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By The Numbers: The Best I Ever Saw ... How About You?

By Father Gabe Costa
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Whether our favorite team is in it or not, the World Series is upon us. The Fall Classic! And whether we like it or not, either the Rangers or the Cardinals will win it all, and be rightly crowned as the Champions.

But are the "Champions" necessarily the best team in baseball? I still have nightmares about Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski hitting that home run off Ralph Terry in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. The Yankees were better, but the Pirates were the champs!

And many agree. They would say "The World Series winners are not necessarily the best team…"…but, alas, even they would have to admit that you have to win it on the field.

With this in mind, I thought that I would use this episode of By The Numbers to present a list of the "best…" I ever saw. In a sense, it is almost a "wish" list.

By the way, the years in question range from 1958 to 2011.

So here we go:

  • Best/most exciting base runner: Rickey Henderson.
  • Best fielding first baseman: Keith Hernandez…Vic Power and Don Mattingly were close.
  • Best fielding second baseman: Admittedly, a bit pre-mature, but I'm picking Robinson Cano.
  • Best fielding shortstop: Ozzie Smith.
  • Best fielding third baseman: Brooks Robinson…with Graig Nettles close behind.
  • Best defensive outfielder: Willie Mays (Hall of Fame) and Paul Blair (not in the Hall of Fame).
  • Strongest throwing arm from the outfield: Rocky Colavito…Roberto Clemente was close.
  •  Best defensive catcher: Ivan Rodriguez.
  • Best fielding pitcher: Jim Kaat…with Bobby Shantz, Greg Maddux and Mariano Rivera in the mix.
  • Best "pure" hitter: George Brett…I would have picked, of course, Ted Williams over Brett, but I saw Williams only from 1958 through 1960.
  • Most powerful hitter: Mickey Mantle…baseball historian Bill Jenkinson puts Mantle only behind Babe Ruth and barely behind Jimmie Foxx.
  • Best Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez…it was like he was born for this slot.
  • Batter I would want up if I needed a hit: Thurman Munson...oh, that great, lethal "inside-out" swing!
  • Pitcher I would want on the mound if I needed a win: Whitey Ford…he wasn't called The Chairman of the Board for nothing.
  • Best pitcher over a five year span: Sandy Koufax…Pedro Martinez was a close second.
  • Best relief pitcher: Mariano Rivera…the best ever.
  • Best position player over a career: Willie Mays…after Ruth, perhaps the best player ever.
  • Best position player during a five year span: Mickey Mantle.
  • Best all-around player who seems "most forgotten": Dave Winfield.
  • My favorite manager: Joe Torre…with Ralph Houk a tad behind.
  • My favorite game witnessed in person: Game Six of the 1977 World SeriesReggie Jackson hits three home runs.
  • Favorite retire players I met while teaching courses on sabermetrics: Rico Brogna and Steve Balboni…real gentlemen and excellent resource people for the students.
  • Favorite Yankee icon I had the pleasure to meet: Yogi Berra…Dr. Bart Giamatti was correct: "Talking to Yogi Berra about baseball is like talking to Homer about the gods."
  • Person I would have most wanted to interview: Billy Martin.

What are your picks? Leave a comment below.

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