It is so hard to compare players from different eras in sports. Each game evolves as time goes on and there’s no way to say with certainty which players are so special that they transcend their era. Baseball is perhaps the most difficult game to compare era to era. The game has changed on so many levels. Over the years the ballparks have gotten smaller, the players are bigger, the league has expanded, and the players travel schedule has increased.
I have loved the game of baseball since I was a young child in the nineties. I collected cards, watched every game I could and played Little League baseball myself. Here are the best players I have ever seen at each position:
First Base: Albert Pujols. Albert is perhaps the best right-handed hitter I’ve ever seen. He can do it all with the bat. He hits for power and average to both sides of the field. His performance in the field is a little sluggish, but at first base you look for more offensive output.
Second Base: Craig Biggio. Craig Biggio may be the quietest future hall of famer in the game today. Biggio has hit over 250 career homeruns, most of which while he hit leadoff for the Houston Astros. He also won four gold gloves in the nineties.
Third Base: Chipper Jones. Jones played third base for the Atlanta Braves during a stretch where they made the playoffs on a yearly basis. He’s a switch hitter, with power from both sides of the plate.
Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez. Probably the most gifted player of my generation. Rodriguez redefined the shortstop position. Managers used to look to their shortstop for defense and a little speed on the base paths. A-Rod is closing in on 500 career homeruns. He had forty homeruns and forty stolen bases in 1998. Rodriguez is a special player that will be brought up in many ‘greatest of all-time’ conversations.
Left Field: Barry Bonds. Love him or hate him, Bonds can’t be denied as one of the greatest. His 73 homeruns in 2001 stand as the greatest single season homerun binge. Not to mention his seven MVP awards.
Centerfield: Ken Griffey, Jr. The Kid could do it all. He won ten Gold Glove awards in centerfield as well as the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player award. In his career he has amassed over 500 homeruns and driven in over 1500 runs.
Right Field: Tony Gwynn. Gwynn is the best pure hitter I have ever seen. He collected over 3,000 hits in his career and flirted with a .400 batting average many seasons. He could take any pitch and dump it in for a hit.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez is phenomenal in every sense of the word. He is a workhorse behind the plate and carries quite a bat. He won the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player award and was a member of Florida’s 2003 Word Series champion team.
Starting Pitcher: Greg Maddux. Throughout the nineties, if Greg Maddux was pitching you could count on a quality start. He won four Cy Young awards and has hurled over 100 complete games.
Closer: Mariano Rivera. Rivera doesn’t close doors; he slams them. In his career, Rivera has converted over eighty-five percent of his save opportunities. Rivera has been an integral member of the Yankees’ dynasty that has ruled the American League for the last twelve years.
Those are the best players that I have seen with my own two eyes. How they stack up with Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and other great players of the past will always be a mystery. One thing is for certain, baseball will always have remarkable players that will amaze you every night with their ability.