An All-Time Team Not In Cooperstown

Normally, selecting members of an all-time team is somewhat simple. There are a gaggle of greats to choose from, and placing them within their various organizations takes some interesting effort. However, something that isn’t often spoken of is an all-time team for players outside of Cooperstown’s hallowed halls. Yes, this is something that was most recently addressed by MLB’s official website during balloting for the Class of 2022. The author there came up with some interesting choices, and some that may overlap here. However, this writer does have some disagreements, and those you will see below.

(A disclaimer before we begin: no player on this list has ever been linked to anything performance enhancing. Also, since the existence of the designated hitter position is both hotly debatable and nearly impossible to define historically, it has been omitted.)

All-Time Non-Hall of Fame Infield

C: Thurman Munson

.292/.346/.410, 46.1 WAR, 1,423 G, 696 R, 1,558 H, 229 2B, 32 3B, 113 HR, 701 RBI

 In 1970, Thurman Munson burst onto the scene with the New York Yankees, winning AL Rookie of the Year in an absolute landslide. After this, he turned into one of the league’s best catchers, posting outstanding WAR numbers. A seven-time All-Star, he took home MVP honors in 1976 after hitting .302, driving in 105 runs, and throwing out 35% of would-be base stealers. MLB’s article places Bill Freehan, another terrific catcher, in this spot. However, a rebuttal to that is that Munson was tragically killed in a plane crash at the height of his prime. If this never would have occurred, this writer believes that Munson would’ve outpaced Freehan. He definitely deserves his spot on this all-time team.

1B: Fred McGriff

.284/.377/.509, 52.6 WAR, 2,460 G, 1,349 R, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI

 Fred McGriff was a model of powerful consistency. From 1987 through 2002, he did not hit below 15 home runs in a season and only finished below 20 once. While he did have his share of strikeouts, he could also be very patient, walking over 1,300 times. In 1989, with the Toronto Blue Jays, McGriff registered 119 free passes while still slugging 36 home runs. Not only could he hit for power, but he hit for contact as well, posting eight seasons with a batting average north of .290. His best season was 1993, when he finished fourth in MVP voting between the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves. All in all, this all-time team would not be complete without the Crime Dog’s inclusion.

2B: Lou Whitaker

.276/.363/.426, 75.1 WAR, 2,390 G, 1,386 R, 2,369 H, 420 2B, 65 3B, 244 HR, 1,084 RBI

 This is one of the aforementioned overlaps, simply because Lou Whitaker was that good. He helped define the mid-80’s dominance of the Detroit Tigers. Whitaker is fourth on the Tigers’ all-time WAR list among position players, ahead of such names as Hank Greenberg, Sam Crawford, and Miguel Cabrera. He’s also second on their dWAR list (16.3). A Tiger through and through, Whitaker is third on their list of games played. He’s fourth in runs scored, sixth in hits, sixth in total bases, fifth in doubles, seventh in home runs, and ninth in RBI. He was also a patient hitter, ranking second to the great Al Kaline in walks. In short, second base on this all-time team is very well covered.

SS: Bill Dahlen

.272/.358/.740, 75.2 WAR, 2,444 G, 1,590 R, 2,461 H, 413 2B, 163 3B, 84 HR, 1,234 RBI

 For 21 years, Bill Dahlen terrorized the opposition with both his bat and his glove. At the plate, he was a triples machine, especially during his early days with the Chicago Colts/Orphans. He put up 19 of them twice during this stretch. Speed was a massive factor for Dahlen, as he swiped 548 bases in his career. His glove was no slouch either, as he posted a 28.5 career dWAR, good for 11th on the all-time list. Overall, his best season came in 1894, when he set career highs in average (.359), homers (15), RBI (108), hits (182), and runs scored (150). His .566 slugging average and whopping 1.011 OPS were highs as well. In short, Dahlen helped bolster many an infield during his massive career. Adding him to this all-time team simply solidifies it.

3B: Graig Nettles

.248/.329/.421, 67.9 WAR, 2,700 G, 1,193 R, 2,225 H, 328 2B, 28 3B, 390 HR, 1,314 RBI

MLB’s article has another worthy candidate, Dick Allen, at this position. However, Graig Nettles has the total package of offense and defense. His 21.4 dWAR is fifth all-time among third basemen. Add to that all the offensive statistics mentioned above, plus a couple of top-ten finishes in MVP voting, and you’ve got one terrific recipe. Nettles just barely edged out Scott Rolen for inclusion on this list. This all-time team wouldn’t be complete without a power hitting, glove flashing third baseman, and Nettles fits the bill. It might cause some controversy, but this writer feels pretty good with Nettles holding things down.

All-Time Non Hall-of Fame Outfield

LF: Pete Rose

.303/.375/.409, 79.6 WAR, 3,562 G, 2,165 R, 4,256 H, 746 2B, 135 3B, 160 HR, 1,314 RBI

Pete Rose is possibly the greatest contact hitter in baseball history. The 17-time All-Star holds the all-time record for hits in any one career to go with an MVP and three batting titles. However, he was also a terrific workhorse, holding the all-time marks for games, at-bats (14,053), and plate appearances (15,890). People may wonder about his inclusion on here simply due to his problems off the field, which this writer in no way condones. That said, there’s a distinction between what happens away from the diamond and what happens on it. Concerning the game itself, Pete Rose was never linked to anything unsavory. Therefore, he’s on this list.

CF: Kenny Lofton

.299/.372/.423, 2,103 G, 1,528 R, 2,428 H, 383 2B, 116 3B, 130 HR, 781 RBI

 We have another overlap here, as Kenny Lofton’s inclusion is very difficult to rebut. After jumping to the Cleveland Indians in 1992, he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He’d go on to have ten strong years there, pounding out over 1,500 hits and swiping over 450 bags. For his career, he’d pilfer 622 bases, good for sixth all-time among center fielders and 15th overall. His WAR ranks ahead of Hall of Fame center fielders Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, Richie Ashburn, and Billy Hamilton. Why he isn’t in Cooperstown is up to the voters, but he definitely makes this all-time team stronger.

RF: Reggie Smith

.287/.366/.489, 1,987 G, 1,123 R, 2,020 H, 363 2B, 57 3B, 314 HR, 1,092 RBI

 When discerning this position, it came down to two players: Reggie Smith and Dwight Evans. The reason Smith is here is because he was a better defender, posting a dWAR of 3.0 to Evans’s -3.8. However, that doesn’t mean that his bat was silent. From his rookie year of 1967 through 1980, he always cracked double digits in home runs. While he enjoyed great success with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, it would be later in his career when he’d have his two best years. In 1977 and ’78, both with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he finished fourth in MVP voting. Combined, he hit .302 with 61 dingers, 180 RBI, 282 hits, and an OPS+ of a whopping 165. Consistent at the plate and in the field, he very much deserves a spot on the all-time team.

Pitching Staff

Starters

Curt Schilling is the staff ace of this all-time team. He has the highest WAR of any pitcher not in the Hall of Fame (79.5). He won 216 games in his career, to go with 3,116 strikeouts, two 20-win campaigns, and a couple of runner-up finishes in Cy Young Award voting. Second in the rotation is Jim McCormick, a pitcher that blistered through opponents to the tune of 265 wins,  a 2.43 ERA, and a 118 ERA+. His best year was 1880, with the Cleveland Blues, where he won 45 games, put up a dazzling 1.85 ERA, and managed the team to a 47-37-1 record.

Third up is Rick Reuschel, a three-time All-Star who totaled over 200 wins and 2,000 strikeouts. His best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1977, when he won 20 games with a 2.79 ERA, 158 ERA+, and only gave up 13 homers. He finished third in Cy Young voting and made his first All-Star appearance. Finally, we have Kevin Brown, a six-time All-Star who has two ERA titles and a World Series win. In 1996, his first outing with the Florida Marlins, he won 17 games and the first of those ERA titles (1.89). He gave up a miniscule eight homers in 233 innings, while posting a league best WHIP of 0.944 and a staggering 215 ERA+. He’s only fourth in the all-time rotation because his WAR wound up being lower than the other three.

Closer

John Franco epitomized the closer’s position throughout the 90’s. In a Big Apple that was, rightfully, enamored with one Mariano Rivera, the New York Mets had their own shutdown closer. Currently fifth on the all-time saves list (424), Franco has to be considered one of the best to ever end the game. He was a five-time All-Star, leading the league in saves on three occasions. During the strike-shortened 1994 campaign, he still managed 30 saves and finished in the top-ten in Cy Young Voting. All in all, Franco was one of the greatest closers of all-time, and this writer feels perfectly confident slotting him into this position.

All-Time Non-HOF Manager: Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella won 1,835 games as a manager. He picked up three Manager of The Year awards and, in 1990, guided the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series Championship. That said, his best season was definitely 2001, when his Seattle Mariners finished with 116 victories, tied for the most in any single season. He wasn’t one to leave pitchers in to flounder, either, using an average of 3.3 per game during his career. His successful stints with the Yankees and Cubs all bolster what should be a Cooperstown resume. A great number of wins, a penchant for quick decision making, and his veteran presence make him an excellent fit to manage this all-time team.

Main Photo:
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Players/Managers Mentioned:

Thurman MunsonBill Freehan, Fred McGriff, Lou WhitakerHank Greenberg, Sam Crawford, Miguel CabreraAl Kaline, Bill Dahlen, Dick Allen, Graig NettlesScott Rolen, Pete Rose, Kenny LoftonDuke Snider, Andre Dawson, Richie AshburnBilly Hamilton, Reggie SmithDwight Evans, Curt SchillingJim McCormick, Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown, John FrancoMariano Rivera, Lou Piniella