From the Writer’s Room: Our MLB ‘Dream Teams’

From the Writer’s Room: Our MLB ‘Dream Teams’

by April 17, 2020 0 comments

Baseball. America’s Pastime.

When the MLB was originally founded 117 years ago, nobody could have imagined what it has blossomed into. Over time, countless legends have played on an MLB diamond–some even becoming teammates.

However, they all become teammates today, as Prime Time Sports Talk’s myself (JS), Jordan Leandre (JL), B.J. Martin (B.J.), Jacob Benge (JB), Jordan Moore (JM), and Kyle Porch (KP) will construct their MLB “Dream Teams.”

Players from any franchise, any time. The lineups will include designated hitters, one starter, and one closer.

Catcher

JS: Yogi Berra

Berra was a pioneer at the catching position, loved by baseball fans everywhere. A 19-year veteran, Berra was incredibly consistent throughout his career. This includes a 10-year stretch from 1949 to 1958 where, each year, he was an All-Star, racked up 20-plus home runs, 115-plus hits, and posted a slugging percentage of .470 or higher.

A Hall-of-Famer, 15-time All-Star, and just one of two catchers to win three MVP Awards, Berra is my pick behind the dish.

JL: Buster Posey

Hear me out on this one. Posey might not have the longevity as some of his predecessors, but he does have an amazing track record (and a first-ballot Hall of Fame resume). Posey has played in just 1,258 games, and at the rate at which he’s accumulating wins above replacement, there’s a strong chance he becomes the all-time leader in that category.

His 128 wRC+ ranks tied for 11th all-time among catchers, and he’s also got 168.4 fielding runs above average. He might be regressing a bit offensively, but not before his three rings, Rookie of the Year and MVP Award, and six All-Star Game selections.

B.J.: Mike Piazza

Piazza was simply the best-hitting catcher I’ve ever seen. While those older fans would argue Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra hold that honor, Piazza seemed to have the ability to hold his own among the greats of all-time.

JB: Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench hit the third-most home runs out of any player in the lineup and drove-in over 104 runs on six occasions.

JM: Ivan Rodriguez

The best catcher ever. The fastest pop time by a catcher of all time. For a backstop to hit the way he could and spray the ball around was remarkable. Pudge is who I want to control my pitching staff.

KP: Ivan Rodriguez

Simply put, Rodriguez had one of the more accurate throwing arms of any catcher I’ve ever seen. He should’ve worn a sign on him that said: “Run at your own risk.”

First Base

JS: Jimmie Foxx

An all-time legend who consistently does not get the recognition he deserves, Jimmie Foxx was an absolute force at the plate.

His previously-unprecedented 58 home runs in 1932 stood as the single-season record until Roger Maris broke it with 61 in ’61. Aside from being a member of the prestigious “500 Club,” Foxx also finished his 20-year career with a .325 batting average, an OPS north of 1.000, and 93.9 rWAR.

He was also a three-time MVP, nine-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion, and the fourth-ever Triple Crown winner. Jimmie Foxx gets the nod at first base. 

JL: Lou Gehrig

I’m shocked to see I’m the only one of this group who went with Gehrig. Yes, he only won two MVPs, but he finished in the top five eight times.

I often wonder about how different his career numbers would look had he not been forced to retire early due to ALS, but they’re other-worldly nonetheless. He ranks first all-time among first baseman with a 173 wRC+, a .477 wOBA, and is only 10.5 fWAR behind Stan Musial for first place there as well––and he played 862 fewer games.

B.J.: Albert Pujols

Pujols will go down as one of the greatest right-handed hitters the game has ever known, and his off-the-field works are just as admirable. His first 10 years in St. Louis are one of the most dominant 10-year periods of offense my eyes have ever witnessed.

JB: Pete Rose

Pete Rose stood in the batter’s box more than any other hitter in MLB history with 15,890 plate appearances, and connected for the most hits to earn the title “Hit King.” Rose’s versatility is also a valuable tool, as he appeared at six different positions in at least 590 games.

JM: David Ortiz

The Captain of Clutch. Mr. Postseason. David Ortiz always came up clutch and he’s the best four-hole hitter ever, in my opinion. (Yes, I moved him to his primary first base position so I could add Bonds in the lineup.)

KP: Albert Pujols

Pujols revolutionized the game as one of the best pure hitters of the 2000s. It’s been a rather disappointing back-nine, but when you’re the best hitter in the league for the better part of a decade, I think people are going to be forgiving.

Second Base

JS: Jackie Robinson

Robinson’s accomplishments on and off the field (when put together), are incredibly hard to match. The first African American player in the history of the MLB, Robinson paved the way for many future superstars to come. His No. 42 is the only number retired league-wide for that reason.

He had a short career, only playing in 10 seasons, but still ranks 12th all-time in JAWS at the second base position, and posted 61.7 rWAR for his career.

JL: Jeff Kent

Kent is probably the “worst” player I’m going to go with, as he’s only a fringe Hall of Fame candidate (as shown by his ballot numbers). However, he’s second among second-baseman in terms of home runs (first if you’d rather count Alfonso Soriano as an outfielder). He’s also tied for fourth in slugging (.500) and averaged 5.32 rWAR per season when he was on the Giants.

Kent gets the nod for me, despite struggling defensively (-52 defensive runs saved in this DRS era––2002 onward).

B.J.: Bobby Grich

As a young fan, Bobby Grich was the epitome of a scrappy, bulldog ballplayer and one of the best defensive second baseman I’ve ever seen. Only in retrospect is Grich’s true greatness really beginning to get the credit it so deserves.

JB: Rogers Hornsby

The oldest player in my lineup was a two-time Triple Crown winner and holds a career .434 on-base percentage. Hornsby twice won the MVP award, has a career .358 batting average and drove in over 125 runs in five different seasons.

JM: Roberto Alomar

A .300 career hitter that was the definition of grit. Everything he did was smooth, winning 10 gold gloves. I want him turning two up the middle.

KP: Robinson Cano

It was a toss-up between Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia for me, but Cano gets the edge due to longevity and durability. Pedroia’s played just nine games the past two seasons while Cano has never played fewer than 80.

Shortstop

JS: Cal Ripken Jr.

Ripken was known for his long career and remarkable ability to stay on the field through it all, leading the league in games played in nine of his 21 seasons as a player, but Ripken’s accomplishments on the field often get overlooked.

He was a 19-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove winner, two-time MVP, and a Rookie of the Year winner. He personified what it meant to be a warrior, and I want that in my lineup. 

JL: Andrelton Simmons

I don’t care if he doesn’t reach base ever again, watching that man field is must-see television.

Defensive runs saved (DRS) has only been a metric since 2002, but Simmons holds a 77-run advantage over second-place Jack Wilson.

I believe it.

B.J.: Cal Ripken Jr.

Size, durability, and performance are three things we are not accustomed to seeing in a major league shortstop. Ripken defied the odds by sticking at his position, playing it well, being an MVP, and breaking a record that was once thought to be unbreakable.

JB: Derek Jeter

Piloting the infield from the shortstop position will be ‘The Captain’ and player with the most hits in New York Yankees history in Derek Jeter. Jeter hit .308 from the two-hole with an .816 slugging percentage.

JM: Derek Jeter

The captain. The best shortstop of all time. Jeter knows how to win and he gave it his all every night. I want Jeter to lead my team.

KP: Pete Rose

Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader and is being shunned from baseball glory due to his actions as a manager. But he is definitely not shunned by my team.

Third Base

JS: Adrian Beltre

Beltre provides it all for baseball fans everywhere. Goofy antics on the field, coupled with clubhouse leadership, raw power and slugging ability at the plate, and arguably an even better glove in the field. 

He’s also a sure-fire bet to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a member of the 3,000 hit club, five-time Gold Glove winner, and four-time Silver Slugger. He surely would have won multiple MVPs if he had played on better teams, but Beltre is the best third baseman I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching firsthand.

JL: Alex Rodriguez

Say what you want about his character (and his performance-enhancing substance use), but Alex Rodriguez was an absolute menace.

His 141 wRC+ was tied for ninth among all third basemen, he was first in home runs, and first in fWAR for the position as well. He also had one of the sweetest right-handed swings I’ve ever watched.

B.J.: George Brett

Brett’s approach at the plate was always beautiful to watch and his swing was a work of art. Brett and Tony Gwynn had two of the greatest left-handed swings I’ve ever seen.

JB: George Brett

George Brett offers the ability to find the gap and leg out extra bases, leading the MLB in triples three times, and falling sixth on the list of most doubles hit in a career with 665.

JM: Cal Ripken Jr.

Bending the rules to keep both him and Jeter in my lineup, but Ripken was a true competitor. A guy that I want in my lineup every single night. He represented what it meant to be a hard worker.

KP: Chipper Jones

If I could describe Chipper Jones in one word, it would be ‘icon.’ The man was beloved in Atlanta for his whole career and was one of the best switch-hitters ever.

Left Field

JS: Ted Williams

Often called the greatest hitter who ever lived, Williams holds an astounding amount of accomplishments in MLB history. He is one of just two players to win the Triple Crown in multiple seasons, the last hitter to finish an eligible season with a batting average above .400, and is a member of the 500 club.

Had he not missed three seasons due to military service, Williams would have finished with over 600 home runs and 3,000 hits in his career at his pace.

Still the all-time leader in on-base percentage, Williams is unmatched as a hitter and easily gets my pick to play left field. 

JL: Barry Bonds

The man had a slugging percentage of .749 or better four different times. If your OPS is .749 you’ve had a pretty solid season … Bonds slugged that high.

I don’t really care that much about PEDs, and I’m aware Bonds doesn’t have the best history off of the field either, but he was feared at the plate each and every time up. Outside of Josh Hamilton, I can’t remember another time a player was intentionally walked with the bases loaded.

Oh, and he had a 200 or better OPS+ six times.

B.J.: Albert Belle

Belle was one of the premier clean-up hitters of the 1990s and an integral component to the rise of the Cleveland Indians in that decade. Belle’s career probably would have been on Hall of Fame track until injuries derailed him in Baltimore.

Still, one of the most menacing bats I’ve ever seen.

JB: Ronald Acuña Jr.

The youngest player in the lineup is an up-and-coming star in today’s game. He nearly became the fifth player to produce a 40-40 season at just 21 years old and has even said he has sights on a 50-50 campaign in the future.

Acuña’s youth and dynamic personality round out a strong lineup that is quick on their feet.

JM: Ted Williams

Way better than Babe Ruth (Ruth was a fictional character). If Williams didn’t go off to fight in the war, he’d have been the greatest baseball player ever.

KP: Manny Ramirez

He invoked fear into your heart every time he set foot in the batter’s box and made for one-half of the best three-four punch I’ve ever seen.

Center Field

JS: Willie Mays

Though recognized as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Willie Mays is still criminally underrated. Mays ranks higher than Ken Griffey Jr. on the all-time home run list with 660, more hits than Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki with 3,283, and is tied with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron for the most All-Star game appearances of all time with 24.

Many fans remember Willie for his 12 Gold Gloves and iconic catch, but his ability as a hitter may surpass that. 

JL: Mike Trout

I’ve played contrarian on a lot of these and wanted to give some recognition to some guys that might’ve otherwise missed our lists … but Mike Trout is Mike Trout.

It’s a no-brainer, especially since I anticipate him usurping Barry Bonds as the greatest talent in MLB history.

B.J.: Mike Trout

The greatest player I’ve ever witnessed with my very own eyes, Trout is the complete package and still has another good 10 years ahead of him.

Hopefully, baseball fans will get to see more of Trout in the postseason in the years to come.

JB: Mike Trout

Serving as my leadoff hitter and best all-around player in the lineup, Mike Trout is exactly the type of hitter who the opposing pitcher would not want to pitch to first. He brings speed, contact, and power to the first spot in the lineup and would be a tremendous table-setter.

JM: Mike Trout

When it’s all said in done, Trout will likely be the best baseball player ever. A five-tool player that has everything. Hopefully, the Angels can win soon to build his legacy.

KP: Ted Williams

Williams is one of the best hitters of all-time and probably the best lefty. It would be criminal to exclude him.

Right Field

JS: Mike Trout

I had to bend the rules a little bit here.

Mike Trout is simply too good to leave off of this list. Though he is a center fielder, he will slide into right field in my lineup. In my short time as a baseball fan, Trout is easily the most skilled and talented player I have ever watched.

When his career ends, likely 10 or more years down the road, Trout could very well be remembered as not only the best center fielder to ever play the game but the best ballplayer the game has ever seen. He already ranks fifth in JAWS at his position. The only thing missing from Trout’s resume is playoff success, something he hasn’t had a chance at yet. 

JL: Shoeless Joe Jackson

I still find it kind of odd that Joe Jackson, who posted a .956 OPS in the 1919 World Series, is being blackballed from the Hall of Fame for allegedly throwing that series.

Guilty by association is an unfortunate thing that seems to hurt a lot of legacies, and Jackson was certainly caught in the crossfire there.

He had a career OPS+ of 170, slashed .356/.423/.517 in 12 seasons, and accumulated 62.1 rWAR in 12 seasons. He should be in the Hall of Fame, especially since his lifetime ban ended when he died in 1951.

B.J.: Vladimir Guerrero Sr.

While Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki were both great players at this position, I select Guerrero based on his five-tool ability. Speed, hitting, power, defense, and arm were all elite-caliber features that Guerrero offered and demonstrated during his Hall of Fame career.

JB: Ken Griffey Jr.

‘The Kid’ offers blazing speed and ability to hit for contact and power, which will allow for runners to keep circling the basepaths. Ken Griffey Jr. brings standout defense, exhibited by his 10 Gold Gloves, and is the only No. 1 overall draft pick in this lineup.

JM: Willie Mays

One of the best defensive outfielders in the game, another five-tool player that hit .302 with 660 homers throughout his 22-year career.

KP: Mookie Betts

Betts is arguably on his way to being the best player in the league. If he’s “that close” to Trout now, he’s very well on his way to being one of the best right fielders this game has ever seen.

Designated Hitter

JS: David Ortiz 

Growing up in New England and on the outskirts of Boston, Ortiz provided me with more moments than any other player or team ever has from any sport. From his pair of walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS, his clutch grand slam in the 2013 ALCS, and the historic performance that led him to the 2013 World Series MVP, Ortiz is the definition of clutch. 

Even in his final season, Ortiz finished a hair shy of 40 home runs and led the league in runs batted in and OPS. He never faced regression or father time, and that’s something that is hardly ever seen in sports. 

JL: Ted Williams

Williams wasn’t a designated hitter, but I’m going to bend the rules here because he deserves to be on this list. He was one of the greatest hitters this game has ever seen and one can only imagine what his numbers could’ve been had he not lost three years to military service.

B.J.: Paul Molitor

Molitor was very kind to me personally as a fan at a young age and thus he always scored brownie points with me. However, his ability to hit and create runs led him to a Hall of Fame career.

He also was a great leader for several championship clubs.

JB: Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds is arguably the most fearsome hitter in this lineup. His career 1.051 OPS is the fourth-highest and his 2,558 walks are the most in baseball history.

JM: Barry Bonds

The homer leader. The best hitter to ever play the game. Steroids or no steroids, 762 homers is absurd.

KP: David Ortiz

Simply put, David Ortiz was the best designated hitter ever in my eyes.

Starting Pitcher

JS: Nolan Ryan 

Ryan was a flamethrower well ahead of his time. His fastball overpowered opponents and led him to an MLB-record seven no-hitters, including one at age 44, both records that will likely never be broken.

Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714, and was also a master of durability, appearing in four different decades and had over 5,000 innings pitched. The MLB leader in seasons played (27), Ryan is my starting pitcher of choice. 

JL: Pedro Martinez

Martinez was explosive, fiery, dominant, etc. His reign of terror with the Red Sox was one of the most dominant stretches baseball has ever seen.

It’s no surprise he made the Hall of Fame, as he won three Cy Young Awards (should’ve been five), was an eight-time All-Star, won five ERA titles, and was a World Series Champion in 2004.

I wish I wasn’t nine years old when he made his last start in the majors, because I never got to truly appreciate his greatness when he was active.

B.J.: Nolan Ryan

Simply lights-out when it came to striking out batters and dominating games start to finish.

Ryan spent most of his career playing for non-contenders, but the advantage he gave his team every four to five days was incomparable to others during his career.

JB: Randy Johnson

Standing 6-foot-10 on the mound, Randy Johnson was simply dominant against opposing hitters. His career strikeouts per nine innings is at 10.6 and arguably his peak performances came when he won four consecutive Cy Young awards from 1999 to 2002.

He even twirled a perfect game in 2004, at the age of 40.

JM: Pedro Martinez

Martinez was the ultimate competitor. There may have been better overall pitchers to choose from, but I’ll take No. 45 to pitch a Game 7.

There’s no better competitor with better stuff than Pedro.

KP: Pedro Martinez

Probably the best pitcher to ever don a Red Sox uniform, and one of the best to ever toe the rubber in a baseball game.

I can’t think of anybody more exciting to watch and arguably more devastating to face.

Closer

JS: Mariano Rivera

Rivera is the first and only unanimous inductee into Cooperstown to date, and for good reason. Widely considered to be one of the best players to ever play for the storied New York Yankees franchise, Rivera served as the backdoor and catalyst to five World Series Championships.

He is still the only relief pitcher to win a World Series MVP, ALCS MVP, and All-Star Game MVP in the history of the sport, and his 0.70 ERA in the postseason stands alone as the greatest of all time.

Mariano Rivera is greatness personified, and there is no pick more suitable for this dream team. 

JL: Mariano Rivera

One word: Unanimous.

B.J.: Francisco Rodriguez

The man referred to as “K-Rod” had a breaking ball and fastball combination that would throw off the best of opposition hitters during his prime. His 62 saves in 2008 are still the single-season record, and likely will be for years to come.

JB: Mariano Rivera

To slam the door in the ninth, Mariano Rivera comes out of the bullpen offering his unhittable cutter. Rivera saved no less than 28 games in all but three seasons and owns a 0.70 ERA in the postseason when the games mean the most.

JM: Mariano Rivera

By far the best relief pitcher of all time, Rivera shut it down whenever he got a chance and he knows how to win. I want him to get the final out.

KP: Mariano Rivera

Echoing everybody else’s sentiment: He was the greatest closer of all-time. He had a few hiccups in key postseason moments but still posted a 0.70 career ERA in the postseason.

Pure domination.

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