One of our readers, Bill Martinie, compiled a fantastic list of the best player for each organization. We asked him to go in to a little more detail on each player, and this is what he came up with:
With MLB’s recent campaign to designate a “franchiser four” for each organization, I was reminded of a list I keep compiled on my desk that attempts to name the greatest player ever for each currently existing MLB franchise. They only rule is it has to be for an extant franchise, although it can be for any team within that franchise’s history (for example Walter Johnson for the current Minnesota Twins franchise although he played for the first Washington Senators). I tried to find some statistical basis for a player’s being designated all time champ of his team, but in the end a wave of subjectivity washes over any attempt like this. For example, Barry Bonds has the greatest numbers of any player maybe ever…but Willie Mays gets my vote for all time Giant and I am sticking to that because Mays is just a better player in my mind than Bonds and a better representative of his team. So without further ado…
The Kansas City Royals: George Brett
Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson
The Big Unit dominated in Arizona…and did it during the steroid era when guys like Brady Anderson hit 50 Home Runs. During his eight years in the desert he compiled a 2.83 ERA, struck out 2,077 (an average of 260 a year), had a WHIP of just 1.06 and a FIP (fielding independent pitching, measures what a pitcher’s ERA would be independent of defensive help) of 2.73. He also was good for a phenomenal 45.1 WAR (wins over average player) during his desert tenure.
Atlanta Braves (Boston/Milwaukee): Hank Aaron
- 755 HR
- 2,297 RBI (MLB’s all-time leader)
- 1,477 extra base hits.
- .944 CAREER OPS with the Braves
….and on and on.
Baltimore Orioles (St. Louis Browns): Cal Ripken
Cal is one of those who statistics don’t put him in the stratosphere of the all-time greats, but is no doubt the best Oriole. He was a rookie of the year, MVP, multiple Gold Glove winner, and World Series MVP. He owns arguably the most un-breakable of MLB record – “the streak.” 2,632 straight games. He’s also just one of just eight players to with 400 HR and 3,000 hits.
Boston Red Sox: Ted Williams
Of course. Teddy Ballgame dominated the game in the 40’s and even had his career interrupted by years of service during WWII and still compiled colossal numbers. The dude could hit to say the least. A career .344 hitter and best of all time OBP (.482), he slugged .634 for a career OPS of 1.116.
Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks
Cap Anson or Ron Santo may have slightly better career numbers, but subjectivity pushes Ernie Banks into the spot. He is “Mr. Cub” after all. In addition to being a great shortstop, he slugged .500 for his career (which is great for a SS, traditionally), had 512 career HR and a 67.4 WAR for his career (good for about four extra wins per season).
Chicago White Sox: Shoeless Joe Jackson; I am not just saying this because “Field of Dreams” turned men into weeping willows, he was damn good. He has the third highest career batting average at .356, an OBP of .407 with the Sox, an .OPS of over .900.
Cincinnati Reds: Joe Morgan
Bill James has a great article in his abstract about great players who were jerks. Joe Morgan is a pompous jerk from all indications. He is also arguably the greatest 2B ever. He was a lockdown defender, a great base stealer, who had a WAR of 58 in just eight seasons (good for over SEVEN wins a year), an OBP of .415 and an OPS of .885.
Cleveland Indians: Bob Feller
As much as I want to say Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Bob Feller was a master pitcher for years in Cleveland. Another player who lost nearly four years to WWII, Feller still managed to strike out 2,581 in 18 seasons, had a career WAR of 65.2 and a career WHIP of just 1.047. He was an MVP as a pitcher in 1940 and is the all-time Indians wins leader with 266.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies don’t have a ton of candidates for greatness, but Todd Helton is the best to wear the uniform. It is hard to judge the Rockies because offensive numbers are so skewed playing in Mile High, but Helton hit .323 for the Rockies, has a career WAR of 61.2, is second in all-time OBP at .414 and third in OPS at .953.
Detroit Tigers: Ty Cobb
Cobb is pretty much the offensive leader of everything in Tigers history and an all time great. ‘Nuff said.
Miami Marlins: I want to write…who cares? But that would be taking the easy road. If I have to name someone from this team I’ll go with Hanley Ramirez. He has the best career WAR at 26.8, (34.2 offensive WAR, which should tell you what a shitty defensive player he is), second all-time franchise batting average at .300, second in runs scored, second in hits. Yawn…who cares, right? What a team…
Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell. Maybe the most underappreciated man in baseball, Bagwell is a statistical darling. The dude had a career WAR of 79.6 (best all-time among Astros), and ranks third in batting average (.298), with a career .408 OBP, while slugging .540 – good for a .948 OPS (bested only by Moises Alou and Lance Berkman, who had much shorter stays in Houston). He is second in the franchise in runs scored at 1,517 and second in hits (2,314). So in other words, he did almost everything at a high level.
California/LA Angels: Nolan Ryan
Soon this will be Mike Trout, no doubt about it, but he hasn’t played quite long enough to garner all time great. Nolan Ryan dominated the AL as a pitcher for the decade of the 70’s…and did it wearing an Angels uniform. He has the best career ERA among Angels starters and struck out a million people (that might be an exaggeration.)
LA Dodgers (Brooklyn): Sandy Koufax
Even though his career was cut about four years short by injury, he was a dominator. Third best WAR, three Cy Young’s, five straight league leading ERA’s, 3-time 25-game winner. One or two more seasons like he has done in the past and Clayton Kershaw will be the king.
Milwaukee Brewers: Robin Yount
He was a first ballot Hall of Famer for a reason. Best in Brewers in WAR, played all 20 years there, won 2 MVP’s. Current Twins manager Paul Molitor is ahead of him a bit statistically, but Yount exudes Brewer-ness (whatever that means).
Minnesota Twins (Washington Senators): Walter Johnson
He is among the top pitchers in just about every category…in all of Baseball. Routinely called the best pitcher to ever play the game, so I think we can save time and move along here.
New York Metropolitans: Tom Seaver
Ah, what could have been had that damned cocaine not plagued Doc Gooden or Darryl Strawberry. What a waste. As it stands, Terrific Tom is the best to wear the Mets uniform. All everything just about. Franchise leader in WAR, ERA, wins, WHIP, strikeouts, etc., etc., etc.
New York Yankees: Babe Ruth
I could give you a bunch of numbers…but he is the guy who transcends the sport and is arguably the greatest offensive player of the game. Even people who know nothing about baseball, know him. He is the Jordan of the game. Moving on.
Oakland Athletics (Philadelphia, Kansas City): Rickey Henderson
One of the toughest ones to decide. Al Simmons was a beast when they played in Philly. Reggie Jackson was the man when they dominated the mid-seventies. Rollie Fingers is responsible for the hipster facial hair. But Rickey was kind of all everything. There is a split among nerds about whether stolen bases mean anything…but good God he stole 100 bases in a season…three different times. That’s just cool no matter how you slice it. We haven’t had a base stealer that dominant since Willie Mays Hays! The rare left-handed thrower/right-handed hitter, is the franchise’s all-time WAR leader, got on base over 40% of the time, scored the most runs, and recorded the third most hits.
Philadelphia Phillies: Mike Schmidt
Schmidt is pretty much a shoe-in. A WAR of 106.6 – the best by over 40 points and a career OPS of .908, he played more games in the uniform than anybody else by almost 500, is first in Phillies history in runs and HR (548) and is second in hits.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Honus Wagner
Had he not died in a plane crash, Roberto Clemente would probably be the man, but Wagner set so many standards. Great both on offense and defense, he hit .328, leads the franchise in triples and is second in hits (2,967), second in doubles and RBI.
San Diego Padres: Tony Gwynn
Maybe my favorite non-Royal growing up, he was a technician with the bat. Would he have hit .400 for the first time since Ted Williams had the stupid strike of 1994 not occurred? We will never know…He was at .394. He’s first in just about everything all-time Padres, by the way.
SF (NY) Giants: Willie Mays
Not going to spend time on this. C’mon…it’s Willie Mays, although Barry Bonds is Babe Ruth’s competition as the greatest offensive player ever.
Seattle Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr.
The kid was damn good. And it would appear he did it without cheating, when seemingly everybody was. That sweet swing of his leads the team in WAR, helped him SLUG at .553 (just a few points behind the known cheater AROD) with an OPS of .927. He’s the Mariners all-time leader in HR, second in doubles and third in runs and hits.
STL Cardinals: Stan Musial
I have to hold my nose and pick someone from among Satan’s minions. Stan the Man edges out Hornsby. Best WAR by a mile, hit .331, team record holder in hits, doubles and HR. Plus he played a bazillion more games in the uniform than anybody else. Tampa Bay Rays: David Price
I wanted it to be Rocco Baldelli, because he has a great baseball name, but he wasn’t very good it turns out. David Price was the best pitcher by 1,000 miles in the short history of the franchise.
Texas Rangers (Washington Senators 2.0): Ivan Rodriguez
Pudge was arguably the generation’s best catcher in the late 90’s and 00’s. What isn’t arguable is that he leads in WAR and ranks in the Top 10 in every category the team has. So while he was not a dominant player, he was just really, really good in all phases of the game.
Toronto Blue Jays: Carlos Delgado
I am tempted to pick Dave Stieb because he doesn’t get his due as one of the nastiest pitchers of the 80’s and early 90’s, but Delgado leads in just about every conceivable offensive category.
Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos): Vlad Guerrero
The franchise, especially when it was in Montreal, has a LONG list of studs who came up in the system before moving on to somewhere else. Vlad was around the longest, and leads in AVG, slugging, OPS, HRs and is 5th in RBI AND had a cannon of an arm.
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