The premise of the piece started last season when I said Albert Pujols was the greatest first baseman of all time on Twitter (@ColeyMick… Hit that follow button). Few agreed. The main proponent was Bryan Doherty (@BDohertyTSHQ1…follow at your own peril). Yes, the very same one you all know and hate. He got loud in my mentions for about 30 minutes and finally the conversation boiled down to who would be on our all time team. Why stop at first base when we could fill out a roster? Especially when we already write on the same site? A year later the topic resurfaced and we decided there was no time better than the present.
Coley’s Criteria: For me, it was simple. Winning was important. Not every player on the roster needs to have hardware in their collection, but enough winners to lead my clubhouse and take the reins come September. Secondly, I want power in my lineup without sacrificing defense in the field. While my pitching staff is unheralded, we will not be relying on our offense to bail out an error laden, swiss cheese defense. Lastly, I need some character in my clubhouse. It would be easy to take the best statistical player at each position, but that’s simply not my style. Character keeps my team loose and the chemistry at a maximum. And chemistry, as far as I’m concerned, is the most important aspect to any great team.
Bryan’s Criteria: Baseball is a fascinating sport. For my money it has the greatest history and debates in all of sports. There’s so many variables that go into determining the best players of all-time. With that said, while some obsess over ballpark dimensions and specialists like “one-out relievers”, I think it’s fair to say that baseball far and wide has stayed the closest throughout its history compared to other sports. 3000 hits is 3000 hits. Whether you did it in 1912 or 2012, it’s still recognized as an amazing achievement. It’s the easiest sport to compare old generations to current which makes this team so fun to dig through. For me, there’s two things that stand out when selecting this team. First and foremost is big-stage performance. Baseball is harder to judge on titles because you can go 0 for 20 in a series and if your staff is lights out you’ll win. I like winners though. It’s been a main point of emphasis for me in all discussions and that won’t change. Secondly, a player has to have been a premier player not only at his position but in the league. This is an all-time team. An MVP or run of dominance at a certain part of the game is a must.
With that said, let us check out the squads:
C – Yogi Berra
Berra, while arguably the greatest catcher of all time, is on the team for many reasons. For one, I’m not sure baseball has ever had a more quotable persona than Yogi (if you retort “Jose Canseco,” there’s probably a good reason we’re not friends). A St. Louis born wise guy tailor made for the Bronx. Yogi touts his 10 World Series rings as a player and three additional as a manager as my player-coach, as well as my PR guy. He also brings with him a .285 career average with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI. I’m confident the three time MVP and 18-time All Star can handle my pitching staff behind the dish, as well. So far, so good.
1B – Albert Pujols
The Machine. The sole reason behind this article. The $240 million man. .326 career batting average. 450 home runs. 464 doubles. 1,351 RBI. 1.027 OPS. Nine time All Star. Six time Silver Slugger. Three time MVP. Two time Gold Glove winner. And a two time World Series Champion in three trips to the Fall Classic. Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie. You want to play someone else at first? Be my guest. I’ll take the greatest player with the funniest last name that never even gets mentioned because he is too damn good to be mocked. Albert. Pujols.
2B – Pete Rose
Here’s the loose cannon on my team, but with Berra at the helm I am the least bit worried with Charlie Hustle in the lineup. The All Time Leader in hits and widely considered one of the greatest switch hitters of all time, Rose brings a mess of talent and that much more desire to my squad. While he was not an every day second baseman, he played well over 600 games at the position during his career. That’s more than enough for me. The three time World Series Champ may have been a gambling addict, but the 17-time All Star was never knocked for his play on the field. I’m OK with character issues as long as you step up and perform when your number is called. Mr. Hustle was one who always rose to the occasion. (No pun intended, I swear.)
3B – Mike Schmidt
I think this is the obvious choice. The 10-time Gold Glover is a necessity at the hot corner on my team. As my shortstop will show, defense is key on the left side of my infield. But make no mistake, Schmidt was not merely a defensive stalwart. 548 career bombs will be welcomed to the middle of my lineup every day of the week. The 12-time All Star won three MVPs over his 17 professional seasons. Not to mention his 1980 World Series title to coincide with his World Series MVP. If Doherty has anyone else holding down his hot corner, he is simply wrong. This is probably the least debatable position player on the list.
SS – Ozzie Smith
The Wizard might as well leave his bat at home, because that’s not what I gave him a call for this prestigious honor (even though he did claim one Silver Slugger over his career). The 15-time All Star won 13 Gold Gloves over his 18 year career. His 8,375 assists are still a ML record by a shortstop. His 1,590 double plays are second all time. With Smith and Rose up the middle, and Pujols and Schmidt on the corners, I doubt there will be many seeing eye singles trickling through the infield. He will hit ninth for me, where his 580 stolen bases will distract pitchers while the top of my lineup steps into the batter’s box. I know, a truly brilliant strategy indeed.
LF – Ted Williams
Teddy Ballgame was the greatest pure hitter of all time. You debate that and I will immediately dismiss your opinion as schadenfreude. He retired with a .480 career OBP, not to mention a .344 batting average. The Splendid Splinter hit 521 homers DESPITE losing four season in his prime to serve his country as a fighter pilot in WWII. The 19-time All Star won two MVPs during his career, yet he is one of the few on roster without ever winning the big one. Doesn’t matter. Williams will hit out of the three hole and hold down left field for me. While it happened over 70 years ago, Williams remains the last play to finish a season with a batting average over .400 (.406).
CF – Ken Griffey, Jr.
It’s more than fair to say there have been better center fielders than The Kid over the years. Doesn’t bother me a bit. This is where my personal bias comes into play. Growing up in the ’90s, there was only one bigger athlete on the planet than Griffey for my money. The first fitted hat I owned was a Seattle Mariners 7 1/4 New Era… and I wore it backwards. I still have a Griffey poster on my wall – which coincidentally resides underneath a Ted Williams Sports Illustrated cover. Listen, Griffey was no slouch in the field or at the dish. He had the sweetest swing I have ever seen. An effortless, lefty swoosh and the ball was deposited in the right field bleachers at Saefco. The Kid has been and will remain my All Time favorite non-Red Sox player and he will patrol centerfield for this team as long as I’m at the helm.
RF – Hank Aaron
755 home runs, the all time leader in that category (Troll-la-la-la la-la-la-la). 2,297 RBI, the all time leader in that category. 1,477 extra-base hits… the all time leader in that category. 17 consecutive seasons with at least 150 hits… ML record. The Hank Aaron award, the less heralded hitters version of the CY Young, says it all. Oh yeah, he also made the All Star team each of his 20 seasons, claimed one MVP award as well as won a ring. Williams and Aaron back to back in my lineup? Good luck pitching around that.
DH – David Ortiz
We decided that in order to make this list semi-credible, we should have the DH be someone who actually played the position rather than say Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. With that qualifier, it basically whittled it down to three players in my mind: Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, and Big Papi. Martinez is the gold standard by which DHs are measured. In fact, there’s an award for that. The Big Hurt was an absolute monster; a freakish, physical beast who regularly walloped tape measure bombs. But: my list = my players. Ortiz has really only been a relevant player since he joined the Red Sox in 2003. I already know what the comments will say, “He’s a cheater! Steroids! Mitchell Report! Eye drops!” Shut. Up. Two World Series rings for one of the most downtrodden fan bases in America. I don’t care what the stats say on this one. I just know what my eyes tell me. Game on the line. Greatest closer in the game’s history on the hill. Well, you know the rest.
SP – Randy Johnson
I originally had Nolan Ryan slated as the ace of this staff and then I crunched some numbers. Ryan is undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all time, there is no question about it. But his 324 wins are countered by 292 losses. He’s got more strikeouts than anyone, but he also has more walks than anyone. He’s like the Brett Favre of pitchers. Again, one of the greats but give me The Big Unit. I want my number one to have batters being thankful they struck out rather than be taken off of the field on a stretcher. A ten time All Star, Johnson also won five CY Young awards (second all time). He threw seven less no hitters than Ryan, but he threw one more perfect game. He also hit 188 batters, good enough for third all time. The 6’10″ Ryan, his nasty snarl, and violent left handed delivery gets the nod for the first game of any series and I certainly don’t hate it.
SP – Pedro Martinez
Read this closely. Pedro Martinez is my favorite athlete of all time. Any sport. Any era. Any team. Doesn’t matter. Let me put it to you this way: Justin Verlander’s MVP season resembles Rick Ankiel’s pitching debut when stacked up against Pedro Martinez between 1999-2000. Over the 430 innings he pitched during that time, Pedro allowed 288 hits while yielding 69 walks. He struck out 597 batters. His WHIP was 0.87. His ERA… 1.90. You know of a better two year stretch in MLB history? Let me know. Mind you, he also started the 1999 All Star Game and struck out five of the first six batters Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Jeff Bagwell. All of ‘em. Didn’t. Stand. A. Chance. Should we act like his 17 strikeout, one-hitter in Yankee Stadium wasn’t one of the most dominant pitching performances of all time as well? During his seven year career with the Sox, Pedro finished with a 117-37 record. Aka, the highest winning percentage any pitcher has ever had with any team. Pedro is also the only pitcher to throw nine perfect innings without a decision (accomplished with the Expos). Matter of fact, sorry Randy, you’re getting pushed back. Go hit the golf course for a day and get ready for tomorrow’s game. Pedro’s my ace and that’s final. Borderline sacrilege that he wasn’t there in the first place.
SP – Satchel Paige
Go ahead. Look up his Major League stats. Impressed? Didn’t think so. That’s what happens when you don’t get to make your professional debut until the age of 42. Yet, he was a two time All Star in the Bigs. He was a World Series winner in the Bigs. He was the first Negro League player to get voted into Cooperstown. While stats cannot accurately paint the portrait that was Satchel Paige, maybe quotes can do him some justice. “The pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw.” That was said by Dizzy Dean. Maybe you’ve heard of him? While Joe DiMaggio, yes that Joe DiMaggio, was set to be called up to the Majors, he faced Paige and went 1-for-4. Per a Yankees scout, “DiMaggio is everything we’d hoped he’d be: hit Satch 1-4.” Mind you, that one was a grounder that deflected off of Paige and was a bang bang play at first. DiMaggio, later in his career, went on to say that Paige was the greatest pitcher he had ever faced. Argue it all you like. Statistics are on your side. As far as I’m concerned, the greatest pitcher never discussed deserves some recognition. And he can pitch for my team any day of the week.
RP – Mariano Rivera
Enter, Sandman. Do I need to give a reasoning? I do? That’s messed up. This isn’t a discussion. I cannot take you seriously if Mo is not your closer. All time saves leader. Postseason ERA of 0.70. Most career postseason saves. Most games finished. Five time World Series Champion. The last player who will ever wear #42. As close to perfect as you will ever see coming out of the gate in the ninth. If I have to say any more for you to get the point, maybe this wasn’t the article for you. Hell, you’re probably on the wrong site all together. Easiest decision for the team and there isn’t even a close second to consider.
Toughest Omission for Coley:
The toughest omission is possibly the most brutal decision of this whole piece. The amount of All Time greats that didn’t make the cut could fill out 50 more equally impressive rosters. Cal Ripken, Jr., Honus Wagner, Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantel, Lefty Grove, the list goes on and on. But when push comes to shove, the most glaring omission is obvious: the Sultan of Swat. George Herman “Babe” Ruth did it all. I almost put him on my pitching staff just so I could have his bat involved with this team as well. While Ruth was actually a dominant left handed pitcher, one who routinely beat Walter Johnson in head to head match ups, he was nothing short of a phenom in the batter’s box. In his first season as a full time outfielder, 1920 with the New York Yankees, Ruth crushed 54 home runs, shattering his own record of 29 which he hit as a part-time RF. He set another record with a .847 slugging percentage, which stood until 2001. The numbers are there, on the mound and in the box. I don’t need to say much about one of the greatest players the game has or will ever see. I’m taking Aaron over him, and while it is certainly a tough decision, I’m not losing any sleep over it. Two of the greatest power hitters of all time and I’m going with the Hammer over the Colossus of Clout. Complain all you’d like, it’s an argument you can neither win nor lose.
C- Yogi Berra
There’s really only 3 names worthy of discussion here: Berra, Johnny Bench and Josh Gibson. Gibson by all accounts was a prolific power hitter who has numerous narratives of the moonshots he’d hit at old Yankee Stadium and Griffith Stadium when he got to play there in Negro League or All-Star games. Ultimately, as unfortunate as it was he never got his shot at the big leagues, as he may have been the best catcher the game ever saw, he simply never got a chance to definitively prove himself in the game’s premier league. Bench is the standard by which all catchers should be judged defensively. His 10 Gold Gloves (consecutive) far succeeds any other catcher and you couldn’t go wrong putting him on your team. The issue is he’s going up against a player who owns 10 World Series rings on the sports world’s greatest dynasty. Berra was an All-Star nearly every year he played, 3-time league MVP, and regularly among the league leaders in defensive catching. He was as complete a catcher as there was and his resume’ isn’t matched.
1B Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was dominant from the time he came into the league until his early retirement due to ALS. 493 Home Runs, a career .340 average, 2721 hits, he won two league MVPs, was elected to 7 All-Star games and won six World series. He was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen regardless of position and his numbers would have been greater if not for his illness. 3000 hits, 500 Home Runs, and he combined with another member of this team to form what many baseball historians consider arguably the greatest lineup the game has ever seen. His consecutive games streak which needs no introduction spoke to the dedication he brought to the field and his durability. He retired from baseball at the age of 36 and only months later was granted a special election into Cooperstown. He was the dominant first basemen of his era from the time he stepped in to the time he left. He owns a Triple Crown, he is the only player with 400 total bases five times and holds numerous records for first basemen. He received the most votes of any player in history for baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.
2B Joe Morgan
Joe Morgan was as complete a player at 2nd base as they come. With all the power bats throughout the team, you need that blend of speed and that’s what Morgan brings to the team. A 10-time All-Star, Morgan was known for his gritty play and aggressiveness that made him one of the game’s all-time great base stealers. Part of the “Big Red Machine” team that won back to back World Series in 1975 and 76, he was a 5-time Gold Glover and two time NL MVP. With the importance of being strong up the middle defensively, there’s very few 2nd basemen in the game’s history that bring the full package to the table. His efficiency across the board in fielding, stolen bases and leading the league in statistics such as OBP, runs, walks among others throughout his career showed his ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways.
3B Mike Schmidt
There’s really no other option at this spot. Schmidt’s numbers and awards pretty much separates him from all other 3rd basemen. The best debate (and one that kind of reminded us of this) is who sits at #2 on the 3rd basemen list of all-timers. Shockingly Coley didn’t botch this position on his team as he’s notorious for over-looking glaringly obvious players (as we’ll get to shortly). Three MVPs, just under 600 Home Runs (well before it seemed like a normality in the late 90′s/early 00′s), and an astonishing 10 Gold Gloves. Basically if you wanted a Gold Glove in the 80′s in the NL, you were better off asking your manager for a position change if you were a 3rd basemen instead of trying to beat out Schmidt. One of the easiest choices on this roster.
SS Honus Wagner
Way back in the archives for my SS position. Wagner would be plugged right atop the lineup with his tremendous hitting prowess and speed. With over 640 doubles in his career, a career .328 average with an .858 OPS, Wagner sets the lineup in motion and gives an elite leadoff hitter. He won 8 batting titles, and also led the league in slugging 6 times. Unlike most hitters who could slug he also brings speed to the basepaths with 723 career thefts (10th all-time) including 5 consecutive seasons of 50+ steals. With Morgan and Schmidt in the infield, we don’t mind taking the standout leadoff hitter even though he had a solid glove anyways. Wagner gives us the versatility we desire with a number of roles he could fill on an all-time team.
LF Ted Williams
The greatest hitter the game of baseball has ever seen, there was simply no way I wasn’t putting Teddy Ballgame on my roster in LF. It’s crazy wondering where his numbers would have wound up if he didn’t lose those years of service to the military. He was constantly the most feared hitter in the game and his .406 average on the last day of the 1941 season deserves extra praise because he had the option to sit out the final day double-header and he would have finished at exactly .400%. However he chose to play and went 6 for 8 in the double-header. Had they had the current sac fly rules they have today, he would have hit .416 that year. 521 Home Runs, 2 MVPs, 17 All-star games, a .344 lifetime average, he led the leagues in nearly every offensive category at one point or another. The biggest knock against him was his poor showing in the 1946 World Series. His last major league at bat? A shot into the Right Field stands to close out a brilliant career. I still say it would have been more fitting if he lined a double opposite field.
CF Barry Bonds
The most controversial member on either team, you either exclude him from the discussion because of alleged steroid use or you include him. Bonds played over 100 games in his career in CF so the thought he couldn’t play it consistently holds down merit with me. I dont even need to defend his inclusion because he was worthy before he was rumored to have started steroids (though still no positive tests) in the early 2000s. Bonds impacted the game like few players in history could. He was a perennial 30+ HR hitter, he’d steal bases with regularity, he won 8 Gold Gloves, he won 12 silver sluggers including 7 in the 90s. The 7-time MVP was a dominant HOF worthy player before the final years when he chased the Home Run record. Few players have the complete game he possessed in Pittsburgh and his early San Fran years. So while you all jeer him and question his accomplishments, I have no issue recognizing him on my all-time baseball team. His play certainly warrants a spot.
RF Babe Ruth
For my money the GOAT in baseball. What he did starting out as a pitcher and transitioning into one of the greatest power hitters in the game’s short history is nothing short of amazing. 714 Home Runs, 2213 RBI and a ridiculous 2062 walks in his career. He led the league in slugging and on-base percentage nearly every year and is the all-time leader in both categories. He’s top five all-time in HRs, RBI, XBH, walks, runs scored and is 6th in total bases. He hit .342 for his career which when you consider the power he had and how much he was pitched around is astonishing. His ability to curse a franchise as long as he cursed the Red Sox is just more amazing (joking). He’s one of the game’s most iconic players for a reason and will be a great cleanup hitter on my all-time team. Come on, it’s BABE RUTH.
DH Frank Thomas
Thomas’ career stands above the others I look at in this category. The two-time league MVP, he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball in the 90s with 521 Home Runs in his career to match Ted Williams. He was a 5-time All-Star and won 4 silver slugger awards. He won a batting title in 1997 and led the league in on-base percentage 4 times. He was consistent for the bulk of his prime. You could just about pencil him in for a .310+ average, 30+ Home Runs and 100+ RBIs each year. Ortiz has been a great DH and was clutch throughout 2004 winning the Sox a World Series but his career has far more question marks. He was a nobody before coming to Boston and his career taking off corresponds with the alleged beginning of his steroid use. I know what Bonds was before he began using most likely. I know Thomas was a beast. What I don’t know is what is David Ortiz? Give me the sure thing and a career that likely will top Ortiz’s when all is said and done anyways.
SP Bob Gibson
Not sure I would give anyone the ball to win me one game over Bob Gibson. He was lethal in the postseason and was so dominant in his prime they had to change the height of the mound because he was so overwhelming on hitters. His 1968 season may be the greatest season a pitcher has ever had. In route to winning the Cy Young and MVP, Gibson went 22-9 with a video game-like 1.12 ERA in 304 innings pitched. He led the league with 268 strikeouts, threw 28 complete games and an unfathomable THIRTEEN shutouts. In the postseason is where he rose to the challenge most. He struck out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series vs Detroit and had a lifetime 7-2 record in the World Series with a 1.89 ERA including two World Series MVPs. He all but single-handedly denied the Red Sox a World Series in 1967 with 3 wins in the series. He had a 10.2 K/9 and 5.41 K/BB ratio in the World Series. There may have never been a better big game pitcher than Gibson.
SP Sandy Koufax
Koufax’s abbreviated career makes it hard to compare his numbers to other all-time greats in the discussion of pitchers. In fact from 1955-1960 he was a fairly mediocre pitcher. However, once he turned it around he became one of the game’s greatest pitchers. Koufax won 3 CY Youngs including an MVP in 1963, finishing twice 2 other years in the MVP voting. He won the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown three times including both of his final two seasons. Three of his final four seasons he won 25+ games and had an ERA under 2. If not for arthritis-like pain in his arm that caused his early retirement, he may have been able to get more numbers that would have put him in line with some other HOFs. Despite only 165 career wins, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1972. He was a 4-time World Series champ in in 5 appearances with the Dodgers only pitching in the final 4. In those World Series he never had an ERA over 1.50 and for his WS career he managed a 0.95 ERA in 57 innings, going 4-3 in that time. One of the best big game pitchers, we’ll just make sure he’s not scheduled to pitch on any Jewish holidays.
SP Christy Mathewson
I’ve always enjoyed reading up on some of the game’s oldest players and learning about the game’s history. When you go back to the beginning of baseball’s history, it’s usually Cy Young and Walter Johnson who you hear the most about. With the two highest win totals in MLB history it’s not for faulty logic. But for me as I’ve mentioned before and part of the reason I’m taking the three pitchers on my all-time team that I am is because of their big game prowess. With 373 career wins to his name, Mathewson was a reliable regular season pitcher for the duration of his career but it was in the postseason where he rose up. In the 1905 WS for the New York Giants he ran off 3 straight shutouts in route to their championship. He owns the 3rd most shutouts in baseball history. In all, Mathewson despite an average 5-5 mark in the WS was hardly to blame posting a 0.97 ERA in 101.2 innings pitched during his World Series career. He may not be the most noteworthy when it comes to the old-school pitchers, but I feel good about his merits on this all-time baseball team.
RP Mariano Rivera
What is there really to say? He’s the most dominant closer in the game’s history and his track record with one pitch is unfathomable. He’s won 5 World Series titles for the Yankeers, has the most saves in the game’s history and could probably be argued as the most valuable player in baseball over the last 15 years. Was anything nearly as automatic as Mo at the back end of the Yankee pen? Listen, I have 4 Yankees on my roster now and Coley already slurped up to Rivera enough. I can’t bare to compliment him anymore. He’s the only logical choice here.
Outfield was the toughest spot to omit players. My infield had a couple of places I was choosing between two-three guys but the ones I left off I don’t feel too bad about. Consider that missing from my outfield is Hank Aaron, 2nd most HR all-time, Stan Musial who was one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen and Willie Mays, for some people’s money the greatest player the game has ever seen. I left off Ty Cobb, owner of the highest batting average in MLB history at .366, Ken Griffey Jr. who was a prolific HR hitter and great defensive center fielder and Mickey Mantle, probably the best switch hitter of all-time. There were numerous starting pitchers that could have been included on this team. Basically the most important thing to take away from this process is there’s very few players who are slam dunk locks on these rosters. The majority just come down to preference. Baseball has a long, proud history of excellence that few sports can match. For us, it was about filling out these rosters to the best of our abilities.
Let us know what you think and who you’d have on yours.