Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living in the past

When Joe DiMaggio appeared before the public in his later years, particularly at Yankee Stadium, he liked to be introduced as "the greatest living baseball player." While there was no denying Joe's greatness, there were some of us who felt those words should be followed by the words "Willie Mays." Willie probably did more things than Joe, and did them longer. The matter also was part of the puzzle of Joe's personality, but that's a different subject.

The topic went away for a while when DiMaggio died, but came up recently at the All-Star Game. Who is the greatest living Yankee? My guess is Yogi Berra, who is in the argument for greatest catcher ever. I'd probably only trade Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera for Berra.

From there, it's an easy jump to "Who is the greatest living player for each team?" So let's take a shot at it. It's fascinating to look through the lists and try to come up with a conclusion. Do you value longevity or seasonal brilliance? Or a little of both?

Now, I may not be up to date on some of the old-timers' "status," so my apologies beforehand if I miss someone in either direction.

Arizona Diamondbacks -- Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were great but didn't stay long. I guess Brandon Webb is about there, and can only add to his legacy.

Atlanta Braves -- Hank Aaron.

Baltimore Orioles -- Cal Ripken. He had a better bat at his position than Brooks Robinson.

Boston Red Sox -- Ouch. I think you'd have to say Roger Clemens, no matter how cloudy his legacy is now. Otherwise, it's Carl Yastrzemski unless you prefer the relative short-term brilliance in Boston of Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

Chicago Cubs -- Ernie Banks.

Chicago White Sox -- Probably Frank Thomas.

Cincinnati Reds -- Johnny Bench or Joe Morgan? Well, I'd give it to Morgan for longevity, but you could talk me out of it.

Cleveland Indians -- Bob Feller.

Colorado Rockies -- Todd Helton.

Detroit Tigers -- Al Kaline.

Florida Marlins -- A lot of good players have passed through, probably leaving Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield to battle it out.

Houston Astros -- Craig Biggio.

Kansas City Royals -- George Brett.

Los Angeles Angels -- A tough one, as the Angels have not had many superstars who stayed. Jim Fregosi was quite good for quite a while, but Bobby Grich and Tim Salmon were good too. Could Vladimir Guerrero make it some day? Would Francisco Rodriguez qualifies if he doesn't go elsewhere? Hmmm.

Los Angeles Dodgers -- Sandy Koufax. Mike Piazza might have made a case for himself if he stuck around.

Milwaukee Brewers -- Robin Yount.

Minnesota Twins -- Harmon Killebrew. Tony Oliva and Kirby Puckett didn't play long enough, for unfortunate reasons.

New York Mets -- Tom Seaver.

Oakland Athletics -- Reggie Jackson. Most of their stars (Henderson, Giambi, etc.) haven't stayed all that long.

Philadelphia Phillies -- Mike Schmidt.

Pittsburgh Pirates -- Willie Stargell probably goes here because of longevity, but Barry Bonds' name lingers over the discussion.

St. Louis Cardinals -- Stan Musial for now, until Albert Pujols gets finished. Then we'll see.

San Diego Padres -- Tony Gwynn.

San Francisco Giants -- Willie Mays, but Barry Bonds' name lingers over the discussion.

Seattle Mariners -- Ken Griffey Jr.

Tampa Bay Rays -- Carl Crawford for the moment. There are a lot of contenders in the pipeline.

Texas Rangers -- Ivan Rodriquez.

Toronto Blue Jays -- Carlos Delgado had a nice decade in Toronto, so he gets the edge. Will Roy Halladay stay long enough to get in the argument?

Washington Nationals -- Gary Carter gets a slight nod over Tim Raines, who is very underrated.

So who are we missing? Alex Rodriguez, for one. Had he stayed in Texas or Seattle, he probably would win there. Had he started in New York, you could make a case for him there. You could make a case that he was on his way to being the greatest shortstop ever until he moved to third in New York.

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