The All Star Game is behind us, Zack Cozart has a donkey, and Aaron Judge is officially not a human being — he’s a cyborg or a demigod of sorts. The best part of the baseball season that doesn’t take place in October is done, and I don’t want to let it go. So, I’ve decided to take a cue from Shea Serrano and create my own All Star team. Kinda.
You see last week, Serrano published an article on the Ringer titled “What’s the Best NBA Team You Could Make of Players with the Same Name?” It was truly Shea at its best — absurd but somehow relevant, preposterous and necessary all the same.
Naturally, the article got me thinking about its potential baseball equivalent. Which first name would create the best team of baseball All Stars? However, there’s a hitch — there are simply too many positions in baseball. But roadblocks never mean give up, they just mean change the rules so that you can still do what you want to while ignoring that unfortunate complication.
So here’s how this is going to work. Each team of first-namers will be comprised of a pitcher and five position players. We’re playing wiffleball rules basically and assuming that all of the talents that made these players great baseballers also make them great wiffleballers. It’s a stretch, but it makes the exercise possible.
Past that, we’ll keep Serrano’s rules:
- This game will be played in present day so skills that translate to the modern version of baseball will be prioritized. That said, Hall of Famers are always welcome.
- Sharing a first and last name does not qualify. Hank Aaron can play for the Hanks, and Aaron Judge can play for the Aarons, but they cannot play together.
- Players will be sorted by the name they used. Babe Ruth will play for the Babes (which probably won’t field a team) and not the Georges (which absolutely will). Poor Georges.
- Abbreviations of names won’t play for the same team, but disambiguations are fine. So Franklin Barreto can play for the Franklins and Frank Robinson can play for the Franks. They cannot play together. However, disambiguations are fine, so Jimmy Rollins and Jimmie Foxx can both play for the Jimmys.
That’s about it in terms of rules.
As for the teams, I must say there’s no real clear winner here. Many teams have a stacked top three, but then fall off the ledge on their back end.
Take the Barrys for example: Barry Bonds, Barry Zito, and Barry Larkin sound unstoppable on paper, but pair them with Barry Foote, Barry Bonnell, and Barry Latman and they shouldn’t even be on the field.
The Teds are the same: Ted Williams, Ted Simmons, Ted Kluszewski, and Ted Lyons make up the top four and combine for 277.1 WAR according to Baseball Reference. Honestly, those four alone might be enough to beat out most of these first-name teams. However, Ted Sizemore and Ted Savage round out the team, bringing 17.7 WAR, one Rookie of the Year award, and not much else. If this were Little League where Sizemore and Savage could be buried in the outfield and at the bottom of the lineup, the Teds could win, but sadly this is the super competitive sport of wiffleball.
The Tims, unlike the Teds, wouldn’t win a single game, but they would be the most fun to watch. With Tim Lincecum on the mound, the shortstop combo of Tim Anderson and Tim Beckham in the infield, and Tim Raines and Tim Wallach out to pasture, that’s a lot of athleticism plus Tim Wallach. The Tims are also nice and rounded with Tim McCarver behind the plate, one of the few teams where only one player technically has to play out of position. Poor Tim Wallach.
I must say, the Juans are by far my favorite team, with Juan Marichal on the mound and Juan Uribe and Juan Pierre both in the field. I tried to sneak former Red Juan Francisco onto the team, but somehow Juan Gonzalez, Juan Samuel, and Juan Beniquez were all worth more in their careers.
Team Jose (Bautista, Altuve, Fernandez, Reyes, Cruz, Abreu) is the flashiest and easily possess the most raw talent, but a guarantee to break all of wiffleball’s unwritten rules doesn’t guarantee success.
The Bobs would win if baseball only required pitchers (Gibson, Feller, Lemon) whereas the Bobbys (Bonds, Bonilla, Abreu, Doerr, Grich) just need someone who can throw the ball and then they’re set. On a similar note, there has only been one baseball player named Lefty who wasn’t a solely pitcher — Lefty O’ Doul — and even he took the bump part time.
The Marks (McGwire, Teixiera, Buehrle, Grudzielanek, Grace, Trumbo) are a bunch of white guys who hit dingers, which if this were a beer league softball game, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be, they would win. However, I like to stick to my own arbitrary rules.
The Willies (Mays, Stargell, McCovey, Randolph, Hernandez, Wilson) are the dark horse of the tourney whereas Team Luis (Tiant, Gonzalez, Aparicio, Castillo, Polonia, Valbuena) are the lovable underdogs. Luis Valbuena making an All-Star team at all deserves at least the lion’s share of bandwagon fans.
The Lous (Gehrig, Brock, Whitaker, Boudreau, Brissie and Pinella as player-coach) are a decent four seed that should make the Sweet Sixteen year after year but never do much past that. The Lous are Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball. The Lous are the reason I have trust issues.
The Georges are great (Sisler, Brett, Foster, Kell, Bell, Uhle), the Georges who go by a name that isn’t George are legendary (Babe Ruth, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., Tom Seaver, Rube Waddell, High Pockets Kelly). Quick aside: If you look at the team of players with a one-of-a-kind name in the Major Leagues (Harmon Killebrew, Ichiro, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Gaylord Perry,* Yogi Berra), there’s no contest. Everyone can just go home.
*The fact that you can substitute Perry for Goose Gossage or Catfish Hunter or Orel Hersheiser makes this team particularly absurd. Baseball just breeds great names.
Lastly, before we move to the top four all-time first name teams, some honorable mentions:
The Jims who have three Hall of Famers (Rice, Palmer, Bottomley), a future Hall of Famer (Thome), and two guys who combine for 109 WAR (Edmonds and Fregosi).
Team Carlos who not only carry four of the best pure hitters (Beltran, Correa, Gonzalez, Delgado), but also bring along a pitcher who can mash (Zambrano). Oh, Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) also makes the team on the basis of being Chooch.
The Davids (Ortiz, Ross, Freese, Cone, Justice, Wright) who easily win the intangible category and should this fictional tournament last hundreds of years, will eventually find a way to break their losing streak.
On to the winners!
Fourth Place – The Hanks
Two Hall of Famers, 39 total All Star appearances, and four MVP awards easily make the Hanks the most decorated team. Hank Aaron obviously leads the charge as one of the best baseball players ever, but Hank Greenberg is more than just supporting cast. Hank Sauer and Hank Bauer are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the Hank world, but actually talented. The Hanks true weaknesses are the bottom of their lineup: Hank Blalock who’s good, if not a bit boring, and Hank Aguirre. Aguirre did win one ERA title, but the rest of his career was rather pedestrian. If it weren’t for Aaron, Team Jim probably would’ve taken this spot.
Third Place – The Johnnys
Basically just a team of the Reds greatest hits, the Johnnys are a group of truly iconic baseballers. Johnny Cueto is on the mound with his swiveling hips, Johnny Bench is behind the plate, and a pair of Hall of Famers — Johnny Mize and Johnny Evers — make up the infield. If your team’s only weakness is Johnny Callison and Johnny Damon in the outfield, then your team is pretty set — just ask the 04 Red Sox.
Second Place – The Joes
Another team featuring a couple Reds (that Cincinnati club is pretty good, huh?) and perhaps the most recognizable collection of names. Joe Dimaggio and Shoeless Joe Jackson highlight this bunch, with Joe Morgan and Joe Torre in the field and Joe Mauer behind the plate. Torre can act as player-manager if he so feels, giving the Joes a leg up. The Joes only true weakness is Joe Nuxhall on the mound, but if he calls the game while pitching it, I’m not opposed to rethinking this placement and crowning them kings.
First Place – The Mikes
Who knew such an innocuous name could accomplish so much? Two Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt and Mike Piazza), two future Hall of Famers (Mike Trout and Mike Mussina), and two All Stars who combined for more than 500 home runs (Mike Cameron and Mike Lowell) comprise this roster of baseball savants. In sum, this group is worth 372.1 WAR, and one of them IS ONLY 25 AND IN HIS SEVENTH SEASON. The Mikes are only going to age well. They’re like the least creatively named wine. Just imagine if Mickey Mantle was allowed to take Mike Lowell’s spot. Actually don’t, that team is terrifying.
KANGAROO COURT FEES
No fines to be assessed. Joey Votto is awesome. The All Star Game is awesome. Even Yadier Molina did something that was more endearing than annoying. I love baseball.
Joey Votto's four levels of choking up: https://t.co/hPTU1A83xF
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 12, 2017
Nelson Cruz brought his phone up to the plate and gave it to Yadier Molina to take a picture with Joe West ⚾️❤ pic.twitter.com/2LuJIWN3yZ
— Baseball Players™ (@BaseballPIayers) July 13, 2017
Fantasy Baseball — I need feedback: Do I trade Travis Shaw for Steven Matz, or do I trade Travis Shaw and David Robertson for Antonio Senzetela and Jose Urena, or do I do neither? This is where I learn if anyone reads this far.
Authorial Views — I’m content to sit here for a bit. Life is good.