Due to the unprecedented delay of MLB’s 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, baseball fans will be without the sport they love for an uncertain period of time. ESPN’s Jeff Passan outlines everything that may come next in this article, but in the meantime, Full Press Coverage will be producing a host of content to aid in bridging the gap until baseball finally returns.
This article will detail an attempt to build the greatest 26-man roster in baseball history, featuring players from both past and present. The starting lineup will employ the top nine players at each position on the roster (including DH), and the rest of the squad will be made up of a five-man starting rotation, bench, and bullpen.
This hypothetical roster also obviously assumes that every player is both in their prime and actually alive.
Note: each player is listed with the team that they spent the majority of their career with (or at least a large portion of it).
The Starting Nine:
Leading off and playing center-field is Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. In the eyes of many, Trout will be regarded as the single greatest player in the history of baseball once he retires. It is quite easy to understand why, as Trout has already accumulated 73.4 fWAR in just nine seasons as a big-leaguer; this total is greater than those of a host of Hall of Famers, including Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, and Rod Carew.
Career Statistics and Accolades (nine seasons): .305 BA/.419 OBP/.581 SLG, 1.000 OPS, 285 HR, 73.4 fWAR, MVP (x3), All-Star (x8)
Batting Second and playing left-field is Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Williams is arguably the best pure hitter in MLB history, as his gorgeous left-handed swing is truly iconic. The most remarkable feat of Williams’ career was the fact that he won the American League MVP in 1946, his first season back in the Majors after serving in World War II from 1943-45. Williams’ career on-base percentage of .482 is the highest of all-time, and his 1.116 career OPS is the second best in MLB history.
Career Statistics and Accolades (nineteen seasons): .344 BA/.482 OBP/.634 SLG, 1.116 OPS, 521 HR, 130.4 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1966), Triple Crown (x2), MVP (x2), All-Star (x19)
Batting third and playing second-base is Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves. For the purpose of fitting into this lineup, Aaron is slotting in at second-base instead of his natural right-field – which he did just thirty-six times in his career. Aaron is baseball’s true home run king, as his mark of 755 homers is second only to Barry Bonds’ steroid-boosted total of 762. Aaron’s longevity and lasting legacy have worked to solidify his status as one of baseball’s undisputed greats. Vin Scully’s call of his 715th homer, with which Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s career total, is one of the best ever, as well.
Career Statistics and Accolades (twenty-three seasons): .305 BA/.374 OBP/.555 SLG, .928 OPS, 755 HR, 136.3 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1982), World Series Champion (1957), MVP, All-Star (x25)
Batting cleanup and playing first-base is Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. The man known as “The Bambino” was as legendary a sports figure that the United States has ever seen. His numbers are astronomical across the board; Ruth is the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.690), wRC+ (197), OPS (1.164), and fWAR among position players (168.4), and ranks close to the top in nearly every other offensive category. From his infamous trade from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees, to allegedly calling his shot in a 1932 World Series game, the fire of Ruth’s fame has raged on to this day.
Career Statistics and Accolades (twenty-two seasons): .342 BA/.474 OBP/.690 SLG, 1.164 OPS, 714 HR, 168.4 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1936), World Series Champion (x7), MVP, All-Star (x2)
Batting fifth and playing right-field is Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants. Mays is regarded as one of the premier defensive outfielders of all-time; his running catch at the massive Polo Grounds in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is one of the most memorable in MLB history. Mays’ offensive production was also nothing short of spectacular, as his 660 homers rank fifth all-time.
Career Statistics and Accolades (twenty-two seasons): .302 BA/.384 OBP/.557 SLG, .941 OPS, 660 HR, 149.9 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1979), World Series Champion (1954), MVP (x2), All-Star (x24)
Batting sixth, the DH, Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers. Cobb is MLB’s all-time batting average king with his ridiculous .366 career mark. His MVP 1911 campaign is quite possibly the greatest single-season ever, as he slashed .419/.466/.620, with a 1.086 OPS. He also topped the unheard of .400 mark the following season, just for good measure, as he batted .409.
Career Statistics and Accolades (twenty-four seasons): .366 BA/.433 OBP/.512 SLG, .944 OPS, 117 HR, 149.3 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1936), Triple Crown, MVP
Batting seventh and playing third-base is Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies. Widely regarded as the best third baseman of all-time, Schmidt was a force in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup for nearly two decades. Schmidt’s exemplary defense at the hot corner complimented his powerful bat; he blasted 548 homers in his career.
Career Statistics and Accolades (twenty-four seasons): .267 BA/.380 OBP/.527 SLG, .908 OPS, 548 HR, 106.5 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1995), World Series Champion (1980), MVP (x3), All-Star (x12)
Batting eighth, the catcher, Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds. As a centerpiece of the “Big Red Machine”, Bench dominated from the late sixties through the early eighties. Bench won the NL MVP award in 1970 at age 22, and at the time was the youngest player to do so. The Reds’ backstop accumulated 74.8 fWAR – the most of any catcher in MLB history.
Career Statistics and Accolades (seventeen seasons): .267 BA/.342 OBP/.476 SLG, .817 OPS, 389 HR, 74.8 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1989), World Series Champion (x2), MVP (x2), All-Star (x14)
Batting ninth and playing shortstop is Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner is perhaps most famous for his baseball card, versions of which have been sold for as much as $3.12 million. Despite hitting only 101 homers (a low total that was typical of the era), Wagner was worth 138.1 fWAR over the course of his career – the fifth most all-time among position players.
Career Statistics and Accolades (seventeen seasons): .328 BA/.391 OBP/.467 SLG, .858 OPS, 101 HR, 138.1 fWAR, Hall of Fame (1936), World Series Champion (1909)
- Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
- Ted Williams, LF, Boston Red Sox
- Hank Aaron, 2B, Atlanta Braves
- Babe Ruth, 1B, New York Yankees
- Willie Mays, RF, San Francisco Giants
- Ty Cobb, DH, Detroit Tigers
- Mike Schmidt, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
- Johnny Bench, C, Cincinnati Reds
- Honus Wagner, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Cy Young, Cleveland Spiders: The namesake of the award given to each season’s finest pitcher, Cy Young is the preeminent pitcher in baseball history. Young is the all-time leader in games started (815), wins (511), complete games (749), and innings pitched (7356.0). In 1892, his best season, he posted a 36-12 record, a 1.93 ERA, and pitched an otherworldly 453.0 innings.
- Randy Johnson, Seattle Mariners: Johnson had one of the most dominant runs in modern baseball history from 1999-2002; during this period, he recorded a 2.48 ERA (2.53 FIP) and struck out 1417 – an average of 354 per season. “The Big Unit” ranks second all-time with 4875 punchouts.
- Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox: Like the aforementioned Johnson, Martinez was truly unhittable during his prime years, as he led MLB in ERA five times in seven seasons between 1997 and 2003. His 1999 All-Star game start at Fenway, his home park, was absolutely fantastic.
- Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs: A unique hurler who made his hay by means of finesse rather than power, Maddux was the one that got away for the Cubs; they allowed him to walk in free agency in 1992. The four-time Cy Young Award winner won a World Series title with the Atlanta Braves in 1995.
- Nolan Ryan, Houston Astros: MLB’s all-time strikeout leader remarkably never won a Cy Young Award, despite his lengthy twenty-seven year career lasting all the way until he was forty-six years old. Ryan gave up the fewest hits per-nine innings of any qualified starter in MLB history (6.6).
Walter Johnson, Washington Senators: In 1916, Johnson pitched 369.2 innings. He allowed zero home runs.
Rollie Fingers, Oakland Athletics: Fingers is the owner of the greatest mustache in MLB history. From 1974-78, Fingers did not start a single game; yet, he pitched at least 100.0 innings in each of the five seasons.
Rich “Goose” Gossage, New York Yankees: Gossage racked up 28.9 fWAR as a reliever in his career – the second most all-time.
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: Chapman threw the fastest pitch ever recorded. His 2.01 career FIP is the best ever mark for a reliever, and his 14.84 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rank second all-time.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves: Kimbrel boasts one of the most distinct windups in baseball. From 2011-14, he struck out 14.6 per-nine with an ERA of 1.51 (1.52 FIP), and saved 185 games for the Braves.
Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics: Eckersley is one of the only relievers to win both the Cy Young award and MVP in the same season, which he did at age thirty-seven in 1992. The aforementioned Fingers did it, as well.
Trevor Hoffman, San Diego Padres: The longtime Friar was one of the premier lockdown closers of all time. One of two men to reach the 600 save plateau, Hoffman dominated batters with his disgusting changeup.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: Undoubtedly the greatest closer the game has ever seen, Rivera saved more games (652) than anyone in baseball history. His cutter was famous for its video-game-like movement.
Lou Gehrig, 1B, New York Yankees: Gehrig’s 116.3 fWAR ranks second among first-basemen all-time. His July 4th, 1939 speech is one of the most celebrated in American sports history.
Rogers Hornsby, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals: For his career, Hornsby had an absurd slash line of .358/.434/.577, with an OPS of 1.010. He batted over .400 three times, and won two triple crowns and seven batting titles.
Stan Musial, 1B/LF, St. Louis Cardinals: “Stan the Man” was a Cardinal for the entirety of his twenty-two year big-league career. He earned MVP honors three times, and mashed 475 homers with an OPS of .976.
Jackie Robinson, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers: The only player to have his number retired by all thirty Major League clubs, Robinson became an American hero by pushing through racism, ignorance, and hatred to dominate throughout his ten-year MLB career.
Tris Speaker: The Hall of Famer missed out on a bench spot on this roster by hair.
Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens: These two likely would have been all-time greats, if not for their use of steroids to boost their performances.
Joe DiMaggio & Mickey Mantle: These Yankee legends barely missed the cut on this roster.
Sandy Koufax & Clayton Kershaw: The two Dodger lefties did not crack the rotation or bullpen of this stacked roster.