Friday, August 17, 2012

All-Time Team of Living Hall of Famers

A couple weeks ago on Twitter, a fellow baseball writer—actually, he's a published author and I'm not, so we're hardly peers—said he'd decided to replace Lou Gehrig with Stan Musial at 1B on his all-time team. He also explained his thought process, which, although I don't agree, is somewhat defensible. Well, parts of it are more defensible than others, but that's not really my point.

My point is it gave me an idea for an easy post that's a slight variation on this theme.

What also influenced this post is my recollection of Joe DiMaggio being referred to frequently as the greatest living ballplayer (while he was still alive, of course). I remember thinking to myself, despite Joe D's standing as my father's favorite player, that DiMaggio might not even be the greatest living Yankee center fielder (do I need to explain that Mickey Mantle was also still alive?), not to mention Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and maybe Musial were also in the equation.

Then, as I thought about the distinction while in Cooperstown for this year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, it occurred to me Mays is pretty clearly the undisputed choice. Well, unless you want to bring Barry Bonds into the discussion.

But, I really want to avoid that subject right now, so that's why I settled on this all-time team of living Hall of Famers, which hopefully I'll update as changes are necessary. Realizing, of course, that last part sounds potentially a little morbid.

C - Johnny Bench
1B - Stan Musial
2B - Joe Morgan
SS - Cal Ripken
3B - Mike Schmidt
LF - Rickey Henderson
CF - Willie Mays
RF - Hank Aaron
RHP - Tom Seaver
LHP - Steve Carlton

There's really not much to discuss here. They're all inner circle Hall of Famers, in my estimation, and the consensus opinion agrees. Probably the only possible disputes are at left field and left-handed pitcher.

A lot of folks would take Sandy Koufax ahead of Carlton. But, I think those in that camp overrate and overemphasize Koufax's peak, which was short and occurred during a pitcher-dominated era. If injury hadn't derailed his career during his prime, this might be a different conversation. But, injuries happen and it would be ridiculous to give guys credit for what we think would have happened.

In left field, the other options are two-fold. One would be to put Musial out there and choose a different first baseman, most likely Rod Carew. I've always considered Musial a left fielder, probably because he played 1890 games in the outfield (about half of them in left) and 1016 games at first. But, first base is the position he played the most, so I think he could legitimately be considered at either position.

My other left field option would have been simply to take Frank Robinson over Henderson. Robinson ranked higher in the inner circle project I linked to above, and, although he played more games in right, he did man left field for 835 games.

But, I feel confident I made the right choices here. Who would be your all-time team of living Hall of Famers?


  1. I'm assuming that Roger Clemens is left off for the same reasons as Bonds?

    1. They're both left off because I took the easy route of calling this a team of living Hall of Famers, rather than just living players in general.