Sunday, May 15, 2011
My All-Time Team - Me and Willie McGee
In honor of George Brett's birthday, I give to you my all-time baseball team. If I had to run 9 guys out there, this is who I would want on the field. I constrained myself to only players that I've seen play (live or tv), players who have played in my lifetime.
Leading off is my childhood favorite, Willie McGee. I've been a Cardinals fan as long as I can recall, which is roughly since 1985, when Willie McGee won the NL MVP, batting .353 with 56 Stolen Bases and 18 triples. Though he may be on the same roster as Randy Johnson when it comes to an all-time looks roster, McGee is a 4-time all star and 3-time Gold Glove winner. McGee is one of the few (if not the only) players to win a batting title while playing in the other league (won the 1990 NL batting title, despite finishing the year with Oakland).
Though it's hard for me not to put Ozzie Smith at SS on my all-time roster, Troy Tulowitzki has not only highlight-reel worthy defense, but swings a mighty stick. Though a young player, Tulowitzki plays with an inspiring intensity and swagger. In 2010 he won his first Gold Glove and was nominated to his first All-Star team. The kid has a bright future and will assuredly need to expand his trophy case in years to come.
Batting third, in left field, I go with another young player, who is one of the few 5-tool players currently in the game. Like Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez is a menace at the plate in addition to being a wonder defensively in the field. I gave some consideration to Matt Holliday. While Holliday and Gonzalez both rake at the plate, I chose CarGo (who got his nickname because he once wore CarGo shorts) because of his defensive edge over Holliday.
With a lineup full of All-Stars and MVPs, it's difficult to order, but hard to go wrong at the same time. Hitting cleanup, I select Larry Walker. Walker is often discredited for the bulk of his career numbers as he played his home games in the pre-humidor years of Coors Field. However, that was just a convenient reason for the East-coast biased media to ignore the Mountain Timezone for so long. Although in 1997 the goofy Canadian was recognized for his performance (.366 AVG, .720 Slug, 49 HRs) with an NL MVP award. The 5-time all-star is not only a solid hitter, but has a cannon of an arm in RF, earning 7 gold gloves in his career.
Following Lar-ry is the birthday boy himself, George Brett. George is one of my favorite players of all time. As the Kansas City Royals were my home team (closest MLB club) until I was a teenager (when the Rockies came to Colorado), I grew up watching him play with unmatched intensity on the diamond. Apparently (as a toddler) I nicknamed him Joe DeBart, or perhaps I just couldn't pronounce words yet at that age. Brett, a Hall of Famer, was the 1980 MVP. He was named to 13 consecutive All-Star games and won the AL batting title in 3 different decades.
In the 6 hole (don't tell him that he's hitting so far down the lineup), I have the Toddfather, Todd Helton at first base. Todd is a 5-time All-Star, 3-time gold glover, and a career .324 hitter. I'll never forget Todd's walk-off homer of Takashi Saito in 2007 to spark the Rockies infamous September run to the World Series, nor the picture of his hands lifted in the air over Eric Byrnes eating dirt following the final out of the '07 NLCS.
In the 7 and 8 holes I have my second baseman and catcher - probably the most difficult of positions to fill on most any all-time team. My second base candidates included Eric Young (sr.) and Clint Barmes, however, neither have both outstanding bat and glove. Craig Biggio came to mind, but I can't stand the way he would lean into pitches. I finally settled on Ryne Sandberg (I know, a Cub?) Perhaps it's all those years spent watching WGN that swayed my decision. He is a 10-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove, Hall of Fame second baseman after all.
Batting eighth at Catcher is Ivan Rodriguez. This was by far the most difficult position to select. I considered Joe Girardi, Brent Mayne, Mike MacFarlane, Kirk 'what was that' Manwaring, Tony Pena, and Yorvit Torrealba. While I was making my selections I was watching the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers on MLB.TV, and Rod Barajas came to the plate. However, I quickly crossed him off after he flied out to the warning track. Then there was Mike Scioscia, Carlton Fisk (the real Pudge), Darrell Porter, the list of candidates seemed to go on and on. I needed someone who was just as solid defensively, but could still hit. I narrowed my list down to Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez. Perhaps I eliminated Benito for the earring and Mike for the hair commercials, I don't really remember. Regardless, I settled on I-Rod (not sure how people call him Pudge when that's Fisk's nickname). Ivan is a 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove award winner. He's rumored to still play for some franchise on the East coast.
As for the battery mate for I-Rod, I've seen a lot of great pitchers in my time - Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens to name a few, and it's hard not to give the nod to the local boy, ol' Roy. But if I had to run someone out there, I'd want to hand the ball to Nolan Ryan. My guess is he could still go another nine innings if he had to. 7 no hitters and more than 5,000 strike outs (the closest active player has less than half as many).
So there you have it. If I had to field a team of players from my lifetime, that's who I'd want to see play. Who are your nine?