There really is no way to talk about baseball this week without addressing the potential career-ending injury sustained by Mariano Rivera. Unlike ESPN, I will not put his career into perspective at this time simply because it may not be over, and he could very well come back. I will say that he is, without a doubt and by far, the greatest closer ever. But he is 42 years old, and coming back from surgery at that age may be difficult. As far as shagging fly balls, this isn’t necessarily what caused him the injury. He did that as a workout, and could have very well sustained the same injury on the safety of a treadmill. Wishing Mo’ well…
A bench can be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home. Just ask the Yankees of the late 90’s who had former All-Stars like Luis Sojo, David Justice, and Darryl Strawberry on their championship team benches at one time or another. Bench players have to have two main characteristics, they have to be versatile, and be ready to play at a moments notice.
As for the second category, in Major League baseball, a manager has to wear so many hats, all while convincing a bunch of highly paid professionals to buy into his system of playing the game; a hard thing to do when most of your players make more than you do. So here it goes, the last and most important components of my all-time baseball team…
The JB Random Report All-time Bench and Coaching Staff
Shortstop, Outfield, First, Second or Third Base: Honus Wagner (1897-1917) BA: .329 HR: 101 RBI: H: 3430. He went into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a shortstop, but actually played five different positions during his amazing career, so how can he not be the ultimate utility man? The man with the most famous baseball card of all had 722 stolen bases, and 8 National League batting titles helps as well. “The Flying Dutchman” was considered by both Dodgers owner Branch Rickey and Hall of Fame manager John McGraw as the greatest player they had ever seen.
Third Base, Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez (1994-Present) BA: .301 HR: 633 RBI: 1904 H: 2800. A-Rod is everything that they say he is, and that’s rare in this game. He is without a doubt the greatest player of his era, even though he is not the greatest winner of his era. He is a 3-time MVP, and would have easily broken the all-time homerun record for shortstops had he not gone to the Yankees to play third base. When all is said and done Rodriguez will break the all time home run record currently held by Barry Bonds, and he will do it without nearly as much controversy. As far as his steroid use, well if you are going to let two out of the 18 years of his career so heavily influence your overall opinion of it, then you are selling yourself short. If he decides to continue his nomadic ways though, he will break the record with as little enthusiasm from baseball fans as Bonds. Having said that, I really do believe that he will do it in pinstripes, as it should be.
Outfield: Ty Cobb (1905-1928) BA: .367 HR: 117 RBI: 727 H: 4191. He retired from baseball with 90 all-time records. Cobb was both the game's biggest asshole, and the game’s fiercest competitor. His batting accomplishments are sick - a lifetime average of .367, the highest in history. 297 triples, 4,191 hits, 12 batting titles (including nine in a row), 23 straight seasons in which he hit over .300, three .400 seasons (topped by a .420 mark in 1911), and 2,245 runs. “The Georgia Peach” also stole 892 bases during a 24-year career, primarily with the Detroit Tigers.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2012) BA: .296 HR: 311 RBI: 1332 H: 2844. Every team needs a back up catcher, and who better than someone who hit nearly .300 with 13 Gold Gloves at the position?
Outfield: Hank Aaron (1954-1976) BA: .302 HR: 755 RBI: 2279 H: 3771. Hank Aaron became the all-time home run champion via one of the quietest, most consistent offensive careers in baseball history. In addition to his 755 home runs, he also holds the major league record for total bases, extra-base hits and RBI. Aaron was named the 1957 National League MVP, won three Gold Gloves for his play in right field and was named to a record 24 All-Star squads. I would platoon him at either corner of the outfield, but he didn’t have the speed for center.
Outfield: Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942, 1946-1951) BA: .325 HR: 361 RBI: 1537 H: 2214. “The Clipper” was the best all around Yankee player ever. DiMaggio personified dignity and a serious love for the game. He was one of the most graceful ballplayers ever both on the field and at bat. Many rate his 56-consecutive-game hitting streak in 1941 as the top baseball feat of all time. Even losing prime years to military service, he won two batting championships and three MVP awards. In 13 seasons he amassed 361 homers, averaged 118 RBI annually and compiled a .325 lifetime batting mark. At baseball's 1969 Centennial Celebration, he was named the game's greatest living player.
Outfield: Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-2010) BA: .284 HR: 630 RBI: 1836 H: 2781. How scary is it that these are Hall of Fame numbers and he missed so much time due to various injuries. His swing was a thing of beauty and perfection, he could hit any pitch to any part of the field. And his play in the outfield was just as great to watch. He would have killed every offensive record a long time ago and without controversy had he not been so fragile. Earning 10 Gold Gloves, he could have played any outfield position on my team.
Most Honorable Mention:
Outfield: Ted Williams (1939-1942, 1946-1960) BA: 344 HR: 521 RBI: 1839 H: 2654. He didn’t have the power of Aaron, or the glove of Griffey Jr., but when you talk about heroes, I mean the type that John Wayne played in so many movies, Ted Williams was every one of them. The Red Sox' Ted Williams was one of baseball's greatest hitters. Combining keen vision with quick wrists and a scientific approach to hitting, he set numerous batting records despite missing nearly five full seasons due to military service and two major injuries. His accomplishments include a .406 season in 1941, two Triple Crowns, two MVPs, six American League batting championships, 521 home runs, a lifetime average of .344, 17 All-Star game selections, and universal reverence.
The Coaching Staff:
Manager: Joe McCarthy (1926-1946, 1948-1950) W-L: 2126-1335 PCT: .614. There are so many reasons why McCarthy is the greatest manager of all time, but I will give you one that is not so obvious in the numbers. Hack Wilson could have very well been the greatest power hitter of all time, and would have had the numbers to back it up had it not been for a serious alcohol problem. He still managed to accumulate Hall of Fame numbers thanks to the only manager who could control him, then Chicago Cubs manager Joe McCarthy. Joe McCarthy is best known as the Yankees manager of the 1930s and early 1940s. He finished his long career with an all-time best winning percentage of .614. Over a 24-year major league career, he achieved nine pennants - one with the Cubs and the rest with the Yankees, including four World Championships in a row from 1936 to 1939. His teams also placed second seven times, and he never finished out of the first division, compiling an impressive 2,126 wins.
The Bench Coach: John McGraw (1899, 1901-1932) W-L: 2840-1984 PCT: .589. John McGraw was a fiery, innovative, autocratic field manager who often baited umpires. In his 31 years at the helm of the New York Giants, “Little Napoleon’s” teams won 10 pennants, finished second 11 times and took home three World Series trophies. He ranks second all-time with 2,840 wins. As a player, he was credited with helping to develop the hit-and-run, the
chop, the squeeze play and other strategic moves that he later incorporated into the teams he managed. Baltimore
First Base Coach: Connie Mack (1894-1896, 1901-1950) W-L: 3776-4025 PCT: .484. Cornelius “Connie Mack” McGillicuddy was once a catcher, but made his mark as a manager. After a stint at the helm of
, he assumed control of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 and continued for 50 years until retirement at the age of 88. The Tall Tactician, best remembered as a dignified, scorecard-waving leader in a business suit, won five World Series crowns and built two dynasties - with four pennants in five years from 1910 to 1914 and three in a row from 1929 to 1931. He holds the mark for wins (3,776) by a skipper. Pittsburgh
Third base Coach: Billy Martin (1969, 1971-1983, 1988) W-L: 1253-1013 PCT: .553. The word “genius” is so over used today that it almost holds no meaning, but when talking about Billy Martin, the term is well deserved. He thought the game like no one else, and had a strategy and counter strategy for everything another team could do. A winner with every team he managed, he is best remembered as the Yankee manager who bled Yankee blue and got them to two pennants and a World Series in 1977. Third base coach is ideal for Martin as he would be the one giving the signs on the field and telling runners when to run for home plate; a perfect contrast to the businessman that was Connie Mack at first base coach.
Pitching Coach: Leo Mazzone (1990-2005, 2005-2007) As long time Pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves, he made magic with pitchers, young and old, free agents and rookies, washed-up mid-career men and successful veterans. Some of his pitchers (like Greg Maddux) came to the Braves and stayed as good as they ever were. Some (like John Thomson, Mike Remlinger, Denny Neagle and John Burkett) came to the Braves and improved. Still others (like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz) accumulated all or most of their future Hall of Fame credentials with him. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz together won six Cy Young Awards under his tutelage. Ten different Braves pitchers have been named All-Stars during his 15 years with the Braves.
Hitting Coach: Charlie Lau (1968-1984) George Brett is in the Hall of Fame because of Charlie Lau and his “spray hitting” style. Lau was a part of Hall of Fame baseball careers in other ways as well. He caught Warren Spahn’s no hitter in 1961 and saved Frank Robinson from drowning in a swimming pool accident. But his greatest work came in
, where he took a crop of young players and made them outstanding hitters. Under his tutelage, Brett and Hal McRae battled for the 1976 batting title. In seven seasons, ten of Lau's hitters had .300 batting averages. Kansas City