In honor of Albert Pujols and his 3,000th hit, here are my best players of my fan lifetime. (From the 1972 World Series to today).
- Pete Rose (RF): We’re going to let Pete Rose lead off, but when he comes back to the dugout, we’re going to make him sit alone. Rose beat out Reggie Jackson, who I also wouldn’t want to have to sit next to.
- Rickey Henderson (LF): I know that Barry Bonds was as good as they get, but Rickey Henderson get my nod here. You can literally take Rickey Henderson’s numbers, divide them in two, and make two Hall of Famers. (According to Bill James)
- Joe Morgan (2B): During the heyday of the Big Red Machine, you’d read articles discussing who might be the most valuable of all. In retrospect, any answer that wasn’t “Joe Morgan” was just absurd.
- Mike Schmidt (3B): The two best third basemen in history are Mike Schmidt and George Brett. They were drafted consecutively in the 2nd round.
- Albert Pujols (1B): I’ve enjoyed the articles this week that reminded me how tremendous Pujols was in his prime.
- Ken Griffey, Jr. (CF): For the most part, the best players in the history of the game were great after their thirties, and their greatness is based on their ability to be great for a long time. Griffey and Pujols, interestingly, are the greatest players ever to suffer a drop off later in their careers. They both enjoyed great starts and suffered early declines due to injuries. Center field, by the way, might be the weakest position of my lifetime. In the even-older days, great players like Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle played center. These days, those guys–like Henderson and Bonds–get moved to left to protect their bats.
- Johnny Bench (C): An excellent hitter, but not the hitter Mike Piazza was. The best fielding catcher ever and my first baseball hero.
- Ozzie Smith (SS): Most would say Cal Ripken or Barry Larkin, but to the way I remember it, Ozzie was the best. It seemed like there was a rule requiring the other team to hit him the ball.
- Greg Maddux (P): My favorite player of all time. You could watch a whole Greg Maddux game without getting bored because he kept pounding the strike zone.