Best 25-Man Roster in MLB History

Sports Illustrated writer Cliff Corcoran has authored an article with this provocative title. This is the team he chose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll leave you to consider Corcoran’s arguments. Let the debate begin.

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46 Comments on "Best 25-Man Roster in MLB History"

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David P
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In terms of position players, I don’t have any big quibbles, other than the fact that there’s a clear bias towards older player. But starters??? Yeah, I know it’s hard to choose but he used ERA+ as his metric, Which would be fine if there weren’t lots and lots of better tools available. Obviously the biggest problem is the inclusion of Kershaw. Kershaw has 1901.1 IP and 57.2 WAR and 42.1 WAA. Let’s just compare that to Tom Seaver. From 1969-1975, Seaver threw 1918.2 IP with 52.9 WAR and 36.8 WAA. So a slight edge to Kershaw. Except that 52.9… Read more »
Dr. Doom
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First of all, who HASN’T done this, from time to time? Second, I think Eddie Collins ahead of Joe Morgan is an absolute travesty. I would’ve also strongly, strongly considered Jackie Robinson for that spot, simply because he would be the greatest utilityman in the history of baseball; the only problem is that he was way, WAY too good to be merely a utility guy. I like the inclusion of Kershaw. I think these lists are always more fun when we sort of try to project forward. I also think that A.) no one would’ve had a problem with Sandy… Read more »
David P
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1) I think you can pretty much flip a coin with Collins vs Morgan. Both should be strongly considered, neither has a huge advantage over the other. 2) I would have a problem with Koufax and given how long it took for him to get inducted into the Circle of Greats, I’m guesing I’m not the only one. 3) Fair point re the inclusion of relievers. Particuarly since one of my pet peeves is when people say that closer is a position, It’s not, it’s a role and as you noted the top starters could fill it quite well. 4)… Read more »
no statistician but
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I’m sure Corcoran wrote the piece with the aims of stirring interest and creating controversy, so I won’t fault him for his choices, even though I don’t agree with his taste in pitching much at all. I’m biassed against Hornsby, but otherwise his starting lineup is very arguable. I’d take Yogi B and J Bench platooning at catcher. The “bench” is a turkey shoot category. Fill in Foxx, Morgan, Musial, Brett, or any of a dozen others and it wouldn’t matter. The real problem I see is that the roster concept is flawed. It’s a fantasy team that is based… Read more »
e pluribus munu
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Like others, I have trouble with the bullpen category here, but Corcoran builds that into the model he’s working with – he wants a roster structured like a contemporary one, and I don’t think it’s productive to argue with a premise of his project. If I were to do that, I’d argue that an ideal team has no DH. I’d make some different picks (and I like nsb’s idea of HHS folks making those picks by decade – although perhaps by “era” might be a more interesting and flexible way to approach it), but one thing Corcoran does very well… Read more »
David P
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What’s strange is that Kershaw’s postseason numbers aren’t that different from his regular season ones:

-1.1 more hits per nine innings
-0.4 more home runs
-0.3 more walks
-0.8 more K’s.

And yet somehow his ERA is 2.21 runs higher. Which strikes me as mostly a sequencing/luck issue. (I checked his doubles and triples and they’re about the same per nine innings).

ThickieDon
Guest

Where’s Clemens?

ThickieDon
Guest

I like Kershaw, and all the other pitching selections are top notch, but I would swap Clemens in for Kershaw.

no statistician but
Guest
Another problem with this approach generally, if I can diverge from baseball for a moment, is the difficulty of overcoming biases. There’s always at least one assumption lurking in the background of lists like this. Most of us probably remember the craze 17 years ago for naming the 10 or 25 or 100 best whatevers of the Twentieth Century. In my view they all failed miserably in the areas where I have some interest and knowledge. Anyone, for instance, who really thinks The Great Gatsby is the best American novel of that stretch—or of all time!—either has not read the… Read more »
alz9794
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I don’t know anything about symphonies, so to me it’s unclear if Sibelius having 5 of the top 10 and Hovhanhess having many others lower down is reasonable, unreasonable, or just that someone likes Sibelius. It’s certainly possible that an extraordinary talent should dominate a list, and other greats make perhaps one appearance on a top 100 list, while others don’t crack it at all. There have been thousands of player seasons in MLB, even if one limits that to position players. Using WAR for position players, the top 100 seasons (really top 101 as there is a 13 way… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Sibelius’ WAR was inflated by his home-piano advantage.
And Hovhanhess virtuosity is muddled by suspicions of PEDs.

Mike L
Guest

Sibelius basically ran dry the last 30 years of his life. No notable outlet. I’m not sure we could call him a Steve Blass, but essentially he may have run out of pitches.

Dr. Doom
Guest

… but running dry for 30 years is not a surprise. There’s a great quote from David W. Barber, a music history humorist (one of the world’s greatest and oddest jobs) that goes something like, “Mozart set the standard for prodigies by dying young.” And there’s a lot of truth to that. Rather leave them wanting more than run dry.

Mike L
Guest

That’s the variant on a Tom Lehrer line “It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years.”

no statistician but
Guest

The symphonies of Sibelius basically run in the 120-160 OPS+ range. Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler—the best ones go over 200 and the least make it to 150+. Saying that, by the way, isn’t meant to slight the great symphonies of Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Bruckner and one-offs of people like Berlioz which also score high, or the best works of Haydn and Mozart, which, because of their era, are smaller scale gems.

Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, among others, predate the symphonic form. But I digress.

Dr. Doom
Guest

I think all of us who are music nerds can agree that putting 5 Sibelius symphonies in the top 10 of all-time is a little bit like saying that Mel Ott had five of the greatest baseball seasons of all-time. No disrespect to Ott or Sibelius, but… c’mon.

Paul E
Guest

But Ott IS probably the greatest player of the last 100 years not to win an MVP

Daniel Longmire
Guest

By “OPS+”, of course, we are referring to “Overall Performance Satisfaction”, right?

Mike L
Guest

My daughter is a Mahler enthusiast. I think he’s a little derivative–and maybe relies on only two pitches too much. The 8th has echoes of Beethoven’s 9th. But Brahms lifts from Ludwig as well, so maybe I’m being hard on him.

Paul E
Guest

Mahler? Mickey or Rick?

Mike L
Guest

Rick. He was a righty, and as everyone knows, there are virtually no left-handed conductors.

Dr. Doom
Guest

I doubt that I’ve ever more enjoyed a thread on this site than this lovely classical music diversion, ending in a Rick Mahler reference. I knew there was a reason I loved this community.

Mike L
Guest

I think truly great baseball players share something with great composers and performers–you not only need tremendous talent, but intense efforts. Last year I wrote a piece for 3Quarksdaily–and I got a ton of off-line emails from musicians. http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2016/12/the-stradivarius-complex.html

Dr. Doom
Guest
It’s a lovely piece, Mike, and it was odd to think that your last name might actually not just be the letter “L.” Agreed with just about all you said. As a funny anecdote, I went to a Lutheran college, sang in I think 9 or 10 different choirs before I graduated, as many as 6 in one semester. Anyway, we had this big Christmas extravaganza every year – 200 vocalist choir, full symphonic orchestra, art on the walls and hanging from the ceiling of the chapel, poetry readings, dancers – the whole nine yards. It’s like a 2.5 hour… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

You mean “Doom” is not your real last name? Great story about Christmas concert. And I can see it. While there are some double major vocal + liberal arts students at conservatories that are part pf colleges/universities, vocalist/musicologists are fairly rare. Hopefully you still sing.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Second Doom’s comment on your essay, Mike. I’d like to know whether there was a particular thought (yours or your daughter’s) that led you to link to the Op. 131 in particular, apart, perhaps, from the connection with Schubert.

Mike L
Guest
Thanks, EPM. I was trying to make a point that some of the greats were willing to explore different structures and to innovate. My daughter sent me Op.131 to show that Beethoven does this a lot–he mixes genres, or cross-pollinates styles. He put a typical opera styles in his string quartets (movement 3 of op. 131) and again more famously, in the 4th movement of the 9th symphony. Also, Op. 131 just sounds different–not that “Beethoven-y” and textured in a way that feels almost modern, but not remote, like some modern music can be. Beethoven was willing to experiment. To… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
Thanks, Mike. That’s a clear thought on Op. 131. Beethoven was mixing genres early, like his send-up of Italian opera in the adagio of Op. 31/1, but I really like your notion of the late quartets as “modern, but not remote.” I think Beethoven often has an unusually effective interplay of reanimated “classical” elements in a highly innovative context, something that “post-modern” composers now try to achieve, but generally with less success. (And with Beethoven, the late quartets and sonatas retain their modern/post-modern edge almost 200 years later!) In a baseball context, I’m not sure that there may not be… Read more »
Kahuna Tuna
Guest

But Brahms lifts from Ludwig as well, so maybe I’m being hard on him.

If your [lineup] card includes two masters like Johannes and Ludwig, you’re not going to mind if they copy each other occasionally.

oneblankspace
Guest

Mahler sorta cheated, some say. He wrote Das Lied von der Erde in order to write a 10th symphonic work in the 9-symphony era.

Mike L
Guest

Mahler in extra innings?

Paul E
Guest
N S B “The desire, conscious or unconscious, to attribute extraordinary virtues to our favorites can be overwhelming, and the corresponding guilt of doing so often makes us give in to spreading the glory around indiscriminately to those we feel are preferred by other people, just to show our impartiality.” Men of merit exist in every generation but mankind, in general, prefer the meritorious of their own generation. But, tough to tell if “guilt” is responsible or it’s just bad opinions. My quibbles? I agree – give me 10 SP’s. Morgan over Eddie Collins. Ted Williams in LF; Frank Thomas… Read more »
Steven
Guest

I’d find a place for Stan Musial.

Doug
Guest

I’m with you. But, who do you drop?

Steven
Guest

Pujols.

Steven
Guest

I’d go with a starting rotation of Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson. 1245 complete games, there. Three relievers: Rollie Fingers, Hoyt Wilhelm and Goose Gossage. All can throw multiple innings. That frees up space for both Musial and Pujols. I’d keep three catchers: Bench, Berra, and the perpetually overlooked Ted Simmons. No Carter. I’d take Roberto Clemente, too.

robb
Guest
I have a couple of small quibbles, mainly for including Bonds but not Clemens. He makes the case based on Bonds before 2001 to exclude PED years, but then includes the 48.5 war after that in his argument to get him on his all time roster. For THIS list, I’m not certain “favoring” peak does it. Give me Cobb, Aaron or Musial. If PED doesn’t disqualify then you have to include Clemens, with the third most pitching WAR, and just below Tom Seaver pre-2001. He also had a peak run of 7 seasons ave 8.2 war and a later mini-peak… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Sort of a “flexible” criterion. I guess.

Mo
Guest

Here is my batting order

Hornsby
Mays
Ruth
Williams
Gehrig
Bonds
Schmidt
Bench
Wagner

John
Guest

two words. Cy Young

ThickieDon
Guest

Where’s Mike Trout?

oneblankspace
Guest

I’d put Cal Ripken (Jr., of course) in there ahead of ARodriguez. Maybe ahead of Wagner.

And maybe Rickey Henderson ahead of Kimbrel. With those starters, you don’t need an extra large bullpen.

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