Dan Shaughnessy has a column up about Carl Yastrzemski and what he’s doing these days. It’s a good read and I recommend it.
But more interesting to me than the column itself, however, is a passing line Shaughnessy uses: “Fifty years after his rookie season, the greatest living Red Sox player …” That has sparked a fun debate over at Baseball Think Factory, with some agreeing that Yaz is the Greatest Living Red Sox Player and others arguing for Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens.
There are a couple of different ways to go with that, because you have to decide if “Greatest Living ___ Player” means greatest while in the uniform — which certainly favors Yaz — or greatest overall who ever happened to wear the uniform, which means you can count Clemens’ Blue Jays/Yankees/Astros years and Pedro’s time with the Expos. And then, of course, you have to make some logical cutoff, or else you’re saying ridiculous things like “Wade Boggs is the greatest living Devil Ray” or “Willie Mays is the greatest living Met.”
My view: Yaz takes it, because I think you really should have an extremely large portion — like monstrously large — of your career value with the team in question to get that made-up title. Plus I think that, with a friendly nod to John Thorn, the stats shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all of such a designation given that it’s primarily a fun fan exercise as opposed to actual history or scholarship. Yaz is the Red Sox as far as I’m concerned. The contenders for that title excelled elsewhere and didn’t carry the banner for the team in quite the same way.
And now, since I’m bored, I’m going to try — very quickly — to guess who should get the title of Greatest Living Player for each team. Which, for the record, I’m doing with almost zero analysis and almost 100% gut. Let’s argue about it. I will probably change my mind on a bunch of these if pressed:
Yankees: Derek Jeter. He’s the Captain. And count the rings, baby. Yogi Berra actually may be a less controversial choice, however.
Red Sox: Yastrzemski, reasons noted.
Rays: Has to be Carl Crawford, doesn’t it? I don’t think anyone else is in the conversation until Longoria gets a few more years under his belt.
Blue Jays: Roberto Alomar may have played in too many other places. Dave Stieb? Yeah, I’ll go with Stieb.
Orioles: Ripken, in probably the easiest choice on the list.
Tigers: Al Kaline has held this title since Ty Cobb died I think. May be the longest-tenured to hold the title.
White Sox: Frank Thomas, though I feel like there’s some old timer who is still alive that I’m forgetting.
Royals: George Brett, and he may actually be an easier call than Ripken.
Twins: Hmm. Lots of good choices here. I think Killebrew has to be the man, though. Carew is defensible.
Indians: This is hard now that Feller is gone. It might actually be either Manny or Albert Belle. Which should at least make the Greatest Living Player banquet pretty interesting.
Angels: Another toughie for me. Jim Edmonds, unless you think he had too much time in St. Louis. Tim Salmon? Yikes.
Athletics: Rickey says that Rickey would like a custom made “Rickey is the Greatest Living Oakland A” t-shirt made, please. Said Rickey.
Mariners: Ken Griffey, Jr. What, you were expecting Alvin Davis? And is Alvin Davis still alive?
Rangers: I think for political purposes we have to say Nolan Ryan, but it’s probably actually Pudge Rodriguez in terms of value.
Braves: Hank Aaron, in another easy choice.
Mets: Tom Seaver
Phillies: Mike Schmidt, though if you listen to Phils fans who didn’t follow the team until 2008, you’d think it was “Chooch!”
Marlins: Do they still call Jeff Conine “Mr. Marlin?” And even if they do, does it matter? Hanley Ramirez has to be getting close to the legit title.
Nats: Because they have mostly rejected their Expos heritage, they are not allowed to use Raines or Dawson. This I command. They can have the Livan Hernandez they deserve.
Cubs: Ernie Banks is the Cubs’ Yastrzemski. Discuss.
Cardinals: Does any team have a better 1-2 punch for this list than Musial (current) and Pujols (on deck)?
Brewers: Robin Yount, because Molitor excelled elsewhere too long. I need to find some other list for Rob Deer, though, because he rules.
Astros: Jeff Bagwell, unless someone has “suspicions” that he wasn’t really an Astro. That’s how this works, right?
Pirates: Pretty soon there won’t be any living Pirates who ever finished above .500. For now I guess it’s Dave Parker.
Reds: A ton of choices here. I’ll go with Joe Morgan, though I’ll accept arguments for Rose and Bench based on longevity and more homogeneously Reds career, respectively.
Giants: Say Hey! And actually, the Mays-Bonds combo may rival the Musial-Pujols one depending on how we define “greatest.”
Dodgers: Harder than you’d think. Their good teams were always populated by lots of good players, not one mega-stud. Koufax? Dare I say … Garvey? Help me people.
Padres: Has to be Tony Gwynn.
Rockies: Todd Helton may be the most boring Greatest Living Player for any team.
Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson probably is the one Greatest Living Player who did the most good stuff for other teams. But you’ll have that when you’ve only been around since 1998.
Argue away, folks.