Here is my list of my all-time Favorite MLB players. Some of the guys are stars. Some of them maybe even all-time greats. There’s a guy on the list that you certainly forgot ever existed (it’s a lock). I’m barely a homer too, there is only one SF Giant makes the list, and it will be pretty clear how old I am when you notice the majority of the makeup of the team.
CATCHER: BENITO SANTIAGO
I grew up with catchers being mostly big, slow guys who hit the odd home run. In came Santiago who won the Rookie of the Year in 1987 with a mix of offense (.300-18-79-64-21) and throwing the ball with his rifle arm from his knees. He was athletic, he had great hair and boy could he really throw the ball. Unfortunately, he never matched that all-around effort from his first season, but he had a long and successful career that left him a mere 22 games short of 2,000 for his career.
FIRST BASE: DON MATTINGLY
So tough leaving out Will Clark and Jeff Bagwell, but I’ll go with Don. His career was cut short due to that back condition, but man was he a hell of a player. As a first basemen myself, I greatly appreciated Mattingly’s overall game including his great glove work (he won nine Gold Gloves). From 1984-89 he was dynamic averaging more than 200 hits a year while batting .327 with a .902 OPS, and from 1984-87 he won an MVP, never finished lower than 7th in the MVP vote, and produced an average effort of .337-30-121-102 with a .941 OPS.
SECOND BASE: CHASE UTLEY
He was gritty, hardnosed and didn’t take any crap. He was damn good at hitting the ball with that super short, compact swing of his. It really looked like he cut off his swing, but he made hard contact consistently despite never being a big fella. He was a dynamic middle infield force from 2005-09 with an average effort of .301-29-101-111-15 with a .922 OPS. That level of success plays in any era.
THIRD BASE: WADE BOGGS
The due ate chicken, and hit. That’s about the extent of what I knew about Boggs when I was younger (in the later years I learned about his insane ability to pound brewskies). I also remember seeing this guy constantly hitting the ball off the Monster as it was Boggs and Tony Gwynn vying for the title of best hitter in baseball for years. Boggs eventually cleared 3,000 hits, drank a lot of beer, and from 1983-89 he produced 200-hits each year with an average effort yielding a line of .352-8-68-110-2 with a .446 OBP. He lacked pop, but he had a mustache to make up for it.
SHORTSTOP: JOHNNIE LEMASTER
Look, he stinks as a player with a career .566 OPS over 1,039 games. So why? He had a great stache. The real reason though was that he came to Foster City Little League Day when I was seven years old and he signed my Wilson A-2000 glove. I thought that was one of the coolest things ever. Plus, I didn’t know in 1980 what OPS even was.
OUTFIELD: DALE MURPHY
My favorite player. I wrote about him at Fanlinksports (you can sign up, and post articles of your own, for free).
OUTFIELD: ERIC DAVIS
The greatest all-around player I ever saw (ever so slightly ahead of Barry Bonds), I once saw Davis score from first base on an errant pickoff throw (at Candlestick). Davis could literally do everything on the field at an elite level, despite being built like me (he was 6’2”, 170 lbs.), and for those of you who weren’t playing fantasy baseball back then, check out the numbers he posted which included an average season of .281-31-91-93-46 over a four year span (1986-89). He averaged 30/45 over four years. One year he went 27/80 and he followed that up going 37/50. Folks, his first full two seasons he averaged 32 homers and 65 steals. Truly an elite talent.
OUTFIELD: JIM EDMONDS
I wanted to go Bonds, but I just couldn’t. Edmonds might be a bad guy, and he once snubbed me for an autograph after completely blowing me off, but he was a hell of a player. He won eight Gold Gloves, seemingly diving to catch a ball once a game, while having that swing where he didn’t even stride. He also averaged .298-36-100-102 from 2000-04. He only lacked speed.
DH: VLAD GUERRERO
My friend Dave went Andruw Jones, and I went Vlad. Jones was an absolute star for a decade, arguably the best all-around outfielder in baseball for that time, but it was Vlad that was sexy, it was Vlad that could mash and it was Vlad who made the HOF. Vlad swung at everything, and he hit it. Vlad never saw a pitch he thought he couldn’t hit, but he still posted a .379 career OBP, a .931 OPS, and his average effort from 1998-2007 was .327-35-114-100-16 with a .980 OPS. He was a dominant hitter with a cannon in the field.
STARTING PITCHER: NOLAN RYAN
Back before everyone was throwing 96 mph, there was Mr. Ryan. The smooth mechanics, the innings pitched, the scowl, Ryan was/is the epitome of a power pitcher. When it was all over ended up the greatest strikeout pitcher of all-time (5,714). Ryan also set all-time records for walks (2,795) and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.6). He was dominant, seemingly could toss a no-hitter (he tossed seven) or strike out 15 in any outing, and the best result you could hope for as a hitter was a walk.
STARTING PITCHER: FERNANDO VALENZUELA
It is hard to imaging today, but when Valenzuela debuted, he was a mix of Michael Jordan, Mike Trout and Tom Brady. Fernandomania was a thing. There’s simply no way that those of you that didn’t like through it could understand. As a rookie he won the Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young and finished 5th in MVP voting. He did all of it on the back of his patented screwball, all the while racking up massive innings pitched totals (250 or more innings for 6-straight years from 1982-87 – and only failed to as a rookie in 1981 because of the strike). He was a phenomenon.
STARTING PITCHER: GREG MADDUX
His stuff was solid, but his pitchability was off the flipping charts. Ditto the control, and he was one of the first to throw that 2-seam fastball that seemed to move like a screwball. He won four Cy Young Award, 18 Gold Gloves, and from 1992-98 he posted an average season of a 2.15 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 239 frames a season. Oh yeah, his ERA+ in that time was 190 meaning that he was 90 percent better than the league average hurler. He looked like a dope, like he hadn’t ever lifted a weight and yet he went out and dominated every opponent he seemingly ever faced. He was a maestro.
RELIEF PITCHER: BILLY WAGNER
I loved the story about how he was right-handed until he got hurt causing him to pivot to throwing lefty. He had that short-armed motion, stood just 5’10” while weighing in at 180 lbs., but he always showed up hitting 95+ on the gun. No one ever hit him, 6.0 hits allowed per nine innings, and he struck out just a shade less than 12 batters per nine innings. Probably should be in the HOF.
RELIEF PITCHER: DENNIS ECKERSLEY
He seemed to close his eye like a Pirate on the high seas, and that easily recognizable delivery also stands out for Eck. The first traditional “closer’ of the modern era, he attacked hitters, threw strikes, never beat himself and he had some dynamic seasons for the Athletics including the 1990 effort where he saved 48 games, had a 0.61 ERA and 0.61 WHIP over 73.1 innings.