Wednesday, January 28, 2009

All-Lifetime Team, Part 1: Catchers and Infielders

An old high school friend--one of many with whom I've recently re-connected on facebook--asked me to name my all-lifetime team--in baseball, of course. Since I'm always up for this kind of challenge, I decided to rank the top three players at each position during my lifetime of fandom.

To be eligible, a player has to have played the majority of his career--or a minimum of ten seasons--after 1973. 1974 would be my best recollection of the year I truly became a baseball fan. The most notable player who missed the cut so far is Willie McCovey, whose career spanned from 1959 to 1980. Re-thinking my eligibility requirement, I feel justified in my decision, since this means I was only 13 years old when he retired.

There were also a couple of gray areas with regard to positions, but generally I considered each player's entire career at the position at which he played the most games. I'm going to do this in three installments, starting with catchers and infielders. Stay tuned for part two (outfielders and DHs) and part three (pitchers).

Hall of Famers are listed in bold print.

1. Johnny Bench
2. Carlton Fisk
3. Ivan Rodriguez

Bench was a fairly easy pick for #1. Among catchers, only Mike Piazza has better offensive numbers, and only Ivan Rodriguez can match his defensive prowess. Fisk still holds the record for most career games caught, so of course his cumulative numbers benefit from this longevity, but he was an excellent defensive catcher--not as good as Bench and Rodriguez, but much better than Piazza. Rodriguez, as the best defensive catcher of his era, and certainly no slouch offensively, earns the third spot over Piazza and Gary Carter.

First Base
1. Eddie Murray
2. Jeff Bagwell
3. Rod Carew

Again, Murray was a fairly easy choice for the top spot. He has to be considered the ultimate model of consistency, hitting 504 career homers without ever hitting more than 33, and reaching 3255 hits with a career high of 186. He may have never won an MVP, but it seems he was almost always a leading candidate. Surprisingly, I consider Bagwell to be an obvious #2 on this list. It will be interesting to see if Hall of Fame voters consider him the slam dunk that I do. Carew played more games at first base than second base in his career, and more seasons--10 to 9--yet it seems that most sources consider him as a second baseman. He wouldn't have made my top three at second, though, so I chose him over Tony Perez, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire as my third first baseman.

Second Base
1. Joe Morgan
2. Roberto Alomar
3. Craig Biggio

Another no-brainer at #1, Morgan is widely considered to be the greatest second baseman of all-time. The only players you could even argue in comparison are old-timers Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie and--the pride of Dutchess County--Eddie Collins. You might be surprised at my second and third choices, and the fact that I opted for them instead of the slightly over-rated Ryne Sandberg. Alomar's skills faded quickly after his 34th birthday, otherwise I might be making a case for him over Morgan. But, that's a moot point, and some would argue that I should rank Biggio ahead of him due to his consistency and longevity. Regardless, both of them are first ballot Hall of Famers, and clearly better than Sandberg and the recently retired Jeff Kent, in my opinion.

1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Cal Ripken Jr.
3. Robin Yount

Is it premature to rank Rodriguez ahead of Ripken already? I don't think so. A-Rod would be well on his way to being considered the greatest shortstop of all-time if not for the fact that in 3+ more years as a third baseman, he'll have played more games there. But, for now, that's a dilemma I don't have to consider. As far as I'm concerned, Ripken and Yount were pretty obvious choices over fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. In fact, Smith might not even make my top five, as he'd be up against Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter for that honor.

Third Base
1. Mike Schmidt
2. George Brett
3. Wade Boggs

This was probably the easiest position of all, so far. All three of these guys are Hall of Famers, and Schmidt is considered by most to be the greatest third baseman of all-time. I suppose you could argue putting Boggs ahead of Brett, but that's about the only debatable point with this list. Chipper Jones is the only other player who even comes close, and considering he's only approaching his 37th birthday and doesn't appear to be slowing down, he may play a part in this discussion before all is said and done.


  1. cool beans. i was thinking about doing something like this for guys i've actually seen play. then i started thinking about doing another one for guys at each instrument that i've seen live. then i fell asleep.

  2. Great idea! You've got me thinking about my own lifetime team (which will go back a few years more :))