Here’s another post in my ongoing series highlighting the Major League Baseball Franchise Four initiative, this time focusing on the greatest West Coast rivalry, the Dodgers and the Giants.
Los Angeles Dodgers Franchise Four
I really have a problem with the Dodger nominees. No Zack Wheat? Pee Wee Reese? Gil Hodges? Any of these would’ve been more deserving than either Fernando or Kershaw. Kershaw might go down as an all-time great, but it’s too early to say at this point. Anyway, you can’t change the nominees; here they are:
- Don Drysdale
- Sandy Koufax
- Clayton Kershaw
- Fernando Valenzuela
- Steve Garvey
- Jackie Robinson
- Duke Snider
- Roy Campanella
As with most of the storied franchises, this decision is a tough one. But here are my selections:
- Duke Snider. The franchise leader in HR and RBI, there’s no way you can leave Snider off this list.
- Sandy Koufax. We know his career totals were cut short by injury. What we don’t know is where he’d rank in our collective consciousness if we’d had the opportunity to watch him fade. There was no Jordan-in-a-Wizards-uniform phase for Koufax. Rather, we only remember him at his peak. And what a peak it was. Arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time deserves recognition on this list.
- Jackie Robinson. Even if Jackie weren’t an all-time talent, he’d be worthy of this recognition for his immeasurable impact in bringing racial segregation to an end in the big leagues. But Robinson merits inclusion here not merely as a cultural icon but as a Hall of Famer.
- With this final spot, I was torn. You could really make a strong case for Drysdale, although his final numbers are similar to Don Sutton’s, who didn’t even appear on this ballot. In the end, my final vote goes for Roy Campanella, the former Negro- and Mexican-Leaguer who earned three National League MVP awards and is widely remembered as one of the best catchers in history.
As I’ve said before, recency bias means Kershaw will likely be voted in by fans, which is really unfortunate. I love the guy, but bumping one of the four I’ve mentioned would be a tremendous oversight.
San Francisco Giants Franchise Four
Oh, boy. This should be interesting. What do you do with Bonds? This is another fantastic list of players. Here are the Giants nominees:
- Barry Bonds
- Wilie Mays
- Mel Ott
- Buster Posey
- Willie McCovey
- Christy Mathewson
- Juan Marichal
- Orlando Cepeda
At this point in his career, Posey is poised to be an all-timer: 3 championships, an MVP, and a Rookie of the Year award. But I can’t justify including him on my list…at least not yet. Here’s where I’m going:
- Barry Bonds. Look, it’s not the Hall. Bonds won five MVPs as a Giant. His 586 HR for San Fran is 2nd only to Mays on the franchise list. He slugged .666 over 6,263 ABs as a Giant. And don’t forget that he was a fantastic defensive player for most of his career. Bonds was a singular talent and, as much as I might try, there’s just no way to justify leaving him off this list. He may never be enshrined in Cooperstown, but I think he deserves this recognition.
- Willie Mays. A once-in-a-generation talent. Gotta put him here.
- Mel Ott. Do you realize that in Bonds, Mays, and Ott the Giants have one of the greatest left, center, and right fielders to ever play this game? Ott is a forgotten player from the 1920s and 30s, but he should be on this list.
- Christy Mathewson. One of the first five inductees in the Hall of Fame. Unanimously recognized as one of the most dominant pitchers the game has ever known.
I don’t know if Bonds will make the final cut. I suspect Posey will be there, and perhaps McCovey as well.