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The Greatest Lineup Ever Created

ted-williams-2

MLB fans love to engage in debates that cannot be won. Two discussions immediately come to mind, the Hall of Fame argument (who’s in, who’s out) and the game’s greatest pitcher of all-time.

(At one point the greatest player of all-time question appeared to be brawled over nearly as frequently, but that was before the knuckle-headed Willie Mays backers realized just how asinine it would be to deny someone who is in both the greatest hitter and pitcher of all-time conversations of having that award.)

I’m here to present a third; the All-History Team.

With a few minor stipulations of course:

1) Each Major League Team May Have Only One Player Representing Its Club

If we didn’t have this rule, what would be the point of this discussion? We would just be trotting out a bunch of New York Yankees.

(Meaning, I would be more likely to chew off my own fingers rather than continue penciling in more pinstriped pieces of excrement.)

(No offense of course.)

Teams who have moved and changed their names still count. So Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland; you are all the A’s to me, thus you get one rep.

2) Anti All-Star Selection

A player has to have played the position he is representing in the equivalent of at least one full season (155 games) and preferably in his prime. Contrary to popular All-Star voting protocol, left field does not mean right or center field. Left field actually means left field.

I know, it’s a crazy concept.

3) Lineup Matters

If you don’t have a player with a very high OBP and enough speed to conceivably be a threat on the base paths, you might want to get a guy like that on your roster.

4) Team Association

This is less of a rule and more of a guideline, but think about it – you don’t associate Babe Ruth with the Braves or Willie Mays with the Mets, so should you really have them representing anyone other than the Yankees and Giants?

If you can conceivably picture a player in uniform for the club of your choosing, you are probably safe.

If not?

Stop trying to cheat the system. Who are you, Gaylord Perry?

5) Team Position

A player may only be chosen for a position he actually played with the team he is representing.

Ex: Alex Rodriguez never played third base for the Rangers, so he cannot represent them at that position.

Now that we have the semantics out of the way, let’s dive right into the All-History Team.

(I’m so amped right now.)

The team will not have a DH, but will instead represent a lineup the way God intended; eight position players and a starting pitcher. For good measure we will throw the clowns in the pen a little love and add a closer into the mix.

Surprisingly there were only two selections that were no brainers. Two others were near no brainers and the rest were somewhere between flip a coin, closer than you might think, serious competition and forever argued.

So here I stand, ready to bare my soul for all the world to see. This team has been over a month in the making, so without any further adieu…

Willie Mays
1.) Willie Mays – Center Field – New York Giants
Shockingly enough, the “Say Hey Kid” was not one of the no-brainers. He probably should have been, but had to settle as a near no-brainer. So what player made me scratch my head just long enough to take his application for Mays’ spot somewhat serious?

Mickey Mantle – no.

Joe Dimaggio – not even close.

Ken Griffey Junior – bingo.

I had the privilege of watching Junior up close as I grew up an A’s fan in the prime of Griffey’s career. The guy was phenomenal. He hit everything, and caught everything. He just never missed. ‘The Kid’ was so good, that as a fan of a division rival, I still had his poster up on my wall.

Then again I had a Jose Canseco poster up on the same wall and look how that one worked out.

Enough Griffey, let’s talk Mays.

You know he hit 660 home runs, but what about his .302 lifetime batting average? And his .384-OBP or 338 career stolen bases? Ultimately thsoe are the reasons Mays is hitting leadoff on this team. Sure he had power to spare, but Mays was also an on-base machine who was aggressive on the base paths with speed to burn.

To add to his impressive resume, Mays won 12 Gold Gloves; tops among center fielders in MLB history.

Yeah, I’d say Willie Mays has a spot on this team.

rogers-hornsby-small2.) Rogers Hornsby – Second Base – Chicago Cubs

Hornsby revolutionized second base, becoming the game’s first power hitting two-bagger. He hit over 20 home runs seven times in his career, topping out at 42 in 1922, when he also hit .402 while winning the National League MVP, his first of three.

Wait… that’s right – Hornsby didn’t win the MVP in ’22, but would have and should have if not for some very bizarre rules. If you don’t know the strange history of the award, check it out here.

Hornsby hits in the two-hole based on his adequate but not blazing speed — he had 134 career stolen bases — and his freakishly high OBP of .434.

Two MVP awards and two Triple Crowns? Does Hornsby belong on your team? There isn’t another player that gets the nod at second on mine, though he did have a little more competition for his job than you might think from Jackie Robinson.

ted-williams-small3.) Ted Williams – Left Field – Boston Red Sox

One of the two no brainers on this team. If I had to have one hitter up with a World Series on the line, it would be Teddy Ballgame, without a second of hesitation.

Williams holds MLB’s career OBP record, getting on at a clip of .481. Please re-read that… geez, that is unreal.

He is second to only Babe Ruth in career OPS (1.116).

Add in Williams’ 521 home runs, .344-AVG, two MVP’s (1946 and 1949) and his tw0 Triple Crown awards (1942 and 1947), not to mention the honor of being the last player to hit .400 in a full season (.406 in 1941) and you end up with my sure-fire three-hole hitter.

‘The greatest hitter who ever lived’ had an uncanny ability in three major hitting areas; his eye, power and bat control. There is only one other player I have seen who reminds me of Williams; Albert Pujols. Pujols isn’t at Williams’ level yet, but don’t be surprised if in ten years he is.

But is he on this team?

babe-ruth-small4.) Babe Ruth – Right Field – New York Yankees

Unfortunately for all the other Yankee greats, Ruth gets their exemption, joining Ted Williams as the only other no brainer on this team.

I mean come on – he’s Babe Ruth. Perhaps the single most important player in MLB history. How many movies have been made based either on his career or his legacy – ten? Twenty? Seriously someone look that up and post it in the comment section, I’d love to know the answer.

You want numbers? 714 is a pretty powerful one.

Think Ruth is only on this team for his power? You couldn’t be more wrong. He is a career .342 hitter, holds the MLB records for career SLG  (.690) and OPS (1.164) while second to only Ted Williams in OBP (.474) and shockingly somehow managed to steal 124 bases while playing.

My new favorite Babe Ruth stat is something he did in 1923 with the Yankees. Ruth stole 17 bases that year, but was caught stealing 21 times.

I don’t care how immortal he was. No manager today would ever let him run with a -4 success rate. Still it is pretty amazing.

We won’t talk about his pitching because it is irrelevant – he makes this team strictly as a right fielder, and does so convincingly.

Bar none the greatest player to ever lace them up, the Great Bambino is  my clean-up hitter.

jimmy-foxx5.) Jimmy Foxx – First Base – Philadelphia Athletics

Foxx beat out Albert Pujols in a competition that was closer than you might think. By the end of his career, Pujols may make this choice moot. As for now first base goes to Foxx based on his notoriety as the best A’s player of all-time (with apologies to Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley), his gaudy stats and the fact that I’m reserving the St. Louis Cardinals’ representative for another player.

It’s not like Foxx is a second fiddle, he won three MVP’s (1932, 1933 and 1938) and took home the Triple Crown in 1933.

The Beast’s 162-game averages were flat out impressive: 37-HR, 122-R, 134-RBI, and a 1.038-OPS.

Hitting fifth in this order is no small feat. Congratulations Jimmy, it’s your spot to lose.

a-rod-small6.) Alex Rodriguez – Shortstop – Seattle Mariners

I know, this makes me a little nauseous. While there was no way to keep Rodriguez off this team, I tried to knock him lower in the lineup, but the stats tell the story and the story told me to hit A-Rod sixth. Rodriguez had competition for his spot from Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken Jr. but in the end A-Rod got the nod.

A-Rod already has three AL MVP’s (2003, 2005 and 2007) with what looks to be many years of very promising baseball ahead of him.

The downside? Well the fact that he no longer plays shortstop comes to mind, as does… oh I don’t know… the whole he cheated and did steroids thing.

So how can I stomach putting a roider on this team? Two reasons:

A) The stats put him in and even judging him only by the games he played at short (which is a requirement for this team) in Seattle and Texas he beats out Ripken and Banks fairly handily.

B) While no one but A-Rod, his cousin and possibly some hookers (Who knows how many?) knows exactly when and for how many years he injected, rubbed cream or popped pills, it appears as though he was clean in Seattle. So I’m going off that.

A-Rod holds the record for most home runs in a single season by a shortstop with 57, as well as the single season shortstop marks for runs (141), slugging (.631) and most extra base hits (91).

While it is true that A-Rod will end up playing approximately half of his career at third base- his two strongest challengers, Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken Jr.- also were shown the door from short midway through their Hall of Fame careers.

So goes the life of a shortstop, it’s a position reserved for premiere athletes. Once a player’s agility and quickness start to diminish he has likely reached the beginning of the end of his reign as a shortstop.

mike-schmidt-small7.) Mike Schmidt – Third Base – Philadelphia Phillies

Has there ever been a better all-around third baseman? I obviously don’t think so. Schmidt won three NL MVP’s (1980, 1981 and 1986) and ten Gold Gloves, nine of them being consecutive (1976-1984).

He wasn’t the best defender at the position, as that honor goes to Brooks Robinson and his 16 Gold Gloves, and when it’s all said and done players like Evan Longoria or David Wright may pass him with the stick, but for now Schmidt remains the best there ever was at the hot corner.

Schmidt hit 548 homers in his career, most for a third baseman and had some very impressive 162-game averages; over 100 walks, RBI and runs scored, but his average was nothing to write home about. Schmidt hit a pedestrian .267.

Brooks Robinson gave Schmidt a run for his money – for about 45 seconds – but Schmidt is like Kobe Bryant at a getaway spa; he can’t be stopped.

mike-piaza-small8.) Mike Piazza – Catcher – Los Angeles Dodgers

Two things Mike Piazza will never be confused for: a canon-armed defensive wizard and a gazelle.

But boy, could he swing it. He never won an MVP, but did win the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year, as well as ten straight silver slugger awards (1993-2002).

Over 16 years, Piazza hit .308 and averaged 36 home runs per 162 games. Over those same 16 seasons he stole only 16 bases, but last I checked you don’t have to steal second when you hit the ball out of the ball park.

Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez and Johnny Bench provided Piazza with some serious competition – Pudge had 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers, while Bench won the MVP twice (1970 and 1972) and ten Gold Gloves – but after I factored in Piazza’s .922 career OPS (Pudge: .813, Bench: .817) it became abundantly clear – Piazza’s bat out weighed his defensive deficiencies.

bob-gibson-small9.) Bob Gibson – Starting Pitcher – St. Louis Cardinals

(*Disclaimer: I fully realize I’m about to tread into waters murkier than a Louisiana swamp, but though this position prompts more arguments among the elderly than which Buick model to purchase upon retirement, I’m taking a stand and sticking with my pick.*)

Arguments can, and frequently are made for anyone from Walter Johnson to Sandy Koufax. What about Christy Matthewson, Lefty Grove or Bob Feller? You can’t overlook Satchel Paige and Don Newcombe. Recent stars like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and even Roger Clemens? Throw them in the mix as well. It’s a crowded R.S.V.P.

All those names without even mentioning the man whom the game’s most honorable pitching award is named after; Cy Young, the all-time winningest starting pitcher in MLB history.

But if I had to win one game, just one, I would hand Bob Gibson the pearl and tell him to work his magic.

Gibson had nasty, dominating stuff, presenting hitters with an intimidating presence most often saved for prize fighters.

He only won 251 games, but wins and losses are over-rated. Put it this way: In 34 starts in 1968, Gibson posted as astounding 1.12 ERA, but still finished with a 22-9 win/loss record.

Hoot’s career ERA was 2.91. His career WHIP was 1.18. He had a career K/9 of 7.2.

Gibson won two Cy Young awards and even took home the 1968 NL MVP. Remember that 1.12 ERA over 34 starts? Apparently the baseball writers caught that little nugget as well.

Nothing against Koufax, Feller or Paige, but all things equal, Bob Gibson is my starter.

Brewers Bullpen BaseballBullpen – Trevor Hoffman – Closer – San Diego Padres

Are saves over-rated? Of course.

Still, one doesn’t become MLB’s all-time leader in saves without some talent. Let’s check the tape…

Hoffman has 554 career saves (And still counting), which meant he was good for 41 saves per 162 game season.

His ERA over that time period was 2.78 and his WHIP, 1.05.

We tend to remember Hoffman as a pitch-to-contact reliever for his reliance on a superb change up, but in reality he produced more swings and misses than one would expect. He struck out over a batter per inning with a K/9 of 9.6.

Hoffman was the most efficient relief pitcher this side of Dennis Eckersley and Mariano Rivera, and because both the A’s and Yankees have been represented on the team, Hoffman is the choice.

He was better than Lee Smith, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Rod Beck, Catfish Hunter and so many other dynamic relievers that probably jump into your mind before Hoffman — likely because he didn’t have a signature sneer, menacing nickname or oddly bodacious facial hair — but still, he was more dominating than any other late inning specialist.

(Excluding Eck and Rivera.)

So there you have it. I created the rules and after burying my head in the record books for over a month, resurfaced with more facial hair than Johnny Damon’s Red Sox days and what I feel confident in calling the greatest lineup of all time, when configured based on the specifications I laid out.

Can you beat my lineup? Feel free to try. That’s what the comment section is for.

Before you do, for fun I wanted to see what my lineup would look like if I removed the two no brainers (Babe Ruth and Ted Williams) from my team. This is what I came up with…

Best Ever Non-Ruthian (and Williams) Lineup

1.) Rickey Henderson – Left Field – Oakland A’s

Without hesitation, the most electrifying ballplayer ever. Ricky made opposing pitchers and catchers alike wet their jocks.

2.) Rogers Hornsby – Second Base – Chicago Cubs

With Henderson on the team, there is no real need for a true leadoff hitter, thus Hornsby beats out Jackie Robinson yet again.

3.) Willie Mays – Center Field – New York Giants

Showing his versatility, Mays seamlessly slides down from leadoff to third without missing a beat.

4.) Lou Gehrig – First Base – New York Yankees

Hitting cleanup is the most over-looked Bronx Bomber of all-time. Not that the Iron Horse isn’t recognized, but Ruth dwarfs Gehrig in popularity. Without the Sultan of Swat aboard, Gehrig shines brighter than the neon lights of a 7-11 in the Mojave Desert.

5.) Stan Musial – Right Field – St. Louis Cardinals

If not for Gehrig, Albert Pujols would represent the Cards on this team, leaving right field to Roberto Clemente or Frank Robinson. You couldn’t go wrong with either player, but Musial was no slouch himself.

6.) Alex Rodriguez – Shortstop – Seattle Mariners

Still a liar and a cheat, but still beating out Banks and Ripken.

7.Mike Schmidt – Third Base – Philadelphia Phillies

Brooks Robinson wants to know how I am passing on his 16 Gold Gloves twice. Easy answer; Schmidt’s bat.

8.) Mike Piazza – Catcher – New York Mets

Why is Piazza representing the Mets instead of the Dodgers on this team? Because of this…

9.) Sandy Koufax – Starting Pitcher – Los Angeles Dodgers

Many call Koufax the most un-hittable starting pitcher in the history of baseball. I call him the most un-hittable southpaw. Either way, with Musial representing St. Louis, Koufax takes Bob Gibson’s spot. Not much of a downgrade.

Bullpen – Trevor Hoffman – San Diego Padres

I greatly yearned to see Dennis Eckersley here, but with Ted Williams off the team, Rickey Henderson couldn’t be passed up and other than a brief cup of joe in 1998, Eck didn’t close with Boston.

Now that I have put my stamp on baseball history, I challenge anyone worthy to step-up and produce a better All-History Team. I refuse to believe it can be done.

Prove me wrong NIHD readers, prove me wrong.

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