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A Fantasy All Star Team: National League Lineup
My Starting Lineup of National League All Stars
On an earlier Hub I gave my thoughts on who were the greatest players on each National League team. I have yet to follow up with the American League teams but I wish to go in a slightly different direction here: naming who I would take in a Fantasy All Star Baseball Game. All fans of the game have their favorites but naming who we would like to start a game is a little like playing on your own Field of Dreams. Dream along with me and let me know your thoughts on my picks and who you would replace in any spots in the lineup. Billibuc, as I know you are a baseball man as well, I ask you to field my opponent for this game of the ages.
So, without further ado, here we go.
Leading off and Playing Second Base
There are some truly great second basemen over the years ranging from Jackie Robinson to Frankie Frisch to Joe Morgan. But I have the entire range of history to pick and choose from and I am going back to the 1920s for my starting second baseman. I want a combination of high on-base percentage, enough power to scare a pitcher and a fearlessness in my man. Therefore, I choose...
His 1922 season consisted of the following stats: a 33 game hitting streak; 42 home runs; 152 RBI's and a smooth .401 batting average. Throw in 141 runs scored; 65 walks and 17 stolen bases and then think about this: he had 250 hits that year and had double digit doubles, triples, and home runs. He was an on-base machine who fielded his position at a .957 career clip.
For a replacement player at the position I choose Jackie Robinson for his fearlessness and his ability to rise above the distractions on and off the field and excel at the position of second base.
Batting Second and Playing Left Field
Left field is filled with great players, but none shines any brighter than Stan the Man Musial to me. The second place hitter has to have bat control and be willing to do what it takes to move that man on first into scoring position and no one played the game with a greater willingness to be the epitome of a Teammate than Stan.The man with the peekaboo stance had an MVP career year the year after returning from WWII, but it is his 1948 MVP year which stands out. A .376 batting average; a balanced (as always) RBI/Runs split of 135 RBIs and 135 runs scored; 39 home runs; double digit doubles and triples; and 79 walks.
My backup choice is Willie Stargell. Pops led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series and is known for his home runs and leadership on and off the field.
Batting Third and Playing Center Field
Long considered the location in the lineup where the best hitter resides, I must follow suit and place my "best" hitter here. The very definition of a hitter's hitter, the Say Hey Kid was the man every kid wanted to be. Whether it was his 1955 MVP season of .319 avg., 51 home runs and 127 RBIs with 123 runs scored or his 1965 MVP season of .317 avg., 52 home runs and 112 RBIs with 118 runs scored you got the best centerfielder in the game. With runners on first and second and a deadly power hitter protecting him, you were sure to get at least one run home with his at bat.
And defense? Who hasn't seen that phenomenal catch and throw in the opening game of the 1954 World Series? Heck, it has it's own Wikipedia page, for goodness sakes! While playing shallow a ball was hit that would have been out of many ballparks, but not at the Polo Grounds in New York. Mays turned and ran full speed away from the plate, reached out and caught the ball over his shoulder then spun and threw the ball back into the field, preventing the runner from scoring from second base. Considered the greatest catch in baseball history by many, it was just another day at the office for the Say Hey Kid.
For a backup here I choose Duke Snider. A consistent performer who had power, ability to hit for average and could definitely play the field.
Batting Cleanup and in the Designated Hitter Position
I am a Baseball Purist and as such I do not agree with the Designated Hitter rule, but it is here so I will use this tool in my lineup. Personally, I feel there is more truth, more honor in the game when one has to manage using the Pitcher as a hitter. You have to be more involved and have a better mind for the game when you have to juggle the pitcher's position in the game.
But, it is here and there is nothing I can do about it so I will use it. So, my Designated Hitter is going to be Hammerin' Hank Aaron, who is the rightful owner of the Home Run record that will forever be 755 home runs in my mind.
6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, Hank Aaron had multiple years of hitting for average, for power, and doing his best to provide a way for his team to win. Another who played the game the right way, with dignity and grace even when being subjected to death threats as he approached Babe Ruth's record, Aaron remains an ambassador for the game today. I can think of no better person to have in the four hole.
Batting Fifth and Playing Right Field
There are so many to choose from here, from Mel Ott to Vladamir Guerrero to Andre Dawson but I have to choose who I think personified the position in his time.
Power: check. Speed: check. Arm: cannon.
Four batting titles; 12 All Star Games; Two World Series titles; eight straight years of batting .312 or better, Clemente is every team's choice as a Right Fielder. He defined the position for years to come and all comers have been compared to him.
In 1966 he won the MVP with a season consisting of a .317 average, 29 home runs, 119 RBIs and 105 runs scored. What astounds me is that he did not lead the league in any single category but cumulative, his numbers were incredible.
My replacement player would be Tony Gwynn. If I needed a hit, or a ball in play to move a runner or score him Gwynn would be the man I would count on to do that. No one could do what he could do with a bat.
Batting Sixth and Catching
There is only one catcher in National League history I want handling my pitchers, one who hit for average, for power and was a true team leader: Johnny Bench.
Bench re-defined the catcher position into one in which true power could be expected. In his 1970 MVP season Bench hit for average (.293), power (45 home runs); RBI's (148) and runs (97). He also won the Gold Glove that year. Bench was the integral part of the Big Red Machine in their historic run in the '70's and again, in my mind, he re-defined the position of catcher.
For a backup catcher, I have my choice of Gary Carter and Mike Piazza, but I will go with Roy Campanella for his leadership, power and overall abilities.
As an Honorable Mention I bring forth Josh Gibson of the Negro Leagues. I have heard it said that he had the power of Babe Ruth and possibly hit 800 home runs in the Negro Leagues.
Batting Seventh and Playing First Base
This is a difficult position for the National League as most of the truly great players resided in the American League. But there was one who would have been a star no matter which league he played in.
Willie McCovey.A career .270 hitter McCovey received the MVP award in 1969 by hitting .320 with 45 home runs, 126 RBI's and 101 runs. Over 500 home runs in his career and over 1500 RBI's he was a threat to any pitcher. Heck, he even has a cove named after him in San Francisco!
My replacement First Baseman is the only man from the current era I would choose, and that is Albert Pujols. I know he is in the American League now, but what a player he was in his time with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Batting Eighth and Playing Third Base
There is no true second choice here: Mike Schmidt. Another power hitter who hit for average and could play third base with anyone, Schmidt is the bar against whom all others are measured.
A back to back MVP in 1980 and 1981 he also was an All Star both years, Gold Glove both years and a Silver Slugger both years. Pretty dominant, eh?
Let's look at his 1980 season, shall we? .286 avg., 48 home runs, 121 RBI's and 104 runs scored, he became THE third baseman in the league. His follow up season was just as dominant.
A back up would have to be Chipper Jones. A switch hitting beast who spent his entire career with the Braves, Jones is a solid choice as a perennial All Star.
Batting Ninth and Playing Shortstop
Maury Wills. And the funny thing is, he doesn't show up on any top ten list or as an alternate, but who can deny his speed? And as the saying goes, speed kills. Wills killed the league in 1962 as an All Star, a Gold Glove, and an MVP. He brought something to the table no other player in history had done, making his speed and ability to steal bases a threat to the way the game was played.
He batted .299 and stole 104 bases that year. Imagine that: playing in 165 games, getting 208 hits and stealing a base in almost 2/3 of the games he played in that year. Pitchers were nervous, catchers were nervous, and other managers were scared stiff by his threat of advancing to second base.
Whitey Herzog would take the game to another level when his brand of baseball called "Whitey-Ball" came to the forefront and his brand of small ball combined with speed brought the Cardinals to the World Series.
Speaking of that time frame, my backup shortstop has to be The Wizard himself, Ozzie Smith. Did you know that he learned to catch a baseball by throwing a ball against a wall and using a paper sack for a glove? It taught him to have soft hands which definitely served him well in his career.
I can think of no better pitcher in history to start my All Star game than Bob Gibson. His 1968 season was a season for the ages with a 1.12 ERA, 22 wins, 13 shutouts, and an MVP / Cy Young award to close out the year. Oh, did I add he had 28 complete games? Because of Gibson, the league was forced to lower the mound and make pitchers more "hittable". THAT is dominance, my friend. And how good of an athlete was he? Did you know he played for a year as a Harlem Globetrotter? He delayed playing professional baseball to play basketball. Wow! He will pitch the first two innings, followed by...
Sandy Koufax. The greatest left handed pitcher in history whose career was tragically cut short, Koufax was so good he could refuse to pitch the opening game of the World Series because of his religious beliefs and no one would second guess him. Let's give Koufax two more innings then bring in...
Christy Mathewson. 373 wins. 79 shutouts. Four years of 30 wins. Christy was the most fearsome pitcher of his time. An inning for him then...
Warren Spahn. I mean really: "Spahn and Spain and pray for rain". "Nuff said. Next, let's bring in...
Grover Cleveland Alexander.373 wins; 90 shutouts. Unhittable? Pretty much. Next!
The Eighth inning would be Steve Carlton. Did you know that in 1972, his Phillies won only 57 games total and 27 of those were his. Remarkable!
Now, the ninth. Do I go with a celebrated closer? Naw. Who do I go with? Tom Seaver? Greg Maddux? Dizzy Dean. No, I think I'll close with...
Nolan Ryan, the Ryan Express. Yes, I know he had issues with walks early on but you cannot argue with his strikeouts. Can you imagine what he might have been had he played on a contending team? Or what he would do in today's world of baseball where 160 pound second baseman think they need to swing for the fences and set themselves up for a strikeout? I mean, they are talking about possibly doing something to reduce the number of strikeouts because pitchers are becoming dominant again. Imagine a young, healthy Ryan attacking those lightweights in today's games.
Specialty Replacement Players
On my team I would have a couple of "specialty" players; players I would bring in to specific situations. As a pinch runner, in a game winning situation my player would be Lou Brock. Speed, smarts and a will to win, Brock was a league defining player in his days.
As a player who I needed to get a clutch hit, or to take the game to the next level, no one but Pete Rose would fill the bill. I understand he is banned from baseball, but purely from a standpoint as a player, no one can compete with Charlie Hustle in the department of doing what it takes to win the game.
If I needed a home run to seal the deal, from one who never seemed to get ruffled by the moment, Ken Griffey Junior is my man. With perhaps the sweetest swing in history, Junior is the definition of "clutch" to me.
National League All Star Height and Weight
Just A Thought...
I have to mention something here I noticed while compiling my list. The size of these men are smaller than I thought they would be. Other than Schmidt and McCovey, none of them are over 6 feet in height and none weighed more than 200 pounds. In today's world a comparable athlete commonly stands in excess of 6 feet and weighs over 200 pounds. I astounds me that, in the world of baseball, such men stood so tall and performed so well and yet were of average height and weight.
Well, there you have them; my choices for my National League All Star Team of the Ages. Bill, put together a team to play against mine and we will let our viewers decide the outcome of the game.