The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Baseball Lists”

The Future of Innings Not Yet Melted

Years ago, a friend of mine and I were making lists of the best players who played for each of our favorite teams.  Mine, of course, was the Mets.  His was the Red Sox.  We made our lists in the L.L. Bean warehouse, Zone 21, amidst the cardboard dust and broken yellow straps that littered the floor.  We had another two hours until the end of our shift.  No windows through which to notice the snow.

His list had many of the predictable names:  Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Fisk, Clemens…he even added Babe Ruth to his pitching staff.  I granted him that one.  The old pig-farmer was once a kid lefty with promise.  Then, panic-stricken into silence, I noticed that his list of the greatest Red Sox of all-time included Tom Seaver.  He had shoplifted Tom Terrific right out of the store under his coat, much as the Reds had done in ’77.  This couldn’t stand.

Yagottabefuckinkiddinme, I blurted out.  Seaver?  He threw what, maybe 90 pitches in his entire Red Sox life?  That’s like me accidentally walking into a wedding ceremony, and emerging with a ring.  It just don’t work that way.  I slowly crossed Seaver’s name off his list.  Looking up at him, I said, “try again.”  I wrote, “Calvin Schiraldi” in small, neat letters over smudged Seaver.

But rules are rules, and we had none when we set up our lists.  My friend saw the loophole, and pounced.  That’s how winners happen.  When the Reds scammed Seaver from the Mets for a broken harmonium and a box of confiscated Turkish porn films, Mets fans knew they’d been had.  But losers always find a way to lose; it’s as irresistible as running a tongue over a broken tooth.  Still, Dan Norman?

Up to that point, I had left Nolan Ryan off my list of Mets, along with Ken Singleton, Amos Otis, and Paul Blair, as well as Snider, Mays, and Ashburn. I topped off my updated list with Bret Saberhagen.  But then so did he.  Going for the kill, I scribbled Jimmy Piersall’s name down, Mets class of ’63.  Clearly, that was below the belt.  My friend groaned.

Nothing left to do but gloat as I leaned on the pallet jack, waiting for the fork-truck driver to come back around.  Forty more cases of fleece jackets to load, then home to an Old Thumper and some chow.  Should be about 4:30 by now.  Not that it mattered.  The cold apartment on Spring Street was dialed up to December Maine Cold, frost on the handrails and black-slick death ice on the stairs.

The click of cleats on hardwood floors was still months away.  Leather glove smell of organic dirty perfume hidden in closet under box of wide-ruled college notebooks, stats of ’73 Mets in the margin of Sociology 101 scribbles.  Invertebrates and Mollusks in red notebook between columns of stadiums I’d meant to see.  Most are gone now, but the notebooks remain, hostage facts squeezed and forgotten in boxes.

My friend on my second-floor landing now, semaphore scorecard waving like a warning, his evidence of a 1986 Houston Astros ballgame.  Mike Scott and his vanishing split-finger optical illusion.  Beat the Mets twice in the playoffs. Not pitching, but counting coup.

I added Mike Scott to my list.  Drafted by the Mets in 2nd round, 1976.

My buddy just shook his head, but he had brought along an extra pair of six-packs and some egg rolls, so we were good for the evening.  Steel winter morning was still twelve hours away, and the inside of our souls were calm with pencil-mark scorecards and dog-eared almanacs, becalming order to the ordinariness of existence, waiting for the next hot prospects to melt in toaster-oven future, promise of a 44-double season mounting with the death of each winter day.

Was spring really true?  Who could say?  Future inning snow-flakes shadowed the night sky, blinding us from the moon’s faint light.  Floating to earth, all of next season, a snow carpet, tranquil and smooth, yielding nothing but the quietness of expectation.





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Baseball’s Top 40 Players, Age 25 Or Under

You can’t help but notice all the young talent on baseball rosters these days.  There has certainly been a changing of the guard, especially among pitchers, over the past few seasons.  Just try to name a dozen active pitchers age 32 or over that are still experiencing success in the Majors.  I think you’ll find it challenging.

I decided, for my own benefit, to draw up a list of the best players currently on MLB rosters who are no older than 25.  I want to make it clear that this is not a list of baseball’s top prospects.  Mets fans won’t, for example, find either Zach Wheeler or Travis D’Arnoud on this list, nor will Cardinals fans spot Oscar Taveras’s name.  This is a list of players who are actually active and contributing (to varying degrees) on MLB rosters.  I think you’ll be familiar with many of these names, though most are far from being household names at this early point in their respective careers.

I listed the players by position, and also included their current age, and the team they play for.  None of these players will turn 26-years old until at least this August at the earliest.  Several of them are much younger than 25, as you will see.  As you scan the list of 40 names, see how many of these players you recognize.

1B  Freddie Freeman – Braves, age 23

1B  Eric Hosmer – Royals, age 23

1B  Anthony Rizzo – Cubs, age 23

1B  Matt Adams – Cardinals, age 24

1B  Paul Goldschmidt – Diamondbacks, age 25

2B  Jose Altuve – Astros, age 23

3B  Manny Machado – Orioles, age 20

3B  Brett Lawrie – Blue Jays, age 23

3B  Will Middlebrooks – Red Sox, age 24

3B  Kyle Seager – Mariners, age 24

SS  Starlin Castro – Cubs, age 23

SS  Andrelton Simmons – Braves, age 23

SS  Elvis Andrus – Rangers, age 24

C   Salvador Perez – Royals, age 23

C   Wil Rosario – Rockies, age 24

OF  Bryce Harper – Nationals, age 20

OF  Mike Trout – Angels, age 21

OF  Jason Heyward – Braves, age 23

OF  Giancarlo Stanton – Marlins, age 23

OF  Starling Marte – Pirates, age 24

OF  Travis Snider – Pirates, age 25

OF  Justin Upton – Braves, age 25

SP  Jose Fernandez – Marlins, age 20

SP  Shelby Miller – Cardinals, age 22

SP  Madison Bumgarner  – Giants, age 23

SP  Chris Sale – White Sox, age 24

SP  Matt Moore – Rays, age 24

SP  Matt Harvey – Mets, age 24

SP  Jose Quintana – White Sox, age 24

SP  Neftali Feliz – Rangers, age 24

SP  Steven Strasburg – Nationals, age 24

SP  Jhoulys Chacin – Rockies, age 25

SP  Clayton Kershaw – Dodgers, age 25

SP  Matt Latos – Reds, age 25

SP  Mike Minor – Braves, age 25

RP  Addison Reed – White Sox, age 24

RP  Kenley Jansen – Dodgers, age 25

RP  Craig Kimbrel – Braves, age 25

RP  Bryan Shaw – Indians, age 25

RP  Drew Storen – Nationals, age 25

What an amazing list of names.  The quality of pitchers and outfielders is especially impressive.  How many of these players will go on to enjoy Hall of Fame careers?  Certainly, several of these players will appear in more than a couple of All-Star games.  Some will see their careers shortened, or derailed altogether, by injuries.  Others will simply flame out after a few good seasons.  But they, along with the other prospects that baseball keeps churning out, are baseball’s future.  And seldom in baseball’s long history has that future looked brighter.

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