Franchise Four. It allows fans to vote for the four greatest players in the history of each franchise (as well as the greatest Negro Leaguers, the greatest MLB pioneers and the greatest living players). Given that, I have decided to go off the list of possible choices for every and every MLB team and pick the four greatest players in the histories of each team. Let's take a look.
Candidates: Garrett Anderson, LF; Brian Downing, DH; Chuck Finley, SP; Jim Fregosi, SS; Vladimir Guerrero, RF; Nolan Ryan, SP; Tim Salmon, RF; Mike Trout, CF
Considering that Trout has only played three years, it does seem a little crazy to include him on this list but we all know that if he were to stay healthy, he is going to go down as an all-time great. He is likely to crack the top five on hitters' WAR this season. Including him over someone like Salmon was a difficult decision but a top four of Finley, Fregosi, Ryan and Trout sounds right.
Finley, Fregosi, Ryan, Trout
Candidates: Jeff Bagwell, 1B; Lance Berkman, OF; Craig Biggio, 2B; Jose Cruz, OF; J.R. Richard, SP; Mike Scott, SP; Jimmy Wynn, CF
While Bagwell is still (and absurdly) having to still wait to get into Cooperstown and join Biggio, who had had a pair of close calls before getting in this year, both certainly belong with this list as does Berkman. Cruz was a really good player for some under-the-radar teams of the late 70's and early 80's and he deserves to get on this list.
Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, Cruz
Candidates: Dennis Eckersley, RP; Rollie Fingers, RP; Jimmie Foxx, 1B; Lefty Grove, SP; Rickey Henderson, LF; Catfish Hunter, SP; Reggie Jackson, RF; Al Simmons, LF
Although I would argue that this list is missing Sal Bando, Eddie Collins and, for some true baseball nuts, Eddie Plank. Beyond that, Henderson, Grove and Foxx are all obvious selections for this list. It was a tough pick for me between Jackson and Simmons but I ultimately went with Jackson because he played in a less-advantageous era for hitters (and a tougher ballpark) during his time in Oakland.
Foxx, Grove, Henderson, Jackson
Candidates: Roberto Alomar, 2B; Jose Bautista, RF; George Bell, LF; Joe Carter, LF; Carlos Delgado, 1B; Tony Fernandez, SS; Roy Halladay, SP; Dave Stieb, SP
Alomar only played five years in Toronto but even then, he is the best player in franchise history. And don't forget, he entered the Hall as a member of the Blue Jays, their only player in Cooperstown. Talking about the best pitcher in a decade can be a little silly (there's no difference from 1980-1990 and 1982-1992) but Stieb was the best pitcher of the 1980's (and no, it wasn't Jack Morris). Halladay was dominant for the Jays once he figured it out (and he'll have an interesting HOF case). The last spot down to Fernandez and Delgado but the exceptional all-around game for Fernandez makes the difference.
Alomar, Fernandez, Halladay, Stieb
Candidates: Hank Aaron, RF; Tom Glavine, SP; Chipper Jones, 3B; Greg Maddux, SP; Eddie Mathews, 3B; Dale Murphy, OF; John Smoltz, SP; Warren Spahn, SP
Out of a pretty strong list, combing this list down to four is not that hard. Aaron and Spahn are locks. Mathews should not be left off a list of the top four Braves and Jones gives the modern Braves fan (if they exist?) a representative as well.
Aaron, Jones, Mathews, Spahn
Candidates: Ryan Braun, RF; Cecil Cooper, 1B; Prince Fielder, 1B; Rollie Fingers, RP; Jim Gantner, 2B; Paul Molitor, DH; Gorman Thomas, CF; Robin Yount, SS
The two best players in Brewers history are easily Yount and Molitor and therefore, they are on this list. Beyond that, it gets a little hairy but ultimately I went with Braun and Cooper. Yes, Braun is a total scumbag and a user, but this isn't a morality contest. Meanwhile, Cooper was one of the more underrated players of his time.
Braun, Cooper, Molitor, Yount
Candidates: Lou Brock, LF; Dizzy Dean, SP; Bob Gibson, SP; Rogers Hornsby, 2B; Stan Musial, OF; Albert Pujols, 1B; Red Schoendienst, 2B; Ozzie Smith, SS
Three of these names are obvious: Musial still is a St. Louis icon, Gibson may be a top ten all-time pitcher and Hornsby, who was a scumbag, was the best second baseman ever. And while you always gotta throw some love Ozzie's way when you have the opportunity to, Pujols has got to be the fourth guy on this list.
Gibson, Hornsby, Musial, Pujols
Candidates: Ernie Banks, SS; Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, SP; Gabby Hartnett, C; Ferguson Jenkins, SP; Ryne Sandberg, 2B; Ron Santo, 3B; Sammy Sosa, OF; Billy Williams, OF
No Cap Anson on this list? However, I'm not sure he would make this four. Banks was Mr. Cub after all and Santo and Sandberg are certainly beloved on the South Side. It went down to Williams, Sosa and Jenkins for the final spot and ultimately, I went with Fly because I don't penalize him for having a shorter career in Chicago than Williams did.
Banks, Jenkins, Sandberg, Santo
Candidates: Steve Finley, CF; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; Luis Gonzalez, LF; Mark Grace, 1B; Randy Johnson, SP; Curt Schilling, SP; Brandon Webb, SP; Matt Williams, 3B
Pitching drove the Diamondbacks' run to the World Series in 2001 as well as their run to the NLCS in 2007 so it makes sense that the three of their four best players in franchise history (Johnson, Schilling and Webb) came from those teams. Gonzalez is easily the best position player in franchise history but the battle for second isn't great. Finley does have more WAR with the D-Backs but I think I'd go with Goldschmidt.
Goldschmidt, Johnson, Schilling, Webb
Candidates: Roy Campanella, C; Don Drysdale, SP; Steve Garvey, 1B; Clayton Kershaw, SP; Sandy Koufax, SP; Jackie Robinson, 2B; Duke Snider, CF; Fernando Valenzuela, SP
We all know about Koufax's short and legendary career and he's a lock. Robinson's career sometimes gets forgotten simply because of the history surrounding his debut in baseball but for somebody who only played ten years, he had a sensational career.. Drysdale may get overshadowed at times by Koufax but he's an all-time great in his own right. And Snider may have been their best position player.
Drysdale, Koufax, Robinson, Snider
Candidates: Barry Bonds, LF; Orlando Cepeda, 1B; Juan Marichal, SP; Christy Mathewson, SP; Willie Mays, CF; Willie McCovey, 1B; Mel Ott, RF; Buster Posey, C
Frisco has three position players north of 100 career WAR and all three will be in this Franchise Four, and no, I don't believe in punishing Bonds to include an inferior player. And Mathewson would have gotten to 100 career WAR had his career not gotten cut short by WW1.
Bonds, Mathewson, Mays, Ott
Candidates: Earl Averill, CF; Lou Boudreau, SS; Larry Doby, CF; Bob Feller, SP; Nap Lajoie, 2B; Tris Speaker, CF; Jim Thome, 1B; Omar Vizquel, SS
I was just marveling at Feller's career the other day, namely with how he broke through in the mahors at such a young age. He is clearly the best pitcher in franchise history and will be on this list. As for the batting side of the equation, while he has not played in over 100 years, one cannot ignore that Lajoie was one of the best hitters ever. Speaker is not that far behind him and Boudreau had himself a Hall of Fame career in his own right.
Boudreau, Feller, Lajoie, Speaker
Candidates: Jay Buhner, RF; Alvin Davis, 1B; Ken Griffey Jr., CF; Felix Hernandez, SP; Randy Johnson, SP; Edgar Martinez, DH; Jamie Moyer, SP; Ichiro Suzuki, RF
No A-Rod on this list? MLB, never change. Anyways, given the franchise's lack of success until the 1990's, this is largely a recent list save for the exception of Davis. Future Hall of Famer Griffey is an obvious choice as is should-be Hall of Famer Martinez. Ichiro also should be on this list and ultimately, King Felix finds himself on it too.
Griffey, Hernandez, Martinez, Suzuki
Candidates: Josh Beckett, SP; Luis Castillo, 2B; Jeff Conine, 1B; Livan Hernandez, SP; Charles Johnson, C; Mike Lowell, 3B; Gary Sheffield, RF; Giancarlo Stanton, RF
The Marlins are an interesting team to do this for considering that so many of their best players played such short careers with the franchise thanks to some legendary firesales. What is interesting is the team's top hitter in WAR and their top ten pitchers in WAR are not on this list. So to go with Stanton, who is going to go down as their best player, I'll include Castillo (who is tops for hitters in WAR on this list), and 'Mr. Marlin' himself, Conine
Castillo, Conine, Lowell, Stanton
Candidates: Gary Carter, C; John Franco, RP; Dwight Gooden, SP; Keith Hernandez, 1B; Mike Piazza, C; Tom Seaver, SP; Daryl Strawberry, OF; David Wright, 3B
Yes, I left out Piazza. While he is certainly one of the top Mets and generated many a memory for the beleaguered Queens fanbase, the overall picture for him as a Met simply does not beat Wright's. Seaver was the greatest player in history and who knows what Straw and Doc could have done had they stayed out of trouble.
Gooden, Seaver, Strawberry, Wright
Nationals / Expos
Candidates: Gary Carter, C; Andre Dawson, RF; Vladimir Guerrero, RF; Dennis Martinez, SP; Tim Raines, LF; Steve Rogers, SP; Rusty Staub, OF; Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Considering the Nationals have only been around for ten years, and did assume the history of the Expos, this is going to be a dominant Expos list. And putting together the top four Expos is rather easy, even if you have to exclude guys like Guerrero and Martinez. Carter, Dawson and Raines are all easy inclusions and Rogers is not far off.
Carter, Dawson, Raines, Rogers
Candidates: Paul Blair, CF; Dave McNally, SP; Eddie Murray, 1B; Jim Palmer, SP; Boog Powell, 1B; Cal Ripken Jr., SS; Brooks Robinson, 3B; Frank Robinson, RF
Given that Ripken was one of the elite shortstops of all time, not to mention the all-time face of the franchise, you know he would be on this list. Brooks Robinson is not that far behind him either. Palmer is easily the best pitcher in franchise history (although he may have not been as good as we thought) and Murray was one of the best hitters of the 80's.
Murray, Palmer, Ripken, B. Robinson
Candidates: Nate Colbert, 1B; Steve Garvey, 1B; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B; Tony Gwynn, RF; Trevor Hoffman, RP; Randy Jones, SP; Jake Peavy, SP; Dave Winfield, RF
Beyond the obvious in Mr. Padre, there is a little bit of a drop-off when it comes to their all-time greatest players. Hoffman probably was their best pitcher in franchise history with Peavy being right behind him while Winfield was the first ever player to wear a Padres cap in Cooperstown.
Gwynn, Hoffman, Peavy, Winfield
Candidates: Richie Ashburn, CF; Jim Bunning, SP; Steve Carlton, SP; Chuck Klein, OF; Robin Roberts, SP; Jimmy Rollins, SS; Mike Schmidt, 3B; Chase Utley, 2B
Schmidt is only the best third baseman of all-time, not to mention a huge part of the 1980 championship team. Carlton was also a huge part of the 1980 team, not to mention one of the top five lefty pitchers of all time. Roberts was also a sensational starter. Utley gets the edge over Ashburn for the final position spot as he has had a career that may see him end up in Cooperstown.
Carlton, Schmidt, Roberts, Utley
Candidates: Barry Bonds, LF; Roberto Clements, RF; Ralph Kiner, LF; Bill Mazeroski, 2B; Willie Stargell, LF; Pie Traynor, 3B; Honus Wagner, SS; Paul Waner, RF
There is a reason why Wagner's card is the equivalent of the Holy Grail and the fact that he was the greatest shortstop ever also makes his case. Clemente's career was cut too short but he still proved himself to be one of the finest outfielders ever. Waner was a pretty darn good outfielder in his own right while Stargell was such an integral piece of those "We Are Family" teams of the 70's.
Clemente, Stargell, Wagner, Waner
Rangers / Senators
Candidates: Adrian Beltre, 3B; Juan Gonzalez, RF; Josh Hamilton, OF; Frank Howard, LF; Rafael Palmeiro, 1B; Ivan Rodriguez, C; Nolan Ryan, SP; Michael Young, SS
There is a rather significant drop-off from Pudge and Palmeiro down to the next highest player in WAR with the Rangers in Gonzalez but I think those three, even as all of them had connections to steroids, are locks. The fourth could go to a number of guys and I considered Howard, the sole former Senator, and Young but I think Beltre, who only had 2,483 at-bats in Arlington and still finished tied for ninth in WAR for the franchise, would get the last spot.
Beltre, Gonzalez, Palmeiro, Rodriguez
Candidates: Carl Crawford, LF; Scott Kazmir, SP; Evan Longoria, 3B; Carlos Pena, 1B; David Price, SP; James Shields, SP; Melvin Upton Jr., CF; Ben Zobrist, 2B
Given their short history, one that was pretty bad until 2008, there is not a great deal to choose from when considering the history of the franchise. That said, putting together the quartet is not all that hard. Crawford, Longoria and Price are pretty easy decisions but while some could be surprised with the inclusion of Zobrist, he dies gace the second-highest total WAR for any player in franchise history.
Crawford, Longoria, Price, Zobrist
Candidates: Johnny Bench, C; Dave Concepcion, SS; Eric Davis, OF; Barry Larkin, SS; Joe Morgan, 2B; Tony Perez, 1B; Frank Robinson, RF; Pete Rose, OF
For me, Bench, Larkin and Rose are obvious inclusions for this list. The only question for me was to include either Morgan or Robinson. Robinson does have the edge in WAR but he also had 1,500 more at-bats with the franchise. I gave the slight edge to famed sabermetrics fan Morgan.
Bench, Larkin, Morgan, Rose
Candidates: Dwight Evans, RF; Carlton Fisk, C; Pedro Martinez, SP; David Ortiz, DH; Jim Rice, OF; Ted Williams, LF; Carl Yastrzemski, OF; Cy Young, SP
We all know why Roger Clemens would be excluded from a list like this but that still makes it ridiculous, and the exclusion of Wade Boggs is just bizarre. But even then, putting this four is rather easy as Williams, Yastrzemski are locks and Young is as well (although I wouldn't be surprised if the fans don't vote him in) and while Evans has more WAR with the Sox than does Martinez, the difference is clearly caused by the former spending 19 years in Boston and Martinez only seven.
Martinez, Williams, Yastrzemski, Young
Candidates: Dante Bichette, OF; Vinny Castillo, 3B; Andres Galarraga, 1B; Carlos Gonzalez, LF; Todd Helton, 1B; Matt Holliday, LF; Troy Tulowitzki, SS; Larry Walker, RF
Nobody should be surprised at all to find no pitchers on the list considering the fact that a) Denver is a difficult environment for any pitcher, not to mention that they have lacked quality pitchers throughout franchise history. Their top three is pretty easy with Walker, Helton and then Tulowitzki. I have Holliday, Gonzalez and Castilla in the mix for the fourth spot but I think Holliday, particularly for his brilliant 2007 season as part of the surprise World Series appearance.
Helton, Holliday, Tulowitzki, Walker
Candidates: George Brett, 3B; Alex Gordon, LF; Hal McRae, DH; Amos Otis, OF; Dan Quisenberry, RP; Bret Saberhagen, SP; Frank White, 2B; Willie Wilson, OF
Perhaps nobody should be surprised that three of the four in Kansas City's franchise four were key pieces of the 1985 World Series team. Brett was only one of the greatest third basemen of all time, Saberhagen was probably the best pitcher in franchise history and Wilson was one of the more underrated speedsters of all-time.
Brett, Otis, Saberhagen, Wilson
Candidates: Miguel Cabrera, 1B; Ty Cobb, CF; Sam Crawford, OF; Charlie Gehringer, 2B; Hank Greenberg, 1B; Al Kaline, RF; Alan Trammell, SS; Justin Verlander, SP
Cobb was one of the great degenerates in baseball history but also one of the best players in baseball history. Kaline has a very long career spent all with the Tigers and he was a great hitter for much of it. Gehringer was a sensational hitter at a position that doesn't see that much of it and Newhouser was certainly the best pitcher in franchise history.
Cobb, Gehringer, Kaline, Newhouser
Twins / Senators
Candidates: Bert Blyleven, SP; Rod Carew, 1B; Walter Johnson, SP; Jim Kaat, SP; Harmon Killebrew, 1B; Joe Mauer, C; Tony Oliva, OF; Kirby Puckett, CF
Including Johnson on this list does feel weird but the original Senators' history went to Minneapolis so he has to be included here. Killebrew and Carew were easy inclusions for this list, leaving the final spot to be a tough call between one of my favorites, Blyleven, and Puckett. Ultimately, I think Puckett gets the nod by a hair.
Carew, Johnson, Killebrew, Puckett
Candidates: Luis Aparicio, SS; Luke Appling, SS; Harold Baines, DH; Eddie Collins, 2B; Nellie Fox, 2B; Paul Konerko, 1B; Minnie Minoso, LF; Frank Thomas, 1B
One of the few lists without any pitchers, the White Sox will only have one recent player on this list and that would be last year's Hall of Fame inductee in the Big Hurt. The remainder of the franchise four are middle infielders with Appling, Collins and Thomas. Collins may have been the second best second baseman ever while Appling and Fox were both tremendous shortstops.
Appling, Collins, Fox, Thomas
Candidates: Yogi Berra, C; Joe Dimaggio, CF; Whitey Ford, SP; Lou Gehrig, 1B; Derek Jeter, SS; Mickey Mantle, OF; Mariano Rivera, RP; Babe Ruth, OF
Even as the younger fans could certainly try to make a case for Jeter or Rivera to be in the mix, the Yankees Mount Rushmore is still Joe, Mickey, Lou and the Babe. Jeter does come within seven career WAR of DiMaggio, but he also had almost 5,000 more at-bats with the franchise.
DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle, Ruth