Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All-Time MLB Franchise Players - AL East

As promised, here is the big list, the top franchise player for each current team throughout their history. Said player must have nearly career-long personal success and have participated in their team's success. Staying on one team throughout their career will be a plus. I will also throw in some honorable mentions and current, newer players who may well achieve that ultimate franchise status. I'll go in order of the standings as of today. In the interest of brevity (ha ha), I'll break it down to a division per post over the next couple days.

American League East

Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have employed some of the best players of the 1980's. Unfortunately they weren't a team until 1998! Elder statesmen Vinny Castilla, Fred McGriff, and Jose Canseco all played for the then Devil Rays in their unsuccessful formative years. It is very hard to name a true franchise player for Tampa Bay, as they are only this year playing the best baseball of their existence, in first place for most of the season, and the current roster likely holds that franchise player, most likely All-Star rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, pitcher Scott Kazmir, or fan-favorite Carl Crawford. But for now, the Ray's all-time franchise player has to be Wade Boggs. The noted Red Sock and Yankee finished his career in Tampa, got his 3,000th hit there (a home run at that), and chose to retire as a Ray, his number the only one retired for Tampa Bay, save for Jackie Robinson's league-wide retirement of number 42.

Boston Red Sox - My least favorite baseball team has alot of tradition and a slew of classic stars, from Wade Boggs to Carl Yazstremski, to current franchise names like David Ortiz and Diasuke Matsuzaka, and housed great players who would be even more effective and well known with other teams like Jimmie Foxx, Carlton Fisk, and Pedro Martinez. They also can claim one of the best of all time, Ted Williams. Known for his textbook swing, the "Splendid Splinter" was a two time AL MVP, six time batting champ, and amazingly won the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBI's) twice! He was a 17 time All-Star, and finished his career with a .344 average, 521 homers, and 1,839 runs batted in. Most importantly he was the last player to hit over .400 for a season, hitting .406 in 1941. On the last day of the season in 1941, the Red Sox faced a double header and Williams had a virtual .400 average. If he sat it would stay even at .400, but Williams opted to play both games, going six for eight and raising his average the final .006 points. Williams once stated his goal was to have a father walk down the street with his son , point to Williams and remark, "Son, there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived." Williams at one point reached base at least once in 84 consecutive games and reached base safely in sixteen straight at bats, both solid records. In 1970 Ted Williams authored "The Science of Hitting." While he never won a World Series with the Sox, it wasn't his fault, it was the "Curse of the Bambino". Luckily, they just don't make 'em like the greatest Red Sock anymore, and if they did, they'd have to pay him 50 million a year.

Toronto Blue Jays - Yet another AL East team I hate, the Jay's all-time franchise player cemented his position with my tears, literally. The Jays hadn't had much success in their 31-year life-span, with the glaring exception of 1992 and 1993, winning back to back World Series. Boasting working-class stars like John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, and Paul Molitor, the biggest and best (or worst) Jay has to be Joe Carter. Boasting the only walk-off home run in World Series' history, Carter's blast off Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams and my Phillies in October 1993 made him Toronto's favorite black dude and sent me into a baseball spin I am still dealing with to this day.

New York Yankees - Of course the Yankees have most of the best players of all time. Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Don Mattingly, and my man Reggie Jackson, as well as current-future Hall of Famers like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. But, for the all-time franchise player it comes down to two men: Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth was probably the greatest baseball player ever, completely dominant, fifty years of being the home run king with 714 dingers, and a .342 average to boot. Also, his fame reached beyond baseball for the first time in history, the first sports celebrity. Ruth changed the game and in many ways saved it, like the ill-fueled home run race of 1998, he garnered attention from the world for his game. But Lou Gehrig was even better. Known for his comparable love of and excellence in the game, the "Iron Horse" played 2,130 consecutive games from 1925 to 1939 and only stopped due to his amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, delivering his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. He still holds the career record for most grand slams and retired with a career .340 average and 1,995 runs batted in, won two MVP awards and six, count 'em six, World Series rings. He was so awesome at baseball that, while playing for the New York School of Commerce high school squad at Wrigley Park in 1920, in front of 10,000 spectators, at seventeen years old, Gehrig hit a walk-off grand slam that left the ballpark. On April 28, 1923 while playing for Columbia University, Gehrig hit a 450 foot home run that left South Field and landed on 116th and Broadway. Gehrig was the first player of the twentieth century to hit four home runs in one game, and he was robbed of his fifth by a leaping catch. In 1936, Time magazine called Gehrig "the game's No. 1 batsman", who "takes boyish pride in banging a baseball as far, and running around the bases as quickly, as possible". Upon Gehrig's his retirement, Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy described Gehrig as "the finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen that baseball has ever known". In January 1949's Sport magazine, Ogden Nash wrote, "G is for Gehrig, The Pride of the Stadium; His record pure gold, His courage, pure radium." His number "4" jersey was the first to be retired in major league baseball.

Baltimore Orioles - While the O's experienced the most success as a team during the 1960's with stars like Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Frank Robinson, and Jim Palmer, the greatest Oriole played during the 1980's and '90's. Of course it was Cal Ripken Jr., the man who broke Gehrig's "unbreakable" record of consecutive games played, resetting the record at 2.632 games. Staring his career with back to back Rookie of the Year and MVP wins, Ripken set a precedent of excellence, based in fundamental baseball, on and off the field. One of the best men to play the game, and 19 time All-Star, Ripken's overtaking Gehrig's record is referred to as the "most memorable moment in baseball history." Ripken is known both for his extensive charity work and his involvement in youth baseball.

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