Thursday, September 30, 2010

Washington D.C.'s All-Time Baseball Team

Almost done with these. After this, it'll just be the 2 New York teams and Cincinnati. I'm doing the Capital Region's team (the District of Columbia, not Trenton or Albany) because the Nationals are heading to New York to face the Mets to close out the regular season.

Washington D.C.'s All-Time Baseball Team

A little bit of power, a little bit of speed. The rotation is a little shaky, but that may change in the next few years. The bullpen? Um... Actually, compared to the regional all-time teams elsewhere in the Northeast -- Boston, Philadelphia, neighboring Baltimore and especially the 2 New York teams you'll be seeing -- this one is easily the weakest.

1B George McQuinn of Arlington, Virginia. A 6-time All-Star, he had the misfortune to play most of his career with the St. Louis Browns, with whom he batted .324 in 1938 and .316 in 1939. From 1938 to 1944 he averaged 16 home runs and 84 RBIs for that sorry franchise, which later became the far more-respected Baltimore Orioles. In 1944, the Browns won their one and only American League Pennant, mainly because the traditionally stronger teams had lost more men to the war effort.

In 1947, he was acquired by the Yankees, and gave them a .304 average, 13 homers and 80 RBIs, and he was a big part of their World Championship team. He played one more season before retiring with a .276 average, a 110 career OPS+, 1,588 hits including 315 doubles, 64 triples and 135 homers.

2B Tony Womack of Danville, Virginia. He was an All-Star as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997. It was the 1st of 3 straight seasons he led the National League in stole bases: 60, 58 and 72. Traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, he helped them reach the postseason in 1999, 2001 (his 9th-inning single helping to beat the Yankees and win the World Series) and 2002.

After that, he bounced around, reaching the postseason with the Chicago Cubs in 2003 (disaster), the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 (Pennant, but swept in the Series), and the Yankees in 2005 (he forgot how to hit), before running out the string with the Cincinnati Reds and back to the Cubs in 2006. He was not much of a hitter, but stole 363 bases and was a good fielder.

SS Maury Wills of Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C. Probably the best player ever born in the District, he redefined baserunning. A process that began with Jackie Robinson in 1947 and was accelerated in 1959 by Chicago's Pennant-winning "Go-Go White Sox," who faced the Dodgers, including Wills, in the World Series was thrown into overdrive by Wills in 1960, beginning a string of 6 straight seasons in which he led the NL in stolen bases. In 1962, he broke Ty Cobb's 1915 record of 96 steals in a season, with 104, a record that would stand for another 12 years. He was named NL Most Valuable Player that season.

In 1965, he stole 94. He helped the Dodgers win Pennants in 1959 (beat the White Sox), 1963 (swept the Yankees), 1965 (beat the Minnesota Twins) and 1966 (got swept by the Orioles), and they just missed a Pennant in his MVP year of 1962 (tying the San Francisco Giants for 1st place, but losing a Playoff).

But his ego, his drinking and drug problems, and Dodger management's cheapness and lack of repsect for the players who had won for him, led to hit exit after the '66 season. That and the retirements of Sandy Koufax and Jim Gilliam ended the Dodgers' 1st great era in California. He didn't have a great career: His lifetime batting average was .281, his OPS+ a mere 88, and "just" 2,134 hits.

Yes, he stole 586 bases, but that's not a great qualification: There are 10 players with more in the Lively Ball Era (1920-onward): Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Max Carey and Joe Morgan are in the Hall; but Tim Raines (222 more), Vince Coleman (166 more), Willie Wilson (82 more), Bert Campaneris (53 more) and Otis Nixon (34 more) are not; and Kenny Lofton is not yet eligible.

On, their Hall of Fame Monitor, where a "Likely HOFer" is at 100, Wills is at 104 (appropriately enough); but on their Hall of Fame Standards, weighted more toward career stats, where an "Average HOFer" is at 50, he's at just 29.

Of his 10 "Most Similar Batters," Dave Bancroft, Johnny Evers and John Montgomery Ward are in; but Larry Bowa, Steve Sax, Don Kessinger, Donie Bush, Kid Gleason and Roger Peckinpaugh are not; Luis Castillo is still active, but who's kidding who. Wills makes this team, but he's only getting into the Hall of Fame by buying a ticket.

UPDATE: Raines is now in the Hall.

Honorable Mention to Granville "Granny" Hamner of Richmond, Virginia. Until Jimmy Rollins came along, it was a tossup as to whether Hamner or Bowa was the best shortstop the Philadelphia Phillies have ever had. A 3-time All-Star, he set a major league record with 157 games played in 1950 – all 154 regularly-scheduled games and 3 made-up rainouts, a record that wouldn't be breakable until the expansion to a 162-game schedule in 1961.

With Mike Goliat, he formed a fine double-play combination that held with the Phils from 1948 to 1952. He was a member of the Pennant-winning "Whiz Kids" of 1950, batted .300 in 1958 (and just missed in 1954), had a surprising (for a Fifties shortstop) 71 homers from 1950 to 1954, and 4 times topped 80 RBIs for the Fightin's. He is a member of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. His brother Wes Hamner also briefly played for the Phils.

3B Don Money of La Plata, Maryland. A 4-time All-Star, he became a potent hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, helping them to rise to respectability in the late Seventies. He began to decline, though, and by the 1982 Pennant season, Paul Molitor was making Money more of a DH, and he only played 1 more season. Still, they wouldn't have gotten there without him.

Honorable Mention to Ernest Judson "Jud" Wilson of Remington, Virginia. A star in the Negro Leagues, mostly with the Baltimore Black Sox in the Twenties and the Philadelphia Stars in the Thirties, he was also a Homestead Grays teammate of Josh Gibson, who suggested that Wilson might have been the better hitter (if not the more powerful one); and briefly a Pittsburgh Crawfords teammate of both Gibson and Satchel Paige, who called him 1 of the 2 toughest hitters he ever faced, along with Charles "Chino" Smith.

Wilson was one of the "overlooked" Negro League players elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, and was yet another for whom it's too bad we don't have full statistics to peruse or film to view, to get an idea of how good he really was. Chances are, he was better than Don Money or David Wright.

I'm not going to give an Honorable Mention to David Wright of Norfolk, Virginia. It seems like every year, from April through August, he's an action hero; but in September, he becomes The Invisible Man.

LF Charlie Keller of Middletown, Maryland. The University of Maryland graduate was known as King Kong Keller because he was big, strong and hairy. Not to his face, mind you: He hated that nickname. And he could back it up, too: From 1939 to 1943, he was one of the best hitters in the game, averaging 99 RBIs. From 1940 to 1943, he averaged 25 home runs.

In 1939, he scored the winning run in Game 4 of the World Series, enabling the Yankees to sweep the Cincinnati Reds; it became controversial because, intentionally or otherwise, he kneed the Reds' Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi in the groin, stunning him momentarily and causing him to lose the ball, enabling Joe DiMaggio to score an additional run. After spending 1944 and most of '45 in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he came back with a vengeance in 1946, hitting 30 homers with 101 RBIs. He was just 29 and looked like he was headed to the Hall of Fame.

But a back injury put an end to that. He still managed to give the Yankees some production, forming one of the greatest outfields ever with DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich. They won the World Series in 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947 and 1949. But after that last one, his injuries made the Yankees give up on him at age 32. He played 3 more years, including a brief comeback with the Yanks, but after 189 homers and 5 All-Star Games in 6 full seasons, he was done.

Still, he had a career batting average of .286 and a mighty 152 OPS+. He returned to Maryland and trained racehorses at his Yankeeland Farm. His brother Hal Keller had a spell as the catcher for their "hometown" Washington Senators.

Honorable Mention to Curtis Pride of Silver Spring, Maryland. He can see you applaud this selection, but he can't hear it. He starred in baseball, basketball and soccer for John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, and played basketball rather than baseball at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Despite his deafness, he played in the majors from 1993 to 2006, batting .250 as a reserve outfielder, including a .300 average, 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 95 games with the 1996 Detroit Tigers. He briefly played for the Yankees in 2003, but despite playing for them, the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves in a successful era for each, his only postseason appearance was with the Angels in 2004.

There were a few deaf players in the late 19th and early 20th Century, mostly called "Dummy" because "dumb" then meant "mute" rather than "stupid," but Pride is the only hearing-impaired player to make an impact in the last 100 years.

CF Al Bumbry of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Either B.J. Upton or his brother Justin (a right fielder) might end up on this list someday, but, for now, Bumblebee is the center fielder. Named the American League Rookie of the year in 1973, he played all but his last season with the Baltimore Orioles, making just 1 All-Star Team (1980) but was the leadoff man on 4 postseason teams, just missing 4 others.

His lifetime batting average was .281, he led the AL in triples in 1973, had at least 29 doubles 3 times, collected 205 hits in 1980, stole at least 22 bases 5 times with a peak of 44 in 1980, and was a member of the 1979 Pennant winners and 1983 World Champions.

RF Jim Lemon of Covington, Virginia. He may have looked like a lemon in leading the AL in strikeouts 3 straight seasons, but, considering he was a Washington Senator, playing his home games in Griffith Stadium with its distant fences, he was one of the best power hitters in the game in the late Fifties.

He led the AL in triples in 1956, and from that season through 1960, 5 years in a tough ballpark, he hit 141 home runs. In 1960, he made his one and only appearance in the All-Star Game, and was also 1 of 3 Senators, along with Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, to appear on the TV show Home Run Derby.

Strangely, the move of the team to become the Minnesota Twins, in the far more hitter-friendly Metropolitan Stadium, did him no favors, as his production declined. However, he was subject to injuries, and had his last productive season in 1961, the team's 1st season as the Twins, and was done at 35. He seems to have fit the "steroid profile," but there were no steroids in baseball in those days. 

He later returned to Washington to manage the new Senators, the franchise that became the Texas Rangers in 1972, although he wasn't exactly a "local" guy: Covington is 230 miles from D.C., in the Shenandoah Valley hard by the West Virginia State Line. Still, this is the team he qualifies for geographically.

C Randy Hundley of Bassett, Virginia. He spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs, winning a Gold Glove in 1967, making the NL All-Star Team in 1969, and showing surprising power for a Sixties catcher.

Unfortunately, he's probably best known as a player for the Cubs' '69 "September Swoon," including the game at Shea Stadium where Tommie Agee scored the winning run, and Hundley turned to the umpire, screamed, and jumped about as high as a man wearing catching gear can to protest. The replay showed, yes, Agee was out, but that's Cubs luck for you. (That was September 8: The next day was the Black Cat Game.)

Randy went on to found the 1st "baseball fantasy camp" at the Cubs' spring training grounds in Scottsdale, Arizona, and still runs it today. His son Todd, like his father, was born in Martinsville, Virginia, but grew up in the Chicago suburbs while his dad played for the Cubs, graduating from Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois, and, while a good player in his own right (202 home runs, All-Star berths with the Mets in 1996 and ’97), he is geographically ineligible for this team, and I can't take him ahead of Jim Sundberg for the Cubs' all-time regional team. Maybe ahead of Tom Haller for the White Sox edition, but you can't put a Hundley on a White Sox team!

Dishonorable Mention to Brady Anderson of Silver Spring, Maryland. Sure, he was a 3-time All-Star. Sure, he had a 109 career OPS+. Sure, he had 1,661 hits, including 338 doubles and 210 homers. And, sure, he helped the Baltimore Orioles nearly reach the Playoffs in 1989 and got them there in 1996 and 1997. But…

Look, here's his home run totals from 1992 to 2000: 21, 13, 12, 16, 50, 18, 18, 24, 19. Can you pick out the season in which Brady Anderson used steroids? Cheater!

SP Guy Harris "Doc" White of Washington, D.C. This Georgetown University graduate and actual medical doctor starred for the White Sox from 1903 to 1911, helping them win the 1906 World Series with an 18-6 record, leading the AL in ERA with 1.52 and WHIP with 0.903. A year later, he went 27-13. The Sox tailed off a bit in 1912, taking him down with them, and his career record was 189-156. But his career ERA+ was 113, and his WHIP was 1.121.

SP Eppa Rixey of Culpeper, Virginia. Despite all their success over the years, the Cincinnati Reds have only 1 pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Rixey, and a lot of people don't think he belongs, either. After helping the Phillies win their 1st Pennant in 1915, he went to the Reds in 1921 and put together seasons of 19, 25, 20, 15, 21, 14, 12 and 19 wins before tailing off. His career record was 266-251, 87-103 (but a 2.83 ERA) for the Phils and 179-148 with the Reds. His ERA+ was 115 and his WHIP 1.272.

SP Steve Barber of Takoma Park, Maryland. He was one of the "Baby Birds" who helped the Orioles reach their 1st Pennant race in 1960, as a 22-year-old rookie. He won 18 the next season and 20 just 2 seasons later, in 1963, making the All-Star Team and becoming the 1st Baltimore pitcher to win 20 in a major league season in 64 years. In 1966, he went 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA to make another All-Star Game, as the O's won their 1st Pennant and World Series.

But 1967 was the year it all went wrong. On April 30, he was removed from a game against the Detroit Tigers with 2 out in the 9th inning after having given up 2 runs despite having not surrendered a hit. Stu Miller got the final out to complete the no-hitter, although the Orioles lost 2-1. 

Then he hurt his elbow, and was traded to the Yankees. Today, he's probably best remembered for being with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, where Jim Bouton would record in his diary that became the book Ball Four that Barber said, "My arm's not sore, it's just a little stiff." He hung on until 1974, finishing 121-106, with a 105 ERA+.

Fred Talbot of Fairfax, Virginia was a teammate of Barber's on those ill-fated '69 Pilots, but doesn't make this team. "But at least I don't look like a sissy."

SP Joe Saunders of Falls Church, Virginia. He won 17 games for the Anaheim Angels in 2008 (making the AL All-Star Team), 16 more in 2009, losing just 7 and helping them reach the postseason each time. Having a bad season this year, he was traded to the Diamondbacks after going just 6-10 for the Angels, is now 9-16, but is only 29, and should bounce back.

SP Justin Verlander of Goochland, Virginia. Just 27 years old, he's already won 83 games in the majors, with an ERA+ of 117 and a WHIP of 1.259. In 2006, he was the AL Rookie of the Year, helping the Tigers win the Pennant. He has now made 3 All-Star Teams.

RP Billy Wagner of Tannersville, Virginia. In the regular season, he's been as good as relievers come. His career record is 47-40, he's got a 188 ERA+, a 0.996 WHIP, and 421 career saves – only Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith and John Franco have more, and only Franco has more among lefthanders.

But it's in the stretch drive and in the postseason where he becomes a liability. His Houston Astros won NL Central titles in 1997, '98, '99 and 2001, but won just 2 postseason games in that stretch, with Wagner losing an NLDS game in '97, blowing a save (but getting the win anyway) in another in '98, and getting shelled in another in '01.

He almost reached the Playoffs with the 2005 Phillies. He came within a run of the Pennant with the 2006 Mets, but Yadier Molina had other ideas. (That wasn't Wags' fault, but a 3-run blowup in the 9th in Game 2 of that NLCS was.) His ineffectiveness was a big reason why the Mets blew that big lead in 2007, and his injury was a big reason why they blew a September lead in 2008 as well.

In 2009, he got back to the postseason with the Red Sox, but got shelled in 2 ALDS games against the Angels. His postseason ERA is 10.32, his WHIP 1.941. This season, he's had a renaissance at age 38 with the Atlanta Braves, going 7-2 with a 1.32 ERA and 36 games. Show of hands: Anybody think the Braves are going to win the Pennant with a 38-year-old Billy Wagner as their closer? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Picking a manager for this team is hard. Probably the best manager ever from the District was Charles N. "Pop" Snyder, who led the Cincinnati Red Stockings (for whom he was also the catcher, and forerunners of today's Reds, not to be confused with the "first professional team" of 1869) to the 1st American Association Pennant in 1882, but it was a verrrry different game back then.

The best manager from the D.C. side of Maryland was probably Ray Miller, and while he was a great pitching coach, he wasn't a very good manager. The best from Virginia may have been Lemon, while managing the new Senators. Jim, that is, not Bob. I could, of course, go with Maury Wills, who managed the Seattle Mariners late in 1980 and early in 1981, but that would require me to be as fried on cocaine as he has since admitted he was at the time. No thank you. I'll stick with Jim Lemon, unless we can get Randy Hundley to put his fantasy-camp leadership to good use.

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