Baseball is in the forefront of everyone’s mind right now – but I really hate to just rave about the Phillies again. So, what I’m doing to do is create a lineup of my favorite baseball players (of my baseball-watching lifetime, which dates back maybe 8 years) at each position. Keep in mind that I watch more of the Phillies than any other team – obviously – so I am slightly biased.
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee (Former Phil)
The most exciting pitcher to watch. Especially in the postseason. You already knew that.
Closing Pitcher: Brad “Lights Out” Lidge (Current Phil)
Say what you will about Brad Lidge, but he is the most exciting closer to watch because he can turn a “comfortable” 3-run lead into a nail-biting situation just by walking from the bullpen to the mound. You never know if he’s going to give up runs and blow the game or be “lights out” and just own the hitters with his slider.
Catcher: Mike Piazza (Grew up outside of Philly, does that count?)
The best offensive catcher in history. In today’s league, the catcher spot is often the number 8 hitter (in the National League) because the catcher is in the game for his defensive ability (Carlos Ruiz). Not Piazza: a .308 hitter for his career and the record holder for most home runs by a catcher. During my early years of following baseball, he was a perennial All-Star. If I was a major league pitcher, I’d throw a piece of a shattered bat at him too. But I will say that he is the only Met that I have ever liked (that is for Chris and Bob).
First Baseman: Jim Thome (Former Phil)
For those of you who don’t know, Thome was Ryan Howard’s predecessor at first base in Philadelphia. So we were anxious to get rid of Thome because we were all excited about Howard’s potential. But Thome has quietly had one of the best MLB careers ever. He is number 8 on the all-time home runs list, behind 3 definite steroid users. He’s been a DH since he left the Phillies and that is the idea that most people have of him – but Wikipedia just told me that as a first baseman, his fielding percentage was .994. And he just seems like an all-around good guy.
Second Base: Chase Utley (Current Phil – and this is the last one, I promise)
I got a text last night that predicted the Phillies going to the World Series “as long as they have the swag king, Chase Utley.” I could not agree more with the nickname. The greased-back hair, the cheek full of tobacco, the devastatingly short swing, the hot wife, and the fact that he is 100% the best second baseman in the game today. Don’t even try to suggest Robinson Cano – the Yankees lineup can make even Nick Swisher look good in some situations.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
I don’t understand how people can hate Jeter. Overrated? Possibly. Likeable guy? Absolutely! The reason he makes this list, however, is the defensive move that he invented – the classic jump and throw as he’s running towards left field. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL36DGe1Qb8. Iconic to the point where it will probably one day be used as the MLB logo.
Third Base: Cal Ripken, Jr.
He was probably a little before my time, but I do remember making “iron man” references in middle school that didn’t involve Robert Downey. Ripken played in two thousand, six hundred, and thirty-two straight games. That’s absurd. Granted, baseball isn’t as much of a contact sport as football, but Ripken also didn’t have a sexting scandal with any members of the Orioles organization. (Okay, so maybe the chief reason for putting him in this lineup was to make a Brett Favre joke. So what?)
Outfield: Ken Griffey, Jr.
How many other guys do you know who have a Nintendo64 game named after them? He does. Griffey had the smoothest, most fluid swing that anyone has ever seen. He was great in the outfield, too. I just feel bad that he thought he could come back and be successful… with the Mariners. Cliff Lee couldn’t even save that team. On a non-baseball note, Griffey has one of the smoothest smiles of any athlete ever. They should replace the Nascar Hall of Fame with a Dental Hall of Fame, and have Griffey be the charter class, all by himself.
Outfield: Torii Hunter
Another Dental Hall of Famer, but the reason that Torii Hunter would be patrolling center field is because he literally caught every fly ball or line drive that was hit in Minnesota from 1999 until 2006. And that includes balls that were hit three feet over the fence. If you’re bored after reading this, YouTube Hunter’s career highlight reel – it’s absolutely astounding.
Outfield: Barry Bonds
Yeah, I said it. He was a legitimately exciting player to watch. Nobody ever left the room – or talked – when Bonds was up to bat because at one point in his career it seemed like every at-bat had a 50/50 chance for a home run into McCovey Cove. Think about this: people actually waited in kayaks for Bonds to hit a home run. They had so much faith that they actually sat in a small boat in San Francisco Bay and just trusted that Bonds would jack one. That’s one thing I miss about the steroid era, being able to say “jack”. I also miss the race for the home run crown like Mark McGwire (honorable mention) and Sammy Sosa (not even close to honorable mention) had.
Other honorable mentions: Pat Burrell (former Phil), Ivan Rodriguez, Scott Rolen (former Phil), and Evan Longoria.
Other ‘not even close to honorable mentions’: Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, and the Yankees’ 2010 bullpen.