Chris thought of this idea with the following email and the rest of us added our thoughts. I thought it was the perfect topic, so I cleaned it up and turned it into a blog on baseball’s best in the eyes of 4 Guys on Sports.
CHRIS: OK, so I was thinking of this over the weekend. Who are you five favorite baseball players of all time? In order:
1. Ryne Sandberg– I was completely obsessed with him. Like maybe disturbingly so. And yes I am totally rooting for him to become the next Cub manager. I just hope he doesn’t suck because I don’t think I could rip on him.
2. Ken Griffey Jr.- In my opinion, the best all around player I’ve ever seen in person. I don’t think he did steroids but it’s certainly possible. It wouldn’t change anything though just because I remember him more from when I was a kid and how much my friends and I all loved him.
3. Kerry Wood– I know he never quite lived up to his reputation and expectations but I always liked him. Obviously his 20-K game was unreal but even just the way I always got the impression he truly wanted to win and would do anything to help. He never complained about the bullpen. Plus, when he was on, there aren’t many pitchers that were more fun to watch.
4. Frank Thomas– Wasn’t he basically Pujols of the ‘90s? I mean, he’s not quite as good as Pujols but from strictly a hitting perspective, he was unreal.
5. Canseco/McGwire– I know now I don’t like them but looking back to when I was a kid and growing up they were the reason me and all my friends were A’s fans to. You guys know what I’m saying? One more question, is Posada a hall of famer?
ADAM: OK…my top 5:
1. Cal Ripken, Jr. – I loved this guy when I was a kid and worship him even more as an adult. The only way I think I could describe him is “dignified.” He played every game for a team that went to the World Series in his second year and then proceeded to fall off the face of the earth every year there forward. In all of that, he played his heart out and put up monster stats. He single-handily paved the way the baseball world viewed SS’s for decades to come.
2. Ryne Sandberg – I don’t really feel much need to defend this with you guys so I won’t. I’ll just say between memories of watching games with my grandma when I was a kid to having a 3-year-old Tyler on my shoulders during the retirement ceremony, I have nothing but amazing memories of this guy off the field. On the field, you always felt like he could win games by himself. The Cubs would have been a MUCH worse team in the 80s and 90s if Sandberg was not there…and that’s saying a lot.
3. Derek Jeter – I don’t know if this has ever come up or not, but I have some crazy man-love for Jeter. I’m sorry to say it too. It’s like Brad Pitt movies…you want to hate them because he’s such a pretty boy but they always end up being so good. Jeter is that same way for me. I can’t help but be interested in watching Yankee games when he’s on the field or due up. He doesn’t seem to be getting any worse as he gets older, and he started when he was way young. I mean, we’ve been watching him compete at the highest level for 1/3 of our lives! You have to respect that. And he is, generally speaking, a first class guy like the two men above. And, far more than anyone on my list, he’s a winner. Not only does his team have postseason success, but HE has crazy success as an individual. Sorry if this is sacrilegious, but he is the Michael Jordan of baseball.
4. Nolan Ryan – Come on now. Every one of us, when we were kids in little league, tried to throw a baseball like Nolan Ryan and hurt ourselves. I remember playing “stitch” (if you don’t know what it is, feel free to ask) and pretending to be Nolan Ryan when someone was on the wall. Most fun pitcher I’ve ever watched in my life.
5. Rickey Henderson – Like Nolan Ryan, I spent more time impersonating him than I did watching him. I think most of us will admit that we were in love with the A’s when we were 6-10 years old and certainly watching the Home Runs from Conseco and McGwire was memorable. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t most fascinated with Henderson’s ability to shrink the strike zone with his exaggerated squat at the plate before bouncing up and hitting the cover off the ball. He was a career .279 hitter with over 3,000 hits, almost 300 home runs, and almost 2,300 runs scored. Oh, and he stole 500 more bases than the guy who is second on the career stolen base list. That “guy” is Lou Brock.
Honorable Mention: Neifi Perez
JUSTIN: my top 5:
1. Paul Molitor – much of why you both love Sandberg, I love Molitor. He was always my favorite Brewer and I liked him enough that I would cheer for the Blue Jays and Twins even when they played the Brewers. The fact that he had 3,000 hits and is a HOF is just icing on the cake for me.
2. Robin Yount – he is a close second to Molitor and I actually appreciate what he accomplished individually more than almost anyone who has played while I was alive. A 19-yr old starting SS when most guys were just hitting Single-A, Yount had less recognition because he played in Milwaukee. If you ever want to talk top 10 players of our generation (say 1980 to today) I think Yount has to be on that list.
3. Greg Maddux – when he was in Chicago, I was able to watch a lot of his games. Than he went to Atlanta and I was able to watch a lot of his games, so… I feel like I grew up watching him. He played the game the way I love to coach: throw strikes and make them put it in play (no walks), play really good defense and you will win more than you lose. Surprised you guys left him off your list to be honest.
4. Ryne Sandberg – I hope he coaches the Cubs. I hope he rocks that job like Mike Tyson rocks movie roles. I just wish it would be a few years from now when the team is blown up and the roster is something he can develop. If he gets this job too soon, I think he will fail and that would be very tough for all of us that grew up in the era.
5. Tim Lincecum – I am a Giants fan because of one player. I am also never going to be a Giants fan because of one player (earmuffs Bonds), but if I am making an all-time list, I figured I had to include my current “crush”. He has my favorite pitch, the change-up working better than Tiger on a Saturday night in Vegas. He is 25 and probably going to be on the list of injured starting pitchers some day soon, but he is my current favorite player.
Read a little on Joe Mauer and while doing that found this:
Older article, but something that I think is still crazy is this line:
“You’d hope so, though the universal consensus is that Cubs manager Dusty Baker abused Prior at the end of the 2003 season simply because he knew no better. In Prior’s last nine games, including three in the playoffs, he logged the following pitch counts: 131, 129, 109, 124, 131, 133, 132, 115, 119. House believes the overuse by Baker doomed Prior. Eight pitchers this decade have thrown 109 or more pitches in nine straight games, and half of them needed reconstructive arm surgery. The only other pitchers this decade to throw at least four 130-plus-pitch games in a season, let alone in two months, are Livan Hernandez and Randy Johnson.”
DUDE STILL HAS A JOB! I kind of want to forward this article to all the emails on the Reds website and see if anyone responds to my subject line:
TO: Reds guys
FROM: A non-fan who loves to coach
Dear Reds people who pay coaches salaries,
I would like a job. I have coached 11 years of Little League, Pony and Babe Ruth baseball and believe I am more suited to handle your young core of pitchers than your current coach. I can attach my stats if you would like, but really all you need to read is the attached article that I have included for you to realize ANYONE would be a smarter hire than Bake-Boy. Oh and FYI – I hate that you screwed up Griffey!
ADAM: Funny how almost none of us have that kind of “love” for a current player. So maybe that should be our next exercise. Top 5 guys we crush on that are playing today, in order:
1) Aramis Ramirez – There’s not another player currently in baseball that I enjoy watching more. Mostly because he’s a Cub, but I just love watching him hit. I know he’s in a slump now, but I’ve always loved how he swings from his toes all of the time and still manages to hit for average and power year in and year out.
2) Derek Jeter – I mean, I already talked about him before, but I love watching him play.
3) Justin Upton – No, he hasn’t done anything great yet. But I’m on this guy like I was on Mark Prior. It just looks like all of the tools are there and since he’s so young, I just can’t wait to see it all fall together and watch him dominate for a few years.
4) Evan Longoria – Like Upton, there’s so much natural talent there you just want to watch every at bat that he has. You have the sense that he could win every game by himself too.
5) Prince Fielder – There are very few things as gratifying to me as seeing a really, really, really large guy step up to the plate and take hacks. I mean Jeff touched on this and face it, we all feel this way.
It’s why we liked his dad, Kirby, TP, Kruky, and even Ortiz. Even from a pitching perspective, there would have never been Fernandomania if Fernando Valenzuela was normal sized.
And listen, if Albert Pujols didn’t play on the Cardinals, he would definitely be on this list. I just don’t get any enjoyment watching him hit against the Cubs. And yes, it’s a double standard because I mentioned Prince Fielder, but let me be frank…the Brewers don’t concern me in the slightest.
CHRIS: I think I like the guys from when I was a kid just because it was my life than. Plus I think as I get older, I tend to remember the good things more and build them up and forget and downplay the bad. Anyway, here’s my list of current guys:
1. Joe Mauer-I love that guy. The way he hits and really just everything about the way he plays. If he was healthy, I’d be headed over to Target Field tonight from my hotel to watch the Twins. But he’s hurt and watching Morneau isn’t quite the same.
2. Felix Hernandez-I know we talked before about how when you watch Sabathia, he doesn’t seem to do much that impresses you but he’s obviously very good. Felix does the same except he really impresses me. When he’s on, there aren’t many better. He throws 98 or so and then a slider that’s around 90. It’s just not fair.
3. Tori Hunter-Not as much right now but he’s still playing so I feel like he’s relevant. I didn’t enjoy his hitting so much as his defense. It seemed like he was good for at least one highlight reel catch a game, plus he made all the routine plays to.
4. Carl Crawford-This guy does it all. He’s especially fun to watch steal. Plus, he’s more like Rickey Henderson in that he actually knows how to steal a base and doesn’t just rely on pure speed. He’s smart, plays great defense and can hit for both average and some power.
5. Albert Pujols-I hate him. I think he’s on steroids or something but there’s no proof so I can’t deny putting him here. If he wasn’t a Cardinal I could appreciate him more but there is no question he is the best hitter of our lifetime. I haven’t researched anything but he might be the best hitter since Ted Williams. He hardly strikes out and yet still manages to bat .330 and hit 40 HRs. It’s amazing. I still hate him though.
I wanted to put Bonds on here even with the Steroids for much of the same reasons I put Pujols on here. Even without steroids, he was still one of the premier players in the game. There’s something about a power hitter that has the patience and discipline to take a walk that really is impressive. Bonds took that to the extreme. I really think umpires just called a pitch a ball if he didn’t swing. Anyway, due to the roids though, and the fact he’s not playing, I couldn’t include him.
If Zobrist had even one homer right now he would have made the list. He’s my Billy Butler.
JUSTIN: I have to do this quick:
1. Lincecum – already on my “all-time” list.
2. Mauer – I played catcher growing up (and second base) mostly and respect ANY catcher, not on roids (sorry Pudge) who can hit. It is tough to do AND actually call a good game AND play real defense (ask Victor)… plus Mauer is a Cub if Prior didn’t want (and get) the highest signing bonus OF ALL TIME.
3. Pujols – you can’t make a list and not put him on here – Cardinal or not – he is the best baseball player of our time not yet linked to roids. Bonds is the only one in the same country and we all know how much I hate him.
4. Jeter – no roids. 3,000 hits soon. Big game player. You have to respect that – even if he plays for a team I really don’t enjoy watching. Plus he wins and well I like winners.
5. Braun – This would have been Fielder if I thought he was a lifetime Brewer, but he is not. This would have been a Cub, like Lee, because I really love Lee, but he is not fun to watch like Braun. He is a 5-tool guy, who sucks on defense, but works hard to not suck quite as much every game he plays. Plus lets face it, I already have a Cardinal and a Yankee on this list and I HATE both those teams, so why not give a little hometown love.
BTW – Chris is right about the old-time guys being more guys we care about. I went to at least 12 Brewer games a year with my dad from about 1987 to 1997. I have memories that stretch into stats from baseball cards and making my own “highlight” tape when I got my first VCR in my bedroom. Baseball was something I was going to do for a living and followed it like it was my job. It was just a little more special.
Final thought from me today: 6th favorite player of all-time is Mark Grace and he would have cracked the top 5 if not for Sandberg playing 2B, a position I felt “closer” to.
Wonder what Mike thinks?