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.)
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:
- 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).
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.