The BPP All-Time Dream Project

Graham, our friend over at Baseball Past and Present, has embarked on a cool project to find the 9 best players in history (by position, obviously.) He’s narrowed down the choices on a ballot to make it easy, such as picking the best center fielder among Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Ken Griffey. Easy, right?

He’s also commissioned an artist to make a set of team cards for the winning players. Neat stuff–go over and fill out your ballot today!

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WanderingWinder
8 years ago

Love this. I do it all the time. I think the most interesting debate is pitcher – where the most interesting player to feature is… Babe Ruth.

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill
8 years ago

I’ll take Mays because of his defense(better than all the others except maybe Griffey) and he’s the best overall hitter besides Mantle and he played partly in a terrible era for hitters(60’s).

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago

I wish the ballot had space for reserves. I had to leave off Jackie Robinson, but he’d be the greatest utility man you could possibly have. (Unless you leave Honus out of the lineup.)

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

Andy…my apologies but I went out for a bit and wasn’t able to reply first. 🙂 Anyway, I’m surprised that Griffey even makes the list. He only produced 4.1 WAR after age 30. Granted, he was amazing pre-age 30 but the same is true of the other CFs on the list. And they all continued to produce post age 30.

Ed
Ed
8 years ago
Reply to  Andy

Hey, I covered your morning post, it was Dr. Doom’s turn!

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Sorry, guys! Busy doing other stuff. But actually, I already cast my ballot this morning.

Also, as a clarification for everyone, you can write-in candidates, as well.

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
8 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Ed, don’t be surprised that Griffey makes the list: the ballot has 20 names at each position, so Griffey is an easy inclusion. However, even with 20 names at each position, there are omissions; for example, 2B is missing Craig Biggio, which was noted in the comments section over at BPP.

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

Thanks for the clarification. I read Andy’s post to mean that they had already narrowed CF down to 6 finalists. And in my mind he’s clearly 6th on the names that Andy mentioned.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Where does Ken Griffey, Jr. rate in the Pantheon Of Center Fielders? Cobb, Speaker, Mays and Mantle are all clearly greater than him in both career and peak. (5th) Dimaggio doesn’t have the career, but he does have the peak, plus the great defensive rep (6th) If you consider Negro Leagues, Oscar Charleton probably has him beat on peak, though it’s not well documented (7th?) If you consider the 19th century, Billy Hamilton might have a better peak, although there’s much consideration for era and timeline adjustments. So at best he’s 6th, at worst 8th. If you’re an extreme Griffey… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

I was a lot more surprised to see Cesar Cedeno than Griffey. I suspect they might be going by WAR, plus some credible Negro League options. No Biggio??? Heresy.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago

I was really disappointed that Biggio was missed (I was the commenter who noted it, by the way, although I use my real name over on that particular blog). Especially because Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano are on the ballot. Sure, they’re great players, but their bodies of work are incomplete, so we just know a lot more about Biggio. Also, as I noted over there, I was hoping Edgar Martinez would get a nod as a 3B, but he didn’t. Other than that, I don’t really have any major quibbles with the ballots. Maybe I would’ve included Gary Sheffield.… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Taking a second look at the second base candidates, I see Steve Sax also, he of the 17.5 career WAR. I think Biggio has to be an accidental omission. Cano and Pedroia but no Chase Utley either.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Ahhhh, Dr. Doom, I found where in the comments section the author of the article/poll admits that he just mentally whiffed on Biggio.

Ed
Ed
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Kind of odd though that he didn’t revise the ballot to include Biggio once his mistake was pointed out to him. I doubt he had received many completed ballots before then.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Yeah, exactly. Steve Sax? Seriously? Willie Randolph had 60.5 WAR, he’s the next worst omission after Biggio. Actually, that would put him 13th on the list of 20 as far as WAR goes, between Sandberg and Jeff Kent.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

I thought about Rickey in left over Bonds(pre-steroids),just for the superhuman speed effect,then I checked their WAR totals.

Bonds 8+ WAR seasons(pre-2000): 7(12 overall)
Rickey 8+ WAR seasons career: 3

Case closed. You probably wouldn’t want to be risking an out for a stolen base anyway with this lineup. Perhaps only Davey Lopes would have the “GO” sign at all times.(all-time leader in CS%)

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Your logic is unassailable, but I chose Rickey anyway — on the grounds that the team would steamroller any imaginable opponents anyway, so why not have they guy I’d rather watch?

Paul E
Paul E
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Bstar:
I believe Carlos Beltran has Lopes beat unless the standard is 500 attempted steals

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

Really, I did not know that, thanx Paul.

Darien
8 years ago

Love this sort of thing. I hope he’ll show the breakdown of votes received when all is said and done; I’m curious to see what the biggest landslide will be (RF? SS?), among other things. Also it’s interesting to see so many current (even young!) players on a “greatest all-time” list; it’s so hard to judge where Evan Longoria or Troy Tulowitzki (say) belong given how early it is in their careers yet.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago
Reply to  Darien

It definitely won’t be RF. I’m guessing a number of people will put Ruth as a pitcher, but others will put him in right. He’ll probably be on almost every ballot, but his position will be different.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

I think you’ll see Bench at C and Schmidt at 3B as two of the bigger landslides.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Schmidt is my favorite for the biggest landslide. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wagner were close. I think Bench will face opposition from Josh Gibson. I also think Gehrig will do very well at first, but I bet some people will choose Pujols. My guess for the composite is that it will look like this (in Graham’s order): C: Bench 1B: Gehrig 2B: Hornsby 3B: Schmidt SS: Wagner RF: Ruth CF: Cobb/Mays/Mantle – I seriously have no idea. LF: Williams P: Koufax P and CF are the two hardest to call, by far, especially since many will start Ruth at… Read more »

JoshG
JoshG
8 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Imagine Ruth won in RF and P. What would happen then?

I wouldn’t have put Ruth on the pitchers ballot first because he’s obviously a better player as a right fielder and second because there’s so many good pitchers, he wouldn’t be missed

Darien
8 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Actually hadn’t occurred to me that you couldn’t pick Ruth for both positions (I didn’t choose him at P); that adds an interesting twist. It would be weird if he splits deep enough to miss the team entirely!

It surprises me a bit to hear that people expect 3B to be the biggest landslide. It seems to me there’s a bit of vulnerability there — Boggs, Brett, C. Jones are all great, plus there’s Longoria for those who prefer the “young player” approach. I’d expect SS to be a much bigger lock. Will be fun to see!

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago

Great stuff. I admit I showed some love for a couple of favorites (Trammell, Kaline) and some close seconds that I thought may not get the respect they deserve (Matthews, Mantle) and if it came down to pretty much a coin toss for me I picked the one less likely to be the consensus candidate (Musial, Morgan, Seaver). I stuck with Gehrig because it’s possible Pujols may benefit too much from his active status and Gibson because I have no doubt that Bench will get the popular vote. I suspect if you assembled a team of the worst players on… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Yeah, Hartvig. I voted for the guys I thought would make the best team, but I’m actually regretting that a little. I kind of wish that I had voted for some people I really like rather than just going the boring route; however, I really want to see the composite list, and I didn’t want to mess it up. Of course, one vote probably won’t mess anything up, so I should have just had fun with it. I mean, no matter what team you assemble, it can’t possibly be bad, so who cares, right? Oh well. If this is my… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

I’m a little concerned that old Honus Wagner may not get the support he needs since he’s maybe not a familiar as some of the old timers are and I don’t know how much baseball history followers of that website are aware of- but I’m hoping that based on it’s name (Baseball Past & Present) it means they’re a pretty sophisticated bunch, just like us.

Besides, Alan Trammell is who I want to be when I grow up in spite of the fact that he’s actually more than 2 years younger than I am.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Who else could possibly beat him, Hartvig? By the way, I’m sorta proud/sorta pissed at myself for not picking my boy Greg Maddux but I went ahead with the Big Train.

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Jeter- ARod- Ripken- Ozzie… Not to say that they’re better (especially Jeter) just that to a casual fan, depending on their age, those names are going to be a lot more familiar. I just don’t know how big the voter pool is. There are a lot of fans out there who’s knowledge of the history of the game pretty much starts when they were about 8 or 9 years old and everything before that is blank slate except for the Babe and 1 or 2 others- although in truth there are also a LOT of baseball fans who are more… Read more »

topper009
topper009
8 years ago

This has been done to death, half of the answers there is no argument over. If you are going to make a dream team it is more interesting to have other criteria like by decade or age or team etc.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago

I’m a little late to the party here, but questions I have: Are we selecting: 1) the very best player at each position 2) the nine players who would make the best TEAM, taking defense and batting order position into consideration? Are we playing for a game, a series, a month, a year? If the answer is the first, I’d go with: C: Johnny Bench (Josh Gibson, Berra also considered) IB: Gehrig 2B: Joe Morgan (Hornsby, Collins also considered) 3B: Schmidt SS: Wagner LF: Barry Bonds (Ted Williams,Musial also considered) CF: Mays (Cobb, Speaker, Mantle, Charleton also considered) RF: Ruth… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Of course, old Walter could just pitch to the score since he’d probably be sporting a double digit lead by the end of the first inning most of the time…

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Well, the other team could have their use of _any other_ pitcher in history besides whom the “All Time Nine” was using, so it would take probably more than one inning, if they got there at all…

Bells
Bells
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

why not just put Jack Morris in, then?

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill
8 years ago

I find it funny that some see Koufax as thius God like pitcher, he was God for 6 years and totally average at best(too much credit) before that. He pitched in the greatest pitchers era, probably ever. Sorry, I’ll take Pedro. With that said… No DH lineup: With DH: 1. 2B Joe Morgan 1. 2B Joe Morgan 2. LF Barry Bonds 2. LF Barry Bonds 3. 1B Lou Gehrig 3. 1B Lou Gehrig 4. RF Babe Ruth 4. DH Babe Ruth 5. CF Willie Mays 5. CF Willie Mays 6. SS Alex Rodriguez 6. RF Hank Aaron 7. C Johnny… Read more »

birtelcom
birtelcom
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Hill

I’ll agree with you generally about Pedro vs. Sandy in a career to career, head to head competition, but don’t minimize Sandy’s six-year run. Yes, he was pitching in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s era, but WAR adjusts for that and I believe Koufax’s six-year run from 1961 through 1966 still adds up to the highest total pitching WAR performance over a six consecutive year period since Walter Johnson in the deadball era. I haven’t checked every six-consecutive-year possibility, but a spot check of the likely possibilities suggests Koufax 1961-1966 is unsurpassed in WAR over a six year period… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

You’re right about the 6-year run. Since 1901, only Walter Johnson has had a better 6-year run than Koufax’s 47.6 WAR from 1961-66. (Gibson had 47.5 from 1968-73.)

birtelcom
birtelcom
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Also in the Deadball Era, in addition to Walter Johnson’s several stupendous six-year runs, there was also Ed Walsh, 1907-1912, 48.4 WAR. Walsh pitched about as many innings over those six seasons as C.C. Sabathia has pitched in the 11 seasons of his career or Barry Zito has pitched in his 12-year career. Not surprisingly, Walsh’s arm was shot after those six seasons.

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Thanks for the correction, birtelcom.

no statistician but
no statistician but
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Check out Lefty Grove. 47 WAR 1928-33 in a batter’s era and batter’s park, preceded by 2 years at 11.1, and followed after an injury season by 6 years of 39 WAR in a worse batter’s park.

In the live ball era.

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago

FYI — WAR already adjusts for the offensive context. So Grove’s 47 WAR in that high-octane time and place is no better than Koufax’s 47 WAR in his low-scoring time and place.

Ed
Ed
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Speaking of Grove….he had an amazing 79% winning percentage at home (167-44). Despite a slightly lower ERA on the road, his road winning percentage was “only” 58% (133-97).

no statistician but
no statistician but
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Thanks. Knew that, actually. My real point was the before and after. Plus, as Bill James notes at length someplace, Grove was held back from the majors for a few years because the owner of the I. L. Orioles in the early 1920s wanted to keep him in Baltimore to win games. Refreshing attitude.

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

NSB @47 — I agree that Grove was a superstar in the I.L. and very likely would have been a star in the big leagues 4 years sooner, had he been allowed. At the same time, I think there’s room for doubt about the caliber of opposition he was facing. When I look at the hitters in the 1924 I.L., I’m not seeing many future or past MLB regulars. Bill Kelly, Red Holt, Joe Kelly, Jocko Conlan, Dick Porter — these guys were BIG hitters in the IL, but did little in MLB. (Porter had the best MLB career of… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Love Pedro; love Koufax. Saw Pedro pitch, never saw Koufax. When comparing the two, a check point or two in Pedro’s favor is he pitched in a hitters’ park and he had to face the DH. In in favor of Koufax is he had maintained his dominance at his peak by starting 40 games a season and pitching 330 innings in a season, something Pedro didn’t have to do, and I don’t think he could have done and maintained his extraordinary level of effectiveness. I sometimes use the Pedro/Koufax comparison when trying illustrate one of the questions I have around… Read more »

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Over their 6 consecutive year WAR peaks Sandy is about 10% more valuable because he pitched about 33% more innings. Per 162 innings Pedro was much more valuable, about 5.7WAR/162innings vs 4.7 for Koufax. Of course we cannot know if Martinez would have kept up the great rate stats in a 4 man rotation, averaging 272innings/season. Or if Sanford would have lasted longer, and provided much more career value, in a 5 man rotation with about 203innings/season. (Not to mention medical/training advances.) Outside those 6 year peaks Koufax provided average at best value, less than 2WAR/162innings, while Pedro Jaime was… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Hill

You know that’s weird, Jeff, because Pedro, of all great pitchers since, has more Koufax in him than anyone else. He was really great when he was on but he only won 219 games. Sure, he was unstoppable in ’99 and ’00 but Greg Maddux was 98% as good in ’94 and ’95(two consecutive seasons of sub 1.70 ERA), and he managed to get 136 more wins than Pedro.

Mike Felber
8 years ago

Did Maddux get too much of an expanded strike zone, so he deserves a bit of a discount?

Given how good the negro league players were when given a chance, Gibson & O.C. may well have been good choices. Oscar was a fiercely competitive 5 tool guy whop played forever, James had him #4 all time, & said many called him the greatest player ever. I’ll bet he was very similar to Mays in value.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Felber

Yes, he and Tom Glavine probably did get too much of an expanded strike zone, but if anybody, by repeatedly hitting spots perfectly an inch or three off the outside corner, deserved to get that call it was Maddux and Glavine. And they were the only ones in the NL to continually hit those spots repeatedly and get those calls.

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Felber

I wouldn’t view an expanded strikezone for Maddux as a negative in the discussion. Expanding the strikezone is something all pitchers try to do; some do it much better than others. If Maddux was able to do this (and I’m sure he did), then it’s a check point in the favor of his greatness, IMHO.

Mike Felber
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

I re3spectfully disagree. Besides that an expanded K-zone is usually much to the catcher’s credit in framing the pitch, the pitcher’s reputation & the particular culture at the time permits biased calls. It is reported that Maddux declined when the they started measuring it with technology. It is a skill to continually be within a finger of the K-zone, but measuring greatness accurately, we must assume an equal playing field. Ditto for a pitcher that gains from illegal head hunting. Not that he still would not be great, but if someone needs that extra 1-3 inches to be AS great,… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Felber

I respectfully counter with some measures of Maddog’s greatness which will hopefully just reinforce the idea that Maddux is one of the greatest ever. Hard to argue with the greatness he showed in ’94 & ’95:

1994 16-6 1.56 ERA / ERA+ 271
1995 19-2

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Sorry, here’s the rest of that:

Maddux 1994-95

1994 16-6 1.56 ERA/ERA+ 271
1995 19-2 1.63 ERA/ERA+ 262

Those two seasons are 2 of the 5 best ERA+ seasons of all-time(#4 & #5).

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Felber

Agreed. No Negro league pitchers? Nuts to Satchel and the rest of them? Obviously its much harder to reduce a list of the best pitchers to 20 than for any other position, but still.

moonlight graham
moonlight graham
8 years ago

I tried to look at best during their peak since it tells you to pick the best to win one game. I still ended up with probably the best ever at most positions, but the one game scenario did factor in at least with Pedro. C – Bench 1B – Gehrig 2B – Morgan SS – Wagner 3B – Schmidt LF – Ruth CF – Mantle RF – Williams P – Martinez BTW, when I was deciding about the starter, I came across Tim Keefe’s page. He has the best single season ERA+, and once put up a 16 WAR… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago

This story concerns Sandy Koufax, but it has nothing to do with ERA+ or sabermetrics, so I didn’t want to include in my note above about Koufax/Pedro. It’s more about the fun of baseball, or the wonder of baseball. The type of mythic stories we love to hear, even if we question them as we get older and more jaded. Back in the 1980s, I remember sitting in a college course on Spanish literature. I used to stagger into the class at noon, half asleep (I mean, come on, who didnt’t try to schedule their first class as late as… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Really make you wonder, with advances in modern medicine, what might have been.

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Good question. He retired because of arthritis in his left elbow. From what I read, it was very painful when he pitched and he feared the continual act of pitching would make the arthritis worse. I don’t know if there is anything we have even today that would address his arthritis. I do remember some doctor recently saying Koufax could have continued to pitch (as long as he could stand the pain) and based on what we know today that the act of pitching wouldn’t have made his arthritis any worse. Don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a shame… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

*was* still at his peak.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

MikeD, Yes, I’m not sure what advances in modern medicine would’ve extended Koufax’s career, he probably had a degenerative condition that no operation was going to fix. I recall reading that he had to put very strong inti-inflammatory medicine on his left arm before every start just to get through a game. Team mates marveled how he could even stand such stuff (it was HOT!) on his arm, let alone pitch 7/8/9 innings. I suppose he could’ve kept pitching through the pain, but there was also his quote around his time of retirement “I want to have the use of… Read more »

Mike Felber
8 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Me too Lawrence. He was a hard driving manager, A demanding curmudgeon not adored by all of his players. He was entreated to take some cuts one day, until he came raging out of the dugout, cursing up a storm. He was pretty fat then, & it was felt some players hoped the perfectionist would fail. he stepped into the box & watched a couple of meatballs come over the plate. Then he motioned for the pitcher to really bring it. Started smashing pitches all over the field, off the wall, a dozen or two shots in a row, then… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Great story, MikeD. There’s got to some form of medication on the market now which would have helped him extend his career.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

GREAT story, MikeD. One of the things I love about the group who posts here is that it’s never been just about stats, and it’s never been just about stories. It’s always been about baseball, and how and why we love it.