MLB Franchise Four: AL East

Major League Baseball has a campaign asking fans to vote for the four “most impactful” players in their team’s history, with the winners being announced at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A panel of experts created an eight-man ballot for each team. This panel consists of MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official statistician (the Elias Sports Bureau), MLB.com, MLB Network, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“Most impactful” is open to interpretation, which makes this an interesting exercise. It isn’t “best” or “most famous” or “most popular”, but “most impactful.” I decided to look at the eight players on the ballot for each franchise and where they rank in FanGraphs WAR during their time with that franchise.

For each franchise, I’ve listed their top 10 in FanGraphs WAR along with any players who are on the ballot who are below the top 10. The players in BOLD are those who are on the ballot and the years listed are the years in which they played for that team.

 

Boston Red Sox (1901-2015)

 

(1) Ted Williams, 130.4 WAR (1939-1942, 1946-1960)

(2) Carl Yastrzemski, 94.8 WAR (1961-1983)

(3) Roger Clemens, 76.5 WAR

(4) Wade Boggs, 70.8 WAR

(5) Dwight Evans, 64.3 WAR (1972-1990)

(6) Cy Young, 54.8 WAR (1901-1908)

(7) Tris Speaker, 54.4 WAR

(8) Bobby Doerr, 53.3 WAR

(9) Pedro Martinez, 52.6 WAR (1998-2004)

(10) Jim Rice, 50.8 WAR (1974-1989)

(11) David Ortiz, 41.3 WAR (2003-2015)

(16) Carlton Fisk, 38.3 WAR (1969, 1971-1980)

 

On the ballot: It’s pretty amazing to think about Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzesmki manning left field for the Red Sox from 1939 to 1980, other than the few years Williams missed time because of his service to the military. For nearly 40 years, two all-time great players held down that spot in front of the Green Monster. Williams, of course, is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history who is 10th all-time in FanGraphs WAR. He hit .344/.482/.634 in his 19-year career and led the league in on-base percentage 12 times. He won two AL MVP Awards and arguably should have won more (he finished second the year he hit .406). Carl Yastrzemski was also very good during his 23-year career with the Sox. He had over 3400 hits, was an All-Star 18 times, won seven Gold Gloves, and was the AL MVP and Triple Crown winner in 1967. You can’t have a Red Sox Franchise Four without Teddy Ballgame and Yaz.

It’s interesting that Dwight Evans made the eight-man ballot despite getting little support in three years on the Hall of Fame ballot. He deserved better in the voting for the Hall of Fame. Evans is 14th all-time among right fielders in WAR, ahead of Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, and Andre Dawson. It’s nice to see him on the ballot here.

Cy Young only pitched for the Red Sox for eight years but had 54.8 WAR during that time thanks in part to an average of 341 innings pitched per season. Those were different times. It makes for an interesting comparison with Pedro Martinez, who pitched for the Red Sox for seven years and had 52.6 WAR despite averaging just 198 innings per season. Pedro won his first Cy Young in his last season with the Montreal Expos in 1997. He joined the Red Sox in 1998 and won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 1999 and 2000. Over these two seasons, Martinez was at his absolute best, going 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. FanGraphs has him worth 11.7 and 9.5 WAR for those two seasons. Pedro was also part of the 2004 Red Sox team that won their first World Series since 1918.

Jim Rice was a Red Sox slugger in the 1970s and 1980s and David Ortiz is a Red Sox slugger currently and they have been worth similar value in their years with the team. Rice averaged 3.2 WAR per season during his 16 years with the Red Sox. Ortiz has averaged 3.4 WAR per season in the first 12 full seasons of his Red Sox career. Ortiz has the added narrative of three World Series championships, including a World Series MVP award in 2013, while Rice was part of two Red Sox teams that went to the World Series but lost both times (1975 and 1986). Carlton Fisk was a teammate of Rice in that 1975 series and is famous for his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game Six. He actual played more years with the Chicago White Sox than the Boston Red Sox.

Notable snubs: Roger Clemens pitched more years and had more WAR for the Red Sox than Cy Young or Pedro Martinez, yet is conspicuously absent from the eight-man ballot. Wade Boggs had over 2000 hits and a .338/.428/.462 batting line with the Red Sox. Clemens and Boggs are third and fourth all-time in WAR for the Red Sox, which is better than six of the eight players who are on the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz

 

New York Yankees (1901-2015)

(1)Babe Ruth, 149.9 WAR (1920-1934)

(2) Lou Gehrig, 116.3 WAR (1923-1939)

(3) Mickey Mantle, 112.3 WAR (1951-1968)

(4) Joe DiMaggio, 83. WAR 1 (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

(5) Derek Jeter, 71.6 WAR (1995-2014)

(6) Yogi Berra, 63.8 WAR (1946-1963)

(7) Andy Pettitte, 58.0 WAR

(8) Bill Dickey, 56.1 WAR

(9) Whitey Ford, 54.9 WAR (1950, 1953-1967)

(10) Willie Randolph, 51.4 WAR

25) Mariano Rivera, 39.8 WAR (1995-2013)

 

On the ballot: The Yankees have such an abundance of good candidates for their Franchise Four that it will be difficult for voters to figure out who to include and who gets left out. It’s hard to imagine a Yankees Franchise Four without Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, or Joe DiMaggio, but the current generation of Yankees fans will likely want a spot for Derek Jeter and, perhaps, Mariano Rivera.

Then you have Yogi Berra, a Hall of Fame catcher who won 10 World Series rings as a player and two more as a coach with the Yankees in the 1970s (and one as a coach with the 1969 Mets). Whitey Ford played with Berra for many years and was on 11 World Series teams, won six titles, and was World Series MVP in 1961. His career World Series ERA is 2.71.

Based on FanGraphs WAR, Babe Ruth is the greatest player in baseball history. In the context of his time what he did on the field was simply unreal. He led the league in on-base percentage 10 times, home runs 12 times, and slugging percentage 13 times. The Yankees went to the World Series seven times in his 15 years with the team, winning four world championships as Ruth hit .326/.470/.744 in World Series play.

Lou Gehrig batted right behind Ruth for many of those years and hit .340/.447/.632 in his career while leading the league in home runs three times and RBI five times. Like Ruth, Gehrig was very good in World Series play, hitting .361/.483/.731 in 34 World Series games.

Other than three years spent in the military during World War II, Joe DiMaggio was the Yankees’ centerfielder from 1936 to 1951. Mickey Mantle continued the run of great center field play for the Yankees into the 1960s. Both DiMaggio and Mantle were three-time AL MVPs and they have 16 World Series rings between them.

Derek Jeter won five World Series titles in a 20-year career that included 14 All-Star games, a Rookie of the Year Award, and over 3400 career hits.

Mariano Rivera is only 25th in WAR for the Yankees but he’s the best closer in baseball history, won five World Series rings with the Yankees, and has a 0.70 ERA in 141 career post-season innings. There are just too many good players to choose from on the Yankees.

Notable snubs: None, really. One could argue that Mariano Rivera’s place so far down the list of career WAR for the Yankees makes him less worthy than Bill Dickey or Andy Pettitte, but he was a major part of five World Series championships and almost unhittable in high leverage situations in postseason play.

My Franchise Four: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio

 

Baltimore Orioles (1901-2015) 

(1) Cal Ripken, Jr., 92.5 WAR (1981-2001)

(2) Brooks Robinson, 80.2 WAR (1955-1977)

(3) Jim Palmer, 59.1 WAR (1965-1967, 1969-1984)

(4) Eddie Murray, 56.7 WAR (1977-1988, 1996)

(5) George Sisler, 49.8 WAR

(6) Mike Mussina, 47.8 WAR

(7) Bobby Wallace, 41.7 WAR

(8) Boog Powell, 40.1 WAR (1961-1974)

(9) Ken Williams, 38.6 WAR

(10) Harlond Clift, 37.4 WAR

(11) Paul Blair, 36.4 WAR (1964-1976)

(13) Dave McNally, 34.0 WAR (1962-1974)

(15) Frank Robinson, 33.4 WAR (1966-1971)

 

On the ballot: The eight players on the Orioles Franchise Four ballot are divided between the players on the very good Baltimore teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s—Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Paul Blair, Dave McNally, and Frank Robinson—and two players who were part of the good Orioles teams in the early 1980s—Cal Ripken, Jr., and Eddie Murray.

Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair were defensive standouts for the Orioles teams that went to the World Series four times in six years from 1966 to 1971 (winning two championships). Robinson won Gold Gloves in 16 consecutive seasons from 1960 to 1974. Paul Blair won seven consecutive Gold Gloves and eight in nine seasons from 1967 to 1975.

Jim Palmer and Dave McNally were starting pitchers on those great Orioles teams, including the 1971 team that had four 20-game winners. Palmer led the league in innings pitched four times and ERA twice and won three AL Cy Young Awards in four years from 1973 to 1976.

Boog Powell and Frank Robinson brought the lumber for the O’s in those years. Powell was the AL MVP in the 1970 season when the O’s won the World Series and was second in MVP voting in 1969. Over those two years he hit .300/.398/.554 and averaged 36 homers and 118 RBI. Frank Robinson was the AL MVP in the Orioles’ 1966 championship year when he hit .316/.410/.637 with 49 homers and 122 RBI. At the end of his playing career, Robinson became the first African American to manage in major league baseball. He managed for four different MLB teams, including the Baltimore Orioles from 1988 to 1991.

Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr. were key contributors to the good Baltimore Orioles teams of the early 1980s. Eddie Murray was part of the Orioles team that lost the 1979 World Series to the “We R Fam-a-lee” Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. The O’s finished second in 1980. Cal Ripken, Jr. came up in 1981 and the team finished second in the AL East in his first two seasons with the team, then made the playoffs and the World Series in 1983, beating the Phillies in five games. Ripken played 21 years with the Orioles, was an All-Star 19 times, an MVP twice, and won the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Notable snubs: Mike Mussina should be one of the starting pitchers on the fictional “Bobby Grich All-Underappreciated team.” He’s 16th all-time in WAR for pitchers, ahead of numerous Hall of Famers, yet has received just 20.3% and 24.6% of the vote in his first two years on the ballot. And, true to form, he is not one of the eight players on the ballot for the Orioles Franchise Four despite having more career WAR as an Oriole than four of the players who made the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Cal Ripken, Jr., Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray

 

Toronto Blue Jays (1977-2015)

(1) Roy Halladay, 49.1 WAR (1998-2009)

(2) Dave Stieb, 44.0 WAR (1979-1992, 1998)

(3) Tony Fernandez, 35.1 WAR (1983-90, 1993, 1998-99, 2001)

(4) Carlos Delgado, 34.7 WAR (1993-2004)

(5) Jose Bautista, 29.7 WAR (2008-2015)

(6) Jesse Barfield, 29.6 WAR

(7) Jim Clancy, 28.7 WAR

(8) Jimmy Key, 28.2 WAR

(9) Vernon Wells, 24.6 WAR

(10)Lloyd Moseby, 24.6 WAR

(15) Roberto Alomar, 20.4 WAR (1991-1995)

(16) George Bell, 20.2 WAR (1981, 1983-1990)

(49) Joe Carter, 7.4 WAR (1991-1997)

 

On the ballot: After joining the American League as an expansion club in 1977, it took until 1985 for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs for the first time. Dave Stieb was the best pitcher on the Blue Jays during the 1980s. At his best he averaged 4.6 WAR per season from 1980 to 1985. As good as Stieb was in the 80s, Roy Halladay was that guy in the 2000s, although the Jays never made the playoffs during Halladay’s time with the team. Halladay was a six-time All-Star for the Blue Jays and won the AL Cy Young award in 2003.

Tony Fernandez had four different stints with the Blue Jays and hit well in three different American League Championship Series and the 1993 World Series. He was a teammate of George Bell from 1983 to 1990. Bell’s best year was his AL MVP season of 1987 when he hit .308/.352/.605 with 47 dingers and 134 ribbies (worth 5.3 WAR).

Carlos Delgado had two regular season plate-appearances on the Blue Jays’ 1993 championship team and did not play in the post-season. He didn’t do much at the big league level in 1994 or 1995 but broke out in 1996 with a 25-homer, 92-RBI season and was at his best in 2000 when he had 7.4 WAR, hitting .344/.470/.664.

The only two players on the Blue Jays’ eight-man ballot who were on both of the Blue Jays world championship teams are Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. Alomar was the MVP of the ALCS in 1992 and Joe Carter hit his famous game-winning home run off Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams that won the 1993 World Series. Despite his World Series heroics, Carter is 49th in career WAR for the Blue Jays and was worth negative WAR in his last three years with the team.

The one active player on the Blue Jays’ ballot is Jose Bautista, who joined the Blue Jays in 2008 and broke out big time in 2010 with a 54-homer season, then followed that up with a 43-homer season in 2011, leading the league both years. As good as he’s been in his seven-plus years with the team, last year was the first time they finished higher than third in their division since he’s been a Blue Jay.

Notable snubs: Well, Joe Carter has his signature moment with the Blue Jays, but his body of work with the team is unimpressive. He has less WAR as a Blue Jay than Roy Howell, Ricky Romero, and one of the Alex Gonzalezes, among many others (does it matter which Alex Gonzalez? No). Perhaps Jon Olerud would have been a better choice for the ballot than Carter. Olerud was part of the two Blue Jays World Series teams and led the league in hitting and on-base percentage with a .363/.473/.599 line in 1993.

My Franchise Four: Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar

 

Tampa Bay Rays (1909-2015) 

(1) Evan Longoria, 39.2 WAR (2008-2015)

(2) Carl Crawford, 36.7 WAR (2002-2010)

(3) Ben Zobrist, 35.0 WAR (2006-2014)

(4) James Shields, 24.0 WAR (2006-2012)

(5) David Price, 23.8 WAR (2008-2014)

(6) B.J. “Melvin” Upton, 22.3 WAR (2004, 2006-2012)

(7) Scott Kazmir, 15.5 WAR (2004-2009)

(8) Carlos Pena, 14.1 WAR (2007-20010, 2012)

 

On the ballot: All but one of these players is still active in the major leagues but only Evan Longoria is still with the Rays. He’s an easy pick for the Tampa Bay Rays Franchise Four with 5 or more WAR in five of his first seven full seasons with the team. In the years before Evan Longoria arrived, Carl Crawford was the Rays’ best player. He played nine full seasons in Tampa and had five seasons with 4.5 or more WAR, including a very good 7.7 WAR season in 2010.

Ben Zobrist ranks just below Crawford on the Rays leaderboard. It took Zobrist a few years to get going. He was on the 2008 team that lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies but was not yet a full-time player. He broke out in a big way in 2009, amassing 8.6 WAR as he hit .297/.405/.543 and played great defense at multiple positions. He continued to be one of the team’s best players until his trade to the Athletics last offseason.

James Shields was the Rays’ #1 starter on their 2008 World Series team and David Price was a rookie on that squad who pitched very well in the postseason. They are very close in career WAR in their time with the Rays but Shields accumulated his 24.0 WAR in 1454.7 innings, while Price had 23.8 WAR in 1143.7 innings. Price also had more All-Star appearances and won a Cy Young in 2012.

With his most-recent two seasons being so incredibly bad, it’s easy to forget that B.J. Upton was an above-average player for six years with the Rays from 2007 to 2012.

Scott Kazmir and Carlos Pena are a good deal behind the other six players on the ballot in WAR, but they each had their moments with the Rays. Kazmir was a two-time All-Star and Carlos Pena led the league in home runs in 2009.

Notable snub: None. The eight players on the ballot for the Tampa Bay Rays Franchise Four are the top eight players in career WAR for the team. The next-highest WAR total belongs to Julio Lugo and no one wants Julio Lugo on the ballot except maybe his mother, but definitely not his ex-wife.

My Franchise Four: Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, David Price



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Bobby Mueller has been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan as far back as the 1979 World Series Championship team ("We R Fam-A-Lee!"). He suffered through the 1980s, then got a reprieve in the early 1990s, only to be crushed by Francisco Cabrera in 1992. After a 20-year stretch of losing seasons, things are looking up for Bobby’s Pirates. His blog can be found at www.baseballonthebrain.com and he tweets at www.twitter.com/bballonthebrain.

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Jim S.
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Jim S.

This has been a fun read, but as a TB fan I have to believe Shields should be ahead of Price.

Steve
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Steve

I thought Price as an outsider…

I have to think Delgado makes the Jays list… and though he wasn’t very good, Joe Carter delivered probably the biggest “moment” in franchise history. That was impactful.

Adam Stein
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Adam Stein

The Clemens snub is kind of bizarre.

Almost all of the snubbed players are Bobby Grich/Mike Mussina types who had borderline Hall of Fame careers and were always underrated, compilers who were never starts but totaled 40+ WAR, or players who played more than 70 years ago.

Clemens is a modern superstar. I’d actually put him on my franchise four for the Red Sox. Is this a backlash because of his PEDs?