Your Baseball Dream Team

Over the past month or two, I have had plenty of exchanges with Mr. Bob Kendrick on Twitter.  Mr. Kendrick is the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (located in Kansas City, Missouri).  The exchanges I have had with him have been most pleasant, as he is surely a fan with a passion for baseball and an appreciation for the game’s history.

Recently, Mr. Kendrick asked his Twitter followers to name their dream double play tandem.  I opted for Ozzie Smith and Joe Morgan while he opted for Ozzie Smith and Frank White.  This topic inspired me to ask myself, “What would my dream starting lineup be and what would the batting order be?”

The absence of Ted Williams in my dream team will probably make me popular among Yankees fans and hated among Red Sox fans. Sorry, Teddy Ballgame. If it weren't for the desire to have Ichiro leading off, you would have made my lineup.

I put deep thought into my selections, and I was amazed to find that I did not include the likes of Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Edgar Martinez, Joe Morgan, Ted Williams and many others.  Baseball’s history is loaded with riches of talents that enable one to omit players such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Williams.

Here are the rules:  you have to pick one player at each position and then post your batting order after you post your lineup.  You can make rational/relevant changes to a player’s position if you wish.  For example, you can move Willie Mays from center field to left or right field if you wish to put someone else at center.  Also, for the sake of flexibility in player selection, you may also pick a designated hitter (DH).

My starting lineup

C:  Josh Gibson
1B:  Lou Gehrig
2B:  Jackie Robinson
3B:  Mike Schmidt
SS:  Ozzie Smith

LF:  Ichiro Suzuki
CF:  Joe DiMaggio
RF:  Willie Mays

DH:  Babe Ruth

SP:  Satchel Paige

Boston Red Sox fans may be irked that I failed to select Ted Williams.  With all due respect to Williams, he was not a great outfielder like Mays and DiMaggio were, and I would rather have the bat of Babe Ruth at DH.  Furthermore, Ichiro’s defensive ability and baserunning ability give him the nod over Williams as well.

I moved Mays from center field to right field for several reasons.  First of all, DiMaggio is the most naturally gifted center fielder to ever play the game.  DiMaggio was a master at reading the ball off of the bat and therefore rarely ever had to make difficult “highlight” catches.  For this reason, Mays gets bumped out of center field.

My rationale for moving Mays to right field is because he had a stronger arm than Ichiro.  If a runner is taking off for third base, I would rather have Mays throwing the ball from right as opposed to Ichiro.

With all due respect to the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith is a no-brainer at shortstop.  Smith is widely regarded as the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, and for good reason.  Smith had a strong arm with a golden glove and uncanny range and anticipation.  Whitey Herzog once estimated that Smith saved his teams at least a hundred runs a year with his defensive play, and I do believe that is not an exaggeration.

In addition to Smith, other no-brainers for me included Ruth, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige.  Ruth and Gibson are perhaps the two greatest baseball players to ever play the game.  Gibson had Ruthian power and was a fantastic catcher.  Legend has it that Gibson was the only man to hit a home run completely out of Yankee Stadium.  Gibson was the Negro Leagues’ greatest star (unless you consider Paige its greatest) and was often dubbed by some as “the black Babe Ruth.”  Meanwhile, others dubbed Ruth as “The white Josh Gibson.”

As for Paige, there simply never was any pitcher like him back then or now.  If my life depended on a baseball game, I would select a prime Paige to be my starting pitcher for that game.

Second base and third base presented a bit of a challenge for me in making my selections.  I have often been told by my father that Brooks Robinson was the greatest defensive third basemen he had ever seen (yes, he rates him above Mike Schmidt).  In my lifetime, Schmidt was the best I had ever seen.  I gave the edge to Schmidt for his ability as a power hitter.  If Schmidt is a defensive downgrade from Robinson, then at least it is not a big downgrade.

Think LeBron James had it tough with Cleveland fans? That was a love fest compared to the pure hatred and racism that was directed towards Robinson. Despite the injustices, Robinson handled himself with class and dignity.

At second base, I was 99% sure I was going to select Joe Morgan; however, I went for Robinson in the end.  Despite Morgan’s defensive play, Robinson was the more naturally gifted athlete and a better hitter.

For his career, Robinson hit .311 with a .409 OBP and .883 OPS; this tops Morgan’s .271 AVG, .392 OBP and .819 OPS.

In Morgan’s defense, however, he played 22 seasons (which will cause numbers to decline in the end) as opposed to Robinson’s 10 MLB seasons.

Nevertheless, I do not think it matters how many seasons both men played.  The stress which Robinson had to bottle in while handling himself with courage and dignity throughout his playing career as spectators hurled racist slurs at him was remarkable.  I fully believe this stress may have prevented the world from seeing Robinson’s true abilities as a player.  Had Robinson been widely accepted as any white player in his day, perhaps he may have posted even better numbers!

My Dream Team Batting Lineup

Ichiro Suzuki (LF)
Jackie Robinson (2B)
Joe DiMaggio (CF)
Babe Ruth (DH)
Josh Gibson (C)
Lou Gehrig (1B)
Willie Mays (RF)
Mike Schmidt (3B)
Ozzie Smith (SS)

DiMaggio would be the perfect hitter to have hitting third in the lineup.  DiMaggio was a superb hitter who could hit for average and power while rarely striking out.  In his MLB career, DiMaggio averaged only 32 strikeouts per 600 at-bats.  To put that in perspective:  Albert Pujols currently averages 67 strikeouts per 600 at-bats in his career.  In terms of strikeouts, DiMaggio makes Pujols look like Adam Dunn.

I have Gehrig hitting sixth and Mays hitting seventh because Mays was a better runner than Gehrig.  His ability to swipe bases would put himself in scoring position when he’s not hitting home runs and make it easier for Schmidt and Smith to drive in runs.

Well, there you have it.  I hope my dream team lineup and batting order have sparked your interest in thinking deeply about what players you would select for your own dream team and lineup.  As I said earlier, there are no right or wrong answers, as there are endless multitides of combinations and possibilities to compile a winning team.

Thanks to Mr. Kendrick for the pleasant exchanges on Twitter.  Mr. Kendrick, our conversations have been most pleasant and amusing (I would also say educational).  It is always a pleasure to converse with a fan who has a love for the game and an appreciation for the game’s history.

You can follow Bob Kendrick and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Twitter at @nlbmprez.  You can also visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum website by clicking here.

Christopher Wenrich is a senior fantasy baseball contributor for BaseballDigest.com and can be reached at philliesmuse@yahoo.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @DuggerSports.

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