Who’s the greatest living player for each team?


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.

Kudos to Fox for not going crazy with the curses

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I turned on last night’s Fox broadcast fully expecting them to spend too much time on history and curses and billy goats and black cats and Steve Bartman and 1908 and 1948 and all of that jive while spending too little time on the game and the players at hand. I will admit now that I was pleasantly surprised that that was not, in fact, the case.

To be clear, the pregame show was a friggin’ train wreck in this department. There the narrative framing was basically wall-to-wall. In the first segment, Fox studio host Kevin Burkhardt used the phrase “reverse the curse” within his first thirty seconds of speaking. Then, before much if any actual game stuff was referred to, Burkhardt mentioned all of the following things in the space of a, maybe, 45 second span:

When the montage ended, Alex Rodriguez said that “every player wants to break that curse.” Then they threw it to the first commercial at 7:38 or so. In the second segment they ran a prerecorded thing about championship droughts, making liberal mention of 108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians, but then got down to some actual game breakdown.

In the third segment, Burkhardt threw it to the P.A. announcer at Progressive Field for player introductions, once again mentioning 108/68 years as he did so. After that, they ran a montage, set to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting,” in which centenarians and other older folks talked about how long they’ve been — wait for it — waiting for an Indians or a Cubs championship. Lots of them mentioned billy goats and curses and stuff.

When that was over Fox finally threw it to Joe Buck and John Smoltz up in the booth. Buck added a punctuative “the waiting is the hardest part,” and soon after they ran a Buck-narrated pre-produced montage about what was going on in 1908 and 1948, saying who was president, noting when Model-Ts were invented and all of that, all set to “Time has come today” by the Chambers Brothers. So, yes, that was a lot to take in in the space of a half hour.

But that’s on me, right? Who in the heck needs to watch a pregame show? No one, really. Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose are proving to be a nice combination for Fox — getting rid of C.J. Nitkowski has cleared the congestion a bit and both A-Rod and Rose are proving to be naturals after a 2015 in which they were somewhat clunky — but a pregame show is pretty superfluous. The actual baseball breakdown those guys provide can be accomplished in less than ten minutes. The rest of it practically begs for those narrative-servicing montages, and frankly, no one needs ’em.

Most notably, though: the curse and weight of history talk basically ended once the game got going. Indeed, Buck and Smoltz were shockingly and refreshingly narrative-free for most if not all of the contest. They talked about Jon Lester and his issues holding runners. Corey Kluber‘s slider. Andrew Miller being Andrew Miller. Kyle Schwarber being there at all. They did a really nice job of handling all of the Xs and Os the way you want your broadcast booth to handle it.

Smoltz in particular was outstanding, showing that Fox’s decision to make him their number one color guy while reassigning Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to be a fantastic one. A two-man booth is superior to a three-man booth in almost every instance, but the second man in Fox’s booth now mixes his insight and his regular conversation seamlessly. You never feel like Smoltz is talking down to you or speaking from his obviously superior place of baseball authority. His tone is as if he’s letting you in on stuff he thinks and hopes you’ll really appreciate knowing and he never plays the “I USED TO PLAY BASEBALL” card in the obnoxious ways some ex-player commentators do. And he’s right: we do appreciate what he tells us.

Beating up on Fox’s baseball broadcasts has been its own sport for many of us for several years, but there was nothing to really beat them up about last night. Sure, we could do without in-game interviews, but after the pregame show Fox showed remarkable restraint with respect to pushing history and narrative and curses and all of that baloney that has little if anything to do with the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. They kept it focused on the baseball game that was going on before us in ways they haven’t always done in the past. It was refreshing and, dare I say, downright enjoyable.

More of this please.

Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being a bandwagon Cubs fan

CHICAGO - APRIL 4:  Hillary Rodham Clinton throws out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on April 4, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This was inevitable: The Republican National Committee published a ridiculously detailed and self-serious opposition-research report accusing Hillary Clinton of being a “bandwagon” Cubs fan.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recall that Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spoke about being a Cubs fan as a kid. You’ll also recall that when she was running for her senate seat in New York, she gave shoutouts to a heretofore unheard of Yankees fandom. A lot of people have had fun with this at various times — we’ve mentioned it here on multiple occasions — but I wasn’t aware that anyone considered it an actually substantive political issue as opposed to an amusing “politicians, man” kind of thing.

The Republicans think it’s serious, though. Indeed, there’s more detail to this oppo-hit than there is any of the party’s candidate’s position papers. And while someone could, theoretically, have a lot of fun with this kind of material, the opposition report is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. It reads like a poisition paper on nuclear proliferation. If the GOP had been this serious about vetting its own candidate, I suspect they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today.

As for the substance: eh, who cares? Sports is entertainment and cultural glue. As a kid in Chicago, being a Cubs fan is both fun and makes some sense. As a senator from New York in the early 2000s, you’re gonna get to go to some Yankees games and sit in some good seats and that’s fun too. And, of course, politicians are going to say opportunistic things in order to attempt to connect with their constituents. Think of that what you will, but if you think of that as something which reveals something deep and dark within their soul about what kind of person they are, you probably need to step away from the cable news for a while and get some fresh air. Or you probably need to admit that you already believed the worse about her and that this is just an exercise in confirmation bias.

Heck, at this point I almost hope she finds a third or fourth team to root for. Indeed, I hope she makes a comic heel turn, puts on a Chief Wahoo hat for tonight’s game and claims that, deep, deep down, she had always rooted for the Indians. Then even I could get on her case about it. And we could all talk about how, in her own way, Hillary was really bringing the nation together.