I started with a simple question: What team has had the best left 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.
10. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays started out in 1998, and Crawford came up in 2002. That’s nine seasons out of thirteen with an excellent left fielder.
9. Houston Astros
Bob Watson, Jose Cruz, Luis Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee
Never a dull left fielder in Houston (except Eric Anthony).
8. Detroit Tigers
Matty McIntyre, Davy Jones, Bobby Veach, Fats Fothergill, Goose Goslin, Hank Greenberg, Dick Wakefield, Charlie Maxwell, Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton, Steve Kemp, Larry Herndon, Bobby Higginson
There are a lot of very good players here. But the only really great one is Greenberg, who spent most of his career at first base.
7. New York/San Francisco Giants
Jim O’Rourke, George Burns, Irish Meusel, Jo-Jo Moore, Monte Irvin, Willie McCovey, Gary Matthews, Jeffrey Leonard, Kevin Mitchell, Barry Bonds
This is a good group, but Bonds is what gets them to #7. I may still be underrating them.
6. Chicago Cubs
Abner Dalrymple, Jimmy Slagle, Jimmy Sheckard, Frank Schulte, Riggs Stephenson, Augie Galan, Hank Sauer, Billy Williams, Jose Cardenal, Dave Kingman, Gary Matthews, Henry Rodriguez, Moises Alou, Alfonso Soriano
There’s no Barry Bonds here, but rather a long list of capable players. Only Billy Williams is enshrined in Cooperstown.
5. New York Yankees
Bob Meusel, Ben Chapman, George Selkirk, Charlie Keller, Gene Woodling, Roy White, Lou Piniella, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon
This is a model of quiet consistency. Charlie Keller, for one, was a tremendous hitter who’d be in Cooperstown if his 30’s had been anything like his 20’s.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
Billy Hamilton, Ed Delahanty, Sherry Magee, Lefty O’Doul, Del Ennis, Greg Luzinski, Gary Matthews, Pat Burrell
As good as Luzinski and Burrell were, the Phillies are at #5 because of the first three guys on the list. Hamilton and Delahanty are top-level Hall-of-Famers, and Magee is easily the best outfielder without a plaque.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
Tip O’Neill, Jesse Burkett, Austin McHenry, Ray Blades, Chick Hafey, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Rip Repulski, Lou Brock, Lonnie Smith, Vince Coleman, Bernard Gilkey, Ray Lankford, Albert Pujols
There are six Hall-of-Famers here, and Albert will make seven. Still, they rate a bit low on the list because some of these guys (Hafey, Medwick, Slaughter, Brock) are on the low end of the Hall-of-Fame scale. Had either Musial or Albert spent their whole careers in left, the Cards would be in my top two.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
Fred Clarke, Max Carey, Carson Bigbee, Ralph Kiner, Bob Skinner, Willie Stargell, Mike Easler, Barry Bonds, Al Martin, Brian Giles, Jason Bay
True, the Pirates don’t have as many big names as the Cardinals. But they had almost every game played by Clarke, Kiner and Stargell. Plus, Max Carey is a Hall-of-Famer, and then there’s the work of a young Barry Bonds.
1. Boston Red Sox
Duffy Lewis, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Troy O’Leary, Manny Ramirez
Boston’s amazing run of excellence in left field from Williams to Yaz to Jim Rice is pretty much unparallelled. They’ve got three of the top 10 left fielders of all time (Williams, Yaz and Manny) plus a borderline Hall-of-Famer in Rice and some strong work from Lewis and Greenwell.
And now, the teams with an amazing run of mediocrity:
28. Kansas City Royals
Lou Piniella, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson
The Royals have been around for forty years, and these are the highlights. That’s not to insult Wilson, who was a darn good player and keeps K.C. from being number 30.
29. San Diego Padres
Gene Richards, Carmelo Martinez, Greg Vaughn, Ryan Klesko
Vaughn and Klesko salvage this roster of forgettables.
30. Seattle Mariners
Phil Bradley, Raul Ibanez
Neither Bradley nor Ibanez were with the Mariners for that long. And yet they’re still more valuable than the rest of the list combined.
Next up: Center Field