Listening to sports talk radio a few years ago (I assume because I hate enjoying my life), the conversation turned to who should be on the Mets’ Mount Rushmore. I thought it was an interesting question, a bit of a rarity for talk radio. It’s a question I wanted to answer. However, I wanted to approach it a bit differently and certainly numerically. I’m going with straight, career bWAR as my number. But there’s a wrinkle – ah, there’s always a wrinkle. To make your team’s Rushmore, you can never have played for another team. Someone like Jeff Bagwell is fine since his Red Sox career never got out of AA. But Willie Mays isn’t a Giant, and Ty Cobb isn’t a Tiger. One hundred percent of their major league games must have been in the same uniform.
Today it’s the American League. On Friday, we take a look at the Senior Circuit.
- Cal Ripken (95.5 WAR) remains and may forever remain at the top.
- Brooks Robinson (78.4) is safe in second.
- And Jim Palmer (69.4) isn’t going anywhere.
- Would you have guessed Chris Hoiles (23.5) is next? Well you might have had you read this list a year ago. And sadly for the Orioles, Hoiles will remain on this list for at least several years. It seems to me that Dylan Bundy (6.8), Mychal Givens (6.4), and Trey Mancini (5.9) are the only active career Orioles who have even 5 WAR.
- Ted Williams (123.1) stands atop.
- Carl Yastrzemski (96.1) followed him and left field and follows him here.
- Dustin Pedroia (52.1) remains third. And it looks like he’s going to retire here. I hope he does, but I want one more at-bat in Fenway first.
- Holding onto fourth until at least next August or September is Bobby Doerr (51.4) who leads the way for this spot. No, I’m not expecting a comeback by Jim Rice (47.7). I’m getting ready for Mookie Betts (42.0) to join the party. While I must admit to paying less attention to baseball this year than any of the last 40, I know enough to have head chatter about trading Betts this off-season as part of a Red Sox rebuild. And wouldn’t you know it, I have a few quick thoughts on that. First, it’s insane! John Henry is a billionaire. Give fans a good product, John! Second, Mookie has a very good argument in his favor that he’s the game’s best player behind Mike Trout. If we triple 2019 WAR, double 2018 WAR, add 2017 WAR, and divide by six, Mookie looks great. Trout leads the way at 8.7, Mookie’s 8.1 edges Jacob deGrom. There are three players, Max Scherzer, Alex Bregman, and Justin Verlander, at 7+. Those that top 6 WAR are Christian Yelich, Matt Chapmen, and Cody Bellinger. So pay Mookie! He’s great, he’s young, and fans love him. Manny Machado was a year younger when he hit the market a year ago. He got nine years and $288 million. Since Mookie is still a year away from free agency and a little better than Machado, I say sign him now and give him the same $288 million for just eight years.
- Luke Appling (74.5) leads the way.
- Ted Lyons (71.5) is second. Is there a player as great who’s less well known? Vic Willis and Stan Coveleski come to mind, but their careers ended longer ago. It’s a bit odd how Lyons is so forgotten.
- Red Faber (64.8) is third and should stay there for quite some time.
- Jose Abreu (21.2) continues to climb up the charts, trying to catch Jim Scott (26.1), a little-known righty pitcher from 1909-1917. Of course, Abreu is a free agent this winter. If he goes, Yolmer Sanchez (8.6), a guy heretofore not on my radar, would be the active Scott chaser.
- It seems every older baseball fan has a story about meeting Bob Feller (63.6). I met him many year ago in Spring Training. He was awesome.
- Bob Lemon (48.8) isn’t going anywhere.
- Mel Harder (43.8) is safe too.
- Pitchers with broken forearms aren’t so effective. With that being said, it’s no surprise Corey Kluber (33.1) took a step back in his quest to catch Addie Joss (43.7) for Cleveland’s fourth spot. The Indian righty has team options for the next two years. If he’s healthy, I suspect the first one will be picked up. From there, it will depend on his success. He’s only two years away from catching Joss if all goes well, though I wouldn’t bet on it. Plus, after another fine campaign, Francisco Lindor (28.6) is closing in. Three years? Maybe.
- Al Kaline (92.5) leads the way.
- Charlie Gehringer (80.6) is locked into second place.
- Lou Whitaker (74.9) is third. When, when, when, when, when will he be inducted into the Hall? There’s pretty much every imaginable reason to elect him if you’re going to elect the guy below.
- Yes, Alan Trammell (70.4) belongs in the Hall. And he was no better than Sweet Lou. These four are locked in for a long, long time. It appears that the top active Tiger may be Spencer Turnbull (2.1). If you’re not sure who Turnbull is, you’re to be excused. He was 3-17 this year, his first full campaign. I guess we should count Michael Fulmer and 9.3 WAR as active as well. In his last year before Tommy John surgery, he was 3-12. Man, the Tigers are bad. Oh, and there is one guy who we have to count. He’s absolutely active and ahead of Turnbull. That’s Blaine Hardy at 4.3. I just couldn’t resist talking about Turnbull.
- Jeff Bagwell (79.6) is first.
- Craig Biggio, (65.1) is second.
- Jose Altuve (38.5) is only 3’6” tall. It’s true. You can look it up. And he hit 31 homers in just 124 games in 2019. Maybe next year he becomes the first player ever with a higher homer total than height in inches.
- Don Wilson (27.9) is still fourth, but his hold on that position is tenuous. Dallas Keuchel, of course, is gone, but George Springer (24.6), Carlos Correa (21.0), and Alex Bregman (20.8) keep coming. Springer has at least one more year in Houston, while Correa has a minimum of two, and Bregman is signed for at least five. Within two years, I think we see Wilson depart the Mount.
- Do we call George Brett (88.4) “Mr. Royal”? If we don’t, we should.
- Alex Gordon (36.4) remains second. For four straight years, the OPS+ of this corner outfielder has been below 100. Over the four campaigns, it’s just 84. There’s a mutual option this winter for $23 million with a $4 buyout. I’m pretty confident Gordon will be $4 richer (or $19 million poorer if your glass is half empty). What I’m less confident in is whether or not he plays elsewhere.
- Even though it’s not fitting, I wouldn’t mind calling Frank White (34.7) “Mr. Royal”.
- Dennis Leonard (26.3) rounds things out. Salvador Perez (22.2) was making a run, but he missed last year with Tommy John surgery. He’s scheduled to be back next season. I don’t think he has 4.1 WAR in him, but you never know. Next to watch are Danny Duffy at 16.0 and Whit Merrifield at 15.1
- Mike Trout (72.5) continues to climb every ladder he sees.
- Tim Salmon (40.5) is locked into second place until Trout plays elsewhere or an unknown Angel makes an amazing run.
- This was another year of progress for Kole Calhoun (15.9). I suspect the Angels will pay him $14 million to stay rather than $1 million to leave. After 2020, all bets are off. I suspect he’ll play elsewhere.
- I love Scot Shields (12.4) when I played fantasy baseball. Shout out to the Warwick Rotisserie League!
- The best player in baseball history to play for only one team is Walter Johnson (165.6). Well, maybe it’s Mike Trout, but I’m not going to make that argument now.
- Joe Mauer (55.1) might have locked in this place by retiring a year ago.
- Kirby Puckett (50.9) is next.
- Brad Radke (45.5) is the somewhat surprising member of this quartet, and that’s not going to change for a long time. While Minnesota does have seven players with 7.6+ WAR today, they have nobody with even 11. And the Twins aren’t exactly known for keeping all of their best players.
- Lou Gehrig (112.4) leads the way.
- Mickey Mantle (109.7) is second.
- Joe DiMaggio (78.1) follows.
- Derek Jeter (71.8) closes things out.
- Rushmore II: Mariano Rivera, Whitey Ford, Bill Dickey, and Bernie Williams.
- Rushmore III: Ron Guidry, Roy White, Thurman Munson, and Mel Stottlemyre.
- Bret Gardner (41.6) is only 1.5 behind Stottlemyre. But will Gardner be a Yankee again next year? Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Frazier, and Tauchman tell me he won’t.
- This is an amazing list. Eddie Rommel (50.1) is at the top.
- Matt Chapman (18.5) is second. He’s second in the glorious history of the A’s, which dates all the way back to 1901.
- Dick Green (16.0) is third, because of course he is.
- Sean Manaea (8.6) had shoulder problems in 2019. So it’s Matt Olson (12.0) who bumps the Billy Ball A’s third best pitcher, Steve McCatty, from his perch.
- Edgar Martinez (68.3) once played with Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez. How good is a team when Edgar is its fourth best part?
- I hope Felix Hernandez (50.1), he of the 0.0 WAR over the last four years, retires. The send off in Seattle was perfect. King, please put down the ego. Put down the baseball. Don’t make more fans who remember you for who you are now. (Of course, if you still want to play, it’s none of my business. What kind of an a-hole do I have to be to deny your great-great-grandkids another million or so dollars?)
- The days of Kyle Seager (30.4) being a star may be over, but Corey’s Brother still has a bit of ball left in him.
- Hisashi Iwakuma (17.2) is fourth. Is it even possible that Austin Nola (1.2) is top among actives. Trust me when I say Aaron’s Brother isn’t as good as Corey’s.
- Much to my surprise, Kevin Kiermaier (26.2) is still a Ray. I just expect any decent player on this team to be shipped out.
- See, Desmond Jennings (13.2) really wasn’t decent. He stayed.
- Blake Snell (10.4) had a tough 2019. How is “loose bodies” a medical term? I thought that’s how ISIS prisoners who can no longer be found were described.
- A year ago, Daniel Robertson was fourth on this list at 3.3. He’s now up a tenth of a WAR, but he’s been passed. Yonny Chriinos (3.4) caught him, and Brandon Lowe (3.6) passed him. But the new fourth face on the Mount is Willy Adames (6.2). The young shortstop looks like he can field the position and hold his own at the plate, so he may top this list in two years. There’s no way Kiermaier is a Ray through 2021. You tell me he’s signed for four more years at team-friendly money? That just means he’s easy to trade.
- After 2017 I hoped Elvis Andrus (31.7) would take a run at the HoME. Well, that didn’t happen. He is 30, is signed for three more years, and has a vesting option based on PAs for a fourth. There’s a shot he remains here.
- Good ol’ Rusty Greer (22.3) is second.
- Just as you expected, Roger Pavlik (10.6) is next.
- And Matt Harrison (9.1) is fourth. Rougned Odor is at 6.4 but kinda stinks. Delino DeShields is at 5.4, but he’s no Expo Delino. Nomar Mazara fell just one home run short of exactly 20 in each of his first four seasons. But he’s just at 1.8 after four “full” years. That’s not good. Jose Leclerc is decent and is at 5.1. Plus, he’s signed for three more years plus two options. There’s a real shot he winds up on the Texas Rushmore at some point.
- With Kevin Pillar and Marcus Stroman having moved on, the best player in Blue Jay history never to play for another team is…Luis Leal (10.8). Yep, an all-time great.
- Ricky Romero (9.7) is next, even if his BBREF page shows him in a Giants hat.
- We would have seen Aaron Sanchez in this spot, but he went the way of Pillar and Strowman. Perhaps the Blue Jays knew that the former Expos were going to win the World Series and they’d be relegated to Canada’s second most popular baseball team anyway. Might as well dump everyone decent. So next is Jerry Garvin (7.4). He was the Jays third ever starter and pitched in Toronto for six seasons from 1977-1982.
- The final face on the façade is Devon Travis (6.6), he of the torn left meniscus. Eligible for salary arbitration in a few weeks, I suspect he’ll be non-tendered and have about an equal chance to hook up with any of the game’s 30 teams.
That’s it for your 2019 American League Rushmore update. On Friday, it’ll be the National League. Hope to see you back then.