Archive for May 2013

The Dream Team Project: Washington Nationals & Senators

May 31, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Washington Nationals & Senators (1947-1971 & 2005– )

  1. Don Lock, CF (1962-1966)
  2. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B (2005– )
  3. Roy Sievers, LF (1954-1959 & 1964-1965)
  4. Frank Howard, RF (1965-1972)
  5. Mickey Vernon, 1B (1939-43, 1946-48, 1950-55) *
  6. Pete Runnels, 2B (1951-1957) *
  7. Clint Courtney, C (1955-1959) *
  8. Ed Brinkman, SS (1961-1970)
  9. Bob Porterfield, P (1951-1955)

Player: Eddie Yost, 3B (1944, 1946-1958); Hitter: Nick Johnson, 1B (2004-2009) *; Fielder: Ken McMullen, 3B (1965-1970); Pinch hitter: Jim Lemon, OF (1954-1963)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Walt Masterson (1939-42, 1945-49 & 1952-53)
  • Connie Marrero (1950-1954)
  • Dick Bosman (1966-1973)

Relief pitchers:

  • Tyler Clippard (2008– )
  • Darold Knowles (1967-1971) *
  • Ron Kline (1963-1966)
  • Chad Cordero (2003-2008)
  • Camilo Pascual (1954-1966 & 1967-1969)

Like a bill, sitting on Capitol Hill, this dream team is very much a work in progress. The Washington Senators were replaced, in 1961, by the Washington Senators, who were even worse than their predecessors. When Major League Baseball claimed eminent domain over the Expos and moved them to the District of Columbia, Washington gained a new chapter in baseball history; is the third time a charm?

As of 2012, the answer is a tentative yes. Only four players on this roster are Nationals, but you can bet that a swarm of Nats is about to overtake the mostly mediocre players currently filling out the capital’s baseball census form. Only Frank Howard is likely to resist that influx; he was mostly a right-fielder, but he played a bit of left, and I’ve placed him there to get Roy Sievers into the lineup. Pete Runnels was, similarly, a shortstop, but I’ve moved him to second to allow Washington’s second best middle infielder to gain a place on the team. D.C. doesn’t need another third basemen, by the way; they’ve got a great one, and two more good ones in reserve. Most of the other positions could use an amendment, however.

Let Teddy win ...

Let Teddy win …

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The Dream Team Project: Houston Astros

May 28, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Houston Astros (from 1962)

  1. Craig Biggio, 2B (1988-2007)
  2. Cesar Cedeno, CF (1970-1981)
  3. Jeff Bagwell, 1B (1991-2005)
  4. Lance Berkman, LF (1999-2010) #
  5. Jose Cruz, RF (1975-1987) *
  6. Ken Caminiti, 3B (1987-1994 & 1999-2000) #
  7. Dickie Thon, SS (1981-1987)
  8. Alan Ashby, C (1979-1989) #
  9. Roy Oswalt, P (2001-2010)

Player: Jim Wynn, OF (1963-1973); Hitter: Bob Watson, 1B (1966-1979); Fielder: Richard Hidalgo, OF (1997-2004); Pinch hitter: Joe Morgan, 2B (1963-1971 & 1980)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Larry Dierker (1964-1976)
  • Nolan Ryan (1980-1988)
  • J.R. Richard (1971-1980)

Relief pitchers:

  • Billy Wagner (1995-2003) *
  • Ken Forsch (1970-1980)
  • Dave Smith (1980-1990)
  • Octavio Dotel (2000-2004)
  • Joe Sambito (1976-1984) *

Houston, your opponents have a problem. This dream team is stacked at every position except catcher and shortstop (although Dickie Thon, at his best, was one of the best); this Astros lineup can put the ball in orbit and this pitching staff can keep it on the ground. And if you don’t like this ‘Stros starting rotation, here’s another: Don Wilson, Roger Clemens, Mike Scott, Joe Niekro. None of the eight starters I’ve mentioned are left-handed, however. On the other hand, Billy Wagner is not only a leftie, but arguably the best relief pitcher in the National League since 1947.

The history of the Houston franchise is one of near misses, and that theme runs throughout this team; players like Bill Doran, Terry Puhl, Glenn Davis, Doug Rader, Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett came very close to inclusion. But despite their lack of titles, the Astros will fly into the American League with one of the better all-time greats rosters in my collection; any team full of Killer Bees that keeps a “Toy Cannon” in reserve is all right with me.

Does anyone remember 1980?

Feelin’ kinda 1980 …

The Dream Team Project: New York Mets

May 24, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

New York Mets (from 1962)

  1. Jose Reyes, SS (2003-2011) #
  2. Carlos Beltran, CF (2005-2011) #
  3. David Wright, 3B (2004– )
  4. Mike Piazza, C (1998-2005)
  5. Darryl Strawberry, RF (1983-1990) *
  6. Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B (1995-2002)
  7. Keith Hernandez, 1B (1983-1989) *
  8. Cleon Jones, LF (1963, 1965-1975)
  9. Tom Seaver, P (1967-1977 & 1983)

Player: Mookie Wilson, OF (1980-1989) #; Hitter: Howard Johnson, 3B (1985-1993) #; Fielder: Bud Harrelson, SS (1965-1977) #; Pinch hitter: John Olerud, 1B (1997-1999) *

Other starting pitchers:

  • Dwight Gooden (1984-1994)
  • Jerry Koosman (1967-1978) *
  • Al Leiter (1998-2004) *

Relief pitchers:

  • Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-1987) *
  • Armando Benitez (1999-2003)
  • Tug McGraw (1965-1967 & 1969-1974) *
  • John Franco (1990-2004) *
  • Skip Lockwood (1975-1979)

This dream team exposes the truth about the New York Mets: if it’s not 1973 or 2000, then it’s 1969 or 1986. Only four players on this roster did not experience one of those four World Series, and a majority grabbed a ring. This is yet another team that picked itself, so if you’re a big fan of John Stearns, Tommie Agee, Lenny Dysktra (check the Phillies entry), Kevin McReynolds or Jon Matlack, siddown. They were good, but the Mets above were great. That lineup can hit, and it can pitch. Despite the relative paucity of championships in Queens (compared to their rivals in the Bronx), the denizens of Shea (and now Citi) can boast some of the best that ever played in the Big Apple.

Sid Fernandez is the fifth starter for the N.Y. NLers. “El Sid” was from Honolulu, and that made the Mets a big deal in my high school back in the day. I wasn’t a Mets fan then, but I have to admit, this is an amazin’ team.

The fifth starter.

Spam musubi.

My European Vacation

May 22, 2013

I’ve heard, from several quarters, a request for pictures of our recent sojourn through the heart of Western Europe. We took a river cruise from Switzerland to the Netherlands on this ship:

IMG_0468

and the cruise was called “Castles on the Rhine.” Behold:

IMG_0472

… a castle on the Rhine. Marksburg Castle to be exact. But the reason I’ve been reluctant to comply with this perfectly reasonable request is that, well, I don’t take many pictures when I’m traveling, and the things I take pictures of are somewhat idiosyncratic. If you click through, you’ll see what I mean.

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The Dream Team Project: Chicago White Sox

May 21, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Chicago White Sox (from 1947)

  1. Luis Aparicio, SS (1956-1962, 1968-1970)
  2. Minnie Minoso, LF (1951-57, 1960-61, 1964, 1976, 1980)
  3. Frank Thomas, 1B (1990-2005)
  4. Magglio Ordoñez, RF (1997-2004)
  5. Robin Ventura, 3B (1989-1998) *
  6. Chet Lemon, CF (1975-1981)
  7. Carlton Fisk, C (1981-1993)
  8. Nellie Fox, 2B (1950-1963) *
  9. Billy Pierce, P (1949-1961) *

Player: Paul Konerko, 1B (1999– ); Hitter: Harold Baines, RF/DH (1980-89, 1996-97, 2000-01) *; Fielder: Ozzie Guillen, SS (1985-1997) *; Pinch hitter: Dick Allen, 1B (1972-1974)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Mark Buehrle (2000-2011) *
  • Jack McDowell (1987-1988, 1990-1994)
  • Joe Horlen (1961-1971)

Relief pitchers:

  • Wilbur Wood (1967-1978) *
  • Hoyt Wilhelm (1963-1968)
  • Keith Foulke (1997-2002)
  • Gerry Staley (1956-1961)
  • Matt Thornton (2006– ) *

The peaks are high on the South Side, but the valleys are wide. This dream team spans the last six decades of Chicago White Sox history, but there are only four representatives of the “Go-Go” 1959 team on this roster, and only two from the 2005 team that finally won it all (three if you count their manager, and four if you include Frank Thomas, who was on the team, but didn’t play in the World Series). For a franchise called the “Pale Hose,” there are some colorful nicknames in this bunch (e.g., the Big Hurt, Black Jack, Chet the Jet and the Cuban Comet), but overall, this ChiSox lineup appears ordinary –for an all-time greats team. It may be Venezuela’s favorite, however, given the accomplishments of three of its more prominent members.

Creating this team was a “can o’ corn” in most respects, but Sherm Lollar (1952-1963) had an almost identical White Sox career to Carlton Fisk’s; I picked Pudge for his fielding, although it was essentially a coin flip between the two. Wilbur Wood could have been either a starter or a reliever on this roster; I flipped another coin and he landed in the bullpen.

NOTE: Luke Appling is the best White Sox shortstop of all time, but the bulk of his career was played before 1947.

C201209-Hawk-Harrelson-illustration-600

The Dream Team Project: Los Angeles Dodgers

May 17, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Los Angeles Dodgers (from 1958)

  1. Davey Lopes, 2B (1972-1981)
  2. Willie Davis, CF (1960-1973) *
  3. Pedro Guerrero, LF (1978-1988)
  4. Mike Piazza, C (1992-1998)
  5. Shawn Green, RF (2000-2004) *
  6. Ron Cey, 3B (1971-1982)
  7. Steve Garvey, 1B (1969-1982)
  8. Maury Wills, SS (1959-1972) #
  9. Sandy Koufax, P (1955-1966) *

Player: Bill Russell, SS (1969-1986); Hitter: Gary Sheffield, LF (1998-2001); Fielder: Adrian Beltre, 3B (1998-2004); Pinch hitter: Reggie Smith, RF (1976-1981) #

Other starting pitchers:

  • Don Sutton (1966-1980 & 1988)
  • Don Drysdale (1956-1969)
  • Orel Hershiser (1983-1994 & 2000)

Relief pitchers:

  • Eric Gagne (1999-2006)
  • Jim Brewer (1964-1975) *
  • Ron Perranoski (1961-1967 & 1972) *
  • Jay Howell (1988-1992)
  • Alejandro Pena (1981-1989)

They call Hollywood the “Dream Factory,” and this dream team illustrates what made the Dodgers so good for so long: pitching, defense, and speed. L.A.’s starting options are backed up like a traffic jam on the 405: Fernando Valenzuela, Claude Osteen, Bob Welch, Clayton Kershaw, Burt Hooton, Kevin Brown, Bill Singer, Jerry Reuss, Johnny Podres, Tommy John, Ramon Martinez, Andy Messersmith, Hideo Nomo … do I smell a sequel? Tom Niedenfuer, Takashi Saito, Guillermo Mota, Jonathan Broxton and Steve Howe could easily find a spot in many of the bullpens in this collection, but this is Dodgertown we’re talking about here.

By contrast, the hitting on this roster is “merely” adequate. Pedro Guerrero spent time at third and right, but he easily bests Dusty Baker and the other left field options. Shawn Green is marginally better than Raul Mondesi, I think, but it won’t be long before Matt Kemp forces his way onto this team, at which point it will become even more right-handed. I shook the right hand of Steve Garvey (by the way) when I was a kid, and considered the Dodgers the “good guys” in every post-season fight until I moved to the Bay Area. Although orange and black was my destiny, that happy fate won’t prevent me from acknowledging the truth: this a good team, with good players. Roll credits.

071311-Scully

“It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

The Dream Team Project: New York Yankees

May 14, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

New York Yankees (from 1947)

  1. Derek Jeter, SS (1995– )
  2. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (2004– )
  3. Mickey Mantle, CF (1951-1968) #
  4. Bernie Williams, RF (1991-2006) #
  5. Don Mattingly, 1B (1982-1995) *
  6. Yogi Berra, C (1946-1963) *
  7. Willie Randolph, 2B (1976-1988)
  8. Roy White, LF (1965-1979) #
  9. Whitey Ford, P (1950, 1953-1967) *

Player: Thurman Munson, C (1969-1979); Hitter: Jorge Posada, C (1995-2011) #; Fielder: Clete Boyer, 3B (1959-1966); Pinch hitter: Joe DiMaggio, CF (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Andy Pettitte (1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012– ) *
  • Ron Guidry (1975-1988) *
  • Mike Mussina (2001-2008)

Relief pitchers:

  • Mariano Rivera (1995– )
  • Rich Gossage (1978-1983 & 1989)
  • Sparky Lyle (1972-1978) *
  • Mike Stanton (1997-2002 & 2005) *
  • Lindy McDaniel (1968-1973)

The New York Yankees. You’ve heard of them, YES? The post-war dream team for the most famous franchise in baseball (and one of the most well-known teams in world sport) threw up a few surprises when I compiled it, but I doubt many of the players on this roster will be unfamiliar to you. I like the fact that three catchers made the roster, and that guys like Roy White, Clete Boyer and Mike Stanton get the recognition they deserve. Joe DiMaggio is, as everyone knows, the third best outfielder in Yankees history, but the final five years of his career alone are the equal of Yankees like Dave Winfield and Roger Maris (see below). I wanted North Beach’s favorite son on the main squad, however, and Joltin’ Joe easily fits my primary criterion for “pinch hitter” (that is: the highest OPS of any player not already chosen). Bernie Williams was, of course, one of Joe’s successors in center field, but he switches to right to make way for somebody named Mickey Mantle. This team sports three of the best left-handed pitchers of all-time, but with that bullpen, they only need to work five or six innings, I think.

You might be wondering what a Yankees “B” team would look like. Here’s one:

Elston Howard (C); Bill Skowron (1B); Robinson Cano (2B); Phil Rizzuto (SS); Graig Nettles (3B); Dave Winfield (LF); Rickey Henderson (CF); Roger Maris (RF); Gil McDougald (Player, IF); Jason Giambi (Hitter, 1B); Brett Gardner (Fielder, OF); Tommy Henrich (Pinch hitter, RF); Mel Stottlemyre (Starter); Allie Reynolds (RHP); CC Sabathia (LHP), Eddie Lopat (LHP); Dave Righetti (lh Closer); Steve Hamilton (lhp); Ramiro Mendoza (rhp); David Robertson (rhp); Jeff Nelson (rhp).

Still more surprises. Here are some players who came close to making the “B” team: Hank Bauer, Paul O’Neill, Bucky Dent, Tony Kubek, John Wetteland, Vic Raschi, Tommy John and Roger Clemens.

But there is no better indication of the depth of the Bronx Bombers’ post-war squads than the absence of Reggie Jackson from either of these Yankees “A” or “B” teams. Mr. October may be responsible for some memorable World Series moments, but in terms of “regular seasons,” he can’t even crack the list of Top Ten Yankee outfielders in the last 66 years.

“Start spreading the news …”

Not enough!

Not enough!