Friday, 18 February 2011

The All-Star Team of my (baseball) Lifetime!

Once again shamelessly stealing from the brilliant Joe Posnanski I’ve decided to open my 2011 blogging season with the All-Star team of my lifetime.

I should mention that, whilst born in 1985, I did not start to watch baseball (due to living in the United Kingdom) until sometime during the 2002 season. My earliest baseball memory was watching Boston beat Cleveland in September 2002 and falling in love with the Sox after watching Manny Ramirez take Charles Nagy deep early on. Therefore consider this team the All-Star team of my ‘baseball lifetime’.

We’ll go American League and National League with the DH in place. In the case of players who have played in both leagues I’ll group them into the league in which they spent the majority of 2002-2011.

American League:

Catcher: Joe Mauer (Twins)

- As much as I would like to vote V-Tek in on the basis of unparalleled ability to handle a pitching staff, one simply can’t argue with catchers who win multiple batting titles.

1st Base: Jim Thome (Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins)

- Just a hitting machine and, by all accounts, a thoroughly nice chap. Should reach 600 HR this season – yet doesn’t seem to get his due as one of the greatest power hitters the game has ever seen.

2nd Base: Robinson Cano (Yankees)

- A new one but there is just no one close at this position in baseball at the moment. Pedroia is a close second, Cano beats him for consistency and offensive production.

3rd Base: Eric Chavez (Athletics, Yankees)

- The most exciting defensive player I have ever seen. The last few years have been painful but I will always love the Eric Chavez of 2002-2006. It upsets me greatly that he is going to camp with the Yankees. Surely Boston could have given him an invitation – anything’s better than Yamaico Navarro.

Short-Stop: Derek Jeter (Yankees)

- My second Yankee on the list. A-Rod may be the superior player (although given all the PED controversy, who knows). Defensively over-rated and seemingly in irrevocable decline Jeter is still the face of baseball for me during my time as a fan. I only wish I had been able to catch some of Nomar’s glory years in Boston...

Left Field: Manny Ramirez (Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox, Rays)

- A complete liability in the field and in the club-house but I can’t help but love Manny. The absolute best hitter I have ever seen.

Center Field: Josh Hamilton (Reds, Rangers)

- Josh is getting dangerously close to being the best player in baseball. The only truly complete player in the game. Torii Hunter would have won this spot if he hadn’t gone to Anaheim.

Right Field: Vlad Guerrero (Expos, Angels, Rangers, Orioles)

- Vlad in his prime was the only opposing hitter who would make me genuinely fearful whenever he stepped up to the place. Just a ridiculously good hitter. It makes me sad to see him playing for the Orioles in what is probably his swansong year. He deserves better. Narrowly edges out Ichiro.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)

- PEDs or no PEDs everyone loves Big Papi. The 50+ HR years are long gone but Ortiz is still a great character and, providing you don’t count April and May, a great hitter.

Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Blue Jays, Phillies)

- An absolutely master. Halladay is so far and away the best pitcher in baseball at the moment they should probably retire the Cy Young for the foreseeable future.

Closer: Mariano Rivera (Yankees)

- There can be no debate, the greatest closer who ever lived.

National League:

Catcher: Brian McCann (Braves)

- Not a choice I’m particularly enthused by, but McCann nudges Yadier Molina for the best catcher in the NL during my baseball watching experience. Unfortunately I only caught the last few years of Piazza in New York. I always had a soft spot for Paul Lo Duca but frankly he doesn’t hold a candle to what McCann has quietly achieved in Atlanta.

1st Base: Albert Pujols (Cardinals)

- The Cardinals offering Pujols less annual salary than Teixiera and Howard is a slap in the face to the man who is a close second to Manny Ramirez as the greatest hitter I have ever seen.

2nd Base: Placido Polanco (Phillies, Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies)

- Just a great, great all-round player, here primarily for his role on the World Series Tigers of ’06. Bonus points for looking like Glen Quagmire.

3rd Base: Scott Rolen (Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Reds)

- Was great to see Rolen have a resurgence last year as part of the surprising Reds. Was an absolutely beast with the bat and the glove in St Louis.

Short-Stop: Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

- Poor defensively and, seemingly, kind of an ass but wow, he’s good.

Left Field: Barry Bonds (Pirates, Giants)

- I only caught the final years of Big Barry, credibility gone, joylessly advancing towards the HR record. I’m on the fence about Bonds and the whole steroid issue (usually I don’t think it was that big a deal) but the fact remains, he could hit.

Centre Field: Jim Edmonds (Angels, Cardinals, Padres, Cubs, Brewers, Reds)

- St Louis players seem to be dominating my NL team (only fair really as they have been THE NL team of my baseball lifetime). I loved Edmonds for the same reason I loved Rolen – great hitter, exciting fielder and played with a ton of heart.

Right Field: Matt Holliday (Rockies, Athletics, Cardinals)

- Although no longer a right fielder I will never forgot how good Holliday was in 2007. Quite how he failed to win the MVP award is completely beyond me.

Designated Hitter: Lance Berkman (Astros, Yankees, Cardinals)

- Just a fantastic slugger. Had the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to replace Bagwell in Houston but coped admirably.

Starting Pitcher: Pedro Matinez (Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies)

- He’s here more for the work I saw in his last few years in Boston than for anything since (although he was fantastic in his return for the Phillies in 2009) but those three years I saw in Boston were amongst the greatest of all time. An undisputable first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Closer: Trevor Hoffman (Marlins, Padres, Brewers)

- Now mercifully retired Hoffman is a clear choice for San Diego’s second ever Hall of Famer. Honourable mention goes to Billy Wagner.