All-Time Greatest: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays were an expansion team in 1977, and were the fastest American League expansion team to win a championship – winning the world series in their 16th season (1992).  They also had their first winning season in just their 7th year, and won their first division title in their 9th year – in which they lost a heart-breaking 7-game ALCS to the Royals, after being up 3 games to 1.  They would go on to win division titles again in ’89, ’91, ’92 & ’93.  In fact, from ’83-’93, they never had a losing record.  But, since that time, the Blue Jays have fallen on hard times.  They have only once finished above 3rd place in the division (despite 9 winning seasons), and haven’t made the playoffs in the 21 seasons since their championship in ’93 – which is the longest active streak in baseball.

Despite their lack of success of late, the Blue Jays have had their fair share of award winners – one MVP, 4 Cy Young awards (including three consecutive from ’96-’98), and 2 Rookies of the Year.  There is one Hall of Fame member wearing a Blue Jays cap on his plaque – and, he will likely continue to be the only one for the foreseeable future.  Since the franchise has only existed during the period since free agency began in 1975, it will be difficult to find players who spent a great deal of time in Toronto.  But, here are my top 5, all-time:

Honorable Mention:  Joe Carter – if for no other reason, just for hitting that home run to win the World Series in ’93.  Carter doesn’t rank very high on many offensive stat lists, because he was on the downslope of his career while with the Blue Jays.  But, that home run will forever be a part of baseball lore in Toronto.


5. Jose Bautista (’08-present) – In his six full seasons in Toronto, Bautista has been a 5-time All-Star.  He has finished in the top 6 in MVP voting three times, has led the league in HR twice, walks once, SLG once, and OPS once.  Since 2010, he has averaged 37 HR (including a season in which he played less than 100 games), 94 RBI, and a .952 OPS.  If he had found that stroke a little earlier in his career, we might be talking about one of the great hitters in baseball.  But, he’s already 34, and we’ve seen some decline since his age-30 season.  He still ranks fairly high on a number of Toronto’s all-time lists, and will likely continue to climb (as he’s signed through 2015, with a very reasonable team option for 2016): 5th in OBP (.385), 2nd in SLG (.538 – including 2 of the top 3 seasons in Toronto history), 2nd in OPS (.923), 3rd in HR (203 – will easily jump into 2nd this coming season), 9th in RBI (518), and 2nd in OPS+ (149 – which includes two of the Blue Jays’ top 5 seasons).

stieb4. Dave Stieb (’79-’92, ’98) – Stieb is one of the few players to have spent nearly his entire career with Toronto.  Only one season was spent with any other team (’93 with the White Sox – he was out of baseball from ’94-’97).  Because of his long tenure, he has easily pitched more innings than anyone else in a Blue Jays uniform.  So, he naturally has the lead in complete games (103), and shutouts (30).  But, because he actually pitched well during his tenure in Toronto, he’s also their all-time leader in wins (175) and strikeouts (1,658).  Stieb was a 7-time All-Star, winning 15+ games six times, leading the league in ERA once, IP twice, and ERA+ twice.  He also finished in the top 7 in Cy Young voting four times, reaching as high as 4th in 1982.   In addition to the previously mentioned stats, among pitchers to have pitched at least 500 innings in Toronto, he ranks 3rd on the Blue Jays’ all-time list in ERA (3.42), 7th in win pct. (.566), 7th in WHIP (1.24), and 5th in ERA+ (123).

3. Carlos Delgado (’93-’04) – Delgado is the offensive side’s version of Dave Stieb.  He spent the majority of his career in Toronto, so it should come as no surprise that he has more plate appearances than anyone else in Blue Jays history.  So, it makes sense that he leads all Blue Jays in runs scored (889), and total bases (2,786).  But, during his prime (’98-’04 – at ages 26-32), Delgado was an offensive force.  He averaged 38 HR, 120 RBI, and a .292/.408/.579/.987 stat line.  During that time, he was a two-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner, finished 4th in MVP voting in 2000, and was runner-up in 2003 – when he led the league in RBI and OPS.  He probably would have received more recognition, had he been playing somewhere besides Toronto – after his rookie season, when they won the World Series, they never finished above 3rd place in the division.  But, as it is, Delgado leads all Blue Jays in career SLG (.556), OPS (.949), doubles (343), HR (336), RBI (1,058), and walks (827).  And, he ranks 2nd in OBP (.392), and 3rd in OPS+ (142).

alomar2. Roberto Alomar (’91-’95) – You won’t find Alomar’s name ranked very high on many all-time Blue Jays stat lists.  In part because he was a good-not-great offensive player (.300 career average, leading to 2,724 hits), and he was only in Toronto for 5 years.  Oddly enough, that was the longest tenure he had in any one place, which is why his Hall of Fame plaque pictures him wearing a Blue Jays cap (inducted in 2011).  While his tenure was short, it was far from uneventful.  He was an All-Star every year in Toronto.  He won the Gold Glove at second base every season in Toronto.  He averaged 41 stolen bases per season in Toronto.  He won the ALCS MVP in ’92, batting .423 with a 1.157 OPS.  He never led the league in any offensive stats, but was respected enough to finish 6th in MVP voting three straight years (’91-’93).  Despite his short tenure, he does rank 2nd on the Blue Jays’ all-time batting list (.307), 6th in OBP (.382), 9th in OPS (.823), and 2nd in stolen bases (203).

1. Roy Halladay (’98-’09) – I’m betting that some of you reading this didn’t know Halladay spent 12 seasons in Toronto.  His first four seasons were spent either as a reliever, or as a spot-starter.  He also split his time between AAA and the majors for much of that time.  So, his first season as a full-fledged starter wasn’t until 2002 – when he appeared in his first All-Star game, led the league in IP, and went 19-7 with a 2.93 ERA, and 1.19 WHIP.  From ’02-’09 his average season was a 16-7 record with a 3.13 ERA and 1.13 WHIP – and that includes him missing a portion of ’04 & ’05 with injury.  Doc Halladay was a 6-time All-Star, won the Cy Young in ’03, and finished in the top-5 four more times (’06-’09).  He led the league in wins once, win pct. once, CG’s 5 times, SHO 3 times, WHIP once, and K/BB ratio 3 times.  One of the keys to Halladay’s success was the fact that he simply did not walk batters.  After becoming a full-time starter in ’02, he only surpassed 40 walks in a season once.  He holds the Blue Jays’ record for the best BB/9 average in a season – 1.083 in 2003.  He also has 5 of the top 9 seasons in BB/9 in Toronto’s history.  Among pitchers with at least 500 IP in Toronto, Halladay ranks 5th in ERA (3.43), 2nd in wins (148), 1st in win pct. (.661), 3rd in WHIP (1.20), 2nd in BB/9 (2.00), 2nd in K’s (1,495 – just 163 behind Stieb, in spite of pitching over 800 fewer innings), 2nd in K/BB ratio (3.29 – including the best – and 4 of the 5 best – seasons in Blue Jays history), and 2nd in ERA+ (133).hallady

All-Time Greatest: Texas Rangers

Texas_RangersThe Texas Rangers franchise traces its roots to the Washington Senators.  But, wait, you say – weren’t the Minnesota Twins originally the Washington Senators?  And, the answer is, Yes!  When the Senators moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season, there was a great deal of displeasure among Washington fans – which included some powerful names in government.  In order to avoid losing their antitrust exemption, major league baseball decided to move forward with expansion a year earlier than originally planned.  And, two cities were awarded expansion franchises – Los Angeles (the Angels), and Washington.

The expansion Senators were not good.  They finished with the worst or 2nd worst record in the entire American League 7 of their 11 seasons in Washington.  They only achieved one winning season in Washington (with Ted Williams as their manager).  Their ownership never seemed to be able to stabilize their situation – going through two different ownership groups in their first decade of existence.  Finally, owner Bob Short was able to get approval to move the team to Arlington, TX.  Despite how lousy the team had been for so long, Senators fans were still livid.  At their final game in Washington, over 10,000 fans just walked into the stadium without paying – as security had already left.  And, with two outs in the 9th, fans began running onto the field to take souvenirs – including first base.  With no security, and first base missing, the umpires decided the game would be forfeited to the Yankees.

After moving to Texas, and changing the name to the Texas Rangers, it didn’t take long for the franchise to turn things around.  They had their first winning season in 1977, which was followed by winning records in 5 of their next 6 seasons.  However, the playoffs remained elusive until 1996, when they won their first of five division titles.  They would go on to lose the ALDS in 3 of 4 seasons (’96, ’98, ’99).  They later reached the playoffs in three consecutive years from 2010-2012 – which included two American League pennants (though, they would lose both World Series).  Five different players have won six MVP awards while with the Rangers franchise, and they have had two Rookies of the Year.  And, one player has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Ranger.  Here are the top 5 players in Rangers history, based on their play while in Texas:

6a00e54f7fc4c58833017d41b2860a970c5. Nolan Ryan (’89-’93) – Long-tenured Rangers are hard to come by.  Especially when you look at the pitchers in their franchise history.  Only three pitchers in the franchise have even totaled 100 wins.  So, as the only Hall of Fame member wearing a Texas Rangers hat on his plaque, I’ll place Ryan here.  While he only spent five seasons with Texas, he was still able to lead the league in strikeouts twice (at the ages of 42 & 43!), WHIP twice, and K/9 three times (though, he may be remembered more for a fight with Robin Ventura than any of that).  He appeared in the All-Star game once, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting that same season (’89).  He also pitched his sixth and seventh no-hitters while in Texas.  On the Rangers’ all-time lists, he ranks 5th in ERA (3.43), 8th in win pct. (.567), 1st in WHIP (1.13), 2nd in K/9 (10.06), 4th in K’s (939 – and everyone ahead of him pitched over 1,000 more innings in Texas), 5th in K/BB ratio (2.66), and 4th in ERA+ (116).

4. Josh Hamilton (’08-’12) – Hamilton may not have been in Texas very long, but he had a major impact while there.  He was an All-Star all 5 seasons he was in Texas, compiled a stat line of .305/.363/.549, led the league in RBI once, and total bases once.  In 2010, he won a batting title, led the league in OPS, and won the AL MVP.  That was also the first of consecutive years he helped lead the Rangers to the World Series – and he won the 2010 ALCS MVP along the way.  Hamilton ranks 5th in Rangers history in batting, 3rd in SLG, 2nd in OPS (.912), and 4th in OPS+ (137).

7233105360_1370812c19_o3. Frank Howard (’65-’71) – Howard had a run from 1967-1970 that, if he had sustained it through more of his career, would have made him a shoe-in for the HOF.  In those 4 seasons, he averaged 43 HR, 108 RBI, and a .923 OPS.  He led the league in HR twice, RBI once, walks once, SLG once, and total bases twice.  While with the then-Senators franchise, Howard appeared in 4 All-Star games, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 3 times.  He ranks 8th on the Rangers’ all-time OBP list (.367), 7th in SLG (.503), 8th in OPS (.870), 6th in total bases (2,074), 3rd in HR (246), 6th in RBI (701), and 2nd in OPS+ (153 – 2nd only to the highly questionable stats put up by A-Rod).

2. Juan Gonzalez (’89-’99, ’02-’03) – the only Ranger with multiple MVP awards (’96 & ’98), Gonzalez spent nearly his entire career in Texas.  He led the league in HR twice, doubles once, SLG once, and RBI once.  Somehow, he finished in the top-10 in MVP voting more often than he was elected to the All-Star game (4 times to 2, respectively).  He also won 5 Silver Sluggers.  In 1996, he had one of the most impressive playoff series performances in history (in spite of a 4-game loss to the Yankees).  He hit 5 HR, drove in 9, and compiled a .438/.526/1.375 stat line, for a ridiculous 1.901 OPS!  He is the Rangers’ all-time leader in HR (372) and RBI (1,180).  He also ranks 2nd in SLG (.565), 3rd in OPS (.907), 4th in hits (1,595), 2nd in total bases (3,073), and 6th in OPS+ (133).

RodriguesSmiling1. Ivan Rodriguez (’91-’02, ’09) – Rodriguez should be on everyone’s top-3 list of catchers all time (only Bench & Berra can match him).  He appeared in 10 consecutive All-Star games from ’92-’01, during which time he also won an amazing 10 consecutive Gold Gloves.  He is the all time leader in putouts at catcher – having more than 2,000 more than anyone else in baseball history.  He also won the MVP while in Texas in 1999.  While he never led the league in any significant offensive stat, Rodriguez was a very good hitting catcher.  On the Rangers’ all-time lists, he ranks 8th in batting (.304), 9th in SLG (.488), 10th in OPS (.828), 2nd in hits (1,747), 2nd in doubles (352), 4th in HR (217), and 4th in RBI (842).

All-Time Greatest: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were an expansion team in 1998 (Devil Rays at the time – new ownership dropped the “Devil” part before the 2008 season).  In 1995, expansion teams were awarded to the Tampa Bay area, and to Phoenix.  Oddly enough, by the time the Rays began play, their stadium was already in need of upgrades.  This was due to the fact that the stadium had been built in 1990, when the city had hopes of luring a team to Florida.  The San Francisco Giants nearly moved there after the 1992 season, but the sale of the team was halted by an 11th hour vote by MLB owners, who were hearing a great deal of outcry from San Francisco representatives.  So, the Giants were sold to a group that kept them in San Fran (kinda makes you wonder what 3 of the last 5 World Series’ would have looked like, huh?).  This is part of the reason that the Rays, one of the newest franchises in baseball, is already looking for a new stadium, and is considering a move across the bay into Tampa (they currently are in St. Petersburg).

Historically, the Rays have had little success.  Their first 10 seasons saw them finish in last place 9 times, and even when they didn’t happen to finish in last, they were still 21 games below .500 (though, it was their first season to break the 70-win plateau).  Then came the 2008 season.  While they were all very young, manager Joe Maddon led the talented team to its first winning season.  Not only did they finish with a winning record, but they actually won the AL East division, and went on to win the AL pennant, before losing the World Series to the Phillies.  Since that time, the Rays have reached the postseason 3 of the last 6 seasons (twice as a Wild Card, and once more as the AL East champions).  However, they have failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

With a team so young, it should come as no surprise that they have very few award winners.  No MVP winners as of yet, but they have had a Cy Young winner, and three Rookies of the Year.  It also comes as no surprise, given their limited success, that there are no Hall of Fame members that spent the majority of their careers with Tampa Bay – though, a couple have suggested they would like to wear the TB hat on their plaque (Boggs & Dawson), which never came to fruition.  With all of that being said, “all-time greatest” is probably going to seem like an odd list, because so many of their successful players are still playing.  But, here goes…

Shields-strong-outing-snaps-Rays-skid-R21AKIMJ-x-large5. James Shields (’06-’12) – I never did understand the nickname “Big Game James,” because his postseason ERA in Tampa was 5.97, outside of one 5.2 inning shutout in the ’08 World Series.  Maybe I just missed something.  Be that as it may, Shields did lead the league in complete games & shutouts in 2011, and finished 3rd in Cy Young voting.  That was also his lone All-Star game appearance.  He has won more games (87) and struck out more batters (1,250) than any other pitcher in Rays history.  Though, one would have to also recognize that a portion of the reason for that is that he has pitched over 300 more innings than any other pitcher in Rays history – which is why he is ranked this low.  But, he also ranks 2nd all-time among Rays pitchers in WHIP (1.22), 4th in ERA (3.89), and 1st in K/BB ratio (3.68).

4. Ben Zobrist (’06-present) – This might be a name you weren’t expecting.  You might expect to see Carlos Pena or Matt Garza here.  But, when you really start to look at where Zobrist ranks on a number of franchise lists, I think it’s hard to keep him off this list.  He is easily the most versatile player the franchise has ever seen.  He has played over 200 games at SS, 2B, and RF.  He has also started at least one game at every other position on the field, and has played DH in several games.  He hasn’t ever led the league in anything, but has been consistently around a 20 HR/20 SB kind of player.  He has also made 2 All-Star game appearances.  He leads all Rays batters in doubles (229), and is 3rd all-time in OBP (.354), 5th in OPS (.783), 2nd in hits (1,016), 5th in HR (116), 3rd in RBI (511), 3rd in stolen bases (102), and 5th in OPS+ (117).

a4s_spshelton061411_179310a_8col3. Carl Crawford (’02-’10) – Before he signed for big money in Boston, Carl Crawford was a staple for the Rays franchise in LF.  Crawford led the league in stolen bases 4 of his first 5 full seasons in the majors, and he stole at least 46 bases 7 times.  He also led the league in triples 4 times while with the Rays.  He appeared in 4 All-Star games, won a Gold Glove (though, he absolutely deserved several more – he was a fantastic fielder for TB), and reached as high as 7th in MVP voting. Crawford leads all Rays batters in batting (.296), hits (1,480), total bases (2,217), triples (105), and stolen bases (409).  He also ranks 6th in OPS (.781), 3rd in doubles (215), 6th in HR (104), 2nd in RBI (592), and 7th in OPS+ (107).

2. David Price (’08-’14) – There’s really no debate over who the best pitcher is to ever wear the Rays jersey.  Price is a four-time All-Star, Cy Young award winner (’12), and was runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2010.  He has led the league once each in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and K/BB ratio.  And, when you take into consideration that Price really only played the equivalent of about 5.5 seasons in TB (’08 was just 5 games, and he was traded in 2014), it’s impressive what he was able to accomplish.  He’s the Rays’ all-time leader in ERA (3.18), win pct. (.636), WHIP (1.14), and ERA+ (122).  He’s also second only to Shields in wins (82), strikeouts (1,065), and K/BB ratio (3.45).

5884523039_fa70530b76_z1. Evan Longoria (’08-present) – There’s a reason the Rays locked up Longoria early on in his career, unlike any other player to come through their franchise.  Gold Glove winning, clubhouse leading, MVP candidate third basemen don’t exactly grow on trees.  But, that’s exactly the kind of player Longo is.  Already 3-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner, Rookie of the Year, who has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times . . . who just turned 29.  His stats may not overwhelm you at first, since he hasn’t ever led the league anything.  But, he’s consistently good, and that puts him at or near the top of almost every offensive category in Rays history.  Check it out:  5th in OBP (.351), 1st in SLG (.494), 2nd in OPS (.845), 3rd in hits (975), 2nd in total bases (1,777), 2nd in doubles (226), 1st in HR (184), 1st in RBI (635), and 1st in OPS+ (131).

All-Time Greatest: St. Louis Cardinals

St.-Louis-Brown-Stockings-Logo-150x150The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most storied franchises in baseball.  They began playing professional baseball in St. Louis in 1882, as the St. Louis Brown Stockings, in the American Association.  They dropped the “Stockings” part of their name the following season, and then joined the National League in 1892.  They didn’t win a pennant until 1926, but in the 89 seasons since that point, they have won more World Series titles than anyone in the National League – and, are second only to the Yankees in all of baseball, with 11 titles.

Historically, their winning has come in spurts.  From ’26-’34, they won the NL pennant 5 times, and won the World Series 3 times.  From ’42-’46, they won 3 championships, and appeared in a 4th World Series.  From ’64-’68, they won the NL pennant 3 times, and were world champions twice.  From ’82-’87, they made 3 World Series appearances, and won the title once.  But, their most consistent success has come in the last 19 seasons.  Granted, there are more playoff teams than ever before, but the Cardinals have made playoff appearances in 12 of the last 19 seasons (and 11 of the last 15).  They have won the NL Central division 9 times, won the NL pennant 4 times, and have been World Series champions twice (2011 & 2006).  The other impressive piece of information is that in the last 19 seasons, the Cardinals have finished below .500 just 3 times.

Choosing the top 5 players in the history of a franchise with such a long and rich history is not an easy task.  Especially when you take into consideration that they have had 16 MVP winners, 2 Cy Young winners, 2 Triple Crown winners, and currently have 14 players in the Hall of Fame who spent the better part of their careers in St. Louis.  So, while I imagine there may be many who disagree with my list, here’s my best effort:

tumblr_lsyodcGTod1qm9rypo1_12805. Ozzie Smith (’82-’96) – The Wizard of Oz is so universally tied to the St. Louis organization, I wonder how many remember that he actually won his first two Gold Gloves with the Padres in ’80-’81.  Or, who knew that the only time he ever led the league in any offensive stat, it was in San Diego?  But, while Ozzie does rank 7th on the Cardinals’ all-time hits list (1,944), 10th on their all-time doubles list (338), and 3rd on their all-time stolen bases list (433), it was not his offensive prowess that put him on this list.  From the time he arrived in St. Louis in 1982, until his retirement after the 1996 season, Ozzie appeared in all but one All-Star game (14), and won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves (13 total for his career – the most in baseball history at shortstop).  He was also the MVP of the 1985 NLCS, in which he hit .435 with a 1.196 OPS, and hit a rather memorable HR to win game 5.  He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2002, receiving an impressive 91.7% of the vote.  But, really, what I’ll always remember him for is his signature backflip, as he ran out onto the field at the start of the game – which he was still able to do even after turning 40!

4. Bob Gibson (’59-’75) – Some might be surprised to see Gibson this far down the list.  But, for all of his dominance as a pitcher, Gibson only won 251 games in a 17-year career (fewer than the likes of Jack Morris and Andy Pettitte).  And, while his 2.91 career ERA looks spectacular today – he only led the league in ERA once, which is indicative of the pitching-dominant era in which Gibson played.  His 3,117 career strikeouts rank 14th all-time, but he only led the league once, and he also ranks 27th all-time in career walks (1,336).  Don’t get me wrong – Gibson is a deserving Hall of Fame member (inducted on his first ballot with 84% of the vote in 1981).  But, when choosing the best of the best, he fits here for these reasons.  On St. Louis’ all-time lists, he leads all pitchers in wins, strikeouts, and shutouts (56).  And, among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP, he ranks 8th in ERA, 8th in WHIP (1.19), 3rd in K/9 (7.22), and 6th in K/BB ratio (2.33).

pujols2x-large-23. Albert Pujols (2001-2011) – Pujols burst onto the scene in 2001, putting up gargantuan numbers at the age of 21: .329/.403/.610 stat line, 37 HR, and 130 RBI, leading to a unanimous selection as the NL ROY, his first All-Star game appearance, his first Silver Slugger award, and finishing 4th in MVP voting.  And, he didn’t slow down from there.  In his 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols hit 40+ HR six times (leading the league twice), he hit over .300 every year but his last (winning a batting title in ’03), and his OPS was over 1.000 eight times (leading the league 3 of those years).  Pujols appeared on nine All-Star teams, won 3 MVP awards, and finished in the top 5 in MVP voting an amazing 7 more times.  He ranks 7th on the Cardinals’ all-time batting list (.328), 4th in OBP (.420), 2nd in SLG (.617 – though, I would give him credit for ranking 1st, since the only person ahead of him is McGwire, whose stats we know are artificially inflated), 2nd in OPS (1.037 – again, only behind McGwire), 4th in hits (2,073), 2nd in doubles (455), 2nd in HR (445), 2nd in RBI (1,329), and 4th in OPS+ (170).

2. Rogers Hornsby (’15-’26, ’33) – While Pujols’ totals are often going to be ahead of Hornsby, I believe Hornsby was the more complete (and perhaps the more dominant) player.  Pujols won one batting title – Hornsby won six in a row from ’20-’25 (including a batting average over .400 three times!).  Pujols led the league in OPS three times – Hornsby led the league seven times while with St. Louis (and a few more after he left!).  Hornsby led the league in HR just as many times as Pujols (twice), he also led the league in RBI four times, hits four times, OBP six times, and SLG seven times.  Hornsby also won the MVP in 1925, when he won his second Triple Crown.  If the MVP had been in existence during the early part of Hornsby’s career, he almost certainly would have won it in his first Triple Crown year (’22), and would have been at or near the top in ’20 & ’21.  He was the runner-up in ’24.  Hornsby also helped lead the Cardinals to an unlikely World Series title in ’26, defeating the Ruth/Gherig Yankees.  On the Cardinals’ all-time lists, Hornsby ranks 2nd in batting (.359 – including 5 of the top 7 seasons in Cardinals history), 2nd in OBP (.427), 4th in SLG (.568), 4th in OPS (.995 – which includes 3 of the top 5 seasons in Cardinals history – all better than any season in Pujols’ career), 3rd in hits (2,110), 2nd in triples (143), 7th in HR (193), 5th in RBI (1,072), and is 2nd only to McGwire’s inflated stats in OPS+ (177).

stan-musial-dead-at-921. Stan Musial (’41-’63) – Stan the Man may be one of the most overlooked players in history.  Do you know how many players have eclipsed 3,500 hits & 450 HR in their career? – Two.  Hank Aaron & Stan Musial.  Do you know who holds the record for most All-Star games? – Stan Musial (tied with Aaron & Mays).  Do you know how many players have won 3 NL MVP awards? – 5 (Musial, Schmidt, Pujols, Campanella & Bonds).  Do you know how many NL players have 10 or more 100-RBI seasons? – 3. Musial, Aaron & Bonds.  When Musial retired, he shared or held 17 major league records, 29 NL records, and 9 All-Star Game records.  All of this, in spite of missing the entire 1945 season (in the midst of his prime) to serve in the military.  Here are his staggering stats:  League Leader:  Hits – 6 times; Doubles – 8 times; Triples – 5 times; RBI – 2 times; Batting – 7 times; OBP – 6 times; SLG – 6 times; OPS – 7 times; Total Bases – 6 times.  Career:  .331/.417/.559 stat line; 3,630 hits (4th all-time); 1,951 RBI’s (7th all-time); 725 Doubles (3rd all-time); 1,377 XBH (3rd all-time); 6,134 Total Bases (2nd only to Hank Aaron all-time).  And, in addition to his 3 MVP awards, he finished runner-up four more times – contributing to 6.96 MVP shares (see baseball-reference.com for an explanation), which is second only to Bonds, all time.  There’s no question who is the greatest Cardinal – and one of the greatest hitters – of all time.

Final All-Star Ballot (PLUS…)

I know I’m a few days early on this, but I realized that I’m not going to have any time to write this post next week.  Plus, I wanted to get it out there in plenty of time before the deadline is here for casting votes (July 3rd).  I have also decided to add a little bit to this year’s final ballot post.  In addition to giving you my final vote on who should be the starters for the All-Star Game, I’m going to list the players that I believe should fill out the entire roster.  Each league has 33 players on their roster chosen in a combination of the starters (voted on by the fans), the pitchers & back-ups (16 players voted on by the players, coaches & managers), and the reserves (chosen by the coach of the All-Star team, in cooperation with the league office in order to ensure that each team is represented).  Then, after those 33 are chosen, the fans are given a list of 5 players (chosen by the coaches) to choose one final (34th) spot on the team.  Since that 34th spot is a newer innovation, and it can go so many different directions, I’m going to focus on the 33 players who will represent their team in the 85th All-Star Game in just a few weeks.  Let’s begin with my final ballot – the starters.

FIRST BASE:

AL:  Miguel Cabrera (DET).  But, by only the slightest of margins over Abreu (CHW).  Their OPS is nearly identical, they’re 1 RBI apart, and have exactly the same number of XBH (going into last night’s games).  Abreu has a decided edge in HR (22-13), but what tipped the scales for me toward Cabrera is strikeouts.  Abreu’s strikeout rate is significantly higher than Cabrera’s, and his walk rate is decidedly lower – in almost 40 fewer plate appearances, Abreu has 20 more K’s.  This accounts for why Cabrera’s batting 40 points higher, and his OBP is more than 50 points higher.

NL:  Anthony Rizzo (CHC).  Also a tight race, with Goldschmidt (ARI).  Goldschmidt has the edge in batting (by 16 points), SLG (by 10 points), and RBI (by 9).  But, Rizzo has the edge in HR (by 2), OBP (by 22 points), and OPS (by 12 points).  So, this came down to a combination of things.  First of all, Rizzo has the edge in strikeout and walk rates (20 fewer K’s, 10 more BB’s).  Also, Rizzo is the better defender at first.  Neither are setting the world on fire with their defensive prowess, but Rizzo has a clear edge with the glove.

 

SECOND BASE:

AL:  Brian Dozier (MIN). Wow, what a tight race!  OPS rankings are Cano, Altuve, Dozier, Kinsler (separated by a total of .028); HR rankings are Dozier, Kinsler, then everyone else; RBI rankings are Cano, and then Dozier & Kinsler are tied for second; SB rankings are Altuve, Dozier, then everyone else; SLG is Kinsler, Dozier, Altuve, Cano; OBP is Cano, Altuve, Dozier; wRC+ is Dozier, Altuve, Cano, Kinsler; Defensively, I would rank them Pedroia, Kinsler, Zobrist, Dozier, and everyone else.  You’ll notice that there’s only one name that appears near the top of every one of these lists, before the list kind of flames out into “everyone else.”  And, it’s Dozier.  His .252 batting average looks bad, until you realize he has the best walk-rate among AL 2B, leading to a .366 OBP.

NL:  Chase Utley (PHI).  There may be some confusion when you go to vote for this one.  On the MLB voting site, it lists Washington’s Rendon as an option.  And, at first glance, his numbers look better than Utley’s.  One small problem – he’s been playing third base most of this season, and Espinosa has been the everyday second baseman in Washington.  Be sure you’re voting for the right guy!  This is definitely a tighter race than it was a month ago, but Utley still comes out on top – when compared to other guys actually playing 2B.  He’s 3rd in RBI, 3rd in batting, 2nd in OBP (by .001 going into last night’s games), 2nd in SLG, and 1st in OPS.  No other NL 2B appears in the top 3 in each category.

 

SHORTSTOP:

AL:  Alexei Ramirez (CHW). Cabrera (CLE) is batting just .254 with a .322 OBP, so he’s out,  in spite of some nice power numbers.  Bogaerts (BOS) is batting just .260, has the 2nd highest K-rate among AL SS, and has been subpar with the glove – so he’s out.  In my opinion, it comes down to Ramirez or Aybar (LAA).  Aybar has the edge in RBI and is head and shoulders ahead of Ramirez defensively.  But, Ramirez has Aybar beat in HR, SB, batting, OBP, SLG & OPS.

NL:  Troy Tulowitzki (COL).  Ramirez (LAD) is having a great year, and has actually overtaken the RBI lead by 1 over Tulo.  But, Troy leads all NL SS in HR, batting, OBP, SLG, and OPS.  Plus, he’s an above-average fielder, which makes this a pretty easy choice.

 

THIRD BASE:

AL:  Josh Donaldson (OAK).  This is a much tighter race than before, as Beltre (TEX), Santana (CLE), and Seager (SEA) have all made significant strides over the last month.  Beltre has a nice lead in batting (.321), and OPS (.850), and Santana has the lead in OBP (.366).  But, when you look at their entire resume, Donaldson stands out as the one who is competitive in every area.  He leads all AL 3B in HR & RBI, is 2nd in OPS & wRC+, and is easily the best defensive 3B in the AL thus far this year.

NL:  Todd Frazier (CIN).  Rendon (WAS) deserves some credit here (as opposed to 2B), and is my runner-up.  He and Frazier are clearly the cream of the crop (Arenado, from a month ago, has been injured).  But, Frazier leads all NL 3B in HR, SLG, OPS (by almost 50 points!) and wRC+.  He’s also 2nd in RBI, 3rd in batting, and a slightly above average fielder.

 

CATCHER:

AL:  Salvador Perez (KC).  Norris (OAK) is clearly the best offensive catcher in the AL right now.  He is also clearly below average defensively (throwing out just 10% of base stealers).  So, the key for me was finding the right balance at this position in the AL.  And, Perez is that.  He’s arguably the best defensive catcher in the AL (though, Gomes, Avila & McCann are in that discussion), and is also 2nd in the league in HR, 3rd in batting, 2nd in SLG, and 4th in OPS.  Others have glaring weaknesses either offensively or defensively.

NL:  Jonathan Lucroy (MIL).  Over the last month, Lucroy has opened the gap even further between himself and the rest of the catchers in the NL.  He leads all NL C’s in batting, OBP, OPS, wRC+, and is 2nd in SLG & RBI.  He’s middle of the pack, defensively, so you can’t count that against him.  Others, who might have an edge on defense, are clearly behind on offense.

 

DESIGNATED HITTER:

AL:  Victor Martinez (DET).  He finally caught Cruz (BAL) in a number of categories.  This is precisely why I wait to cast most of my votes until close to the deadline.  Cruz might have the edge in HR (23-19) and RBI (60-50), but Martinez leads Cruz in batting (by over 30 points), OBP (by over 20 points), SLG, and OPS (by more than 30 points).  Martinez also strikes out significantly less often than Cruz (22 times this season, going into last night’s games – compared to Cruz’s 69 K’s).

 

OUTFIELD:

AL:  Mike Trout (LAA), Jose Bautista (TOR), Michael Brantley (CLE).  No change from a month ago.  Though, Cespedes (OAK), has an argument here, primarily based on his defensive highlights of late.  But, Brantley leads him in batting (by over 50 points), OBP (by almost 70 points), and SLG (just barely).  Trout leads all AL OF in HR, RBI, SLG, OPS & wRC+.  Bautista leads them all in OBP, and is the only AL outfielder with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line.

NL:  Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Yasiel Puig (LAD).  Smith (SD), deserves honorable mention here.  In addition to the three I’m voting for, he is the only NL outfielder with a wRC+ score above 160.  But, he’s the odd man out, since he’s the only one of the four with less than 10 HR, and is batting below .300.  As for these three guys, they are the only ones in the NL with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line.  Stanton is flat our murdering the ball, and has a .592 SLG.  McCutchen leads NL OF with a .422 OBP.  And, Puig . . . well, have you not seen the highlight reels?

 

AL ROSTER:

PITCHERS:  My starting pitcher for the AL this year would be Felix Hernandez (SEA).  He leads the league in WHIP (0.95) & FIP (1.95), is 2nd in ERA (2.24) & K’s (128), and 3rd in league BAA (.216),  and this time around, he actually has some wins to go along with his other stats (9, so far, with at least one more start coming before the voting deadline).

The remainder of the pitchers I would choose to represent the AL would be:  Masahiro Tanaka (NYY); Mark Buehrle (TOR); Scott Kazmir (OAK); Yu Darvish (TEX); Koji Uehara (BOS); Jake McGee (TB); Wade Davis (KC).

BACKUPS & RESERVES:

1B – Jose Abreu (CHW), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)

2B – Ian Kinsler (DET), Jose Altuve (HOU)

SS – Erick Aybar (LAA), Derek Jeter (NYY – I don’t feel too bad about making a “lifetime achievement” pick here, because there aren’t too many AL shortstops lighting it up)

3B – Adrian Beltre (TEX), Kyle Seager (SEA)

C – Derek Norris (OAK), Kurt Suzuki (MIN)

DH – Nelson Cruz (BAL), David Ortiz (BOS)

OF – Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), Coco Crisp (OAK), Adam Jones (BAL), Alex Gordon (KC)

 

NL ROSTER:

PITCHERS:  My starting pitcher for the NL this year is Clayton Kershaw (LAD).  In spite of having 4-6 fewer starts than the rest of the league, he still has an 8-2 record, leads the league in FIP, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB, and is 2nd in WHIP & ERA.

The remaining pitchers I would choose to represent the NL in the All-Star game would be:  Adam Wainwright (STL); Johnny Cueto (CIN); Madison Bumgarner (SF); Jon Niese (NYM); Jean Machi (SF); Craig Kimbrel (ATL); Zach Duke (MIL); Tony Watson (PIT).

BACKUPS & RESERVES:

1B – Paul Goldschmidt (ARI), Adam LaRoche (WSH), Matt Adams (STL)

2B – Neil Walker (PIT), Dee Gordon (LAD)

SS – Hanley Ramirez (LAD), Starlin Castro (CHC)

3B – Anthony Rendon (WSH), Luis Valbuena (CHC)

C –  Evan Gattis (ATL), Buster Posey (SF)

OF – Seth Smith (SD), Carlos Gomez (MIL), Mike Morse (SF), Justin Upton (ATL), Charlie Blackmon (COL)

 

Many of the backups I chose could change in the next couple weeks before the All-Star break, because their stats are often very close.  There are also only two teams that I felt forced to make a pick, because they had to have someone on the team:  the Rays and Mets.  The Rays reliever that I chose is actually pitching really well, so that wasn’t so hard.  The Mets don’t have anyone on their team that seriously deserves consideration for the All-Star game.  The reason I went with Niese is because he’s currently their best all-around starter, and he’s a lefty, which I needed more of.  I’m certain that there are more deserving players that have been left out (particularly at NL 1B & OF), but had to be overlooked because players were needed at other positions.  Let me know what you think!

All-Time Greatest: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners franchise is ultimately the result of a lawsuit.  When the Seattle Pilots failed to meet stadium expectations, and attendance numbers plummeted, the team was sold to Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee after just one season in Seattle (1969).  The city, county, and state joined forces to sue the American League for breach of contract – disregarding the fact that “their” team had gone bankrupt in just one season, and the owners had no choice but to sell the franchise (and actually made multiple attempts to sell to local buyers).  The lawsuit lasted until 1976, at which time Major League Baseball offered Seattle an expansion franchise, if they would drop the suit.  They agreed, and the cities of Seattle and Toronto were granted expansion franchises for the 1977 season.

The franchise didn’t produce a winning team until 1991, but never enjoyed any real success until 1995, when they reached the playoffs for the first time.  From 1995-2003, they had winning records eight out of nine seasons, and reached the playoffs 4 times.  But, in that time, they were never able to reach the World Series, accumulating a combined 5-12 record in the ALCS.  Since 2003, they have not had a winning season.

The Mariners have yet to retire anyone’s jersey number (other than the obligatory #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson), though I can’t imagine why at least one from the list below wouldn’t be retired soon.  They have fielded 2 MVP’s, 2 Cy Youngs, and 3 winners of Rookie of the Year.  With just 38 seasons of history to go with, you wouldn’t expect much from this list – but, there are some clear future Hall of Famers that came through Seattle (though, none are in the HOF yet).  Keep in mind, as you see the order of these names, we’re only taking into consideration what these players accomplished in Seattle – not their entire careers.

a_rod35. Alex Rodriguez (1994-2000) – he only played 5 full seasons in Seattle before leaving for the ridiculous amount of money offered in Texas.  But, in those 5+ seasons, he played better than Ichiro ever did (the one name you might think is missing from this list).  While Ichiro was basically a slap-single hitter, with good speed, A-Rod was a 5-tool player.  He won a batting title, hit 40+ HR three times, drove in 100+ runs four times, and in ’98, he became just the third player in baseball history to hit 40+ HR and steal 40+ bases in the same season.  And, in spite of playing in less than half as many games, Rodriguez accumulated a better defensive WAR than Ichiro did in his 11+ seasons in Seattle.  A-Rod is 3rd on the Mariners’ all-time batting list (.309), 6th in OBP (.374 – Ichiro is 9th), 1st in SLG (.561 – Ichiro isn’t in the top 20), 1st in OPS (.934 – Ichiro’s is below .800), 4th in HR (189 – including 3 of the top 9 seasons in Mariners history), 7th in RBI (595 – 3 of the top 10 seasons), and 4th in OPS+ (138 – including 2 of the top 10 seasons in team history; Ichiro barely cracked the top 50 with his best season).

20107248034. Edgar Martinez (’87-’04) – there are some who are screaming that Martinez belongs in the HOF.  I’m certainly not one of those.  Aside from the fact that a DH already has a few things going against him (specifically – he essentially plays about 1/6 of the game), what about Martinez’ 2200 hits, 300 HR, and 1200 RBI in 18 years screams domination?  One of the best Mariners in history, but not the kind of all-time great that belongs in the Hall.  That being said, he did win 2 batting titles, and led the league in OBP 3 times, and OPS once.  He was a 7-time All-Star, and finished as high as 3rd in MVP voting (’95).  On the Mariners’ all-time lists, he ranks 2nd in batting (.312), 1st in OBP (.418 – including seven of the top eight OBP seasons in franchise history!), 4th in SLG (.515 – 3 of the top 11 seasons), 2nd in OPS (.933 – including 2 of the top 3 seasons in team history), 2nd in HR (309), 1st in RBI (1261), and 1st in OPS+ (147 – including 4 of the top 7 seasons).

pg2_g_johnson_mariners1_6003. Randy Johnson (’89-’98) – Seattle may have its first HOF member next year, when Johnson will be eligible for the first time.  He spent 10 of his 22 seasons with the Mariners, which is more than anywhere else.  Though, he did spend 8 years in Arizona, where he won 4 of his 5 Cy Youngs, and won a World Series MVP.  So, we’ll see.  But, as far as Mariners go, Randy belongs near the top of every list.  While in Seattle, he led the league in strikeouts 4 times.  And, the year he won his AL Cy Young (’95), he also led the league in ERA, WHIP, and K/BB ratio.  Among Seattle’s pitchers, all time, Johnson ranks 2nd in ERA (3.42 – including 2 of the top 6 individual seasons in franchise history), 2nd in wins (130 – includes 3 of the top 7 seasons), 2nd in win pct. (.637 – includes the two best seasons in team history), 2nd in WHIP (1.25), 1st in K/9 (10.59 – which includes the seven best seasons in Mariners history), 1st in strikeouts (2162 – 4 of the top 6 seasons), 3rd in K/BB ratio (2.45), and is tied for 1st in ERA+ (128).

Felix Hernandez2. Felix Hernandez (’05-present) – a couple years ago, “King” Felix would not have been this high on the list, though many Mariners fans anticipated him reaching this level.  But, he’s now in his 10th season in Seattle, and has surpassed Randy Johnson in many areas.  At this moment, I might would rank Hernandez & Johnson as a tie for the 2nd greatest Mariner in history.  But, assuming Hernandez finishes this season pitching anywhere close to the way he is at this moment, he will likely surpass Johnson in a number of areas in which he currently trails, either late this year or early next.  Felix has won a Cy Young already, and you figure between now and 2019 (the end of his contract), he has a good chance of winning another.  This 4-time All-Star (probably about to make his 5th appearance in a few weeks), ranks 1st on the Mariners’ all-time ERA list (3.15), 3rd in wins (118 – though, if you know anything of the run support Hernandez has received in his career, you know he should have already surpassed Johnson here), 6th in win pct. (.573 – again, this is without even a decent offense behind him), 1st in WHIP (1.19), 2nd in K/9 (8.46), 2nd in K’s (1815), 1st in K/BB ratio (3.33), and is tied with Johnson for the best career ERA+ (128).

KenGriffWallCatch_display_image_display_image1. Ken Griffey, Jr. (’89-’99, ’09-’10) – while there might be a couple accumulation categories where Edgar leads Griffey, there’s no question who the better player actually was.  Ten consecutive All-Star games, ten consecutive Gold Gloves, and 1 MVP, along with four more top-4 finishes while in Seattle.  If Johnson isn’t a first-ballot HOFer next year, or if he isn’t inducted as a Mariner, there’s no question that the 2016 class will include the first Mariner HOFer in Griffey.  And, were it not for injuries, I believe Griffey might very well be at the top of the all-time HR list, instead of Bonds (he averaged just 115 games per season from ’94-’06, and still averaged 33 HR per year during that time).  On the Mariners’ lists, Griffey ranks 7th in batting (.292), 6th in OBP (.374), 2nd in SLG (.553 – including 5 of the 7 best seasons in franchise history), 3rd in OPS (.927 – including 4 of the 8 best seasons), 2nd in total bases (3495 – this, in spite of having over 1,200 fewer plate appearances than Martinez or Ichiro, who are 1st & 3rd, respectively), 1st in HR (417), 2nd in RBI (1216), 4th in stolen bases (167), and 3rd in OPS+ (144 – including 3 of the top 5 single seasons in Mariners history).

An All-Time Great Loss

The baseball world has lost one of the best players in history.  Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of just 54.  What an incredible loss this is to the baseball community.  Not only was Gwynn one of the finest hitters baseball has ever seen, but he was one of the few gentlemen in the game in an era that saw so many cheating, spitting, and disgracing the game.  Gwynn was a steady force on the playing field, who was also quick with a big, friendly smile.

Gwynn hit safely in an amazing 75% of the games in which he played, leading to a career .338 average (18th in baseball history).  He won 8 batting titles – the second most in the history of the game.  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.  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 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.

In recent years, Gwynn had been a television commentator, and had taken on a coaching position with his alma mater, San Diego State University.  Gwynn was a guy that had a genuine passion for the game.  He absolutely loved baseball.  And, I could listen to him talk about hitting for hours.  One of the most respected, well-loved, and fantastic players in baseball history.  Tony Gwynn will most certainly be missed.

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