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The All-Time Dream Team

Apr 16, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

Johnny Bench AP

Graham Womack of the Baseball Past and Present blog recently had readers vote on an All-Time Dream Team, and then asked a number of writers to do little pieces about the winners at each position. I was invited to contribute and I did Johnny Bench. The post with all the winners is up and live now and you can read it here.

A lot of good stuff, especially if you go to the bottom for the note about what to make of there being only one black player on the team. I always think that’s an interesting question, not because of the race issue as such, but because I think it speaks to how people view “all-time” anythings. We get locked in to older things first, and it’s that much harder for us to appreciate more recent greatness.

For example, I don’t think people pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because they’re racist. I think they pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because their father said he was the best and because the pictures of him are in black and white and, boy, if that ain’t history, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, the All-Time Dream Team is a nice little project, and it was developed in order to help fund a worthy charity too (see the post for more details), so go check it out.

  1. SmackSaw - Apr 16, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    ‘…I did Johnny Bench.’


    Oh, you wrote about Johnny Bench.

    Now I have to get that mental picture out of my head.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      Remember that old picture when Johnny Bench held 8 balls in his hand?

      There’s another picture for your head.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        Big hands, big feet……………big mitt, big spikes?

  2. wpjohnson - Apr 16, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Informed people would pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because Hornsby was obviously a superior player. the meaningful statistics aren’t remotely close.

    By the same standard, Pete Rose was not remotely in the same league as Ty Cobb so color has nothing to do with it.

    • Detroit Michael - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:04 AM

      Hornsby has a higher fWAR and a higher b-refWAR than Morgan. They are virtually tied in WARP. Morgan played 50 years more recently, which is a big factor in any argument about who was better because the level of overall MLB competition was much higher 50 years later.

      It is not obvious to me who was a superior player. The meaningful statistics are close.

  3. nolanwiffle - Apr 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    If one were to attempt to name the team based solely on those cards (sans the names), they’d be forced to think that at some point in the past, Cat Stevens played some third base in the majors.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      And they took the Peace Train between gigs.

  4. Detroit Michael - Apr 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    I wouldn’t infer that just because only one black player is selected that the voters have some kind of racial bias. There are other factors at work:
    (1) I think the pre-Jackie Robinson black players are off of many folks’ radar screens because (until last month anyway), there hasn’t been much of a statistical record. The more recent players may suffer from the “if I’m going to dream, I’d like to see guys that I never saw in real life” reasoning.
    (2) That website’s visitors may be biased toward giving older, even 19th century, players their due in my experience.

  5. kicksave1980 - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    As with all “all-time” teams, the first position I look at is SS. If Ozzie Smith isn’t listed, I can’t take it seriously.

    • Detroit Michael - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      As the Dread Pirate Roberts said, “get used to disappointment.”

      • kicksave1980 - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        I like the reference, Detroit, but in my opinion, and those of many others, Ozzie Smith was the best defensive shortstop to ever step on a field.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        I’d take Cal Ripken, Jr. before I took Ozzie. I like my players to be multi-dimensional.

      • Detroit Michael - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        I agree that Ozzie Smith was the best defensive shortstop in history.

        I disagree that Ozzie Smith is so clearly the best overall shortstop in history that, if he isn’t listed, one can dismiss the whole all-team team as not a serious effort.

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      I am right there with you Kicksave1980. I am obviously biased…but the SS position belongs to Ozzie. As for Rogers Hornsby vs Joe Morgan…hahaha! Joe is an all time great. No doubt. But this is the dream team. With Rogers you get batting titles, triple crowns, defense and MVP’s.

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      Put ZERO weight in the thumbs downs kicksave. Success breeds jealousy and there are a huge number of haters as a result of that success. They should seriously consider re-naming the gold glove the Ozzie Smith award. That’s how good he was defensively.
      They can hate all they want but (if their honest with themselves)…they know every other SS is playing catch up when it comes to defensive prowess Ozzie brought game in…game out.

      • b7p19 - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there are two halfs to every inning. While he MAY be the greatest defensive SS of all time, he’s not even within shouting distance of the offensive conversation. Although, adding Ozzie would put a second Padre on the team, so that would be cool.

    • mrfloydpink - Apr 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      Ozzie Smith bWAR: 64.6
      Honus Wagner bWAR: 134.5

      In short, take Honus Wagner and cut him in half, and you’ve got two Ozzie Smiths.

  6. hojo20 - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Johnny Bench was great on the Baseball Bunch.

  7. charlutes - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    This was really awesome. I’d like to see one team for each era so Craig, like, get on that. I have 0 issues with this team, which I find strange. I’m a pretty argumentative person. The most shocking to me was Pedro Martinez as third greatest pitcher of all time. I love Pedro, just didn’t think baseball saw him like that. Wow, what an awesome piece.

  8. mybrunoblog - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Creepy picture of Johnny Bench. Is that guy gay or what?

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      It has been rumored Bruno. Personally, I don’t care.
      The dude is the best catcher the game has seen.

    • scatterbrian - Apr 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM

      Considering the nostalgic nature of this Dream Team list, it’s funny you should unearth a comment from the 80s.

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        Outstanding Brian. I wonder how much that Glove sold for? Great stuff.

  9. charlutes - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Oh ya, I totally forgot about Ozzie!! Good call @kicksave! No Ozzie is a tragedy, he was the greatest in my lifetime no question.

  10. yankeesfanlen - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Everyone is going to know that Mickey Mantle should be the Centerfielder, except those that want DiMaggio which i would not object to.

    • nolanwiffle - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      ….and Nettles should be at third, and Reggie should be in right, and, hell, let’s put Rick Cerone behind the dish! Yankee fans….

      • bbil2012 - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:16 PM

        And no mention of Jeets?Lest we forget,he has all those rings!

  11. metalhead65 - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    just because ozzie did back flips does not make him the greatest shortstop ever. Cal Ripken was the total package at that position. and Dave Concepion the shortstop on the big red machine was not to shabby either and deserves to be in the hall with ozzie. hey ozzie was good but this best ever stuff needs to stop.

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      Metalhead: You are out of your mine. Can you (for one second) take your Cardinals hate out of the equation and be freaking honest? Cal Ripken Jr.? Come on. I can NOT take anything you say seriously from this point on. Cal was an all time great. But this is the dream team we are talking about here. The Wizard is the sole reason Barry Larkin wasn’t the receipient of the G.G. awards.
      With this in mind…it is absolutely impossible for you to remove your Reds Colored Glasses isn’t it? As a baseball fan (first)…I have ZERO problems identifying Johnny Bench as the Catcher. Because again…I am a baseball fan FIRST. Cal Jr. Wow.

      • bbil2012 - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        Plus Ted Simmons is no Johnny Bench.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        Why is the idea of Cal Jr. so offensive to you? You realize how much he utterly dwarfs Ozzie offensively, right? Both versions of WAR have him comfortably ahead of the Wizard, and that’s while still giving Smith credit for being the greatest defensive shortstop ever. We can argue the relative values of offense and defense from the shortstop position, certainly, but what we can’t do is pretend Ripken doesn’t have a legitimate claim to being better than Ozzie.

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        Kevin: Cal Jr. being offensive…not in the slightest. If you read my post again you will see that I plainly state he was an all time great. Ozzie got to balls no one did. Ozzie made the impossible look routine. Ozzie is my all time favorite. Pretty much sums it up for me and my obvioulsy biased opinion.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 16, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        Should have clarified… why is the idea of Cal Jr. being better than Ozzie offensive to you? I mean, you made it clear that you were being a biased Cardinals fan in your second post, but in your first one you tried to pretend you were being objective and a baseball fan first, and that’s pretty clearly not the case.

      • scatterbrian - Apr 16, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        Ozzie got to balls no one did. Ozzie made the impossible look routine.

        Ozzie didn’t have to use this:

  12. paperlions - Apr 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Looking at that list, it is the “all nostalgic team”.

    You can’t really compare stats across generations of baseball . Some stats do what they are designed to do (e.g. WAR, OPS+), and control for league average performance. The problem is that the amount of variation around the mean has changed dramatically and steadily over the last century. It was far easier during Gehrig’s time to put up 8+WAR because there were so many bad players that would have never sniffed the majors if they played even 30 years later. The average performance has improved and the variation has decreased.

    With proper contextual understanding, something done by a player like Pujols over the last decade is far more impressive than anything done by Ruth, even when he was outslugging entire teams….that says just as much about how mediocre most players were than it does about how good Ruth was.

    • paperlions - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      To present an adequate analogy to those that struggle with such temporal comparisons, would you prefer to be treated by the best doctor from 1940 or an average doctor from 2012?

      When the number of people engaged in a profession increase and competition for positions greatly increases, the result is a much improved discipline.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        Both are false equivalencies unfortunately.

        The average performance has improved and the variation has decreased.

        Except you are still judged across an equal medium. For example, if a person has to be 50% better than average to achieve 5 WAR (hypothetical here), it doesn’t matter if the average player hit .200/.300/.400 or .300/.400/.500, you still need to be 50% better to achieve that figure (WAR is based on replacement btw, not average. it’d make the numbers a lot worse if it were).

        To present an adequate analogy to those that struggle with such temporal comparisons, would you prefer to be treated by the best doctor from 1940 or an average doctor from 2012?

        Yeah no. Sports aren’t better/worse do to more/less information like doctors are.

      • paperlions - Apr 16, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        Actually, performances are better with more information. Players are more fit, more capable, and have more information at their disposal to make adjustments…meaning that players have to adjust more often and more quickly than before such technology.

        Being 50% better than 1920s or 1940s or 1960s players is not as good as being 50% better than 2010s players. The metrics do what they are designed to do, compare players to their contemporaries…they can not effectively be used to make comparisons across generations.

  13. jumbro10 - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    I’d contend Ozzie had competition in Barry Larkin much less the other great players from history.

  14. stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    B7: Nope…not aware. Thanks for sharing.
    For clarification…
    I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but you do realize we are talking The Wizard & NOT Gary Templeton. Right? LOL!

    • b7p19 - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      I’m claiming Ozzie and Ted Williams and there is nothing St Louis or Boston can do about it! OK, it may be a stretch, but as a Padres fan I need to take what I can get.

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:34 PM

        Waite…and you are NOT going to take Craig Nettles? I mean…was he not also a Friar?

  15. mox19380 - Apr 16, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I’ve argued about the greatest catcher (all around) a lot with people and it seems at least our consensus was 1) Yogi Berra, 2) Mickey Cochrane (I argue in favor of Cochrane)…

    I truly believe johnny bench while a great defensive catcher, was pretty pedestrian offensively and wasn’t leaps and bounds better than Berra or Cochrane defensively to steal the #1 spot. I think Bench gets a lot of undo praise for being on the Big Red Machine and people’s short term memory of past great catchers. I don’t want to sound like I’m down on Bench but he’s really about the 4th best catcher all-time (if you include Josh Gibson)

    • metalhead65 - Apr 16, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      wow didn’t know dementia patients still knew how to use a computer. that is the only possible explanation for your post. 4th best catcher of all time? I take that back that is a insult to people with dementia! nobody with any sense at all can make that claim! best catcher of all time was JOHNNY BENCH!

      • mox19380 - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        I’ll just respond with what me and my friends say when someone takes our argument and return volleys with a subjective, opinion based, fact lacking statement.

        Johnny Benny falls between Cochrane and Berra fielding. Cochrane is actually 1% better. Cochrane on averge threw out 13 more base stealers per year and actually put out 20 more base stealers in four fewer seasons than Bench.

        I’ll grant Bench had a better War but Cochrane crushes Bench in average (+53), Obp (+77), slg (+2) & Ops (+80)

        It’s funny every time I look at the numbers I realize mroe and more that Cochrane was/is/will be grossly underrated

      • metalhead65 - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        I am not going to argue stupid saber stats with you. kind of hard to throw out more runners if nobody ran on him.did you actuallly see those you say are better play? well I saw Bench and I do not need a stupid saber stat to tell me he was the best.

    • mox19380 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      Sabermetrics? avgs, obp, fielding % thats just division. And number of puts outs is simple addition.

  16. xmatt0926x - Apr 16, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Craig actually made the best point in his post. We do by nature value the older players moreso than the guys we see or have seen on a nightly basis. It’s just human nature. There’s something about that black and white footage and seeing the best highlights of these old players that brings out a certain nostagia. The nostalgia isn’t just for the players themselves but also the “simpler” times in which they played. We see Albert Pujols hit his homers and all that but we also see the 7 times out of 10 that he makes an out. With Ruth, Gherig, and all those old time guys we just see the heroic plays on that shaky, ghostly footage. I don’t think we ever value the best players that are currently playing as much as we do the ghosts from the past. Did anyone watching Bonds or Griffey ever sit there and think they were watching Willie Mays type performance? Did anyone watching Ichiro slap 240 hits around ever think they were watching a Ty Cobb like performance? It won’t be until years later that some kid see’s only the highlights of Bonds, Pujols and all the other current great players that they will get the same nostalgic treatment that the guys from the 20’s to the 60’s get from us today.

  17. Old Gator - Apr 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Those portraits are awful.

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