Saturday, January 31, 2009

All-Lifetime Team, Part 2: Outfielders and DHs

This is the second in my three-part series rating the greatest Major League Baseball players of my lifetime. First, though, I have to admit that I may have overlooked someone in Part 1.

Pete Rose played more games at first base than at any other position in his career, yet most sources, when comparing players by position, tend to consider him as either a left fielder or a right fielder. He actually played more games at second and third, in addition to first and in left, than he did in right. So, why anyone--especially Bill James--would consider him there is beyond me. Making matters even more complicated, here's the breakdown of Rose's seasons by primary position:

2B (1963-66)
LF (1967, 72-74)
RF (1968-71)
3B (1975-78)
1B (1979-86)

While first base is the position he played the most, he only played three games there prior to 1979. That's the first 16 years of his career, making it pretty difficult to consider first base as his true position. Considering the other four positions are divided fairly evenly--four seasons each--I've decided instead to call Rose the ultimate utility player. Instead of filling in game-by-game at the spot he was most needed, he did this on a year-to-year basis.

So, rather than create a special category for Rose, I'm going to lump him in with the DHs. Enough semantics, though. It's time to get back to my selections.

1. Pete Rose
2. Paul Molitor
3. Frank Thomas

On some level, Rose is a bit over-rated. That's not to say he's not a Hall of Fame caliber player, he just doesn't belong in the conversation with the greatest players of all-time. Still, the fact that he capably was a regular at five different positions in his career--and was probably an above average outfielder and an average infielder--negates any discussions about his lack of defensive prowess. Molitor was similarly versatile, but was somewhat injury prone, which is the primary reason he spent close to half of his career as a DH. Thomas has racked up the kind of numbers that should be good enough for him to become the second DH in the Hall of Fame. Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines had very good careers, but come up a bit short, although I do consider Martinez to be a just-below-the-borderline candidate.

Left Field
1. Barry Bonds
2. Rickey Henderson
3. Carl Yastrzemski

I avoided having to weigh in on the old "S" word dilemma when I chose Rod Carew as my third first baseman over Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, but that was only postponing the inevitable. Actually, I'm really not going to address it, except to say that I'm making these selections simply based on what has happened on the field. There is no doubting that, based on on-field performance, Bonds is the greatest player of my lifetime. The next two were pretty easy as well, except deciding in what order to rank them. I chose Henderson over Yastrzemski, although I feel that it was really close, and lot of people probably don't realize this, as Yaz is a little on the under-rated side. No one else even compares to these three, although I'll say without reservation, that Tim Raines comes much closer than Jim Rice. In fact, this exercise has made me truly realize that Rice really does fall short of Hall of Fame caliber. It's not a travesty that he got in, but he's just not quite there, in my opinion.

Center Field
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
2. Andre Dawson
3. Bernie Williams

Griffey was an easy pick as the greatest center fielder of my generation. In fact, I remember a time when everyone thought he--rather than Bonds--was going to be the one to challenge Hank Aaron's home run record. Dawson actually played more games in right than he did in center for his career, but he had just as many excellent years--and won four of his eight gold gloves--as a center fielder. So, I'm putting him on my center field list because of this, and the fact that the position is relatively much weaker than right. I feel that Williams is quite under-rated, and the proof that I'm not just being a homer of a Yankee fan is that I didn't even consider Don Mattingly at first base or Thurman Munson at catcher. Speaking of Munson, there's a player whose career ended just as prematurely--although not as tragically--that I left off this list. That player, of course, is Kirby Puckett. I think Puckett is more worthy of the Hall of Fame than is Munson, but I find it interesting that his shortened career was treated so much more favorably than was Thurman's. Still, I think Puckett comes up short, and I would even rank him behind Jim Edmonds on this list.

Right Field
1. Manny Ramirez
2. Dave Winfield
3. Reggie Jackson

George Steinbrenner would be rolling over in his grave at the news that I ranked not only Winfield, but also Ramirez, ahead of Jackson. That is, if the Boss was actually in the grave, and if he cared about my opinion. But, Manny has accumulated a phenomenal body of work, and he becomes the third active player--not counting Bonds--to earn the top spot at his position. Winfield gets the nod over Reggie because of his better all-around game, and the fact that I weighed the regular season much more heavily than the post-season. On the outside looking in at this loaded position are Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa and Vladimir Guerrero.


  1. Danny..Thanks for taking the time to post your results..I'm excited to see that you gave Barry Bonds his props..I'm also glad to see so many Yankees make your list, especially Bernie Williams..In his younger, healthier days as a Yankee, there was no ball he couldn't run down and no timely hit that he didn't deliver..
    Thanks again..
    Your high school Tar Heel loving buddy Matt

  2. Thanks for reading, Matt. I decided not to factor steroids implications into this. If not for that dirty "S" word, you could argue that the only offensive player who dominated his era more than Bonds was Babe Ruth.