SweetSpot: Dave Winfield

Dream teams: 1992 versus 2012

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
5:46
PM ET
Before the Olympics began, Kobe Bryant suggested this year's Olympic basketball team would defeat the fabled 1992 Dream Team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird. Bryant later adjusted his thoughts, saying the Dream Team was better but that the 2012 squad could beat them.

Bryant and company cruised throughout the tournament until Sunday's gold-medal game against Spain, prevailing 107-100 after leading by just one point heading into the fourth quarter.

Anyway, that's a lead-in to this: What would baseball's dream team from 1992 look like? Let's turn back the clock and imagine we're in the summer of 1992. Let's pick a 25-man team -- 15 position players, seven starting pitchers and three relievers. Just like the '92 hoops Dream Team, legend status should come into play a bit. Since we're imagining an Olympic-type scenario, we're going with U.S. players only.

The Starters
1. 2B Ryne Sandberg, Cubs (.304/.371/.510, 26 HR, 7.6 WAR)
Made his ninth consecutive All-Star appearance in '92.

2. CF Kirby Puckett, Twins (.329/.374/.490, 19 HR, 6.8 WAR)
Had led the Twins to a World Series title in 1991; finished second in '92 American League MVP vote.

[+] EnlargeBarry Bonds
AP Photo/John SwartBarry Bonds led the Pirates to the NLCS in 1992.
3. LF Barry Bonds, Pirates (.311/.456/.624, 34 HR, 8.9 WAR)
The best player in the game; won his second MVP award in '92.

4. DH Frank Thomas, White Sox (.323/.439/.536, 24 HR, 6.7 WAR)
In his second full season, but the most feared hitter in the AL. Led the league in OBP and OPS for the second consecutive season.

5. 1B Mark McGwire, A's (.268/.385/.585, 42 HR, 6.2 WAR)
Had rebounded from a poor 1991 to lead the AL in slugging percentage and the A's to the AL West title.

6. RF Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners (.308/.361/.535, 27 HR, 5.5 WAR)
At 22 years old, already one of the game's best all-around players. We'll move him to right field with Kirby in center.

7. 3B Terry Pendleton, Braves (.311/.345/.473, 21 HR, 4.8 WAR)
People remember his 1991 MVP season, but he finished second to Bonds in the '92 vote.

8. C Darren Daulton, Phillies (.270/.385/.524, 27 HR, 6.7 WAR)
It was a weak year for catchers, but Daulton had a monster season with the fourth-highest WAR among position players.

9. SS Cal Ripken, Orioles (.251/.323/.366, 14 HR, 3.8 WAR)
Not a good season but a baseball dream team wouldn't have been complete without Ripken.

The Bench
OF Rickey Henderson, A's (.283/.426/.457, 15 HR, 5.4 WAR)
The best leadoff hitter in the game compiled 5.4 WAR despite playing just 117 games.

OF Andy Van Slyke, Pirates (.324/.381/.505, 14 HR, 5.9 WAR)
Led the NL in doubles and hits, fourth in the MVP vote, Gold Glove center fielder. His window was small, but a terrific player for a few years.

OF Dave Winfield, Blue Jays (.290/.377/.491, 26 HR, 3.8 WAR)
Others with a higher WAR, but Winfield gets credit for legend status and helping the Blue Jays win the World Series.

SS Ozzie Smith, Cardinals (.205/.367/.342, 0 HR, 5.0 WAR)
Tough call here: Barry Larkin (.304/.377/.452, 5.5 WAR) or the 37-year-old Ozzie? The Wizard could still pick it and had 43 steals.

3B Gary Sheffield, Padres (.330/.385/.580, 33 HR, 6.0 WAR)
Challenged for the Triple Crown much of the year before finishing first in batting, third in homers and fifth in RBIs.

C Terry Steinbach, A's (.279/.345/.411, 3.8 WAR)
Gets the nod over Mickey Tettleton as the backup catcher for his good defense and leadership.

Pitching Staff
Tom Glavine, Braves (20-8, 2.76 ERA, 3.6 WAR)
The only lefty on our 10-man staff, finished second in the Cy Young vote after winning it the year before.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
AP Photo/Bill WaughGreg Maddux would win four consecutive Cy Youngs beginning with the 1992 season.
Greg Maddux, Cubs (20-11, 2.18 ERA, 8.9 WAR)
Won the first of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards.

Roger Clemens, Red Sox (18-11, 2.41 ERA, 8.4 WAR)
Led the AL in ERA, shutouts, WHIP and SO/BB ratio, but finished just third in Cy Young vote.

Doug Drabek, Pirates (15-11, 2.77 ERA, 5.1 WAR)
Career went downhill after signing with the Astros in '93, but regarded as one of the toughest competitors in the game at the time.

Jack Morris, Blue Jays (21-6, 4.04 ERA, 2.5 WAR)
Morris absolutely would have been on a '92 dream team despite the high ERA. He'd just won back-to-back World Series titles and had the 21 wins.

Jack McDowell, White Sox (20-10, 3.18 ERA, 4.9 WAR)
Kevin Appier and Mike Mussina had better ERAs, but Black Jack had the image at the time. And the league-leading 13 complete games.

Nolan Ryan, Rangers (5-9, 3.72 ERA, 1.8 WAR)
The numbers don't merit inclusion, but by '92 Ryan was the biggest icon in the game, a 45-year-old flame-throwing legend. Much like Bird, you wouldn't leave him off.

Dennis Eckersley, A's (7-1, 1.91 ERA, 51 saves, 2.8 WAR)
The last AL reliever to win the Cy Young, Eck also walked away with the MVP trophy. OK, it was a bad vote, but Eck seemed unbeatable back then.

Rob Dibble, Reds (3-5, 3.07 ERA, 25 saves, 0.9 WAR)
At the time, Dibble had four of the five highest K/9 rates in major league history (minimum 50 innings).

Jeff Montgomery, Royals (1-6, 2.18 ERA, 39 saves, 3.0 WAR)
From '89 to '93, Montgomery fashioned a 2.22 ERA with 159 saves. What, you expected Mitch Williams?

So, who got Isiah'd? We mentioned Barry Larkin. Tony Gwynn was in a bit of a down spell (for him), so he loses out as well. We can't find room for NL home run leader Fred McGriff, Will Clark or Paul Molitor. For pitchers, some of the better statistical options would have included the aforementioned Mussina (7.9 WAR) and Appier (7.7 WAR) as well as Frank Viola, Sid Fernandez, Bob Tewksbury and David Cone, plus some up-and-coming guys like John Smoltz and Curt Schilling.

How does this team compare to a 2012 dream team? I'll let you debate who would be on such a 2012 team in the comments section.
First base: Vogelsong victorious. Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong had another quality start in a 7-1 victory over the Padres -- seven innings, four hits, one run -- improving to 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA. Vogelsong now has 17 quality starts in 18 starts -- and in his one non-quality start he allowed he allowed four runs in six innings. Basically, he hasn't had a bad start all season. The Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann is in a similar position: He has 18 quality starts in 20 starts but has allowed four runs in six innings in his two "bad" starts.

Now it's not necessarily unusual to pitch at least six innings in every start; Justin Verlander, for example, hasn't pitched fewer than six innings since July 9, 2010. But how rare is it pitch at least six innings and allow four runs or fewer in every start? Even Verlander had two games with one run and one with six runs a year ago.

Using the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com, we can conduct such a search. Here are the pitchers since 1994 with at least 30 such starts:

Justin Verlander, 2011: 31 (34 starts)
Jered Weaver, 2011: 31 (33 starts)
Brett Myers, 2010: 30 (33 starts)
Jake Peavy, 2007: 30 (34 stars)
Roy Oswalt, 2005: 30 (35 starts)
Curt Schilling, 2002: 31 (35 starts)
Randy Johnson, 2002: 31 (35 starts)
Kevin Brown, 1998: 31 (35 starts)

Going back a couple more years, we get Greg Maddux in 1992 (33 in 35 starts) and Jose Rijo in 1993 (32 in 36 starts). Pedro Martinez came close during his 23-4 season in 1999 but he had one start of five innings (one run) and one game where he allowed nine runs. When he posted a 1.74 ERA in 2000 in 29 starts, he had one start of five runs and one with six runs (plus two other starts he pitched fewer than six innings). Maddux, during the 1994 strike season, made 25 starts and had a 1.56 ERA ... but still allowed five runs in four games.

Anyway, Vogelsong's 2011 season, when the Giants signed him off the scrap heap and he went 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA, may have been viewed as a fluke. But now that he's doing it again it's time to give him credit for becoming perhaps the game's most underrated starter.

Second base: Ludwick lashing. On May 23, Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick was hitting .191 with a .638 OPS. Since then he's hit .277/.337/.595 with 11 home runs and 12 doubles in 148 at-bats, a key reason the Reds lead the NL Central. On Monday, he hit cleanup for the second time since April and went 3-for-6 with two doubles in the Reds' 8-3 win over the Astros, Cincinnati's fifth straight win. The Reds are in the midst of a very friendly stretch of schedule: Only three of their next 30 games are against a team currently above .500 (the Pirates). With a 1.5-game lead over the Pirates and 6 games over the Cardinals, the Reds have to been seen as the clear favorite in the Central right now.

Third base: Smoak demoted. Justin Smoak, once the centerpiece of a Cliff Lee trade, was sent down to Triple-A. Hitting .189/.253/.320, Smoak had the third-lowest OPS of any regular player, better only than Cliff Pennington and Dee Gordon. Smoak had 13 home runs but just six doubles. While he was partially a victim of the Safeco Curse (10 of his 13 home runs were on the road), he was also hitting just .213 on the road. Mike Carp was called up. He's hit .157 with the Mariners and .182 in Triple-A. While it was time consider alternatives to Smoak, Carp probably isn't the long-term answer. Seattle will be seeking a first baseman in the offseason.

Home plate: Tweet of the day. Ichiro is a Yankee! While Ichiro didn't take Bernie Williams' No. 51, he did take the number of a Hall of Famer:
Every baseball nerd my age loves Dwight Evans, even if they weren't Red Sox fans back in the '70s and '80s: The underrated, better-than-Jim Rice, stiffed-in-the-Hall-of-Fame-voting Dwight Evans.

What, don't believe the Jim Rice comment? Here, their career stats:


Pretty similar, no? Rice had the higher batting average, but Evans drew so many walks that he actually got on base at a better rate. I included the outs column because outs are important. (Evans made more outs than Rice but also played over 500 more games.) As Bill James writes in his Grantland opus on making a Hall of Fame case for Evans, "If you make more outs, you have to produce more runs." If you factor in the runs created and the outs made for each player, Evans created 6.2 runs per every 27 outs he made over the course of his career; Rice created 6.0 runs per every 27 outs. And then we get to defense and length of career, and Rice isn't going to win those discussions.

Anyway, James doesn't compare Evans to Rice in his piece, but he does compare him to Dave Winfield. In comparing their 1982 seasons, James writes, "Perhaps I shouldn't say that Evans was 'obviously' the class of the group in 1982; Dave Winfield was pretty good that year, too. But Evans drew 67 more walks than Winfield did (112 to 45), and, because of that, he scored 38 more runs (122 to 84). Those are big, big differences. If you are a pitcher, 67 walks will lose a lot of ballgames for you."

It's a fun piece to read and it's fun to see Dewey getting a little recognition 21 years after his last season.

Pat Gillick's 10 best moves

July, 22, 2011
7/22/11
12:54
PM ET
Pat GillickAP Photo/Mike GrollHall of Fame baseball executive Pat Gillick helped build playoff teams in several cities.
You can debate the merits of an executive getting elected to the Hall of Fame; personally, I find it a bit ridiculous that Pat Gillick got elected and will be enshrined this year while deserving players like Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and others were snubbed yet again by the voters (yes, Gillick was elected via a special expansion era committee).

Gillick was the general manager of the Blue Jays from 1978 through 1994, building them from an expansion franchise into a two-time World Series champion. He ran the Orioles from 1996 to 1998, making the playoffs his first two seasons. He took over the Mariners for the 2000 season, and his first big move was to trade a disgruntled Ken Griffey Jr. The Mariners made the playoffs anyway and then won a record 116 games the following season. He took over the Phillies in 2006 and retired after they won the World Series in 2008 (he remains an advisor).

His ability to build winners is undeniable, although Gillick also had good timing with his various retirements. After winning two World Series, the 1994 Blue Jays had become an aging, past-its-prime ballclub, finishing 55-60. Gillick wasn't around when the Jays stumbled to the worst record in the AL in 1995. He took over a solid Orioles club in 1996, added a few veterans to get them over the playoff hump, but left after the team fell under .500 in 1998. The Orioles haven't seen a winning record since. The Mariners won 93 games in 2003, but were an old club with a bad farm system, depleted in part because Gillick had forfeited draft picks to sign veteran free agents. He stepped down before the team lost 99 games in 2004. Only the Phillies have maintained success after Gillick left, either a testament to his genius or a testament to knowing when to quit.

Here are 10 moves that got him into the Hall of Fame, in chronological order.

1. Selecting George Bell in the Rule 5 draft.

Bell had missed most of the 1980 season while in the Phillies' system, but the Blue Jays were astute enough to select the outfielder. He didn't become a regular until 1984, but over seven full seasons with the Jays hit .288 while averaging 24 home runs and 102 RBIs, winning the 1987 AL MVP when he hit 47 home runs and led the league with 134 RBIs.

2. Acquired Fred McGriff for Dale Murray.

McGriff had hit .272 AVG/.413 OBP/.456 SLG as an 18-year-old in rookie ball with the Yankees when Gillick got him as a throw-in for a deal that brought Dave Collins and Mike Morgan to the Blue Jays. Collins had been a high-priced free-agent bust for the Yankees in 1982, and George Steinbrenner eagerly dumped him for Murray, a middling middle reliever who was nearly done. McGriff would hit 125 home runs for the Blue Jays, helping them win the '89 AL East crown.

3. Drafted Tom Henke from the Rangers.

Teams that lost a free agent used to be able to draft an unprotected player off another team. In 1985, Gillick selected Henke, a hard-throwing but wild right-hander who had posted a 6.35 ERA for the Rangers in 1984. Henke turned into one of the best closers in the league, had a 2.48 ERA and 217 saves over eight seasons in Toronto, and was the closer on the 1992 World Series champion.

4. Drafting John Olerud ... and then signing him as a free agent.

Olerud had been one of the best college players in the nation as a sophomore at Washington State, hitting .464 while going 15-0 as a pitcher. But he suffered a brain aneurysm before his junior season and played sparingly. Most teams were scared off, but the Jays drafted him in the third round in 1989 and he went straight to the majors. Later, in Seattle, Gillick signed Olerud as a free agent and he posted a .392 OBP from 2000 to 2003.

5. Acquired Devon White from the Angels for Junior Felix and Luis Sojo.

Felix had played well for the Blue Jays in 1990 as a 22-year-old while White had hit .217 for the Angels. But the Jays needed better defense in center (34-year-old Mookie Wilson had been the team's primary center fielder in '90) and White was one of the game's supreme fly chasers. White not only won three Gold Gloves as the Jays won three straight AL East titles from '91-93, but he hit well and averaged 108 runs per season over those three years.

6. Trading McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

A few days later, Gillick made a good old-fashioned challenge trade, the likes of which you don't see much anymore. Fernandez had been a three-time All-Star with the Jays, but Alomar was younger and on the rise. McGriff was a better player than Carter, but the Jays had Olerud ready to play first base. In five seasons with the Jays, Alomar became one of the best all-around players in baseball, making the All-Star team all five seasons. He also hit .373 in five postseason series while with Toronto, driving in 18 runs and stealing 18 bases in 29 games. When Gillick went to the Orioles, one of his first moves was to sign Alomar as a free agent.

7. Signing Jack Morris, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor as free agents.

By 1992, the Jays were drawing 4 million fans per season and had become one of baseball's richest franchises. Gillick had money to work with; the Jays had the third-highest payroll in 1992 and the highest in 1993. In '92, he signed veterans Morris and Winfield. Morris went 21-6 while Winfield hit .290 with 108 RBIs as the team's DH. The next season, Molitor replaced Winfield and was even better, hitting .332, driving in 111 runs, scoring 121 and finishing second in the AL MVP vote.

8. Signing Ichiro Suzuki.

Many American scouts and executives believed Ichiro was too thin and frail to succeed in the U.S. The Mariners won negotiating rights with a $13 million bid and soon signed Ichiro to a three-year, $14 million contract entering the 2001 season. All he did as a rookie was hit .350, score 127 runs, steal 56 bases, win AL MVP honors and lead the Mariners to 116 wins.

9. Signing Bret Boone as a free agent.

As good as Ichiro was in 2001, Boone might have been even better. He had one of the greatest seasons ever for a second baseman, hitting .331 with 37 home runs, leading the AL with 141 RBIs and winning a Gold Glove. All for $3.25 million.

10. Trading for Jamie Moyer.

Notice a trend? Gillick has a history of bringing back his former players. He had Moyer in Seattle and picked him up for nothing in 2006. In truth, all the key parts of the Phillies' 2008 World Series were already in place when Gillick arrived -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels had been drafted by the previous regime, and Shane Victorino had been acquired in the Rule 5 draft. Gillick's big moves were trading for Moyer, who would go 56-40 for the Phillies and was the team's No. 2 starter in 2008, and signing Jayson Werth before the 2008 season, after he had missed all of 2007 with a wrist injury.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.
As Paul Lukas detailed in his Uni Watch baseball preview column a couple weeks ago, the San Diego Padres are just one team that tweaked their uniforms this season. The Padres ditched their sand-colored road uniforms for a more standard gray, but kept the same graphics. I'll be honest: the sand unis kind of grew on me over the years. If anything, they were distinct. Now, with gray and blue, the Padres resemble any number of other teams.

The Padres have had a troubled uniform history, starting with the unfortunate decision to go with brown as a primary team color in the early years. When McDonald's co-founder Ray Kroc purchased the team in 1974, he emphasized the brown-and-yellow color palate even more strongly. The team has tried all-yellow jerseys, pinstripes, switched their team colors to blue and orange, ditched the pinstripes, ditched the orange, and tried camouflage and sand uniforms. It's a franchise without a uniform identity, that's for sure. So we're going to have a little retrospective of that history with a series of posts to determine the best-ever Padres uniform. We begin with the 1970s ... vote at the bottom for your favorite.

Don Zimmer, 1972
Don ZimmerFocus On Sport/Getty ImagesZimmer managed the Padres in 1972 and 1973, going 114-190.

After some nondescript jerseys their first few seasons, the Padres brought out all-yellow uniforms for 1972. After 11 games, the club fired Preston Gomez and gave 41-year-old Don Zimmer his first managerial job in the majors. Zimmer must have been wondering if he'd made a mistake; the team was terrible and he had to wear yellow at home and on the road. The Padres finished 58-85, finishing last in the league in runs -- no surprise considering starting shortstop Enzo Hernandez hit .195 with 15 RBIs in 369 PAs. That was actually an improvement over 1971, when Enzo drove in 12 runs in 612 PAs. Remarkably, he remained the Padres' primary shortstop through 1976.


Willie McCovey, 1975

Willie McCoveyDiamond Images/Getty ImagesAfter leaving the Padres, McCovey went to Oakland and back to San Francisco for four seasons.

The Padres ditched the yellow for more conventional gray and white home uniforms, although keeping the brown-and-yellow trim. The Padres acquired past-his-prime Giants great Willie McCovey in 1974 and he lasted two-plus seasons as the team's first baseman, hitting 52 home runs. Alas, the team was still terrible, going 60-102 in 1974, 71-91 in 1975 and 73-89 in 1976 (all under John McNamara).


Oscar Gamble, 1978

Oscar GambleMichael Zagaris/Getty ImagesAfter hitting 31 home runs with the White Sox in 1977, Gamble hit just seven for the Padres in '78.

After eight consecutive losing seasons, free agency hit baseball for 1977 and Kroc and the Padres were determined to turn things around. The team signed former A's Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace as free agents and traded for Indians All-Star George Hendrick. Fingers, Tenace and Hendrick were all productive but the starting rotation wasn't, and the team went 69-93. In 1978, the Padres signed Oscar Gamble as a free agent, traded Dave Tomlin to the Rangers for Gaylord Perry (he'd win the NL Cy Young Award) and installed a rookie named Ozzie Smith at shortstop. The team broke through with its first winning season at 84-78. It also tried an experiment that lasted just one season -- putting the full name of the team on both its home and road jerseys. Gamble wears the brown road jersey here (they also brought back the all-yellow version for 1978 only).


Dave Winfield, 1979

Dave WinfieldFocus on Sport/Getty ImagesWinfield hit 154 home runs during his eight seasons with the Padres.
The team's star through the early years was Dave Winfield, who played with the Padres from 1973 through 1980, leaving when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent. Winfield was a four-time All-Star with the Padres and finished third in the 1979 MVP vote. This was the only year the Padres used this type of lettering on their road uniforms. In fact, "San Diego" wouldn't appear on their road jerseys again until 1991.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.
David ConeJamie Squire/Getty ImagesDavid Cone pitched with the Yankees from 1995 through 2000 and won 64 games.
Last week, ESPNNewYork.com ran its list of the 50 greatest Yankees of all time. It was a fun project and I was lucky enough to be one of the voters on the panel.

I was actually crazy enough to write nearly 4,000 words on the topic. I didn't post last week since there was so much going on with the season starting, and so on, but I hate to waste all that work. So here's my list, starting with No. 50. I considered only a player's time with the Yankees, focusing mostly on his regular-season value while also factoring in postseason heroics and maybe an intangible or two. I'm not a Yankees fan, so I didn't consider this a list of most beloved Yankees, as some may have.

Here we go. We'll post in chunks throughout the week. The overall ranking from the panel is included in parenthesis.

50. Catfish Hunter, P (46)
Hunter was great his first season with the Yankees (23-14, 2.58), not so great after that (although he did have a big win in the 1978 World Series), but earns mention for being the first high-priced free agent to sign with New York. A true trailblazer who set the tone for the next 35 years of baseball in the Bronx.

49. Eddie Lopat, P (41)
The Yankees acquired Lopat after he had gone 29-26 with a 2.77 ERA for the White Sox in 1946-47. The White Sox acquired Aaron Robinson, a 32-year-old catcher who could hit a little (he had been an All-Star in ’47), but who the Yankees hardly needed with Yogi Berra ready. Lopat went 113-59 with the Yankees and proved to be a clutch World Series performer (4-1, 2.60). That said, the deal actually turned out OK for the White Sox. Robinson was flipped after one season to Detroit for Billy Pierce, who became one of the AL’s best pitchers of the 1950s.

48. Wally Pipp, 1B (not ranked)
He was a solid player for a decade with the Yankees, rapping out over 1,500 hits from 1915 to 1924. But you may remember him for something else.

47. Rickey Henderson, OF (40)
Don't blame Rickey for the Yankees' failures to win a division title in the mid-'80s. During his four-plus seasons with New York, he hit .288/.395/.455 and scored 513 runs in 596 games and arguably should have won the '85 MVP Award over teammate Don Mattingly. OK, not arguably. He should have won (with apologies to George Brett, who had a monster season for the Royals). From Baseball-Reference.com, Rickey had a 10.0 WAR (wins above replacement) that year, one of only two 10-plus seasons from a hitter in the '80s (Robin Yount’s 1982 was the other).

46. Spud Chandler, P (34)
Chandler was 109-43 in his career (all with the Yankees), for a .717 winning percentage. No pitcher with at least 100 victories has a better percentage. A football and baseball player at the University of Georgia, Chandler spent five years in the minors and didn’t reach the majors until he was 29, making him one of the least likely MVP winners ever (he won in 1943 with a 20-4, 1.64 season).

45. Herb Pennock, P (27)
A crafty left-hander for the Yanks from 1923-33 who survived on a variety of overhand and sidearm curveballs, it was once written of him, "His biceps is conspicuous by its absence." He also had a great nickname: The Knight of Kennett Square. (He was from Kennett Square, Pa.) Pennock was one of many 1920s Yankees acquired from the Red Sox, moves that helped create the first New York dynasty. He later made the Hall of Fame, although he's one of its weakest members.

44. Robinson Cano, 2B (not ranked)
If he has more seasons like 2010, he’ll start to climb much higher.

43. Bobby Murcer, OF (35)
Like Mickey Mantle he was from Oklahoma and a shortstop in the minor leagues. Burdened by the unfair Mantle comparisons, he was never fully appreciated and his best seasons came in the low-offense environment of the early '70s, obscuring that he was one of the best players in the league for a few years.

42. Joe Gordon, 2B (38)
A slugging second baseman for seven seasons (missing two years due to World War II), Gordon was an All-Star six of those seasons and the 1942 AL MVP when he hit .322 with 103 RBIs.

41. Bill Skowron, 1B (not ranked)
Nicknamed "Moose," although he actually wasn't as big as the moniker suggested (5-foot-11, 195 pounds). A five-time All-Star in the '50s, he hit .300 five times and was a great World Series performer, hitting .293 with 29 RBIs in 39 career games.

40. David Cone, P (45)
I was sure I rated Cone lower than most of the voters, but he actually ended up just 45th on the final list. It seems like Cone pitched forever for the Yankees -- that's the impression a lot of postseason games can leave on you -- but he won just 64 games in pinstripes. He started 12 playoff games and went 6-1 with a 3.86 ERA including a crucial win in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series when the Yankees were down 2 games to 0.

39. Roger Clemens, P (not ranked)
Clemens over Cone? I don't see how you rank them the other way. Clemens was 83-42 with a 4.01 ERA with the Yankees, good for a 114 ERA+; Cone was 64-40 with a 3.91 ERA, good for a 119 ERA+. Clemens pitched nearly 200 more innings, and his postseason résumé was actually stronger than Cone's: 7-5, 3.42 ERA. As far as big postseason games, he had the 15-strikeout one-hitter in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS against Seattle (arguably the most dominant postseason game ever pitched) and people forget the Piazza Game featured Clemens pitching eight shutout innings of two-hit baseball.

[+] EnlargeDave Winfield
US PresswireDave Winfield was an eight-time All Star with the Yankees.
38. Dave Winfield, OF (28)
An All-Star all eight of his seasons in the Bronx, Winfield won five Gold Gloves with the Yankees, including one as a 35-year-old right fielder. Really? A big, tall, old, lumbering right fielder was one of the three best outfielders in the American League in 1987? Winfield famously went 1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series and the Yankees never made it back to the playoffs that decade, somewhat obscuring that he was a great run producer for a lot of years.

37. Elston Howard, C (24)
The first African-American to play for the Yankees, Howard didn’t get 400 plate appearances in a season until he was 29, as he served in a utility role until finally winning regular catching duties from Yogi Berra. Despite the late start to his career, he made nine straight All-Star teams and won the 1963 AL MVP award.

36. Earle Combs, OF (23)
The leadoff hitter and center fielder on the famed '27 Murderer’s Row lineup, Combs may be a questionable Hall of Famer (primarily due to a short career), but averaged 125 runs a season during his eight years as a regular thanks to a .325 career average, good speed (he hit 20-plus triples three times) and good on-base skills.

35. Mike Mussina, P (50)
I think no pitcher has been as unappreciated over the past 20 years as Mike Mussina. He should be a Hall of Famer but will struggle to get in, at least initially. He had the bad timing of joining the Yankees the year after they won the World Series and retiring the year before they won again. He won 123 games with the Yankees.

Mike Mussina in the postseason: 23 G, 21 GS, 7-8, 3.42 ERA, .676 OPS
Andy Pettitte in the postseason: 42 G, 42 GS, 19-10, 3.83 ERA, .739 OPS

The big difference? Pettitte received an average of 4.39 runs per game of support while Mussina averaged just 3.07 runs of support.

34. Paul O’Neill, OF (30)
The Yankees acquired O’Neill from the Reds in the sort of trade you never see anymore: an old-fashioned challenge trade. O'Neill was turning 30, coming off a year in which he'd hit .246 and dropped from 28 home runs to 14. Roberto Kelly was 18 months younger, played center field, and had been an All-Star in 1992, although he'd slumped in the second half to finish at .272 with 10 home runs. On first glance, you would say the Reds made the smarter deal. What did the Yankees see? How did a guy with a .259 career average top .300 the next six seasons? Retrospective reports have said that Lou Piniella drove O'Neill too hard in Cincinnati, tried to turn him into a home run hitter. It's one of those stories that sounds good after the fact, but doesn't always match the truth. Michael Key has joked with O'Neill on Yankee broadcasts about his relationship with Piniella, which O'Neill artfully dodges.

But you know what? When you check the records, it rings true. In his final three seasons with the Reds, 18 percent of O'Neill's flyballs were infield popups. Over his Yankee career, only 9 percent of his flyballs were infield popups. Also, he started hitting more groundballs and more line drives. He was no longer trying to hammer home runs every swing.

33. Tommy Henrich, OF (37)
Broadcaster Mel Allen nicknamed him "Old Reliable" for his ability to get the big hit. Henrich actually grew up playing softball in high school and didn't sign with the Indians until he was 20. After a few years in their system he was declared a minor league free agent and signed with the Yankees, where he played on seven World Series champions. He hit the first walkoff home run in World Series history, a bottom-of-the-ninth shot off Don Newcombe that gave the Yankees a 1-0 win the 1949 opener.

32. Waite Hoyt, P (32)
Originally signed by the New York Giants out of high school in Brooklyn, Hoyt later went to the Red Sox and then the Yankees, where he became a Hall of Famer for the 1920s powerhouses, winning 157 games in pinstripes plus six more in the World Series. Hoyt apparently coined the phrase, "It's great to be young and a Yankee," performed vaudeville in the offseason, worked as a mortician, became known for his Babe Ruth stories and was the popular longtime broadcaster for the Reds.

31. Orlando Hernandez (not ranked)
Not even in the top 50? More evidence that El Duque gets a short shrift when it comes to his proper place in Yankee mythology. Sure, he was a pedestrian 61-40 in the regular season, but when the Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000, Hernandez was the key postseason performer, going 8-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 10 starts. During those years he was a more important playoff performer than Jeter, more important than Rivera, more important than Pettitte or Bernie. Those guys became legends in large part to help from Hernandez.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.
Opening Day WinnersESPN.com


ESPN Stats & Information provides a statistical breakdown of teams, players and MLB history.
One of my baptismal moments as a baseball fan came when I was about 9 or so, and I had a new baseball card that was one of those historical tributes, this one to Walter Johnson. Riding in the back of our '76 Plymouth van, I quizzed my dad on how many career strikeouts the Big Train had, thinking there was no way he would get the exact four-digit number. When Dad said "3,509," I was flabbergasted. How could he possibly have known?

[+] EnlargePaul Molitor
Doug Pensinger /AllsportHall of Famer Paul Molitor, who retired in 1998, is the last player to crack the top 10 in all-time hits.
Soon enough, I learned the joy of losing myself in baseball's career stat leaders. In that long-before-the-Internet era, you would pore over the Baseball Encyclopedia or the Street and Smith's annual preview. We never saw Johnson or Ty Cobb play, but through those numbers (which later proved to be subject to correction by baseball researchers), they began to gain a purpose. They began to gain an identity.

Things change. Johnson, who was No. 1 in career strikeouts when I was a boy (in fact, was the tops from 1921 through 1983), is No. 9 today. Steve Carlton passed him first, then Nolan Ryan leapfrogged Carlton and obliterated the mark, finishing with 5,714. Besides Johnson, just one pre-World War II pitcher is left in the top 20. That's Cy Young, resting in 20th place with 2,803.

With marriage and three children, I'm forced to live much more in the present than maybe I'd like to, especially from a baseball standpoint. It's been years since I've luxuriated in the career tables like I did in the past -- one of life's simple pleasures lost to a much more complex existence. And so when I turned my attention to the career strikeout leaders today, it didn't surprise me much that so much change had occurred.

But when I looked over at the career hit leaders, I was taken aback -- by the utter stability of it all. It was as if it were frozen in time, but the truth is, that top-10 list is a boulder that would not be moved.

It was just as I left it as a single man. The most recent player to break into the top 10 was Paul Molitor, whose major league career began before my 11th birthday and ended back in 1998. Carl Yastrzemski was the only other top-10er to play into my teen years.

I mean, I don't know what I was expecting -- and those of you with healthier attention spans will think me a fool for being the least bit surprised, so forgive me -- but how wonderful, how glorious, how … viscerally energizing it was to see these names hold up over time. Rose and Cobb and their angry, cantankerous 4,000-plus hit careers. The classy Hammerin' Hank and Stan the Man holding strong in third and fourth. The classic old-timers -- Speaker, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner -- in the meat of the lineup at 5-7. At eight and nine, Yaz and Molitor, young whippersnappers even as they court the AARP demographic.

And then … this was my favorite. No. 10, with 3,315 hits: Eddie Collins. To my utter shame, I haven't given Eddie Collins a nanosecond of thought in years. My mind has been too polluted by extraneous, worthless details like work and family to give Collins the time of day -- and yet there he sits, steady as granite. Mays couldn't catch him. Murray and Ripken couldn't catch him. Yount and Gwynn, Winfield and Biggio, Henderson and Carew, Brock and Palmeiro and Boggs … all playing in the 162-game era, many with the designated hitter rule in their right pocket, and none could touch Collins, born in 1887, christened in 1906, retired by 1930. When he passed away in 1951, he was fifth all-time in hits. Sixty years later, he's lost only five spots.

Soon, Collins might finally face his top-10 eviction notice. Derek Jeter has 2,926 career hits, more than any ballplayer at age 36 since Yount, two decades ago. By July, Jeter will probably break 3,000 and (with all the subtle media coverage of a moon landing) become the 28th man to reach that milestone, leaving him perhaps no more than two years away from Collins. Behind Jeter looms Alex Rodriguez, barely 600 hits from Collins and Molitor at age 34.

After that? Maybe 36-year-old Ichiro Suzuki has more than 1,000 hits left in him to catch Yastrzemski. Quite possibly, 30-year-old Albert Pujols , who has 1,900 hits in his first decade, picks up close to the same in his second, knocking out Wagner.

And so maybe that stability on the all-time hits list is headed by the wayside. Hours ago, I wouldn't have known what I missed. But now I wonder … I miss Walter Johnson in that No. 1 spot. Is it that crazy that I might miss Eddie Collins at No. 10?

If it is, all I can say is that's the same kind of crazy that made me the baseball fan I am today.

Jon Weisman writes about the Dodgers at Dodger Thoughts for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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