A 30-year All-Star Team

[Linking this to all 30 SBN sites] A few months back I went back 25 years for each MLB franchise and picked a legitimate 25 man roster that represented each of the previous 25 seasons, with no repeats on players and whatnot (please click on my user ID to link to the individual lists). Recently the idea of picking a 30-year All-Star team (using each of the last 30 years and all 30 teams) got stuck in my head, so I had to get it out without resorting to surgery.

Basic rules: two players at each position (six outfielder, one DH), ten pitchers with at least six starters and three relievers, plus two offensive wild cards and a utility-man (three fielding positions w/10 games minimum, one position must be 2B/SS/3B); any player can only appear on the list once (no Bonds for PIT and SFG, no Pujols as OF and 1B).

This took quite a while just to compile a list of viable candidates for each season, plus another 10 hours to sift through the mess and come out with a solid team. I welcome any criticism and encourage others to try it themselves (warning: only the obsessive/dedicated need apply). [Note to VEB readers: I'm getting close to finishing the fully-researched 1935-1959 "25 for 25" roster for St. Louis.]

1981 – 2B Bobby Grich (California) – This was the toughest year to choose – Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Dwight Evans, Rickey Henderson, Fernando Valenzuela, Rollie Fingers (best relief season), Buddy Bell (best Texas option). But I had to find someone decent for California / Anaheim / LAAoA and Grich was one of the best guys at second base. [Best Angels: Grich, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, Doug DeCinces, Chuck Finley]

1982 – SS Robin Yount (Milwaukee) – It came down to either Yount or Montreal’s Gary Carter, and I chose Yount. He was the best player for Milwaukee, a genuine 10-win MVP shortstop. The biggest thing that held me back with choosing him was the depth of quality of short and a maximum of three slots to fill. [Best Brewers: Yount, Teddy Higuera, Rollie Fingers, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor]

1983 – 3B Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia) – I felt so bad leaving Schmidt’s ’81 season on the table, but it certainly would have been worse to leave him off the team entirely, so I "made do" with a solidly great year by Mike. Not a ton of competition this year, with a great but not top-end season by Ripken and a 10.0 WARP1 campaign for Dickie Thon of the Astros. [Best Phillies: Schmidt, Lenny Dykstra, John Denny, Darren Daulton, Steve Carlton]

1984 – SS Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore) – With two amazing seasons to choose from and the top spot for the Orioles sewn up, it was just a matter of choosing between ’84 & ’91. NL MVP Sandberg loses his claim to 1984 when Sosa takes 2001 and The Big Hurt needs 1991 to give legitimacy to the DH spot, so Ripken grabs this year, one season after winning the AL MVP. [Best Orioles: Ripken, Miguel Tejada, Chris Hoiles, Mike Mussina, Eddie Murray]

1985 – SP Dwight Gooden (New York (N)) – This was an absolute no-doubter, an amazing season from the twenty-year-old phenom. He was probably the best starting pitcher on the list and had by far the best Mets season. The great seasons in ’85 that paled against Doc’s dominance included Henderson, Pedro Guerrero (7.5 wins as a four-position utility-man), George Brett, and Cardinals John Tudor & Willie McGee. [Best Mets: Gooden, Carlos Beltran, Bernard Gilkey, John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo]

1986 – RP Mark Eichhorn (Toronto) – A real surprise pick to most casual baseball fans, Eichhorn’s 1986 season was amazing: 1.72 ERA over 157 innings of relief, 14-6 record with 10 saves as Tom Henke’s setup man, finished 3rd in ROTY and 6th in Cy Young voting. He posted a 6.4 bWAR, as a rookie, as a non-closer. Eichhorn keeps Roger Clemens off the team in two ways, claiming both the 1986 and Blue Jay slots; Teddy Higuera & teammate Jesse Barfield also miss out. (NOTE: It is weird that I was able to include Eichhorn on the 30-year all-star team, but he didn’t make the 25-year Blue Jays roster.) [Best Blue Jays: Clemens, John Olerud, Barfield, Pat Hentgen, Roy Halladay]

1987 – OF Eric Davis (Cincinnati) – Davis’s 1987 was freakishly awesome. Despite playing in only 129 games, he compiled 37 HR’s and 50 (out of 56) stolen bases, while hitting .293/.399/.593 and providing Gold Glove defense in center field. Davis edges out Tiger great Alan Trammell (too many great shortstops), Clemens and Tony Gwynn; he also keeps out the excellent ’93 campaign of Jose Rijo. [Best Reds: Rijo, Davis, Barry Larkin, Mario Soto, Dave Concepcion]

1988 – 3B Wade Boggs (Boston) – Boggs kind of snuck up on me, with Boston headed by Dewey Evans, Pedro Martinez & Roger Clemens, and third base crowded by Schmidt and team options like Buddy Bell, Ken Caminiti, & Troy Glaus. But he just got on base like crazy, with 214 hits and 125 walks in ’88. He edged out 40-40 man Jose Canseco and Dodgers Orel Hershiser & Kirk Gibson. [Best Red Sox: Evans, Martinez, Clemens, Boggs, John Valentin]

1989 – SP Bret Saberhagen (Kansas City) – With so many great Royals starters over the years (Mark Gubicza, Kevin Appier, David Cone, Zach Greinke), it is Saberhagen who gets the nod for Kansas City and 1989. A 23-6 record, 2.16 ERA, and a 4.5:1 K/BB ratio gives Sabes the edge over Giants teammates Will Clark & Kevin Mitchell, the criminally underrated Lonnie Smith, Boggs, and the Mets’ Howard Johnson. [Best Royals: Greinke, Saberhagen, Cone, George Brett, Appier]

1990 – OF Rickey Henderson (Oakland) – A player that Bill James said that if you cut him in two, you would have two Hall of Famers, AL MVP Henderson put up a 10-win season in 136 games, hitting .325 with 64 extra-base hits, 65 steals, almost 100 walks, and quality defense in left field. Rickey wins the honor over the emerging Barry Bonds, Clemens, and Lenny Dykstra of the Phillies. [Best Athletics: Henderson, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, Steve McCatty, Mark McGwire]

1991 – DH Frank Thomas (Chicago (AL)) – By far the best player for the White Sox of the last 30 years, Thomas excelled in his first full season. Splitting time between DH and first, he hit .318 with 138 walks and 32 dingers. His 1994 campaign was even better, but Bagwell was mind-blowing that year and, with Edgar Martinez pushed aside by Greg Maddux in ‘95, Thomas needed to be the standard bearer at the position. MVP Cal Ripken and Pittsburgh’s Barry Bonds (this will become a theme) were contenders. [Best White Sox: Thomas, Albert Belle, Chet Lemon, Robin Ventura, Esteban Loaiza]

1992 – OF Andy Van Slyke (Pittsburgh) – Not a great individual choice, but with San Francisco claiming Barry Bonds, Van Slyke is the best player the Pirates have. The second-best OF in the majors after Bonds, he combined power, walks, speed, and great defense in a performance for the last good Pittsburgh team. Maddux, Sandberg, Clemens, and Philly’s Darren Daulton were also excellent in ’92. [Best Pirates: Bonds, Van Slyke, Rick Rhoden, Bobby Bonilla, Rick Reuschel]

1993 – RP John Wetteland (Montreal) – With Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, and Tim Raines falling by the wayside, I was able to salvage the Expos/Nationals with an excellent relief season by Wetteland in 1993. Barry Bonds, Jose Rijo and Ken Griffey Jr. head the class of 1993. [Best Expos: Dawson, Carter, Raines, Pedro Martinez, Steve Rogers / Best National: Alfonso Soriano]

1994 – 1B Jeff Bagwell (Houston) – Extrapolated out to 162 games, Bagwell’s 1994 campaign is quite possibly the equal (in terms of bWAR and WARP1) of anything Barry Bonds produced: .368/.451/.750 with speed and a Gold Glove. He takes away the greatest second baseman season from teammate Craig Biggio (1997) and the best season from Greg Maddux, as well as Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, and Cleveland’s Kenny Lofton & Albert Belle in ‘94. [Best Astros: Bagwell, Biggio, Dickie Thon, Mike Hampton, Lance Berkman]

1995 – SP Greg Maddux (Atlanta) – The consolation prize in the amazing run by Greg Maddux, he has to make do with a 19-2 record and a 1.63 ERA (in 28 starts). I’m glad that I was able to take one of these two years because the rest of the Braves’ options get tricky after Mad Dog. Falling short of the top spot were Bonds, Belle (52 doubles / 50 homers), and Mariners Randy Johnson & Edgar Martinez. [Best Braves: Maddux, Marcus Giles, Gary Sheffield, Lonnie Smith, Dale Murphy]

1996 – 2B Chuck Knoblauch (Minnesota) – Given his much-publicized/-overblown problems in New York, it is hard to remember how good Knoblauch was for the Twins. He had a little power, a good stick, speed aplenty, & a good glove rep. Chuck gets the nod over Bonds, A-Rod’s breakout season, & NL MVP Ken Caminiti. [Best Twins: Knoblauch, Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett]

1997 – C Mike Piazza (Los Angeles) – Quite possibly the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived, Piazza was simply sublime in ’97. He hit .362 with some walks and 73 extra-base hits, while starting 139 games behind the plate (he was never good against the running game, but was an excellent receiver). Clemens, Biggio, Griffey & Bonds lost out against the Dodger backstop. [Best Dodgers: Adrian Beltre, Piazza, Pedro Guerrero, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser]

1998 – OF Greg Vaughn (San Diego) – The last selection of my process, Vaughn had a genuinely excellent season. His ’98 numbers included 50 homers and 119 RBI, and he finished 4th in the NL MVP voting. Teammates Kevin Brown & Trevor Hoffman had great years in ‘98, along with Bonds, Mark McGwire, and John Olerud. [Best Padres: Ken Caminiti, Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Mark Loretta, Gary Sheffield]

1999 – C Ivan Rodriguez (Texas) – Rodriguez’s selection is a bit of a compromise, as he ranks behind Buddy Bell’s ’81 and Alex Rodriguez’s ’01-03 campaigns, but they were pushed aside by others and Pudge takes the second catcher spot over the obvious Gary Carter and others like Joe Mauer & Darren Daulton. There were quite a few better players in ’99, such as Pedro Martinez, Derek Jeter, & Houston’s Mike Hampton, but sometimes you have to pick based on need. [Best Rangers: Bell, A-Rod, Pudge, Juan Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton]

2000 – SS Alex Rodriguez (Seattle) – The Centaur’s best season garners the top spot for 2000. A-Rod posted an 11.0 bWAR while playing the best defense of his career and then converted that amazing year into the largest contract in baseball history. The choice of Rodriguez over fellow Mariners standouts Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr, and Bret Boone was difficult, but it made sense in the end. Other top players from ’00 included Pedro Martinez, Troy Glaus, and Giants teammates Jeff Kent & Barry Bonds. [Best Mariners: Rodriguez, Boone, Griffey, Johnson, Martinez]

2001 – OF Sammy Sosa (Chicago (NL)) – It seems a little counterintuitive to the casual fan, but Sosa’s 2001 is far superior to the ’98 home run chase. The comparison: ’98 - .308/.377/.647; ’01 - .328/.437/.737. Everything else is the same, except for an 18-0 difference in stolen bases. Sosa gets the nod over Cub legend Ryne Sandberg (notably ’84 or ’92), as well as contemporaries Barry Bonds, Bret Boone and Jason Giambi. [Best Cubs: Sosa, Greg Maddux, Sandberg, Mark Prior, Rick Wilkins]

2002 – SP Randy Johnson (Arizona) – The Big Unit dominates the list of the top Diamondback seasons, with Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 fluke sneaking in. His ’02 campaign was the best of the bunch, racking up a 24-5 record, a league-leading 2.32 ERA, and 334 strikeouts. Bonds once again dwarfed the competition, but ruled himself out and the other contenders, Alex Rodriguez and Jeff Kent, couldn’t best Johnson. [Best Diamondbacks: Johnson, Gonzalez, ___ _____, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb]

2003 – RP Mariano Rivera (New York (AL)) – There is not a player (other than Bonds) who showed up more consistently, year-to-year, than Mo. This wasn’t Rivera’s best campaign (5-2, 1.66, 40 saves – ho-hum!), but he had so many options to choose from that I filled the gap here with him. Barry Bonds was again head of the class and Albert Pujols posted a 10.9 bWAR as an outfielder, but The Sandman gets the call for 2003. [Best Yankees: Rickey Henderson, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Paul O’Neill]

2004 – OF Barry Bonds (San Francisco) – It was just a matter of picking a season that made sense given the players around him. I make no decisions based around steroid allegations; I just let the numbers speak for themselves: .362/.609/.812. The great speed was basically gone and the top-flight defense a thing of the past, but not much else matters when you post a 263 OPS+! Among the players that were denied a chance of making the team for this year were Adrian Beltre and the Cardinal MV3, Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols & Jim Edmonds. [Best Giants: Bonds, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Jeff Kent, Rich Aurillia]

2005 – Dontrelle Willis (Florida) – Other than Gooden & Ripken, Dontrelle Willis was probably the easiest pick on the entire list. He bested everyone in ’05 (9.8 WARP1), going 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and five shutouts. NL MVP Pujols, Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and Astro Roger Clemens topped the list of contenders that fell short. [Best Marlins: Willis, Kevin Brown, Hanley Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera]

2006 – 1B Albert Pujols (St. Louis) – Much like Mike Schmidt, I couldn’t take the best seasons for Albert Pujols, but since he qualified for the team in every year but one, I had plenty of options to fall back on. In the Championship year of 2006, Prince Albert was simply ridiculous, setting career highs in home runs and RBI despite missing 19 games over the course of the season. Carlos Beltran was his only real competition in 2006 (MVP Ryan Howard was very good, but well in the rear view). [Best Cardinals: Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, Willie McGee]

2007 – OF Magglio Ordonez (Detroit) – I felt really bad letting go of Alan Trammell at SS in ’87, but Magglio was next on the list of available Tigers and a perfect fit for need in the outfield and for 2007. Other options for this year were old stand-bys A-Rod & Pujols, plus newer contenders David Wright and Jake Peavy. [Best Tigers: Trammell, Ordonez, Lou Whitaker, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson]

2008 – SP Cliff Lee (Cleveland) – Not an especially attractive option for the Indians when compared to the other players on the team, but Cliff Lee was definitely worthy of consideration. The ’08 AL Cy Young winner, he compiled a 22-3 record with a 2.54 ERA in a return to form after a bad ’07 campaign. Pujols loses out on a great year, along with Hanley Ramirez, Lance Berkman, Joe Mauer, and travellin’ man Mark Teixeira. [Best Indians: Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Manny Ramirez, Roberto Alomar]

2009 – UT Ben Zobrist (Tampa) – When thinking about the roster construction of a team like this, I thought that it would be nice to have a utility player like Tony Phillips. While Zobrist isn’t the best player that could fill this role (see Pedro Guerrero, 1985), he is the most obvious, as the Rays only other option was Evan Longoria. Given the normally marginal role he had, it was amazing that Zorilla finished in the top-10 for AL MVP. A .297/.405/.543 line with 62 extra-base hits and 17 steals while appearing in the lineup at eight different positions justifies that praise. Falling short of the top spot were Pujols, Zach Greinke, and Joe Mauer. [Best Rays: Longoria & Zobrist]

2010 – SP Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado) – Ubaldo was the first-half sensation of 2010, riding a wave unsustainable performances through the All-Star break. He slowed down some late in the year, but still put up the best pitching season for a Rockies pitcher in their history. With only a trio of seasons from Todd Helton (plus one each from Larry Walker and Matt Holliday) as competition, Jimenez claims the Colorado slot. His season was just short of the majors’ best in ’10 (Pujols, Longoria, Adam Wainwright, and Roy Halladay). [Best Rockies: Helton, Holliday, Walker, Jimenez, Tulowitzki]