Best of the MLB: Team by Team Breakdown

Sorry for the inactivity as of late, I have been a bit busy doing THIS.  Yep, I am pulling double duty when it comes to blogs; no fault but my own.  I cannot believe that I am feeling the urge, nay NEED, to write this much.  Am I even the same person anymore?

So here it is, 2013; with any new year we tend to reflect on the past and look forward to what lies ahead in the next 365 days (sometime 366, I know).  In my last post of 2012, I did just that, I looked back on the past, my personal past.  For my first post in 2013, I still want to look in the rear-view mirror, but look further back, the history of the entire game of baseball.  Such a task as broad as this could be incredibly daunting and would require its own blog, so I chopped my task into a much more bite-size morsel.

I have always been enamored by the players who show their loyalty by sticking with one team.  I was devastated when I heard that Patrick Roy (my favorite all-time hockey player) was sent to Colorado, my heart imploded when Robin Ventura put on a non-Black and White jersey.  So as much as I love the Kirby Pucketts of the world, I must also acknowledge that trades and business come into play when dealing with sport.

So I give to you, my dual list, the best player in franchise history AND the best player in franchise history to play his entire career with that team.  (As you know, some of these teams are relatively new and others have long histories that started in other towns and with other names.  I chose to include the FRANCHISE, not necessarily just the TEAM.)

Baseball Bests

Now for the notes of this massive undertaking.  I am semi-well versed in baseball and thought that this task would take a little bit of time, but I was able to fill in over half of these spaces with easy and without checking the interwebs.  I knew of the Ty Cobbs, and how they ended their careers in a weird uniform, so I was not often confused when trying to find the “one uni” guys.  But here were my issues:

  1. Houston Astros – I debated between Bagwell and Biggio, Biggio or Bagwell?  I was about to put Biggio in for both (since he will more than likely become the first member of the Hall of Fame to wear only an Astros uniform), but I felt badly for Bagwell.  I knew how close the two Killer Bs were and I knew in my heart how close this “race” was, so I honored both.  If Jeff Jagwell was able to finish off his career (just one year, or even one game) with another team, it would have been easier to do.  OR, if Jeff was able to stay healthy and get another few seasons under a ‘stros uni, he’d have both places.  But I gave Jeff the best of the franchise, since he put up huge numbers in a short time frame, similar to some of the other guys on this list that moved on to other teams.  I gave Craig the nod for best to wear only the Houston shooting star because of his entire career (it’s like I’m a BBWAA writer here, explaining my HoF ballot).
  2. Washington Nationals – Sorry, on this list you are basically the Montreal Expos.  Let’s revisit when Strasburg and Harper are nearing retirement.  Plus, I really had to do some digging to find the name “Steve Rogers”.  He was the best player I could find to only wear an Expo uni.  I thought this search was intense, but that’s nothing compared to what is described in the Marlins bullet point…
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers – How did I leave Jackie Robinson off this list?!  How do I not have the one guy that has his number retired throughout all of baseball?!  Well, it’s simple, he had another Dodger that had a short career but incredibly impactful, a certain SANDY KOUFAX!  Breaking the color barrier AND being at the top of all of baseball is impressive, and opened the doors for so many great athletes.  Sandy Koufax, to a somewhat lesser effect, made sure that religious beliefs could be respected in pro sports.  Being a star athlete at the top of the game, he famously chose to stay strong to his Jewish heritage and would not pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 World Series (and still beat my Twins later in game 7 of the series).  While this firm stand may not be as radical as breaking the color barrier, the two men did impact the game of baseball not only on the field but on the baseball ethics level.  Sorry Jackie, but you were the closest 2nd in the NL on this entire list.
  4. And speaking of close 2nds, how about them damn Yankees?!  Wow, when you have to leave off names like Gehrig, Mantle, and Jeter, your list of team-lifers must be STRONG to say the least.  Even a guy like Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, or Don Mattingly would normally make this list under any other team.  I picked Joltin’ Joe because of the number of rings (NINE!!!) and because of the fact that he would own many Yankee records if not for the military service her performed in World War II.  Oh yeah, he also has a record that I believe will never be broken – 56 games in a row with a hit.
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks – Teams with such a short history are tough.  To find a guy that only wore their uniform AND contributed at a high level is a task.  These searches are what made this blog idea (one that I thought was “a day, tops”) turn into a week plus of internet searches.  I have seen parts of Baseball-Reference that I am surprised exist (OK, I’m not surprised, it’s baseball, we love our numbers and stats).  I chose Brandon Webb because he was DOMINANT for a couple of years…  now he is incredibly close to hanging it up.  Sure, he signed a contract with the Rangers the other year, but he never appeared in a game for them!  I’m rooting for the guy, but if he doesn’t come back, then at least the list will look OK for another couple of years.
  6. Miami Marlins – Of course the Marlins would be the team that created the most headaches.  I searched by team leaders under nearly every stat in Baseball Reference and only found the name “Renyel Pinto” qualified under my criteria.  I’m sorry, lone die-hard Marlin fan, you must really enjoy removing your favorite players last name from your jersey.  Biggest name with the shortest tenure, if I kept track of that, would definitely be Mike Piazza, though.  At least you can hang on to that awesome week!
  7. Toronto Blue Jays – I was so close to choosing Kelly Gruber, but then he had to play 18 games with the Angels.  What a loser!!  I kid.  I chose Cito Gaston because he was the only Blue Jay that did anything and didn’t wear another uniform while holding his position.  Sure, he played for other teams, but he only ever coached the Jays.  Two World Series ain’t bad.
  8. For all of the *s on the list above, that denotes a player that is still active.  I tried to stay away from this as much as possible, but there were a few teams that proved nearly impossible.  You will also note that the names in bold are not only the “face of the franchise”, but also played for just that team.

Oh, Twins fans, I agonized over my choices.  I nearly put Puckett for both, but how could I “overlook” Harmon?!  I was lucky enough to watch Kirby play all through my childhood, but I never got to see Harmon play.  This was a hard choice, but I’d rather honor two greats, than leave one off.  (Also, as much as I hate thinking about Harmon in a non-Twins uni, he did make it easier for my list by wearing the Royal blue.)


Lastly, my thanks…

Thank you to the Twitter-hive for helping me out on a few of these.  Your voice was heard, but not always followed.  Although there was a vote for Gehrig and Mantle, I still went on my own and chose DiMaggio.

Now for the HUGEST of thanks:  THANK YOU, BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM!!  I know that 99.9% of you baseball nerds know of this site, but still, here’s the link.

5 thoughts on “Best of the MLB: Team by Team Breakdown

  1. I personally think that Dave Steib deserves the honorary lifer for the Blue Jays since he had their first no-hitter in franchise history and two no-hit bids broken in the ninth inning with two outs in consecutive starts. I personally just don’t see Miguel Cabrera as the face of the Marlins, since he left the team at the age of 24, but that’s all the argument I’ll make. Following are just some players you may have missed when evaluating the teams (just in case):
    Marlins: Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Gary Sheffield, Mike Lowell, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez
    Phillies: Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Grover Cleveland
    Nationals: Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Valdimir Guerrero
    Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez
    Rockies: Larry Walker
    Padres: Dave Winfield, Trevor Hoffman
    Cubs: Greg Maddux, Steve Bartman, Andre Dawson, Billy Sianis, Ernie Banks, the ivy
    Brewers: Paul Molitor
    Orioles: Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson
    Yankees: Yogi Berra
    Rays: Carl Crawford, Joe Madden, Evan Longoria
    Blue Jays: Roy Halladay, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, Jesse Barfield
    Astros: Nolan Ryan
    Angels: Garrett Anderson, Francisco Rodriguez, Rod Carew, Troy Glaus, Vladimir Guerrero, Jered Weaver,
    Athletics: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter
    Rangers: Michael Young
    White Sox: Ken Harrelson, Bill Veeck, Harry Caray
    Indians: John Adams
    Tigers: Hank Greenberg
    Twins: Walter Johnson

    • Marlins: Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Gary Sheffield, Mike Lowell, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez – I was split between Hanley and Miguel, to tell you the truth. I know that the numbers and legacy in a different uni shouldn’t come in to play, but Miguel is potentially a first ballot HoFer who didn’t exactly fire blanks with his first team. The Marlins should be punished for getting rid of Miguel for next to nothing, and maybe keeping him on this list is a way to remind them. My personal dark horse was Charlie Hough. He was 45 in his first season with the Marlins. I still remember having his Marlins baseball card and thinking it was AWESOME!

      Phillies: Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Grover Cleveland – One of the perfect instances of when a team has a HUGE HoFer that is a lifer, it’s going to be near impossible to dethrone him as the Face of the Franchise as well.

      Nationals: Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero – My final two were Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. Andre had slightly better numbers, but Gary was a huge leader and put up those numbers as a catcher. Vlad came close, but it’s going to be hard to dethrone a couple members of the Hall.

      Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez – Oh how I tried to include Luis. I definitely tried, but leaving out Randy Johnson from all of the list seemed like a baseball sin. Randy’s performance in the World Series was incredible, and to do it against the Bronx Bombers, shows how dominant he had to be.

      Rockies: Larry Walker – It was so hard to vote against Larry. He dominated for a long time. I loved the fact that he hit for average and a power hitter. Sure, Todd Helton is still playing, but he is more than likely going to retire soon and (unless he requests a trade in hopes of chasing a ring) he will likely being wearing a Rockies jersey at the press conference. Larry gets an honorary nod.

      Padres: Dave Winfield, Trevor Hoffman – Dave Winfield, a native from the land of the ice and cold, a potential multi-sport Hall of Famer, and he loses to one of the best hitters of the 90s. It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Gwynn also has the BEST first name! 🙂

      Cubs: Greg Maddux, Steve Bartman, Andre Dawson, Billy Sianis, Ernie Banks, the ivy – I particularly like Steve and the ivy the most out of these choices. I might look at adding a new field, the “Angels In The Outfield” category if you will. With the addition of John Adams below, we already have a few teams covered.

      Brewers: Paul Molitor – As a Minnesotan, I never forget Pauly, if he would have stayed with the Brew Crew, he’d be on top for sure. I liked him more than Yount, but the fact that Yount owns the Brewers’ record books, I couldn’t get past that.

      Orioles: Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson – Beyond solid men, but how can you go against Cal? I was lucky enough to watch this HoFer play, and he was special. If it wasn’t for Robin Ventura and Kirby Puckett, he would have been an easy favorite of mine.

      Yankees: Yogi Berra – Yogi!!! But seriously, moving on…

      Rays: Carl Crawford, Joe Madden, Evan Longoria – Carl is a strong choice (though still playing), and Joe madden was close to being the “lifer”, but his short stints before the Rays took him out of the running.

      Blue Jays: Roy Halladay, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, Jesse Barfield – I decided to go with their lone Hall of Famer, but going with the man who cemented their first World Series would have been a good choice. Roy Halladay, solid choice, but I tried to stay away from current guys.

      Astros: Nolan Ryan – Yep, he could legitimately be three teams’ top guy.

      Angels: Garrett Anderson, Francisco Rodriguez, Rod Carew, Troy Glaus, Vladimir Guerrero, Jered Weaver – I was thinking of Rod Carew or Vlad, but chose Nolan Ryan instead, even though he was also the face of the Rangers.

      Athletics: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter – Considered these three, but I cannot get rid of Rickey.

      Rangers: Michael Young – I was considering him, and if it wasn’t for his recent switch up, he’d crush Rusty Greer.

      White Sox: Ken Harrelson, Bill Veeck, Harry Caray – I think you covered it with this trio!

      Indians: John Adams – If a fan deserved it, Adams is a forerunner.

      Tigers: Hank Greenberg – Since Greenberg finished with the Pirates, it’s hard to replace Ty Cobb with Hank. It’s definitely close, but Ty wins it.

      Twins: Walter Johnson – Was I wrong for putting Puckett? Well, yes, if I were strictly adhering to the Franchise rule. But as a kid growing up in MN, it’s hard to think of anyone that could be the face of the franchise more than Kirby.

    • Oh, and Dave Stieb? Well, his short stint with the White Sox was a KILLER. WHY DO THESE GUYS RUIN THEIR REPUTATION (or chance to make these lists) LIKE THAT?!

  2. Nice list, it is nice to see all of the awesome stars listed in one place. Its a neat comparison.
    Being that I am also a Brewer fan, I have to mention one thing… Paul Molitor is a more common Brewers’ name than Yount is. Yount may have played for the Brewers longer than Molitor, but aren’t Molitor’s stats still better?
    Yount had 13 awards while playing 20 yrs with the Brewers, but Molitor had 14 awards while playing 15 yrs with the Brewers.

    I sencerely would like if you could analyse this and find out who the better player was while they played for the Brewers (on paper, and on the field).

    Great entry, I keep coming back and re-reading it!

    -Paul K

    • Thanks, Paul! I was torn on Yount vs. Molitor, especially since I LOVE the Molitor burger at The Nook (one of the best burgers in all of Minnesota). I guess that Yount won me over since he was a middle infielder and hit for more power than Paul. Plus, there is something to be said for a guy that plays for just one team for all of his career. If it weren’t for Cal Ripken, Yount may have won MANY more awards… it’s tough being #2 to one of the best to ever play the position.

      I’ll try posting a side by side comparison for their 162 game average. I can tell you that they are VERY similar, but when it comes to Career WAR, here’s the breakdown:

      Molitor: Offensive = 72.6, Defensive = -7.8
      Yount: Offensive = 78.2, Defensive = 5.8

      Yount not only wins the offensive production measurement, but is positive in defense for his career, while Molitor was consistently below average.

      With that said, I still think that if you choose Paul Molitor, you aren’t exactly losing, and as a Minnesotan, I had a hard time NOT choosing him.

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