This list is not the list of the greatest players of all time, it is the list of the players I would want on my team. The criteria is that I had to see them play. There are more starters than a typical team because I would have some of the starters pitch in relief. I will warn you, I love defense and have a special love for the small slap hitters up the middle. This list comes from a devoted Giants fan.
Catcher – Pudge Rodriguez: Rodriguez has the best arm from behind the plate I have ever seen. He is defensively stellar and has the mental game to accompany the talent. As a bonus he was a pretty darn good hitter with a career .296 average and a 311 home runs.
First – JT Snow: The greatest catch he ever made was not a baseball, but a young Darren Baker running across home plate in a 2002 playoff game. Snow was an average hitter, but the best with the glove. He made the team better with the defense he provided. Infielders knew any throw they would make they would catch.
Second – Jeff Kent: Kent is my all time favorite player. His first season with the Giants was 1997. I was not that excited to have him because the team traded my favorite player at the time, Matt Williams, to acquire him from the Indians along with Jose Viscaino and later mentioned Julian Tavarez. A couple of weeks into the season I was already starting to like the new found middle infielder and protection for Barry Bonds.
I was ten-years-old and my baseball team was going to Candlestick for Little League Day. Viscaino was supposed to be the guest speaker, but he was sick with flu like symptoms. We were told that Kent jumped at the opportunity to come speak to us. He was charismatic, engaging and friendly. After speaking for at least 20 minutes someone came out of the clubhouse and told him it was time to come in. He said one more question. Five questions later and another ten minutes the clubhouse guy came out and told him to come now. He took another question and the clubhouse guy took the microphone from him and said give him a big hand. Later that game Bonds and Kent had back-to-back home runs to secure the Giants’ victory.
With the rest of the season he had there was no way not to fall in love with him. It became Matt Who?. As a Giant he won the MVP award in 2000, took the Giants to the World Series in 2002 and stood up to the evil Bonds in the clubhouse and dugout. He broke my heart when he became an Astro and devasted me when he became a Dodger. Fortunately his hat on the plaque in the Hall of Fame will have an SF on it.
Shortstop – Omar Vizquel: Simply, the best smile in baseball. I always liked his glove work with Cleveland, but when he came to the Giants I loved the way he played the game. He played with a joy and love of baseball not seen from every major leaguer. Vizquel won two Gold Gloves with the Giants and 11 over all with a streak of nine straight from 1993 to 2001. The bat did not matter when he played the defense he did.
Third – Chipper Jones: I grew up through the days when TBS played every single Braves game and found myself watching a lot of them. Jones has a solid smooth swing from both sides of the plate. He was the offensive main stay behind 14 straight NL East titles.
Left – Barry Bonds: This was the last player on my list and the biggest inner debate. Bonds the left fielder, the baseball player was arguably the greatest player to play the game. Bonds the person was a jerk. Blah, blah, blah statistics…amazing player. What ultimately made me add him to the list was the experience of watching him for 15 years in San Francisco play baseball as one of the greatest ever. Dugout fights, impromptu press conferences with tears and walks into a courthouse does not change what I saw between the lines. The most emotional games I have ever attended was Bonds’ last game. The day was emotional knowing the last time to see him would be that night. His last at-bat in the bottom of the sixth was a long fly ball to triples alley. He took a curtain call and disappeared into the clubhouse. Typical Bonds do just enough, but did not stay to the end to say good-bye.
Center – Ken Griffey Jr.: The Kid had the best prettiest swing in baseball. Picassso does nothing for me, but his swing did it all. It was a work of art. He played with childlike love and passion while being one of the most feared hitters. His glove work was a highlight reel. Pulling back the home run in Yankee Stadium and running off the field with a smile was what made him special.
Right – Ichiro: Ichiro had to be expected on this list. His defense is amazing and he is a slap hitter. There is no player I wanted the Giants to get more than Ichiro. Tsuyoshi Shinjo was a fan favorite and he sucked. Ichiro would be a marketing marvel in the Bay Area and the lead off hitter we have been looking for for ten years.
Greg Maddux: Maddux was a TBS Brave and fortunate for me that he was. I predict if there were to ever be a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame it would be Maddux. What IDIOT would not vote for him? Maddux won four straight Cy Young Awards. In the 1990s no other NL pitcher won a Gold Glove; he won 13 straight starting in 1990 and won 18 total. He had 355 career wins.
Matt Cain: Cain is cut from the Nolan Ryan mold. He does not have the same heat on the fastball, but he has the heat in his heart. He is a competitor. I think he is the Giants’ Ace and the player that should be given the contract. Cain has never been provided the run support to make him a 20 game winner, but he has the stuff.
Pedro Martinez: My hatred of the Red Sox could not keep him off this list. I loved watching him pitch the Sox through the playoffs. Martinez had an unwavering attack of the inside of the plate often hit those too close and trying to lean over to take away the outside strike. He had a philosophy that you had to hit a certain number of hitters to keep them honest and off balance, I wish more players would adopt this mentality. Off the field he is one of the best in an interview. There are no better lines than “Who is Karim Garcia?” or “Wake up the Babe and I’ll hit him too.”
Shawn Estes: Estes won 20 games and then … He was a young and exciting player. I am a fan of the 12 to 6 curve and could not wait to see him start.
Nolan Ryan: All around badass. Heat in the fastball, the heart and the head.
CC Sabathia: Good guy, great commercials and better pitcher. When he signed that huge contract with the Yankees I was sure he was going to bail out Vallejo from bankruptcy. That would have been the only thing he could have done that he has not done for the community yet.
Rod Beck: As a young child watching Beck come in from the bullpen and pitch himself into and out of a jam was the most exciting part of the game. The mess of hair laden with sweat and likely the smell of booze be flung around as he checked the runners in a jerk was what made him memorable. I would get more excited to pull a Rod Beck card than any Hall of Famer. I still get excited when I find a Beck card.
As I am a solutions oriented person and always looking to make money the Giants’ bullpen should be renamed Beck’s Bullpen at AT&T Park. Becks Beer can sponsor the pen, but as with the cove and the plaza parts of the park will be named after great Giants. Make some money and honor a Giant worthy of our memory, win win.
Sergio Romo: Great facial hair and electric stuff.
John Smoltz: As part of the TBS Braves I saw more than enough of Smoltz to see something special. He is the only player with 150 saves and 200 wins. I hope Cooperstown has a corner in the Hall of Fame ready to put Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine in.
Julian Tavarez: Every team needs a little bit of crazy (and John Rocker is too crazy). He was crazy in the head instigating arguments and crazy with the fastball.
Ozzie Smith: Do a back flip!!! The only difference between Vizquel and Smith was Smith was never a Giant. Smith played the game with love and passion that I respect in athletes. Although it was before my birth, the home run that prompted “Go crazy folks, go crazy” is one of my all time favorite highlights.
Cal Ripken Jr.: Who would not want someone that will show up to work every day and play at an All-Star level? He played 2,632 games straight, made 19 straight All-Star games, and won Rookie of the Year and MVP.
Roberto Alomar: He had the best glove I ever saw at this position. When he and Omar Vizquel were up the middle in Cleveland pitchers were blessed.
Kirby Puckett: He can put the team on his back at carry them when he wants.
Kenny Lofton: In 12 of his 17 seasons in baseball Lofton made an October appearance and on one magical October evening in 2002 he hit the game winning hit in the NLDS. He was a Gold Glove centerfielder, a tremendous leadoff hitter and a great base stealer. He was the perfect piece on any playoff team.
Ryan Braun: He can rake.
Buster Posey: 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year carried the Giants into the playoffs and won the World Series. He plays a full game of baseball with his bat, glove and mental game.