UBTG DREAM TEAM BASEBALL POLL
Recently, Ultimate Baseball The Game (UBTG) launched a “dream team” project, a Dream Team Baseball Poll designed to tally respondents’ favorite picks of all time at each position. I was asked to submit my all-time dream picks, and I decided to publish the following post in hopes of spurring some lively discussion.
As many of you know, I served as chief historian and researcher for UBTG’s all-time player cards and player rankings. One of my favorite activities as I played baseball board games throughout my life has been to draft all-time dream teams that I could manage against other dream teams. I always felt my knowledge of baseball history and stats would give me an edge when drafting a winning dream team. It certainly has been interesting to see other dream team submissions and how they compare with mine.
Perhaps we need to acknowledge that a “dream team” may not necessarily be comprised of the top “dream players”. A true dream team would include some players who may not be considered baseball’s best.
By the way, if you haven’t done so yet, you can still submit your all-time dream team baseball picks. Not only is it fun, but you’ll also get a 20% discount off everything in the UBTG online store.
First, I’ll list my all-time picks, and I’ll include a note about how the other submissions compare with each pick (so far). Then I’ll comment on the entire project.
STARTING PITCHER: Walter Johnson
The UBTG poll so far agrees. Johnson is the front runner, with several others getting votes. While there are many great pitchers (Young, Koufax, Mathewson, etc.), Johnson’s enduring dominance in so many categories (ERA, WHIP, PCT, etc.; and he could hit and field, too) makes him a deserving leader.
RELIEVER: Dennis Eckersley
UBTG’s poll so far places Rivera as the front runner. Others, including Eckersley, are getting votes, too. While I agree Rivera deserves high ranking, I believe Eckersley is being short-changed. He was a starter for part of his career, a skill which I believe adds to his value (though on paper this tends to diminish some of his reliever stats). Remember, he had many multi-inning saves. He really was the first to define what has come to be the present-day reliever position.
CATCHER: Josh Gibson
Predictably, UBTG’s poll places Bench as the front runner, although not by much. Several others (including Gibson, Berra, and Campanella) get votes, too. Bench surely is an elite all-time catcher. Nevertheless, someone like Josh Gibson (or even Campanella) clearly has better hitting and power stats, and Bench’s defensive skills certainly are not on a par with the likes of Hartnett, Mackey, or Sundberg.
1B: Lou Gehrig
Gehrig is leading all vote getters. But not only is he the top all-time pick at 1B, he also has received, so far, the most votes of any dream team pick, period. Why should Gehrig enjoy this unique dream team status? We can’t really point to his prowess at average as well as power, as several others (Foxx, etc.) share in these high ratings. He doesn’t have a lot of speed, and his fielding is good but not stellar. He certainly was one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time. But he also had highly favorable character qualities: a great teammate, sportsman, and team leader (UBTG, by the way, simulates team leadership as a prominent part of game strategy), something Foxx lacked. That, coupled with his early demise and death due to illness, and his farewell speech that remains one of the greatest iconic moments in sport, elevates him to top status among all the stars. Let’s just say that you can’t go wrong with Gehrig on your dream team.
2B: Rogers Hornsby
3B: Mike Schmidt
Schmidt has the highest number of votes in the poll at this point. Brooks Robinson is, understandably, the runner-up, though this ranking certainly has to do exclusively with his defensive skills (UBTG rates Robinson the greatest defensive 3rd baseman of all time). But Schmidt not only had great power numbers, he also was outstanding at defense, so that makes him a deserving front runner.
SS: Honus Wagner
So far, the UBTG poll’s participants agree on this SS pick. Ozzie Smith has votes (again, this surely is based on his defensive skills; UBTG gives him the game’s highest defensive rating), as do a few others. Wagner, on the other hand, has hitting, base running, and fielding skills, so it is no surprise that he is the front runner.
LF: Ted Williams
Williams is the UBTG poll’s leading vote getter in LF. The closest runner-up is Hank Aaron. While Williams was not a stalwart defensive player, his combined hitting and power skills are among the best in the entire history of baseball. I am a little surprised that Bonds didn’t get more of a nod (he has only 2 votes so far), but, perhaps this is understandable in the light of all the steroid controversy.
CF: Joe DiMaggio
This position, catcher, and the reliever position are the only ones that do not agree with my picks. The UBTG poll places Mays as the top vote-getter. DiMaggio and Cobb have votes, too, as do Mantle and Speaker. Mays, of course, is deserving. Nevertheless, DiMaggio’s multiple skills, in my estimation, place him above Mays and Mantle as an all-time dream team pick.
RF: Babe Ruth
The UBTG poll clear front runner in right field is Ruth, which is no surprise, though he has not received quite as many votes as Gehrig: Ruth is the second highest vote-getter in the UBTG project so far. Others (Kaline, Dawson, Klein, etc.) have votes, too. The biggest surprise here is the small number of votes that have been placed for Clemente (UBTG ranks Clemente the 2nd best right-fielder of all time, behind Ruth).
So, the UBTG Dream Team Baseball Poll has proven to be quite intriguing. At this point, the results corroborate UBTG’s rankings quite well. But I have a couple of closing thoughts.
So perhaps we need to acknowledge that a “dream team” may not necessarily be comprised of the top “dream players”. A true dream team would include some players who may not be considered baseball’s best. Still, I like UBTG’s poll because it limits us to one pick per position, thereby forcing us to think about who we really believe should be considered the greatest at each position. This project has elicited lots of responses and is proving to be a hot topic. I hope those of you who have not already done so will submit your dream team baseball picks. It only takes a second and UBTG gives you a special discount coupon in return.
When the project concludes at the end of the 2012 MLB regular season, UBTG will publish the results, and we’ll all have plenty to talk about. I may blog about it again at that time. Stay tuned!