I started with a simple question: What team has had the best center fielders (or catchers, or shortstops) in its history? The following is my best answer to the question. See the first post in the series for a full explanation.
The best center fielders by team:
10. Toronto Blue Jays
Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, Jose Cruz, Jr., Vernon Wells
Nothing spectacular here, but a lot of consistently good work.
9. Philadelphia Phillies
Ed Delahanty, Billy Hamilton, Roy Thomas, Dode Paskert, Cy Williams, Richie Ashburn, Tony Gonzalez, Garry Maddox, Lenny Dykstra, Doug Glanville, Shane Victorino
Looking at this list of names makes me wonder if I underrated them. Possibly, although things have slowed down a bit in recent years.
8. Houston Astros
Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Steve Finley, Michael Bourn
People have forgotten how good Wynn and Cedeno really were.
7. Kansas City Royals
Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, Brian McRae, Carlos Beltran, David DeJesus
6. Boston Red SoxChick Stahl, Tris Speaker, Ira Flagstead, Doc Cramer, Dom DiMaggio, Jimmy Piersall, Reggie Smith, Fred Lynn, Ellis Burks, Johnny Damon
More consistency. The key here is Speaker, even if only for half his career.
5. New York/San Francisco Giants
John Montgomery Ward, Jim O’Rourke, George Van Haltren, Benny Kauff, Willie Mays, Garry Maddox, Dan Gladden, Brett Butler, Darren Lewis
Mays alone puts the Giants in the conversation. But it’s been slim pickin’s since he retired.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jake Stenzel, Ginger Beaumont, Tommie Leach, Max Carey, Lloyd Waner, Vince DiMaggio, Bill Virdon, Matty Alou, Al Oliver, Andy Van Slyke, Andrew McCutchen
Only Carey was really excellent, but the Pirates have rarely gone very long without a good center fielder (except for the dry spell between Van Slyke and McCutchen).
3. Cleveland Indians
Joe Birmingham, Tris Speaker, Earl Averill, Larry Doby, Jimmy Piersall, George Hendrick, Rick Manning, Brett Butler, Kenny Lofton, Grady Sizemore
Speaker, Doby and Averill are Hall-of-Famers. Center field has traditionally been a strong position for the Tribe.
2. Atlanta Braves
Jim O’Rourke, Hugh Duffy, Billy Hamilton, Ginger Beaumont, Ray Powell, Wally Berger, Tommy Holmes, Bill Bruton, Dale Murphy, Andruw Jones
The first three on the list are Hall-of-Famers, and Andruw might make it in before all is said and done. Berger and Holmes had some great years for bad teams. And don’t forget Murph.
1. New York Yankees
Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers, Rickey Henderson, Bernie Williams
Does anybody question this? The Yanks had two of the top five center fielders (DiMaggio and Mantle) for their whole careers, plus two more Hall-of-Famers in Combs and Rickey.
28. Florida Marlins
Devon White, Preston Wilson, Juan Pierre
Not too bad, I guess.
29. Colorado Rockies
Juan Pierre, Preston Wilson
Two of the same players? Freaky …
30. Texas Rangers
Don Lock, Oddibe McDowell, Josh Hamilton
The Rangers are REALLY happy to have Hamilton.
Up Next: The Right Fielders