In addition to the aforementioned accolades, he was named the starter for the NL in two All-Star games (’05 & ’07), and won the Cy Young in 2007, when he completed the pitching triple crown.  Among pitchers with at least 900 IP with the Padres, Peavy ranks 4th in ERA (3.29), 2nd in wins (92), 2nd in win pct. (.575), 3rd in WHIP (1.186), 2nd in K/9 (9.04), 1st in K’s (1348), 2nd in K/BB ratio (3.099), and 2nd in ERA+ (119).

dave-winfield4. Dave Winfield (’73-’80) – many who write about Winfield speak of him as though he were an amazingly gifted athlete who could do anything on the baseball diamond.  And, in many respects, that is an accurate description.  Winfield was a Gold Glove rightfielder (won 2 while in San Diego), who could hit for power, and steal a sizable number of bases.  But, the cynic in me looks at his stats from another perspective, too.  You could easily look at his numbers and come to the conclusion that while he did everything well, he didn’t excel at anything – which is why he’s ranked this low on my list.  He may have 465 career HR, but it took him 22 years to accumulate that many (around 22 per season).  He may have 3,110 hits, but he never had 200 in a season, and only had 180+ 4 times (a career .283 batter).  He may have been able to steal some bases, but the most he ever stole in a single season was 26, and he averaged just 11 per season for his career.  And, he only ever led the league in anything one time.  His best season was in ’79, while still with the Padres.  He led the league in RBI (118 – the highest total of his career, and one of just 8 seasons he eclipsed 100), and hit 34 HR, to go along with his .308/.395/.558/.953 stat line.  All of which led to him finishing 3rd in the MVP voting (the highest he would ever finish in his career).  While with the Padres, he also appeared in 4 All-Star games.  Winfield was an excellent player, and I believe deserves to be in the HOF (elected on first ballot in ’01).  But, I think his lore outshines reality.  That being said, he is certainly one of the greatest to play for the Padres, and even though he spent one more season with the Yankees than he did with the Padres, he chose to have the Padres logo on his Hall of Fame plaque.  Winfield ranks 7th all-time in San Diego history in SLG (.464), 8th in OPS (.821), 3rd in hits (1134), 4th in HR (154), 2nd in RBI (626), 6th in stolen bases (133), 5th in OPS+ (134), and 2nd in runs created (666).

adrian-gonzalez-smiling3. Adrian Gonzalez (’06-’10) – while with the Padres, Gonzalez was a 3-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner at first base, and finished 4th in MVP voting his final season in San Diego.  His average season with the team included 32 HR, 100 RBI, and an .888 OPS, in spite of playing half of each season in one of the most difficult parks to hit in.  Interestingly, the only statistic of significance in which he led the league while with the Padres was walks in 2009.  But, compared to someone like Winfield, I think you’ll see that the only time Winfield is ranked ahead of Gonzalez in Padres history, is when Winfield benefited from having 3 more seasons to accumulate numbers in San Diego.  In franchise history, Gonzalez ranks 7th all-time in batting (.288), 9th in OBP (.374), 3rd in SLG (.514), 3rd in OPS, 6th in hits (856), 4th in total bases (1529), 2nd in HR (161), 4th in RBI (501), 3rd in OPS+ (141), and 3rd in runs created (565).

trevor-hoffman-padres2. Trevor Hoffman (’93-’08) – one of the longest tenured Padres in their history, Hoffman ranks 6th all-time in the number of games he appeared in for San Diego – all while working as their closer, which meant he usually appeared in only 60-70 games each season.  He came over to the Padres in the middle of the ’93 season in the deal that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida.  In ’94, he became their primary closer, and saved 20 games.  That would turn out to be the only season a healthy Hoffman would save fewer than 30 games for San Diego (he missed nearly all of the ’03 season from shoulder surgery).  From ’95-’08, Hoffman set MLB records for most 30-save seasons (13), and most 40-save seasons (8) in a career (he would extend his 30-save season record by 1 in 2009 with the Brewers).  Hoffman was the first player ever to reach the 500-save and 600-save marks.  He held the all-time save record from 2006-2011.  A 6-time All-Star with the Padres, he also was runner-up for the Cy Young in ’98 & ’06 – the only two years he led the league in saves.  Among pitchers with at least 900 IP in San Diego, Hoffman ranks 1st in ERA (2.76), 10th in wins (54), 1st in WHIP (1.04), 1st in K/9 (9.725), 1st in saves (552), 3rd in K’s (1029), 1st in K/BB ratio (4.035), and 1st in ERA+ (146).

917b07af-df46-485f-8f1d-53fe4d1cacad_lg1. Tony Gwynn (’82-’01) – there are some players who are the face of the franchise.  And, not just for a particular era, but will forever be associated with that team.  Gwynn is one of those.  His entire career was spent in San Diego.  The address of Petco Park is 19 Tony Gwynn Dr. (San Diego retired Gwynn’s #19 in 2004)  He was drafted by the Padres in June of ’81 out of San Diego State, and made his debut for the Padres just a little over a year later.  And, so began the career of, in my opinion, the greatest pure hitter of his era.  Gwynn was not a power hitter, and he didn’t drive in a lot of runs.  He usually was batting at or near the top of the order, and was actually quite fast in his earlier days – he stole 56 bases in ’87 (2nd best in the NL)!  But, Gwynn’s claim to fame was that he was a hits machine.  He won 8 batting titles – the second most in the history of baseball.  He also led the league in hits 7 times.  He appeared in an impressive 15 All-Star games, won 5 Gold Gloves, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 7 times (though, he never won).  When the baseball strike prematurely ended the ’94 season in mid-August, Gwynn was batting .394 – the highest average by any NL player since 1930.  He never got closer to .400.  He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 by the 7th highest percentage in history (97.6%), just 13 votes shy of unanimous selection. Gwynn is the all-time leader in Padres history in batting (.338), runs (1383), hits (3141), total bases (4259), doubles (543), triples (85), RBI (1138), walks (790 – and, interestingly, isn’t even in the top 10 in strikeouts; averaged just 22 K’s per season for his career!), stolen bases (319), and runs created (1636 – including 2 of the top 3 single seasons in Padres history).

All-Time Greatest: Pittsburgh Pirates

Baseball has a long and rich history in the city of Pittsburgh.  What is now the Pirates franchise began in 1882, as a part of the American Association.  At that time, they were playing opposite the Allegheny river from the city of Pittsburgh, in what was then a separate town – Allegheny City.  As was often the practice of the media in those days, the team was generically referred to as the “Alleghenys.”  After five so-so seasons in the AA, the team was the first to switch from the AA to the National League, in 1887.  They changed their name officially to the “Pittsburgh Alleghenys” for the season, in spite of the fact that Allegheny City remained a separate city until it was annexed in 1907.

After the 1889 season, the new ownership signed several players from American Association teams, including the Philadelphia Athletics’ Lou Bierbauer, who was left off of the A’s reserve list.  The Athletics protested, and an AA official referred to the actions of the Alleghenys as “piratical.”  Prior to the 1890 season, however, the Alleghenys were decimated when most of their players jumped to the Player’s League – including Bierbauer.  They experienced their worst season in franchise history, going 23-113.  But, before the 1891 season, the owners were able (through some legal gymnastics) to purchase a minority ownership of the Player’s League team in Pittsburgh, and regain the services of nearly all the players they had lost the previous season.  That same year, since they were never found guilty of wrongdoing, the team mockingly adopted the nickname “Pirates,” after the incident with the A’s.  And, the name has been with them ever since.

The Pirates franchise has gone through some incredibly successful periods, as well as some incredibly unproductive periods.  They participated in the first ever World Series in 1903, though they lost to Boston.  But, they would return in 1909, and win in 7 games.  In fact, from 1899-1913, they were a perennial pennant contender, finishing with a winning record every year.  They accomplished a similar feat from 1918-1930, appearing in two World Series (’25 & ’27), and winning the title in ’25.  After a long period of lackluster seasons, they won it all again in 1960, which was soon followed by a string of success, in which they won 6 division titles and 2 World Series titles from ’70-’79.  They later won 3 consecutive division titles from ’90-’92, but never reached the World Series.  But, after the ’92 season, they began one of the worst stretches of seasons in the history of North American sports.  They established the all-time record with 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993-2012.  They finally broke through as a Wild Card team in 2013, only to lose the NLDS in 5 games.

In their history, the Pirates have seen 7 different players win 8 MVP awards.  They’ve fielded 2 Cy Young winners, and 1 Rookie of the Year.  Eight different players have had their jersey number retired by the Pirates, and there are 12 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who spent the majority of their careers in Pittsburgh.  With so much history, and so much success, choosing the top 5 players of all time came as quite the challenge.  Though, it was clearly a lopsided challenge.  I believe this is the first team in which none of the top 5 players in the team’s history are pitchers.  Which I find amazing, considering just how long the Pirates have been around.  But, not one of their HOF members were pitchers, and with just 2 Cy Young winners in 130+ seasons, I guess I can see how this happened.

STARGELL5. Willie Stargell (’62-’82) – Stargell was a consistently great player who always seemed to be just a notch behind the greatest of his era.  He only appeared in 7 All-Star games in 20+ seasons.  He led the league in doubles once, HR twice, RBI once, SLG once, and OPS twice.  He won an MVP in ’79, in spite of not leading the league in anything (other than perhaps heart).  This may have been the writers’ way of making up for the fact that he was absolutely robbed of an MVP in ’73, and certainly should have made it a closer race (if not win it all) in ’71.  But, in spite of a lack of recognition, and a lack of league-leading stats, Stargell helped lead the Pirates to two World Series titles in the ’70′s, and he was crowned World Series MVP in ’79.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988.  He ranks 3rd all-time on the Pirates’ career SLG list (.529), 8th in OPS (.889), 7th in hits (2232), 4th in doubles (423), 1st in HR (475), 1st in RBI (1540), 4th in OPS+ (147), and 4th in runs created (1531).

Ralph-Kiner14. Ralph Kiner (’46-’53) – a prolific slugger from the time he stepped onto the field as a rookie, it’s too bad Kiner’s career was cut short due to back injuries.  When he came into the league in ’46, he immediately led the NL with 23 home runs.  But, he also led the league with 109 K’s.  So, the Pirates convinced Hank Greenberg not to retire, and he worked with Kiner extensively over the offseason.  The next season, Kiner led the league again with 51 HR’s, and kept his strikeout total below 100 – and, he would never strikeout more than 90 times again the rest of his career.  Kiner led the league in HR’s each of the first seven seasons of his career.  In 1949, he became the first NL player to have two 50+ HR seasons in his career.  Unfortunately, the Pirates teams that Kiner played for weren’t very good, so he never finished higher than 4th in MVP voting (though, he certainly should have).  But, he did end up with 4 top-10 finishes, to go along with 6 All-Star games.  In addition to his HR prowess, he also led the league in runs once, RBI once, and OPS three times.  He was elected to the HOF in 1975.  In Pirates history, he ranks 8th in OBP (.405), 2nd in SLG (.567 – including 3 of the top 5 individual seasons), 2nd in OPS (also including 3 of the top 6 seasons), 2nd in HR (301 – including 5 of the top 7 seasons), 7th in RBI (801), 2nd in OPS+ (157), and 9th in runs created (900 – including the best single season in Pirates history – 156 in ’49 – and, everyone ahead of him has at least 1500 more PA’s).

clemente(2)3. Roberto Clemente (’55-’72) – Clemente is often remembered for a couple things that don’t really matter to this particular list (the way his career was cut “short” by a plane crash after the ’72 season, and the fact that he opened the door for Latin American players in the majors).  I’m more interested in his play on the field – and for that, I place him here on this list.  He won 4 batting titles (’61, ’64, ’65 & ’67), appeared in the All-Star game 12 years, and won an impressive 12 consecutive Gold Gloves in right field.  He won the MVP in ’66, though I can’t really figure out why – and, if he was going to win an MVP, his ’67 season would have made more sense.  Overall, Clemente was an excellent right fielder, who achieved an impressive hits milestone (3,000).  A deserving member of the Hall of Fame.  And, on the Pirates’ all-time lists, he ranks 3rd in runs scored (1416), 1st in hits (3,000), 3rd in HR (240), 3rd in RBI (1305), and 3rd in runs created (1558).  But, I get the impression from most who sing the praises of Clemente that he’s remembered as much for his off-the-field stuff as his performance on the field, which is why I nearly ranked him a spot even lower than this.  But, if Clemente is primarily revered for fielding and hits, then Kiner’s power alone isn’t enough to move him up.

imagesizer2. Barry Bonds (’86-’92) – seven years.  That’s all the time Bonds had in Pittsburgh.  But, they were seven amazing, pre-steroid, seasons.  And, Bonds didn’t really get it all put together until his 5th season – when he won his first MVP, joined the 30/30 club, appeared in his first All-Star game, and won his first Gold Glove.  At the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh, he had won 2 MVP’s – and, let’s be honest, was the victim of one of the most horrendous jobs of MVP voting in history in ’91 when he lost to Terry Pendleton, in spite of leading Pendleton in runs, HR, RBI, SB, OBP, and OPS.  So, he should have won the MVP each of his last three seasons with the Pirates.  In Pirates history, Bonds ranks 8th in SLG (.503), 10th in OPS (.883), 4th in HR (176), 7th in stolen bases (251), and 4th in OPS+ (147 – including the 2nd best single season in Pirates history, when his OPS+ was 204 in ’92).  The numbers alone don’t really even begin to tell the story of how amazing those last three seasons in Pittsburgh were.  I guess some would say the same of others on this list, but Bonds brought so much more to the table, it’s a shame he made so many bad decisions later in his career.

Honus_Wagner_19111. Honus Wagner (1900-1917) – one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game.  The only thing Wagner wasn’t doing on the field was hitting home runs (maxed out with 10 in ’08).  His stats page is covered with black ink (leading the league) – winning eight batting titles (second only to Ty Cobb in history), leading the league in runs twice, hits twice, doubles 7 times (ranks 9th in baseball history with 643), triples 3 times (ranks 3rd all-time with 252), RBI 5 times, stolen bases 5 times (10th in history with 723), OBP 4 times, SLG 6 times – in spite of his lack of HR prowess, and OPS 8 times.  For a guy who is often remembered more for his baseball card, than his baseball game, Wagner proves to be an oft-forgotten name among the absolute greatest of all time.  There’s a reason he was a part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class, and actually received as many votes as Babe Ruth!  So, choosing the top Pittsburgh Pirate of all time was actually rather easy.  Because Wagner ranks 4th all-time on their batting list (.328), 1st in runs (1521), 2nd in hits (2967), 2nd in doubles (551), 1st in triples (232), 2nd in RBI (1475), 2nd in stolen bases (639), 3rd in OPS+ (154), and 2nd in runs created (1654).

All-Time Greatest: Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia franchise is one of the oldest in all of baseball.  Established in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers, they have remained a part of the National League for 131 seasons.  The team was often referred to as the “Philadelphias” in their early years, and that was soon shortened to the “Phillies.”  The team adopted the nickname officially for the 1890 season.  Aside from being one of the oldest teams in all professional sports, the Phillies also have the dubious distinction of having lost more games than any other team in any professional sport (10,462).  Only 23 times in the history of baseball has a team finished the season with a win percentage at or below .300 – the Phillies have done it 6 times, including 5 times from 1938-1945!  No other team in baseball has played that poorly more than 3 times in their history.  They have finished in last place more than twice as many times as they have made it into the playoffs (31-14, respectively), and they own the modern Major League record for most consecutive losses – 23 in 1961.  The Phillies were also the last of the 16 teams that comprised the major leagues from 1901-1961 to win a World Series – something they didn’t accomplish until 1980.

But, in spite of their woeful history, there have been some bright spots for the Phillies.  World Series champions in 1980 and 2008.  Three consecutive division championships from ’76-’78.  And, 5 consecutive division championships from 2007-2011.  They’ve had 5 different players win 7 MVP awards, 4 different players win 7 Cy Young wards, and 4 Rookie of the Year winners.  They have retired 5 players’ jerseys, and there are 10 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who spent their primary careers with the Phillies.  I also find it intriguing that a team with so much turmoil, could have in their history 2 of the greatest to ever play their position (LHP & 3B).  Well, without further ado, here are, in my opinion, the 5 greatest Philadelphia Phillies of all time:

robin-roberts-hof-25. Robin Roberts (’48-’61) – elected to seven consecutive All-Star games, Roberts was the National League’s starting pitcher in five Mid-Summer Classics – tied for the most in the history of the game.  He was a workhorse the first half of his career – starting 37+ games seven consecutive years, leading the league in starts six of those years, and complete games five times.  In 1950, he became the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games in a season since 1917 (see #3 below).  He went on to 20-win seasons in 6 consecutive years from ’50-’55 – leading the league in wins every year from ’52-’55.  He also finished in the top-7 in MVP voting five times from ’50-’55.  After he was sold to the Yankees after the ’61 season, the Phillies announced that they would retire his jersey #36 in a ceremony prior to a Spring Training game between the two clubs.  Roberts’ jersey was the first one ever retired by the franchise.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.  On the Phillies’ all-time lists, among pitchers with at least 1000 IP, he ranks 2nd in wins (234), 7th in WHIP (1.17), 2nd in strikeouts (1871), 4th in K/BB ratio (2.61), and 10th in ERA+ (114).

ChuckKlein_display_image4. Ed Delahanty (1888-89; 1891-1901) – one of the best hitters of his era, Delahanty was the first major league player to bat over .400 in three different seasons.  To this day, he ranks 5th all-time with his career .346 batting average.  In 1896, he hit four home runs in a single game, becoming just the second player in baseball history to accomplish such a feat.  But, what makes his feat stand out, is that he is still the only one to ever do so by hitting four inside-the-park home runs.  During his years with the Phillies, Delahanty led the league in doubles 4 times, triples once, HR twice, RBI 3 times, stolen bases once, batting once, OBP once, SLG 4 times, and OPS 4 times.  He came within .012 batting points of winning the triple crown in 1893, and .013 of the same in 1896.  He ranks 2nd on the Phillies’ all-time batting list (.348), 5th in OBP (.414), 10th in SLG (.508), 5th in OPS (.922), 2nd in runs scored (1368), 3rd in hits (2214), 2nd in doubles (442 – surpassed just this past season by Jimmy Rollins), 1st in triples (158), 2nd in RBI (1288), 3rd in stolen bases (411 – also just passed this last year by Rollins), 3rd in OPS+ (153 – including 3 of the top 4 single seasons in Phillies history), and 2nd in runs created (1351).  Delahanty was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.  His career was cut short by one of the more mysterious deaths in baseball.  In the midst of the 1903 season (just one season after leading the league in batting), he was kicked off of a train for what the conductor described as drunk and disorderly behavior.  Delahanty then tried to walk across the International Bridge between Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, near Niagara Falls.  There are various theories and stories about how it happened, but Delahanty fell/dove/was pushed off the bridge, into the river, and swept over the falls.  A tragic end to a magnificent career.

Grover_Cleveland_Alexander3. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911-1917, 1930) – Old Pete Alexander may have spent more time with the Cubs organization, but his best years were unquestionably in Philadelphia.  His rookie season, he led the league in wins, shutouts, and innings pitched, finishing 3rd in MVP voting.  He would go on to lead the league in wins 4 more times (4 of the top 7 win totals in Phillies history), ERA 3 times (all 3 of which rank in the top 7 ERA’s in Phillies history), strikeouts 5 times, and WHIP twice (including the best season in Phillies history – 0.842 in 1915), in 7 full seasons with the Phillies (he only pitched in 9 games in 1930, at the age of 43 – his final season in the majors).  He won back-to-back-to-back pitching Triple Crowns in 1915, 1916 & 1917.  In 1915, Alexander was instrumental in leading the Phillies to their first ever pennant.  He ranks 3rd on the Phillies’ all-time ERA list among pitchers with at least 1000 IP (2.18), 3rd in wins (190), 1st in win pct. (.676), 3rd in WHIP (1.075), 6th in K’s (1409), 5th in K/BB ratio (2.51), 1st in shutouts (61), and 1st in ERA+ (140).  Alexander was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.  Had he spent more of his career with the Phillies, he likely would be even further up this list.  As it is, the 40% of his career he spent in Philadelphia was spectacular.

Steve Carlton 19802. Steve Carlton (’72-’86) – what a difficult decision it was to try and figure out how to rank the top 2 Phillies in history.  I don’t think I’ll get much argument from anyone regarding who the top 2 are – but, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone’s split 50/50 on how to rank them.  4 Cy Young awards (first to ever accomplish such a feat), two more top-5 finishes, five top-10 MVP finishes, 10 All-Star games, and one Gold Glove.  He won the pitching triple crown in 1972, his first year with the Phillies, which was an amazing feat, considering his 27 wins that season accounted for 46% of his team’s 59 wins that season – an all-time record.  He led the league in wins four times, and strikeouts five times – leading to his rank with the second most K’s all-time by a LHP, and the second most wins all-time by a LHP.  On the Phillies’ all-time lists, among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP, he ranks 10th in ERA (3.09), 1st in wins (241), 4th in win pct. (.600), 9th in WHIP (1.21), 5th in K/9 (7.38 – including 4 of the top 25 single seasons in Phillies history), 1st in K’s (3031 – including 4 of the top 6 single seasons in Phillies history), 8th in K/BB ratio (2.42), and 7th in ERA+ (120).  Carlton was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 on his first ballot.

20.mike-schmidt1. Mike Schmidt (’72-’89) – back-to-back MVP’s (’80 & ’81), plus a 3rd MVP at the age of 36; 5 more top-10 MVP finishes; 12 All-Star games; 9 consecutive Gold Gloves, and a 10th one also at the age of 36 – all at one of the most difficult positions on the field; 6 Silver Sluggers (an award they didn’t start giving out until 1980, when he was already 30 years old); 1980 NLCS & World Series MVP.  Okay, I think that might be just about all the awards he won.  As for other achievements, he also led the league in HR eight times, RBI four times, OBP three times, SLG five times, OPS five times, and OPS+ six times.  He is, in my opinion, the greatest all around third baseman of all time.  There’s a reason he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995 on his first ballot with what was then the 4th highest percentage ever (96.52% – which is still the 7th highest ever).  He ranks 5th all-time on the Phillies’ SLG list (.527), 6th in OPS (.908), 1st in runs scored (1506), 1st in hits (2234), 1st in total bases (4404), 1st in HR (548), 1st in RBI (1595), 6th in OPS+ (147 – including the best season in Phillies history, when his was 198 in ’81), and 1st in runs created (1757).  Schmidt’s #20 jersey was retired in 1990, the season immediately after he retired.

All-Time Greatest: Oakland Athletics

The Athletics franchise was one of the charter American League franchises in 1901.  They were founded in Philadelphia by Connie Mack, who was the owner and manager of the team for its first 50 years of existence.  They enjoyed reasonable success in Philadelphia for the first 30 years, but after two decades of decline, the team was moved to Kansas City in 1955.  Unfortunately, the new owner of the Athletics, Arnold Johnson, was more interested in making a profit than in fielding a quality team.  Under Johnson, there were also a number of extremely lopsided trades with the Yankees (whom he had a working relationship with prior to purchasing the A’s), where he would send young, talented players (most notably, Roger Maris), in exchange for aging veterans and cash.  Many accused Johnson of essentially functioning as a farm system at the major league level for the Yankees.  But, in 1960, Johnson suddenly died of a brain hemorrhage, and the majority ownership was purchased by Charles O. Finley.

Finley immediately began work on the public image of the Athletics – including purchasing an old bus, pointing it toward New York, and setting it on fire, symbolizing the end of their “special relationship” with the Yankees.  But, in spite of his antics, and his claims that he wanted to keep the team in Kansas City, he almost immediately began looking for a new home for the A’s.  In 1962, he had serious discussions to move the team to the Dallas area, though no formal proposal was ever set before the owners.  In 1964, Finley signed an agreement to move the team to Louisville, but was blocked by a 9-1 vote by the rest of the owners of the AL.  Six weeks later, he proposed a move to Oakland, but was again shot down.  In October of 1967, he was finally given permission to move the team to Oakland for the 1968 season.  During their 13 years in Kansas City, the Athletics endured some terrible seasons – never finishing with a winning record, and a combined 829-1224 record for an abysmal .404 win percentage.

If I were to ask you who the top three teams in the history of baseball were, in regards to World Series titles, I imagine most would guess the top 2 – Yankees & Cardinals.  But, I wonder how many would guess that third on that list isn’t the Dodgers, or the Giants, or the Red Sox – but the Athletics, who have 9 World Series titles in franchise history.  In Philadelphia, they appeared in 5 World Series from 1905-1914 (just 1 losing season that entire time), and won 3 titles (’10, ’11 & ’13).  They rose to the top of the AL again, winning 3 straight pennants from ’29-’31, and won the ’29 & ’30 World Series’.  After moving to Oakland, they made 5 straight playoff appearances from ’71-’75, and won 3 straight championships from ’72-’74.  They again won 3 consecutive AL pennants from ’88-’90, winning the World Series title in ’89.  Since 2000, they’ve made 7 playoff appearances, but have only once advanced beyond the ALDS – losing the ALCS in ’06.  Even with the amount of success they have had in Oakland, they continue to be largely unnoticed, even by their own fans – consistently finishing in the bottom 1/3 of the league in attendance.  This has prompted lengthy discussions over the last few years of a potential move to San Jose (the most recent of numerous discussions of moving the team, dating back to the ’70′s).

Their success over the years has prompted them to retire 5 players’ jersey numbers (all in Oakland).  They have fielded 12 different MVP winners, 5 different Cy Young winners, and 8 Rookie of the Year winners.  Five players in the Baseball Hall of Fame spent their primary careers in Oakland, and 8 HOFers spent their primary careers with the franchise while it was in Philadelphia.  So, in spite of their relative anonymity, this is a team that has a long and storied history.  Choosing the top 5 here was not a simple task, and you might be a little surprised at some names that are absent.

dennis-eckersley-1992lovero5. Dennis Eckersley (’87-’95) – Eckersley’s trade to Oakland before the ’87 season was the move that made his career.  He was 31, and struggling as a starting pitcher.  The move to the bullpen turned him into a Hall of Famer (elected in 2004 on his first ballot).  His 5-year stretch from ’88-’92 was prolific.  He appeared in 4 All-Star games, finished in the top 6 in Cy Young voting 4 times, led the league in saves twice, had a 1.90 ERA and 0.79 WHIP for the entirety of 5 seasons, and won the Cy Young and MVP in ’92.  In 1990, he became the only pitcher in MLB history to have more saves in a single season than baserunners allowed (48 saves, 41 hits, 4 walks, in 63 games).  His numbers tailed off significantly the remainder of his time in Oakland, which is why he isn’t further up this list.  But, he still ranks 9th in Athletics history in ERA (2.74), 1st in WHIP (0.95), 1st in K/9 (9.3), 1st in saves (320), 1st in K/BB ratio (7.15), and 3rd in ERA+ (145).

AlSimmons_display_image4. Al Simmons (’24-’32, ’40-’41, ’44) – a name I imagine very few are familiar with.  But, when you stack up Simmons’ numbers against the more well-known players in franchise history, he simply surpasses them time after time.  In 9 full seasons in Philadelphia (those last three were at the end of his career, in which he only played a total of 50 games), Simmons was one of the most consistent hitters in the AL.  He drove in 100+ RBI every year, including 150+ three times.  He eclipsed 200 hits five times.  His batting average during those years was .358, including back-to-back batting titles in ’30-’31.  He finished in the top 5 in MVP voting four times, and should have won it in ’25, when he finished just a few votes behind a vastly inferior batter who happened to play for a playoff team.  In addition to his two batting titles, Simmons also led the league in RBI once, and hits twice.  And, something he never led the league in (averaging just 45 per season) was strikeouts.  He was elected into the HOF in 1953.  On the A’s all-time lists, he ranks 1st in career batting average (.356), 9th in OBP (.398), 2nd in SLG (.584), 2nd in OPS (.983), 5th in runs scored (969), 2nd in hits (1827), 1st in total bases (2998), 7th in HR (209), 1st in RBI (1179), 5th in OPS+ (147), and 3rd in runs created (1191).

lefty_grove_283. Lefty Grove (’25-’33) – another name I’m not sure everyone will immediately recognize, but one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time.  Robert Moses Grove broke into the major leagues in 1925, and immediately began striking people out at an incredible rate.  He led the league in strikeouts his first seven seasons in the big leagues.  He went 10-12 that first season – which turned out to be the only losing season of his 17-year career!  During his time with the Athletics, Lefty led the league in wins 4 times, ERA 5 times, WHIP 3 times, and K/BB ratio 6 times.  In ’30 & ’31 he won back-to-back pitcher’s triple crowns (leading the league in wins, ERA & K’s), culminating in an MVP award in ’31.  He was an integral part of two World Series championship teams in ’29 & ’30, and was elected to the Baseball HOF in 1947.  On the A’s all-time lists, he ranks 10th in ERA (2.88), 2nd in wins (195), 1st in win pct. (.712), 4th in K’s (1523), and 1st in ERA+ (151).

rickeysteal2. Rickey Henderson (’79-’84, ’89-’93, ’94-’95, ’98) – the greatest base stealer of all-time was so much more than that.  He was also an on-base machine, with a career OBP of .401 (which includes some rough years after he turned 40!).  He was the all-time career leader in walks when he retired (which has since been passed by Bonds).  And, he’s the all-time career leader in runs scored.  He’s also the career leader in lead-off home runs (and by a wide margin over Alfonso Soriano, who’s in 2nd).  In his portions of 14 seasons with the Athletics, Rickey led the league in stolen bases 8 times, runs scored twice, walks 4 times, OBP once, and OPS once.  He appeared in 6 All-Star games, won a Gold Glove in ’81, finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 3 times, and won the MVP in ’90.  He was elected to the HOF on his first ballot in 2009, and his #24 jersey was retired by the A’s later that year.  He ranks 6th on the A’s all-time OBP list (.409), 1st in runs scored (1270 – no one else even has 1,000!), 3rd in hits (1768), 4th in total bases (2640), 1st in walks (1227), 1st in stolen bases (867), 8th in OPS+ (137), and 1st in runs created (1264).

JimmieFoxxAthletics1. Jimmie Foxx (’25-’35) – what does it say about Jimmie Foxx that he not only ranks in the top 5 for two different organizations on my list, but that he ranks in the top two for two different franchises (Boston)??  Foxx started playing for the Athletics when he was just 17 years old.  It took him a few years, but by the time he was 21, he had found his stride, with a .354/.463/.625/1.088 stat line, 33 HR and 118 RBI.  He went on to lead the league in runs once, HR 3 times, RBI twice, SLG 3 times, OPS 3 times, and when he led the league in batting in 1933, he won the Triple Crown, and his second consecutive MVP award.  He was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1951 on his first ballot.  On the A’s all-time lists, he ranks 2nd in batting (.339), 1st in OBP (.440), 1st in SLG (.640), 1st in OPS (1.079), 4th in runs scored (975), 7th in hits (1492), 3rd in total bases (2813), 2nd in HR (302), 2nd in RBI (1075), 1st in OPS+ (175!!), and 2nd in runs created (1229).

All-Time Greatest: New York Yankees

The Yankees franchise is one that actually started in Baltimore.  In 1901, when the American League played its first professional season, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the charter franchises.  The American League had originally tried to put a team in New York, but the National League’s Giants had enough political clout to prevent it.  Halfway through their second season in Baltimore, the Orioles’ manager (and part owner), John McGraw, began feuding with American League President, Ban Johnson.  McGraw secretly jumped to the Giants organization, and helped the Giants gain a controlling interest in the Orioles team.  So, the Giants began raiding the Orioles of their best players (which apparently didn’t help them too much, because they still finished in last place).  But, the American League stepped in to put a stop to it all, and in the offseason, a conference was held to try and come to a compromise.  Johnson petitioned for an American League team to be allowed to play in New York.  Of the 16 Major League presidents, only Giants president, John T. Bush, voted against the proposal.  So, the new Orioles owners found a site for their stadium (one that wasn’t blocked by the Giants), and moved their team to New York.

Hilltop Park was built in Manhattan, at one of the island’s highest points, between 165th & 168th streets.  The New York Highlanders played there for 10 seasons – taking their nickname both from their elevated location, and a connection between their president, Joseph Gordon, and the British military unit – The Gordon Highlanders.  In 1911, the Polo Grounds (home of the Giants) burned to the ground.  The Highlanders allowed the Giants to play home games at Hilltop Park, while reconstruction was taking place.  Relationships between the two teams warmed, and when the new Polo Grounds was completed, the Highlanders began playing their home games at the newer, larger stadium.  Except, now that they were playing on the banks of the Harlem River, the nickname Highlanders didn’t seem to apply.  As early as 1904, the New York Press had referred to the team as the Yankees (or Yanks), because it was easier to fit on headlines.  And, while many had referred to the team as such, they never adopted the nickname officially until the 1913 season, when they began play at the Polo Grounds, where they played until 1923.

By 1915, the Yankees owners were estranged and in need of money, so they decided it was time to sell the team.  One of the principal buyers was Colonel Jacob Ruppert.  Ruppert had inherited a brewery fortune, and he was ready to spend his money.  Ruppert paid large sums of money for players from the Red Sox and White Sox, in order to try and build a championship team (and you though only George Steinbrenner was willing to “buy a World Series”!).  And, it paid off.  After purchasing you-know-who after the 1919 season, the team’s attendance, and winning, skyrocketed.  Having just 2 winning seasons in the previous 9 years (from 1911-1919), they enjoyed immediate success with 5 consecutive winning seasons, and they appeared in 3 consecutive World Series from 1921-1923, winning their first championship in ’23.  The team moved into Yankee Stadium for the 1923 season – the first ever triple-decker stadium, which seated an unheard of 58,000 people.  It was appropriately nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built”, since it was Ruth’s prowess that drew in the fans and revenue that had allowed Ruppert to pay for such a large stadium.  And, from there, you likely know the rest of the story.

In trying to come up with a list of the top 5 Yankees of all time, I ran into a numbers problem.  27 – the number of championships the Yankees have won in the last 91 seasons (better than 1 every 4 years).  18 – Hall of Fame members who spent their primary careers in New York.  13 – players’ jerseys that have been retired by the Yankees.  For pretty much every other team in baseball, I think I can make a strong argument for my top-5.  You might disagree a little on the order, or you might have one guy that you believe was snubbed.  But, if you asked 10 people to come up with the top-5 Yankees of all time . . . you could have 10 very different looking lists.  So, I am going to give you my top 5, and fully expect you to disagree with every one of them.

dimaggiojoebio5. Joe DiMaggio (’36-’42, ’46-’51) – I have yet to face a more difficult decision in writing these posts, than trying to rank Mantle & DiMaggio.  The statistics where they both excelled are nearly identical.  Mantle possessed more raw power, and greater speed.  DiMaggio was a hits machine, and drove in runs at an incredible rate.  DiMaggio’s accumulated stats are often lower than Mantle’s, but that’s because he missed 3 prime years due to military service.  So, how do you compare two of the greatest centerfielders of all time?  I’m sure there will be many who disagree, but here was where I found enough of a difference to make a choice: Black Ink & OPS+.  If you aren’t familiar with the first term, it’s a reference to a player’s ability to lead the league in a particular category.  DiMaggio was great – but, he only led the league in runs once, triples once, HR twice, RBI twice, batting twice, and SLG twice.  He never won a triple crown, in spite of his 3 MVP’s (two of which very arguably belong to Ted Williams, but we won’t get into that).  And, then there’s OPS+ – this is a stat that compares how a player’s OPS compares to other players in the league, and is adjusted by the player’s ballpark.  While DiMaggio and Mantle have a nearly identical career OPS (.9771 & .9773, respectively), there’s nearly a 20-point difference between their career OPS+ scores.  It’s one of the few ways in which we can attempt to compare players from different eras.  So, DiMaggio and his unbreakable 56-game hitting streak, and his 13 All-Star games (never played a season that he wasn’t voted in!), and his ridiculously low average of just 28 K’s per season, rank fifth on my list of the greatest Yankees.  On the Yankees’ all-time lists, he ranks 3rd in batting (.325), 7th in OBP (.398), 3rd in SLG (.579), 4th in OPS (.9771), 5th in runs (1390), 6th in hits (2214), 5th in total bases (3948), 6th in doubles (389), 3rd in triples (131), 4th in HR (361), 3rd in RBI (1537), 4th in OPS+ (155), and 5th in runs created (1569).

Mickey Mantle (1961-09-03)4. Mickey Mantle (’51-’68) – Mantle also won 3 MVP’s, but only one of his could have arguably belonged to Ted Williams (who was 38 at the time!!), and he did win the Triple Crown in ’56.  And, he appeared in 16 All-Star games.  But, like I’ve already said, what really separates Mantle from DiMaggio is the Black Ink and OPS+.  Mantle led the league in runs 5 times, triples once, HR four times, RBI once, walks 5 times, batting once, OBP 3 times, SLG 4 times, and OPS 6 times.  And, when it comes to OPS+, Mantle really surges ahead of DiMaggio.  In my opinion, while Mantle and DiMaggio’s numbers are very similar, Mantle played in the more difficult era, when it comes to pitching.  The ’50′s and especially the ’60′s were rife with dominant pitchers.  Yet, in Mantle’s 3rd MVP season (1962), he possessed an incredible 1.091 OPS.  And, I believe the OPS+ statistic bears out this otherwise anecdotal claim:  Mantle’s 172 is 17 points (or about 11%) higher than DiMaggio’s.  Oh, and Mantle did all of this while being a switch-hitter! So, I give the slightest of edge to Mantle on this list.  Mantle also ranks 3rd on the Yankees’ all-time OBP list (.421), 4th in SLG (.557), 3rd in OPS (.9773), 4th in runs (1676), 4th in hits (2415), 4th in total bases (4511), 9th in doubles (344), 2nd in HR (536), 4th in RBI (1509), 10th in stolen bases (153), 3rd in OPS+ (172), and 3rd in runs created (2038).

rivera3. Mariano Rivera (’95-’13) – Don’t shoot!  I know just seeing Rivera this high on the list is probably going to make a lot of Yankees fans mad.  But, hear me out.  First of all, I don’t think closers get enough respect (which is born out by the fact that only 4 true closers are in the HOF – a travesty, especially considering who is and who isn’t).  Part of the reason is that there are too many Eric Gagnes out there, who had an amazing 3-year stretch where he averaged more than 50 saves per season, won a Cy Young . . . and then did basically nothing the rest of his career.  Then, there are the Ryan Dempsters of the world, who are decent starting pitchers (though, not great), who move to the closer roll out of a team need, and perform well there for a period of time, saving 25-30 games per season.  It almost gives us the impression that any halfway decent pitcher can be a closer – which is far from the truth.  Getting the last 3 outs of the game are often the most stressful 3 outs to be made - especially when you’re called into a situation in which a save can be awarded, because it doesn’t take much for your opponent to suddenly have the tying or winning run at the plate.  So, for a guy to be considered not only one of the best ever, but the greatest closer in the history of the game (not to mention the greatest closer the postseason has ever seen), he deserves some serious respect.  Of the 16 seasons he was the Yankees’ closer (his first two years, he was a set-up man, and in 2012, he missed nearly the entire year to an injury), he ranked in the top 4 in the league in saves 11 times (and ranked in the top 10, every time).  He also wasn’t one of those closers that makes you nervous by putting a couple guys on every time he went out.  He finished the season with a WHIP below 1.00, 9 times.  His career WHIP is 1.00!  And, in addition to possessing the all-time record for career saves (652), he also possesses the all-time record for career ERA+ (205 – which is a stat calculated for pitchers similar to the OPS+ stat for batters).  And, in the postseason, he was even more unhittable.  In the 32 postseason series in which he appeared, his ERA was 0.00 in 22 of them – resulting in a career 0.70 postseason ERA!  His career postseason WHIP is 0.76.  He was flat out incredible, which is why I have him ranked this high.  On the Yankees’ all-time pitching lists, among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP, he ranks 1st in ERA (2.21), 1st in WHIP (1.00), 2nd only to Clemens in K/9 (8.22), 1st in saves (652 – and 2nd place is over 400 behind!), 8th in K’s (1173 – and everyone else in the top 10 has at least 300 more IP), 1st in K/BB ratio (4.10), and 1st in ERA+ (205 – and 2nd place is nearly 30 points behind).

GehrigLou2. Lou Gehrig (’23-’39) – if there was no Ruth, what might people say about Gehrig?  Since their careers overlapped, Gehrig played second fiddle to Ruth for the majority of his career.  If there were no ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), what might his career have looked like?  Because if he could have played 4 or 5 more seasons, he most likely would have approached 600 HR.  He almost definitely would be the all-time RBI king (he ranks 5th all-time as it is!).  The Iron Horse didn’t just play every day.  He played excellent baseball.  He surpassed 200 hits 8 times in 13 full seasons.  He hit 30+ HR 10 times.  He drove in 150+ RBI’s seven times!  His career stat line is: .340/.447/.632/1.080 (a career OPS that actually ranks higher than even all the juicers – 3rd all time).  And, even while playing on the same team as Ruth, he won two MVP’s (including a Triple Crown year in ’34), finished runner-up twice, and in the top-5 another four times.  On the Yankees’ all-time lists, he pretty much ranks 2nd in everything (batting; OBP; SLG; OPS; runs – 1888; hits – 2721; total bases – 5060; OPS+ – 179; and runs created – 2233).  Though, he also ranks 1st in doubles (534), triples (163) and RBI (1992), and 3rd in HR (493).

Babe Ruth New York Yankees1. Babe Ruth (’20-’34) – there’s really almost nothing that I could ever say about Ruth that you haven’t already heard.  But, since I’m such a numbers guy, I’ll try to show you some numbers that you might not have known.  For the first 12 seasons Ruth was in New York, he led the league in HR, SLG and OPS 11 times (the only exception being the ’25 season, in which he only played 98 games due to an illness).  And, just so you know, he did the same the previous two seasons when he was in Boston – giving him 13 of 14 consecutive seasons.  When he retired after the 1935 season, he was the all-time leader in HR, RBI, walks, SLG and OPS.  To this day, he is still the all-time career leader in SLG, OPS and OPS+ (205).   His career stat line is .342/.474/.690/1.164.  Just to give you an idea of what that means – in the last 50 years, only Bonds (in obvious PED years), Larry Walker (playing in the thin air), McGwire (in ’98, which was another obvious PED year), Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell (both in the strike-shortened ’94 season), have had a single season with an OPS as high as Ruth’s career OPS.  On the Yankees’ all-time lists, he is the leader in batting, OBP, SLG, OPS, runs (1959), total bases (5131), HR (659), walks (1852), OPS+ (209), and runs created (2446).

All-Time Greatest: New York Mets

The New York Mets were one of baseball’s first expansion teams.  In 1957, both the Dodgers and Giants relocated to the west coast, leaving the largest city in America with no National League team.  In 1960, in an effort to prevent a third professional league from being created, the National League granted two expansion teams to New York and Houston, both of whom began play in 1962.  The Mets took their colors – blue and orange – from the previous National League teams in New York – the Dodgers & Giants, respectively.  And, while the Mets were able to hire the legendary Casey Stengel to be their first manager, it didn’t translate into wins on the field.  Their inaugural season ended with a 40-120 record, which is still the worst record in baseball since the season was expanded to 162 games (they had 2 that were canceled due to weather).  And, Stengel is quoted as saying, “The Mets have shown me more ways to lose than I ever knew existed.”

In time, though, the Mets have enjoyed some success – appearing in 4 World Series (’69, ’73, ’86 & 2000), and winning 2 (’69 & ’86 – tied with Toronto & Miami for the most by any expansion franchise).  They’ve also made 3 other postseason appearances in their 52-year history.  They’ve had 3 different pitchers win 5 Cy Young awards, and have 4 Rookie of the Year winners.  No one has ever won an MVP while with the Mets, though some have been very close.  They only have retired one of their players’ jerseys, who also happens to be the only player in the Hall of Fame to have played primarily with the Mets.  Here are the 5 greatest to play for this franchise:

piazza315. Mike Piazza (’98-’05) – I’m going to set the steroids questions aside on this one.  Primarily because most of the “evidence” is just hearsay, and you can’t draw any conclusions based on his power numbers (peaked between the ages of 28 & 31, and after the age of 33, his numbers began tailing off as you would expect of an aging player).  So, assuming Piazza is clean, he is one of the top 2 or 3 hitting catchers in the history of the game.  While with the Mets’ franchise, he appeared in 6 All-Star games, won 4 Silver Sluggers, and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2000 – helping the Mets to the World Series.  He never led the league in anything while in New York, but keep in mind how gaudy the league-leaders’ numbers were during that period.  And, as impressive as Piazza’s career was when comparing him historically with other catchers, he also put together some impressive all-around statistics with the Mets – where he spent about half of his career.  He ranks 4th on their all-time batting list (.296), 5th in OBP (.373), 1st in SLG (.542), 2nd in OPS (.915), 8th in hits (1028), 5th in total bases (1885), 3rd in HR (220), 3rd in RBI (655), 4th in OPS+ (136), and 4th in runs created (675).

1321695265-13918720844. Darryl Strawberry (’83-’90) – Strawberry burst onto the scene in ’83, hitting monstrous home runs at the age of 21.  He won Rookie of the Year that year, finishing with 26 HR, 74 RBI, 19 stolen bases, and an .848 OPS in just 122 games.  He went on to appear in 7 consecutive All-Star games while with the Mets.  In ’87, he became just the 10th member of the 30-30 club, hitting 39 HR, and stealing 36 bases.  In 1988, he led the league in HR (39), SLG (.545), and OPS (.911), leading the Mets to a division title, and a tight 7-game loss to eventual world champion Los Angeles in the NLCS.  He also finished 2nd in MVP voting that year, in a tight race between him and the Dodgers’ Gibson.  But, it was his off the field antics and poor choices that led to him being allowed to sign with the Dodgers after the 1990 season (when he was still just 28 years old!), rather than extending a potential HOF career in New York.  Even with a fairly short and tumultuous tenure in New York, he still ranks 2nd all-time on the Mets’ career SLG list (.520), as well as 4th in OPS (.878), 3rd in runs scored (662), 3rd in total bases (2028), 1st in HR (252), 2nd in RBI (733), 4th in stolen bases (191), 1st in OPS+ (145 – including 3 of the top 6 OPS+ seasons in Mets history), and 2nd in runs created (759).

David Wright3. David Wright (’04-present) – I may be wrong, but it seems like I hear more people that are disappointed in David Wright’s production than they are impressed by it.  Maybe it’s because he hit 27 HR at the age of 22, and didn’t progress much beyond that with his power.  I don’t know, but for 6 years (before he started having some injury issues) Wright was stellar.  From ’05-’10, his average season consisted of a .306 avg., 25+ HR, 100+ RBI, 20+ stolen bases, and a .902 OPS, while winning multiple Gold Gloves at 3B, and appearing in 5 All-Star games.  Oh, and he also had 3 top-10 MVP finishes.  Perhaps some were looking more for him to become the 35-40 HR guy, but that’s just not his game.  He has a high SLG year in and year out, but that’s because on top of the 25+ HR, he’s also going to give you around 40 doubles, and a few triples.  He’s a high-average, gap-to-gap hitter with good (albeit not great) power, good speed, and a great glove – I wish more people would recognize just how valuable that combination is – especially at the hot corner.  Thanks to his recent contract extension, it appears he’ll be in New York for a long time. And if he can stay healthy, then he could move on up this list.  As of today, he ranks 2nd on the Mets’ all-time batting list (.301), 4th in OBP (.382), 3rd in SLG (.506), 3rd in OPS (.888), 1st in runs scored (853), 1st in hits (1558), 1st in total bases (2619), 1st in doubles (345), 2nd in HR (222), 1st in RBI (876), 5th in stolen bases (183), 3rd in OPS+ (137), and 1st in runs created (1025).

dwight-gooden22. Dwight Gooden (’84-’94) – Gooden’s first three seasons in the majors were absolutely incredible.  His average season was a 19-6 record, with a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 248 K’s.  He led the league in K’s his first two seasons in the league.  He won Rookie of the Year in ’84 (and finished 2nd in Cy Young voting), and followed that up with a Cy Young award win in ’85, when he led the league in wins (24), ERA (1.53), K’s (268), and ERA+ (229 – the 8th best single-season ERA+ in the history of baseball at the time).  His ’86 season wasn’t quite as good, but he was an All-Star for the 3rd straight time, finished 7th in Cy Young voting, and he helped the Mets to a World Series championship.  Then, the wheels began to come off.  A cocaine suspension in ’87 limited him to just 25 starts – but, he still went 15-7, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting. In ’89, Gooden suffered a shoulder injury, which shortened his season significantly.  He rebounded in ’90, and finished 4th in Cy Young voting, but suffered another injury in ’91.  His career declined rapidly from that point, and he tested positive for cocaine twice in ’94.  Gooden was brilliant for a short period of time.  It makes you wonder what might have happened if perhaps he had remained drug & injury free.  Even with all of the struggles, Gooden ranks 4th in career ERA among Mets pitchers with at least 1,000 IP (3.10), 2nd in wins (157), 1st in win pct. (.649), 3rd in WHIP (1.17), 3rd in K/9 (7.78), 2nd in K’s (1875), 2nd in K/BB ratio (2.88), and 3rd in ERA+ (116).

tom-seaver.p11. Tom Seaver (’67-’77, ’83) – “Tom Terrific” is one of the all-time great pitchers in the history of baseball.  His first 10 seasons with the Mets were . . . well, terrific.  Rookie of the Year in ’67, Cy Young winner in ’69, ’73 and ’75 (and runner-up in ’71), MVP runner-up in ’69 to McCovey in one of the tightest MVP races in history (both received 11 1st-place votes), 9-time All-Star, led the league in wins twice, ERA three times, WHIP three times, K’s five times, K/9 six times, and K/BB ratio three times.  He also led the Mets to two NL pennants, and a World Series title in ’69.  It’s unfortunate that Mets ownership was as stubborn as they were when it came to negotiating with Seaver on his contract.  It got so bad that Seaver gave up trying to work with them, and insisted on a trade in the midst of the ’77 season.  When Seaver was elected to the Hall of Fame in ’92 (as the only player to have played primarily for the Mets), he received the highest vote percentage in the history of the HOF (98.84%), appearing on 425 of 430 ballots.  Of the 5 who didn’t vote for him, three were ballots that were turned in blank by writers protesting the Hall’s decision to make Pete Rose ineligible, one was cast by a writer recovering from heart surgery who said he didn’t notice Seaver’s name, and the other was cast by a writer who declared that he never voted for anyone on their first ballot.  Seaver is the all-time leader in Mets history in ERA (2.57), wins (198), WHIP (1.076), K’s (2541), CG’s (171), SHO (44), K/BB ratio among those with at least 1,000 IP (3.00), and ERA+ (136).

All-Time Greatest: Minnesota Twins

The franchise currently known as the Minnesota Twins has gone through a couple facelifts in its time.  They were originally founded in 1894, as the Kansas City Blues, and were a part of the Western League (a minor league).  In 1901, they moved to Washington, and became one of the original eight teams to comprise the, now professional, American League.  They were the Washington Senators, and for 60 seasons, they played in the nation’s capitol.  And, over those six decades of play, they managed to make it to the postseason all of 3 times.  In fact, they finished in last or next-to-last place more times (24) than they even finished with a winning record (18).  Then, in 1960, MLB granted Minnesota an expansion team.  But, Calvin Griffith, the owner of the Senators, convinced the league to allow him to move his team to Minnesota, and grant the expansion franchise to Washington (which only lasted 11 seasons before they moved, and became the Texas Rangers).  So, from 1961 to present day, we have the Minnesota Twins franchise, named after the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  And, in their 53 seasons in Minnesota, they’ve enjoyed significantly more success – 11 postseason appearances, including 3 World Series appearances, and 2 championships.

In spite of limited success in Washington, they did have some excellent players to come through (as you’ll see below).  In the history of the franchise, 7 different players have won 8 MVP awards.  They’ve also seen 3 players win 4 Cy Young awards, and have had 7 Rookie of the Year winners.  They have retired 6 players’ jerseys (all of them in Minnesota), and currently have 8 Hall of Famers whose primary careers were spent with the franchise (4 Senators & 4 Twins).  So, you know someone is going to be left off this list that was a great player.

johan5. Johan Santana (2000-2007) – yes, I know that there are some great pitchers that have been left off of this list in favor of Santana.  Yes, I know that they may have reached more lofty career numbers than Santana has reached.  But, in his time with this franchise, Santana had an amazing run.  Consider for a moment that the first 4 years of his career with the Twins, he was primarily used out of the bullpen.  From 2000-2003, he appeared in 117 games, but only started 41.  And, once you take out his rookie season (6.49 ERA), he performed well out of the bullpen.  But, no one would have thought that when they moved him into the starting rotation for the 2004 season that he would have a stretch of years like he did from ’04-’07.  Two Cy Young awards, two more top-5 finishes, led the league in WHIP every year, led the league in strikeouts 3 times, ERA+ 3 times, ERA twice, K/9 three times, wins once, appeared in 3 All-Star games, and won a Gold Glove.  Compare all of that to the best 4 years of Blyleven or Kaat’s careers (and that’s any 4 years, not just 4 consecutive years), and you’ll see why Santana is on this list, and they aren’t.   Santana ranks at the top of the Twins’ all-time win pct. list (.679), 2nd in career WHIP among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP (1.09), 1st in K/9 (9.5), 6th in K’s (1381 – everyone else in the top-10 has at least 400 more IP than him, and all 4 of his seasons as a starter rank in the top 9 all-time for single-season strikeout totals in franchise history!), 1st in K/BB ratio (3.79 – all 4 of his seasons as a starter rank in the top 13 in franchise history), and 2nd in ERA+ (141 – second only to . . . well, you’ll see).

dyYcFhRx4. Kirby Puckett (’84-’95) – Puckett is my personal favorite Minnesota Twin.  I never got to see the rest of this list play, but Puckett was the kind of player you simply enjoyed watching.  He loved playing baseball, and you could tell.  Which made his sudden retirement at the age of 36, due to loss of vision in his eye, an especially sad day.  Puckett was the 4th player since the turn of the 20th century to record 1,000 hits in his first 5 seasons, and just the 2nd to accumulate 2,000 hits in his first 10 calendar years (he was called up from the minors in mid-May, his rookie season).  It felt like he could do nearly anything on the diamond.  He hit 20+ HR six times, drove in 90+ RBI six times, stole double-digit bases seven times, won 6 Gold Gloves in center field, won the batting title in ’89, led the league in hits 4 times, and appeared in 10 consecutive All-Star games.  He never won an MVP, but had one runner-up (’92), and finished in the top-7 five more times.  And, who could ever forget his game 6 performance in the ’91 World Series?  A triple in the 1st to drive in the first run of the game; a leaping catch against the plexiglass in center field in the 3rd inning to rob Ron Gant of extra bases; and the dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Twins the victory, sending the Series to a deciding game 7.  Puckett ranks 6th on the Twins all-time batting list (.318 – the highest career average for a right-hander since DiMaggio), 10th in career SLG (.477), 4th in runs scored (1071), 2nd in hits (2304), 3rd in total bases (3453 – and the two ahead of him have at least 2,000 more PA’s than Puckett), 3rd in doubles (414), 6th in HR (207), 3rd in RBI (1085), and 4th in runs created (1201).

7195g_lg3. Rod Carew (’67-’78) – .334 – over the span of 12 seasons in Minnesota, Carew bat .334.  Think about that.  He hit below .300 just twice in those 12 seasons – his first two years in the league, which includes his ROY campaign in ’67 when he hit .292.  He reached as high as .388 in 1977, when he led the league in batting, OBP, OPS, runs, triples and hits (239 – the most hits by anyone in the previous 45 years), leading to an MVP award.  Carew finished his career with a .328 average – 34th all-time, and ahead of the likes of Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, and Joe DiMaggio.  While in Minnesota, he won 7 batting titles, including 6 out of 7 from ’72-’78 (and came within .008 – or, 5 hits – of winning all seven).  He also appeared in the All-Star game all 12 seasons he was with the Twins.  In addition to ranking at the top of the Twins’ all-time list in batting, he also ranks 2nd in OBP (.393), 10th in OPS (.841), 9th in runs scored (950), 5th in hits (2085), 8th in total bases (2792), 7th in doubles (305), 5th in stolen bases (271), 3rd in OPS+ (137), and 5th in runs created (1112).

harmon-killebrew-photo2. Harmon Killebrew (’54-’74) – as I continue to do these team-by-team lists, I’m constantly reminded of the unsung heroes of the game.  Now, Killebrew is a name that I know a lot of people already know.  But, I wonder how often we consider just how powerful of a hitter he was.  The bulk of his career was played during one of the most pitching-dominant eras in the last century (the ’60′s).  Yet, during that decade, Killebrew hit 393 of his 573 career homers – that’s more than anyone else in the decade!  More than Mays or Aaron or Robinson or Banks.  What impresses me even more is that during that decade, the only time he didn’t hit at least 39 HR’s, was in ’60, ’65 & ’68 – seasons in which he missed a month or more due to injuries.  Injuries were a major factor in Killebrew’s career.  It was his injured quad that led to the Twins moving him from 3B to LF in 1962.  It was knee surgery that led to him being moved from LF to 1B in 1964.  But, this also led to another impressive feat: when elected to the All-Star game in 1965 at first base (one of 11 in which he appeared), he became the first player ever elected to play in the All-Star game at three different positions (3B, LF & 1B).  Imagine, though, just how astounding his numbers might be, had he not been haggled so much by injury.  You see, he wasn’t an everyday player until 1959 with the then-Washington franchise (playing in just 113 games his first 5 seasons), and the final 3 seasons of his career were far from injury free (averaging less than 100 games per season).  So, when you box out those first 5 seasons, and those last 3, you really get a staggering picture – 14 seasons, 530 HR, 1424 RBI, .917 OPS.  And, even that includes 3 seasons shortened by injuries.  If he’d been able to play 16-18 healthy seasons, he might have ended up with Mays-like numbers.  As it is, he ranks 1st on the Twins’ all-time SLG list (.514), 1st in OPS (.892), 2nd in runs scored (1258), 6th in hits (2024), 1st in total bases (4026), 1st in HR (559 – 573 in his career ranks 7th all-time among non-PED users), 1st in RBI (1540), 1st in OPS+ (145), and 1st in runs created (1567).

walter-johnson.ap1. Walter Johnson (’07-’27) – part of the inaugural HOF class in 1936, and considered by many to be the greatest pitcher in the history of the game.  It’s difficult to put into words exactly how dominant Johnson was.  So, I’ll show you the numbers.  Over the span of 21 seasons, he won 60% of the games he started, leading to 417 wins (2nd only to Cy Young in the history of the game).  His career ERA is 2.17 – 12th all-time, but no one ahead of him comes within 4 years or 1,000 IP of his tenure.  And, of the 25 best single-season ERA’s in history, you’ll find Johnson’s name 4 times – more than anyone.  His career WHIP is 1.06 – 8th all-time, and again, no one within 1,000 IP.  He struck out 3,508 batters – the record for more than 50 years (and still 9th all-time).  In fact, no one else even eclipsed 3,000 K’s until 1974.  He still holds the career record for shutouts, with 110.  Think of it this way: Johnson has more shutouts than Zack Greinke has wins thus far in his 10-year career.  He won 2 MVP awards – one in 1913, at the age of 25, and one in 1924, at the age of 36!  He led the league in wins 6 times, ERA 5 times, K’s 12 times (most in the history of baseball), ERA+ 6 times, WHIP 6 times, and K/BB ratio 9 times (something no one else in the top-10 in career strikeouts accomplished more than 4 times).  He is the all-time leader in the Washington/Minnesota franchise’s history in ERA, wins, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, and ERA+ (147).