In a recent email thread with my two closest baseball guru friends, we sent missives back-and-forth noting our favorite baseball players in recent memory. More specifically, in our lifetimes – for this project, that spans the 80’s, 90’s, oughts and 10’s. I’m curious to see your favorites – here are MY players. Not the best, just my dogs by position:
Catcher: Mike Piazza. Never seen a catcher hit like that. Period. I hate to admit it, but Buster Posey COULD be on this list except for his extremely dry personality. Excellent player though. Ironically used to love Jason Kendall until he became the literal singles-est hitting player in baseball. Charles Johnson was a ton of fun but his zero bat grated on me when he was a Dodger. Great arm though. Also Benito Santiago was fun, both with the arm and late career at-bat.
First Base: Don Mattingly. Gamer. Mustache that wasn’t wack. Awesome baseball cards. Looked great in a uniform. Sweet swing. Manager of my favorite team. Sold. Frank Thomas was just dope. Great, intimidating hitter. I liked Jeff Bagwell at the time, but less and less historically. Go figure. Fred McGriff was lean, dope follow-through, unassuming and just awesome. How do you not love watching Mark McGwire hit dingers, especially that 500+ blast off Randy of all people. Jesus. Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder. Prince Fielder is on here too because he shows up every day, loves the game and hits boomers.
Second Base: Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Kent.
Third Base: there are sooooooo many ‘pretty good’ guys at this position; Wade Boggs, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Ken Caminiti, obviously Chipper Jones is a hall of famer, Jeff Cirillo nobody really excited here. Even UCLA-alum Troy Glaus was a masher but eh. Adrian Beltre is probably the only one that makes a list of ‘favorites.’
Shortstop: you’d think this position would be fun. A-Rod pretty much ruined that. And Tejada. And even Nomar. But Derek Jeter is amazing and carries it himself; Barry Larkin is on here for his play but not his persona. Cal Ripken obviously belongs BUT he was fairly boring, sorry Cal. Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel were fun, but I’m not a defense-first kind of guy, especially in the era in which we grew up. Rafael Furcal was a LOAD of fun for me, so he’s probably #2 behind Jeter, and Hanley Ramirez is fast approaching. Another 30 bombs – and a title? – this year and he leapfrogs Derek.
Outfield: Kirby Puckett in center, Barry Bonds in left, Rickey Henderson in right is my dream outfield. Probably my top three favorite players of my lifetime (?) as well. It’s really hard to leave Ken Griffey Jr. out of my starting lineup but otherwise I’d use Rickey as DH and bat him leadoff, move Kirby over to his late-career RF and we’d have the best/most exciting team I could dream of. Otherwise, Tony Gwynn is on the club. Bo Jackson. Manny Ramirez was SO exciting and dominant for a period that he’s my big bat. Vladimir Guerrero is on the team, really fun to watch in all facets. Ichiro Suzuki was so poetic/artistic at the bat (and arm!!!!), he’s in. Tim Raines makes the club for sure as well. Darryl Strawberry pre-coke, Eric Davis without a doubt (30/80 club!!!!) I also believe Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are good enough to warrant what may fairly be labeled ‘premature’ inclusion here.
Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux are guys I’d pay to watch pitch from now through eternity. In fact, I don’t think you can beat my club with those guys throwing every three days in my three man rotation (!!!!). Seriously though I have to include Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Fernando, Hershiser, Kevin Brown, David Cone (who I like more post-retirement), David Wells (!!!), Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and pre-coke Doc Gooden. I really enjoy watching Adam Wainwright pitch but he kills the Dodgers so I’ll wait to include him formally, and though it might be premature, Jose Fernandez has some of the best ‘stuff’ I’ve seen since my three aces that I’m going to throw him in there.
Closers: This list starts with Dennis Eckersley, continues to Eric Gagne and closes out appropriately with Mo Rivera.
And of course, announcing any and all games would be the incomparable Vin Scully.